Erika Klein is a veteran of the industry with more than 25 years’ experience, first as a sales rep for Nicole Miller, later as an advertising account manager at Sportswear International. After five years at the magazine, Erika began her public relations career as an Account Manager at Orsi PR, followed by a marketing director position at apparel company, 26 Red. Encouraged by her boss, she created Shout Public Relations in 1997.
The agency has helped well-known brands like OP, Whole Foods, Contiki, Project Juice, Lulus, Modern Amusement and BB Dakota gain exposure, recognition and notoriety. In light of Shout's 20th Anniversary this month, we caught up with Erika to get the scoop.
How did you get started?
I was inspired to start my own agency by a former boss, who I worked for as the in-house marketing director for his clothing brand. He encouraged me to start my own public relations agency and offered his brand as my first client. The thought of starting my own business made me very nervous, but looking back after 20 years, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What are your primary responsibilities?
I oversee and dabble in a little bit of everything. I make myself available to the account executives for meetings with clients, reviewing publicity and social media campaigns and I’m always pitching new business. I feel fortunate to have built a team of reliable, self-motivated individuals – because micro-managing is not my style and I don’t believe it encourages productivity or boosts morale. Instead, we hold informal meetings, where I just touch base with them every now and then. My focus is to make sure all of the clients are happy and my team is able to do this by having continuous open conversation with their accounts, as well as by scheduling routine meetings and compiling editorial reports.
How is agency structured?
Each client has a lead account executive that is supported by a junior account executive, as well as other supportive staff.
Although we have structure, we work as a team and take pride in always being available to any of our clients. Even if one person doesn’t work directly on an account regularly, they are always willing to help with other team member’s clients.
What is the mood like in the office?
We work in an open environment. There are no offices. I had my own office earlier when I first started the company, but then I decided that I wanted to be part of the team and opted for the open office space. The open environment makes the communication easier… even though we tend to email each other instead of chat!
I’m happy to say the mood is always positive. We are a small team and there is never any drama. We all work really well together. Everyone is always available to help when needed.
Shout PR Girls: Ashli Smith, Lana Thomas, Olivia Davis, Erika Klein, Amanda Pennington, Francesca Ressa
PR can be stressful & full of rejection - how do you deal?
I worked in sales at the beginning of my career, so handling rejection from the media is a piece of cake. If the first pitch doesn’t work, we step back, figure out a new approach and try again. We love the challenge and are passionate about the clients that we work with. They all have something unique and interesting to offer.
There was this one particular incident when we were handling media relations for an event, which took place during a music festival. We were fortunate to secure a well-known TV anchor to cover the event for 3 hours the first day. It was an early morning call and unfortunately for one reason or another, our client’s production team fell short of preparing the event for the early morning call time. Our team utilized their resources and pulled activations and people together for the crew to film, which actually made for a rather successful segment in the end! With live TV, you never know what can happen, so it is important to always have a backup plan.
What are three current favorite tools you love and why?
There are always new tools on the market and the trick is to keep up with the changing times.
We love Cision, as it is one of the best tools for media relations. Apps like Hootsuite and Iconoquare are helpful when analyzing social media analytics and best practices. Additionally, we keep our social media feeds looking fresh and aesthetically pleasing with color correction and filtering apps such as VSCO.
What do you wish more people understood about your job?
Even though you can attain placements much faster in the digital world, it still takes time! Also, PR and marketing is really about brand awareness. Although the hope for everyone is that heightened brand awareness will lead to sales, there isn’t always that direct correlation. It’s a difficult concept to explain with a sales-focused team at times, but we pride ourselves on always being upfront with clients about this. In addition, we subscribe to various services that help us to measure ROI on PR placements.
What are you excited about right now in terms of industry trends?
I am excited to see how the digital world will evolve to match the fast paced consumer shopping lifestyle. Our client, Lulus was one of the first brands to utilize the new Instagram shopping platform, which I anticipate will call for a major shift in how we use social media.
What advice would you offer your younger self?
First, set goals for yourself, and secondly, never lose sight of them. Also: network, network and network!
Anything else we should know?
We are always looking for interns to support our team. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org