A pioneer from the start, New Zealand-born Lisa Smith started her own PR agency just three years after graduating from college. She’s worked with brands like Montblanc, Campari, Marchon Eyewear brands (Fendi, Calvin Klein, et al), Vittoria Coffee, Ole Lynggaard Fine Jewelry. In 2009, she authored the coffee table book Bondi Style, which sold to bookstores and boutiques all over the world.
Since her move to New York City in 2010, Lisa sold both her agency and e-commerce business in favor of a consulting practice. To date she has worked with brands and agencies like Bill Blass, Yigal Azrouel, Mission Media, HL Group and Black Frame.
Additionally, Lisa launched the industry network The PR Net in late 2014, as a way for publicists, marketers, entrepreneurs and media working in the lifestyle industries to connect. PR Net has attracted the interest and membership of companies like Net-A-Porter, Swarovski, Karla Otto, Coach, Christie’s, Sephora, Burberry, Cadillac, David Yurman, BPCM, LaForce, and many more.
The PR Net consists of an online platform and industry newsletter, as well as member events at brand new hotels, private clubs, restaurants and event spaces, along with programming at major art fairs and other cultural events.
Tell us about the idea behind the PR Net
Initially The PR Net was conceived as an online platform: a directory of brands and agencies, so people could find out who rep’d whom; an events calendar with what was on and when; job openings and other industry intell. Around the time of its launch, we hosted a breakfast to get together various companies that were involved. It was really successful and the host venue (Park Hyatt NY which had recently opened) was thrilled, so it then evolved into a series of events. People who were attending represented venues that wanted to host, so we became a roving group that met regularly at the best new venues in the city.
Who makes up the PR Net team?
I oversee our digital content (the website and newsletter – is run by my colleague Lauren), but mainly I work on events and brand partnerships. Our Los Angeles chapter is run by my wonderful friend; veteran publicist Shannon de Laat. We also have a few consultants who help with membership and partnerships.
What are you working on right now?
We’re deep in spring /summer event planning at the moment, including a panel discussion on interior design and art, some new luxury hotel openings (SLS, Made and The Whitby), an event with Christie’s in their soon-to-open LA space, and working on brand collaborations with Coach, Pommery and Absolut.
It’s really exciting to be part of a venue’s launch strategy and to brainstorm activations that plug in our influencer group with brands, so we‘re in good spirits!
Get good at handling rejection – do it with grace and good humor – it will make the experience easier and people more likely to keep you in mind for the future.
What is a recent success story that makes you especially proud?
We just hosted a members event at The Armory Show – a champagne reception at the Pommery bar and private tour hosted by art consultant Tiana Webb Evans. Personally, it was so enjoyable and inspiring as Armory is one of my favorite art events.and getting the insider’s perspective on the artists and galleries was the best way of experiencing it.
Most meaningful moment in your career thus far?
Deciding to take leave from my PR agency in Sydney and move to NYC in 2010 was the most pivotal moment. It set in motion all the crazy life changes and experiences of the last few years.
Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?
We hosted a PR Net event at Baccarat Hotel shortly after it opened, in a beautiful setting in their private event room. Drinking from heavy crystal glasses in the most opulent room, with a group of super accomplished people from the fashion, beauty, lifestyle and media industries, felt like a treat and privilege.
Another moment where we were very spoilt was when The Whitney Museum opened outside of public hours to give our group a private guided tour. We are very fortunate to be given access to the most luxurious and interesting spaces – a real perk of the job that I never take for granted.
Least glamorous moment in your career thus far?
I think a lot of those happened when I had my PR agency, whether it was rolling up my proverbial sleeves to help my team pack gift bags before an event, or packing up boxes of product in the showroom. Those moments can end up being comedic though, and are all part of it.
PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?
Perspective. Knowing that you can’t be everything to everyone; not every editor will want to write about your brand/client (you can apply this to any service/product you’re selling) and that’s not a direct reflection of you or what you’re pitching – there are usually myriad variables at play that you aren’t aware of. You never know when the situation may change and that contact you were pitching will come back to you with an opportunity. Get good at handling rejection – do it with grace and good humor – it will make the experience easier and people more likely to keep you in mind for the future.
What are three essentials that help you run your business?
Zkipster – between NYC and LA we run an event almost every week – it would be impossible to do so without this software to support our invites, RSVPs and check-in.
We use Mailchimp for our newsletter creation and dissemination and Google Docs/Drive for file sharing.
What are you excited about right now in terms of industry trends?
Collaboration. Working together to achieve mutual benefit. Helping each other, partnering, not seeing other brands or companies just as competitors, but potential collaborators, people who can inspire you and push you further forward. Our network is a lovely example of getting like-minded people in a room and seeing this kind of cooperation taking place. I’m also into flexibility of location and schedule. Employers are starting to realize that to retain great talent, it helps to accommodate people’s schedules. The old way of being fixed to a desk from 9-6 (often much later) isn’t as necessary anymore. So long as the results are there, it doesn’t matter if someone’s working from their living room at midnight, or by the pool on a summer Friday afternoon.
What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion/lifestyle communicators right now?
Uncertainty – about the future of media, jobs, PR vs. other pieces of the marketing mix – it’s all a little confusing and scary. We’re hurtling into an increasingly digital world and companies are trying to adapt and stay relevant, while understanding what their role should/will be. Brands will always need to promote themselves, so our roles as marketers and publicists won’t go away, they’ll just have to evolve.
What advice do you have for your younger self?
In work, and in life, surround yourself with the best people possible. Clients, colleagues, associates, friends…applies to them all. Spend time with mentors and smart business people who will give guidance and inspiration, as well as a sounding board.