Publicist Q&A: Getting to Know Janna Meyrowitz Turner, Founder of Style House PR

Publicist Q&A: Getting to Know Janna Meyerowitz Turnner, Founder of Style House PR

After graduating college, and with several PR internships already under her belt, Janna Meyrowitz Turner knew she wanted to work in PR for the long haul. She moved to New York City and immediately found a job at a boutique fashion and lifestyle firm that focused on luxury accessories brands. After working at a second boutique PR firm, and a year in-house with a former client, Janna founded Style House PR, a boutique PR and brand-marketing firm located in the heart of New York City. Recently welcomed into motherhood, Janna and team are inspired and ready to tackle 2015.

How did you get started in fashion PR?

My first industry experience was as an editorial intern at Fitness during the summer of 2003, which was between my junior and senior years of college. I worked with a bunch of different departments when I was there, including working with then beauty editor Gwen Flamberg (now Beauty Director at US Weekly) and then fashion editor Celeste Brown. I remember one day working with Gwen and going through a bunch of beauty samples that had come in from PR agencies – reading through the press materials and organizing them accordingly for her review. At the time I didn’t really know anything about PR. I went to a liberal arts school and this was before the age of reality TV and publicists becoming stars in their own right. It clicked with me that day, though, that there was a job where you could be creative and work in tandem with journalists, and if you were sharp and unique in your pitch then you could help those products get to the front line for editorial consideration.

When I returned to the Boston area for my senior year at Brandeis University I secured an internship at Birmingham PR, a boutique firm on Newbury Street that did mostly restaurants and nightlife throughout Boston. It was just me and Lauren Birmingham, and I learned so much about writing press releases, about the timeline of PR when promoting events/appearances and all the day-to-day things that publicists do to service clients. I knew I wanted to go back to New York City after graduation and I wanted to apply this passion for PR to consumer products that interested me – fashion and beauty products, that is. So I became my first client! I did PR for myself to get my first job. I researched boutique lifestyle PR agencies in New York City and pitched myself the best way I knew how. I explained in my cover letter what set me apart from other women exactly like me graduating college and wanting to get into lifestyle PR. I explained why they should care about me and take the time to meet with me even if they weren’t hiring at the moment. I asked for informational interviews and thankfully I got quite a few.

Over my senior year spring break I met with Judith Agisim, then President of her own firm Judith Agisim Associates, a boutique luxury fashion and accessories PR firm based on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She had incredible energy and a clear passion for her work and her clients, and we connected immediately. In addition to there not being any openings at her firm she also told me that she didn’t hire at entry level since her team was so small, but she was well-connected and said to keep in touch, which I did. A few weeks later, just before graduation, she called me. One of her fashion account executives was moving across the country, and even though she’d never hired anyone straight out of college she had a good feeling about me and wanted to give me a shot. My big break! Judy taught me so much – about PR, about running your own business, and about life. I was, and still am, so grateful that she took a chance on me, and that I had the opportunity from day one of my career to pick up the phone and start pitching editors, to go on market appointments, and to take ownership of and pride in the brands I was representing.

When did you start SHPR? What’s the latest news at the agency?

I started Style House PR in the end of 2006. It’s hard to believe we’re in our ninth year of business. We started as a fashion PR firm and now we also do beauty, health and wellness. I feel so lucky that I still wake up every day loving what I do, looking forward to making things happen, to the challenges and the successes, and I go to bed so proud of what my team and I accomplish for our clients every day. I had a baby recently, a boy named Harley who is 8 months old now, so I’m doing the motherhood dance alongside running the company. I think having my company prepared me for motherhood in a lot of ways – it’s all about time management, confidence, thinking on your feet, trusting your gut, and educated trial and error. Becoming a mother has also given me a new perspective on business, and Harley inspires me in countless ways. So many of our clients target professional moms just like me, and now that I am a mom myself I have more insight into the psychology of this huge demographic.

Our first new client since my return from maternity leave is a new skincare line called TULA that uses probiotic technology as the basis for its anti-aging products. It was founded by Dr. Roshini Raj, a gastroenterologist and media personality (TODAY, Good Day New York, Access Hollywood and more) who is passionate about educating the public on leading healthier and more balanced lives. Probiotics in general are kind of enigmatic, people have heard of them and generally know they’re healthy, but don’t really know what they are and how they work. A huge part of our TULA pitch is education about probiotics, and it’s a lot of fun because I’m genuinely so intrigued by the science myself that I’m excited to share it with my media contacts. I can really geek out during my phone pitches when I get their ear and they want to know more about probiotics. Dr. Raj was always fascinated by the research on probiotics for gut health, and in 2014 the American Academy of Dermatology called topically applied probiotics a “new beauty breakthrough”. Fortune Magazine called “2015 The Year of the Microbiome” (the bacterial ecosystems of our bodies) and the skin is our largest organ. So you can see that in addition to being really interesting it’s also very now, which is obviously very important in PR.

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Style House Showroom Coordinator, Taryn Matthews, welcoming with a wave and a smile.

 

Who are a few of your clients? What makes for an ideal SHPR client?

Style House PR clients range from newer companies like TULA and Jamberry to corporate brands that have been around for decades like Prescriptives (Est. 1979) and Oasis (Est. 1991). An ideal Style House PR client has (1) a product that we get excited about introducing to our media contacts the moment we see it, and that sparks our creativity to come up with unique pitch angles illustrating why an editor (or producer or blogger) would want to share it with their audience; and (2) an in-house team that we look forward to working with on a regular basis who understands the tools that we need to do our best work. Ideal clients don’t just see us as a PR firm that they hired. They see us as a partner, as business consultants that are at their disposal to inform, contribute to and improve every aspect of their business with our unique expertise, creativity and critical thinking skills rooted in PR and marketing. The more we are privy to within our clients’ organizations, the more we understand what makes them tick and what their goals are (macro and micro-level), the better work can do for them. Of course we sign many NDAs!

Ideal clients don’t just see us as a PR firm that they hired. They see us as a partner, as business consultants that are at their disposal to inform, contribute to and improve every aspect of their business with our unique expertise, creativity and critical thinking skills rooted in PR and marketing.

What has been your proudest moment since starting SHPR?

There have been so many. Every placement we get, small or large, still makes me really proud and excited to be doing what I’m doing. In 2007 I got one of my very first Style House PR clients, a jewelry brand Love Rocks NY, on the cover of Glamour with Sarah Jessica Parker just a few months into working together.. We started working with 3FLOZ.com before they launched in 2010 and we got to inform basically every element of their launch from a PR and marketing perspective. I can count on one hand the major consumer print publications that didn’t cover the launch. It was everywhere. The two co-founders called Style House PR the “third fluid ounce” because we were so instrumental in their launch. When we started working with Jamberry Nails in 2012 the fourth hour of the Today Show with Hoda and Kathie Lee was a big goal for the executive team. We scored that for them within just a few months (thanks Bobbie Thomas!). I’m also really proud of the fact that our current clients are such large drivers of new business for us – meaning a lot of new clients come to us because existing clients referred them. It also means a lot to me when a brand comes to us because they asked a fashion or beauty editor they knew who the best PR firm for their brand would be – what’s a bigger compliment than that?!

What have been a few of the big decisions you have had to make since starting SHPR? How do you approach big decisions?

There are so many big decisions to make when you’re a small business owner in any industry, and seemingly small decisions that are actually big ones (and recognizing them as such). Making decisions on employees is a very big deal to me. These are people that are joining my family, that are extensions of my brand in the way they interact with clients and with the media. Whenever we post a job opening there are always some questions at the end that can give us a sense of the candidate’s personality, outlook on life and (most importantly) their attention to detail and genuine interest in the job if they take the time to answer the questions. If they don’t, we usually delete the application. Another big decision I had to make was firing an employee. I’ve only had to fire one employee, thankfully, in my career thus far, and it was really difficult, heartbreaking actually, but I had communicated the issues multiple times and things weren’t getting better so I didn’t really have a choice. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a business owner.

Another big decision is deciding to let go of a client that just doesn’t seem right, which I’ve had to do a couple times. I had a client that was verbally abusive to me and my team, even though we were unequivocally doing an excellent job for him (he even said so himself). His communication and leadership style just didn’t mesh with ours. Some PR firms have the motto “if they pay they stay;” that’s not Style House PR. A nasty client affects the quality of our work for all of our clients, and creates negative energy that seeps into other parts of our work and personal lives. I decided not to move forward with another client when after a few days into working together there was a general shadiness to them that I couldn’t shake. They were paying a very high retainer, but let’s just say I’m very glad I walked away and refunded the retainer. Being selective about the clients we work with means that we end up working with clients that we genuinely love and respect. We have fun on conference calls and meetings with them, and that positivity leads to great PR results. I generally go with my gut for big decisions. I also consult my team a lot, when it’s appropriate. Yes I’m the boss, but we are a small team and they always provide me with great perspective. I think sharing my deliberations about big decisions empowers them and brings us all closer.

What’s the vibe in the office today? What are you and your team working on?

We always have a pretty happy, zen vibe in our office – I think it’s one of the most important ingredients to producing great results (see above for why I had to let go of a nasty client that killed our vibe)! Even though we’re in our ninth year of business we still have a very startup, entrepreneurial energy in our office that’s important to me. We’re nimble, we always want to learn and try new things and never rest on our laurels. I spoke above about our newest beauty client TULA that is still in launch phase, so there’s a lot of work to be done to get the word out about the brand and about probiotics for skincare. Dr. Raj (co-founder of TULA) is doing a lot of TV segments on the top health and wellness trends for 2015 so we’re helping to plan and research for those. January in general is always about planning for the year. Yeah, duh, but literally we’re mapping out initiatives — what our clients are going to do during New York fashion weeks, for awards season, who’s launching what and when, which events we want to them to participate in, which events we’re going to throw ourselves from market weeks to product launches, and of course using the allotted budget accordingly (and coming in under budget whenever possible!).

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Brainstorming and 2015 planning with Style House PR Account Executive Jacki Keating

 

Favorite recent client campaign?

Our client Prescriptives offers Custom Blend Foundation and Powder via live video chat with Prescriptives Beauty Geniuses on their website. We realized that the Beauty Geniuses, in addition to being able to offer general beauty and makeup tips, had unique and interesting expertise to offer when it came to video chatting. We had them put together some tips on how to “Give Good Face” – aka how to look good on video chat. They’ve spent hundreds of hours video chatting with women for Custom Blend recipes! Everything from dating pre-screening to job interviews happen via video chat/Skype/Facetime these days, we put out some great tips on everything from what color to wear to how to position your camera. The tips were picked up by a lot of beauty/lifestyle websites and resulted in a feature in the February issue of Latina Magazine too! Another cool campaign we did for Prescriptives recently was actually featured right here on PR Couture in the Campaigns We Love series!

There are a lot of very cool PR-driven marketing initiatives that we’re doing for Jamberry too. Nail art lends itself so well to collaborations and partnerships with other brands and we’re always in the midst of something to that effect with Jamberry.

What is one thing that SHPR does better than the rest?

Obviously we produce stellar coverage for our clients, or they wouldn’t stick around for as long as they do (we have a lot of very long-term clients) but we also bring a really unique perspective to many different elements of our clients’ businesses. I’m a publicist but I’m also an entrepreneur, and I love the excitement of creating something new or improving on what already exists. We immerse ourselves as much into the clients’ businesses as they’ll let us, and as a result we are able to consult them on things, and really enhance their business, in areas that don’t traditionally fall into the realm of PR. For instance, I love copywriting. I’ve reworked entire FAQ sections on our clients’ websites because I knew there were clearer ways to explain things and I knew this because I’d been pitching them to the media and fielding questions time and again. Our clients see us as a partner because we do things like that, we re-appropriate our PR materials so they can use them for sales initiatives, we attend their sales conferences and trade shows because we want to know everything we possibly can about their business so we can help them grow. The fact that we go above and beyond shows that we genuinely care and that we see their success as our own success. We also see our clients’ money as our own and show them time and again by coming in under budget on events and other initiatives and not just spending marketing dollars because they’ve been allotted. We spend strategically and purposefully for our clients and do everything we can to illustrate ROI on event recaps and activity reports.

I’m a publicist but I’m also an entrepreneur, and I love the excitement of creating something new or improving on what already exists.

What do you see as the single biggest value that working with an agency has to offer a brand, and how do you provide that at SHPR?

The obvious answer here is the reach and relationships that an agency brings to the brand. As both a fashion and beauty PR firm that also dabbles in health and wellness, we basically work with the entire lifestyle department at any given outlet. I worked in-house for a year with a denim brand that had been my client at a previous agency. I brought great relationships with me and got them a lot of press while in-house (they actually became SHPR’s first client when I left to start the business!), but you just don’t work with as many editors on a weekly basis when you’re in-house as you do when you’re at an agency. Agencies are seen as the best resources for editors because they can let you know what stories they’re working on and you can send a variety of suggestions their way. Our proactive pitches are stronger too because we can editorialize them, incorporating all of our clients and tell a larger story about the season’s trends. I don’t, in any way, want to discount the value of in-house PR. It’s the right choice for some companies, especially more corporate ones who have a lot of nuanced red tape and legal to deal with. But even the most creative PR professionals who work in-house will tell you that sometimes they’re too deep in the forest to see the trees. I just wasn’t seen as the same kind of resource to the media when I was in-house as I am as someone representing multiple clients. It’s that simple.

What gets you excited about coming into work each day?

So many things. The entrepreneur in me loves that I can wake up with an idea of something I want to make happen and I have the power to make it happen because I work for myself. I feel so lucky that I still love what I do after more than a decade of doing PR. I love seeing something in a magazine, on TV or online and knowing that we made that happen for a client. I love that I can be watching a sitcom and admire a character’s style and reach out to the costume designer the next day to get a client of ours like Oasis considered for wardrobe. I love the people I work with – my employees and our clients who are all fun, creative, driven and like-minded. I get excited to meet new editors/producers/bloggers every day and to introduce our clients to them so that we can find creative ways to work together that serve both of our needs – mine to get press for our clients and theirs to create interesting, relevant content for their audience.

What are 3 things people might not know about you?

  • I’m from New Hampshire but I’ve never been skiing. Like I’ve literally never had skis on my feet.
  • I darken my hair. It’s light brown naturally, but I prefer the dark hair contrast with my fair skin. Josie Sanchez at Dop Dop in Soho is the only person I’ll let do my color. We do the darkest brown that isn’t black.
  • I own a lot of domain names. At one point I owned more, but then we decided to buy a house and have a baby and I let some expire. I still own a lot.

What are 3 essential products/tools that help you to do your best work?

  • We switched our company email to Google Mail a few years ago and it’s been a game changer for productivity. My email looks the same no matter where I’m looking at it (home, office, someone else’s computer) because it’s Gmail. I can search for anything within years of archived email. I can apply multiple color-coded labels to an email thread to find it later when I want to reference something, I can easily see which of my pitches on a certain topic or client haven’t yet been responded to yet for easy follow-up. I can’t sing enough praise about Gmail for business.
  • Evernote is my everything for work and personal life. It’s an app that you have on all devices and it syncs beautifully. I have Evernote notebooks for each client, for my “A” To Do List and “B” To Do List, for restaurants and recipes to try and so many other (weird) things. Client notebooks are great for jotting down everything from a boiler plate 2-3 sentence way to introduce the client that can be copied and pasted anywhere, to ideas that may not be urgent and therefore don’t need to be on an imminent to do list or call agenda, but should be remembered for action down the line.
  • I just discovered Sidekick, an add-on to Chrome to help me track email opens and it helps immensely with follow-up. It’s also rewarding when you’re doing a lot of email pitching in one day to see people opening your email even if you’re not getting a lot of responses right away – which can be disheartening to any publicist. It just means they’re busy and the follow-up is even more important.

What big goals do you have for 2015?

I mentioned above how Style House PR started as a fashion PR firm and has now expanded into beauty, health and wellness. I really want to expand even more into health and wellness in 2015. Our beauty work incorporates a lot of health and wellness with ingredient stories (especially probiotics!), but I’d like to find the perfect activewear client for us to take on and introduce to our fashion market editors, or a fitness brand that makes efficient, high quality workouts accessible to all. Athleisure is such a huge trend right now, and a big part of my personal lifestyle as an entrepreneur and mom who tries to squeeze in exercise whenever I possibly can. I’d also love to work with a food brand that has a sustainability and health message that speaks to the fashion and beauty set that we know so intimately. We would have a lot of fun, and do an excellent job, helping to spread the word about a company that makes it easy for busy women (and men!) to lead healthier lifestyles.

About This Author

Martha Chavez is a communications professional working in the educational sector, but loves moonlighting in fashion PR for PR Couture.