5 Takeaways on What it takes to run a successful PR Firm

Written by Stephanie Scott, CEO and Communicator-in- Chief of First and Last PR

Whenever I’ve seen a PR character on television or in a movie, she or he is always snooty, carrying a clipboard or bossing someone around to get ahead. That’s not my PR reality. What I’ve learned is that to achieve great success in public relations, you must be your best authentic self and operate as a strong team. At times, you’ll be a leader and at others, you’ll understand that to be a great leader requires following.

Humility Helps

I was recently producing a three-day event and wanted to order breakfast for the models and glam team but the kitchen wasn’t open yet (we had a super early call time!). The client had a later start time and I was the only one there representing the brand. Rather than waiting for an assistant or someone else to show up, I took the orders and picked them up – all 8 hot coffees, mochas, lattes, dirty chais, low-fat turkey bacon and double bacon sandwiches – myself and tethered across the street and down the block to
get them. You might think it’s weird for the owner of an award-winning PR firm to “fetch coffee” but I don’t.

The bigger story is that we had a production schedule to keep and breakfast would be nice for the team and allow us to keep focus, so I picked it all up and somehow managed to carry two trays and a tote bag full of hot breakfast sandwiches and waters back for the team without spilling a thing (I waited tables for a stint in college so perhaps that helped). The bigger picture was about keeping the team going, so of course I wasn’t “too good” to get coffee. I have my own agency and am proud of everything I do –
especially getting coffee if it keeps the team happy and on time. No one is too good to pick up a box or carry a bag. I like to think of it as professional chivalry. Just do the right thing and treat everyone with respect.

Relationships Matter (Event More than You Think)

Over the years, I’ve been able to forge so many strong industry relationships and I’ve discovered who I like working with – it’s the same for everyone else. I started out working in fashion and then switched to become a beauty editor before working in public relations.

I have my own agency and am proud of everything I do – especially getting coffee if it keeps the team happy and on time.

As a beauty editor, I got to interview so many talented people working in our industry from celebrity hairstylists and makeup artists to photographers, perfumists, dermatologists and stylists. Now, I rely on my personal Rolodex of contacts for collaborations and when I’m hiring experts to work with on campaigns. When I call someone for work, my calls are immediately answered. I’ve developed great relationships with many of these individuals – most of whom I consider to be friends – and it is because of this that my clients value what my firm brings to the table. Experts are also happy to work with us because of the trust that we’ve developed with them over time and the experience of being a true partner.

Get Involved and Give Back

Compared to global firms with hundreds or thousands of employees, my firm small in terms of numbers, but we have a huge impact when it comes to securing press and getting results for our clients One way that I learned to stay engaged with the public relations community at large is to be actively involved in communications organizations like reading the PR Couture weekly newsletter and blog, joining the board of New York Women in Communications and being an active member in industry organizations such as Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW). At First and Last, we started our own non-profit, First and Last PR Foundation. Being a member of professional organizations is a great way to interact with others in our industry, stay abreast of current events and develop a network of people that you can rely on for professional advice or just to laugh with at the end of a campaign. Of course you get what you put in. Don’t just pay dues to be a member. Find a committee that you want to be on to learn more about something that you don’t have as much experience in or to lead on something that you are an expert in and give back to that organization.

Treat Everyone Like a VIP

There’s something gratifying about the smile of appreciation received from a random act of kindness – either when you hold the door open for them or treat an employee to lunch
just because. Over the years, I’ve been able to develop such solid industry relationships not because I’m on the scene all of the time and meet a lot of people (I’m so not) but because I value and treat people well as a true part of my nature. I try to do the right thing for and by people all of the time. We work in a really competitive industry and editors, bloggers and clients can choose to work with anyone so why do they choose us? I think part of it comes from the exceptional customer service that we provide and because I’ve learned to underpromise and overdeliver. I try to give people more than what they are expecting even if it’s the little things because it shows them how much I care about them and not just the outcome for a client. In my experience, this leads to better results in the end, and happier people to work with.

Deliver On Value Promised

When I first started working in communications, I was a beauty editor – not a publicist. I later transitioned to become global director of marketing and communications for a luxury skincare company helping to launch the brand across the US and around the world including Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, and Dubai. When we approach a launch, we come to it with a 360 view combining editorial, social media, marketing, sales and the end consumer retail experience. This is what our clients and partners have come to appreciate about working with us because we’re able to see beyond one great story and add to the total
vision for their business now and beyond today.

So many people want to work in our industry and we’re lucky to be able to. I’ve learned that longevity in our industry requires that we get involved in as many things as possible to help with personal and professional growth and always give your best. When you look back, you’ll be pleased with your hard work and have a lot more respect for what you produce because you’ve earned it.

About Stephanie Scott

Former beauty editor turned communications pro, Stephanie Scott is CEO and Communicator-in-Chief of First and Last PR, a firm that provides services to leading luxury and consumer product good companies, mid-sized beauty firms and the next generation of innovative beauty brands. First and Last PR is currently celebrating their 5-year anniversary.