PR Pros: Kourtney Jason of Pacific & Court On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro
Believe in your team, including both clients and employees. I don’t believe in working with people or clients that you don’t like or respect. Yes, money pays the bills, but you will find greater success and career fulfillment once you make the decision to only work with people you believe in and want to support. As for hiring, I cannot stress the importance of hiring people who make you better and know things you know you don’t know.
Have you seen the show Flack? Ever think of pursuing a real-life career in PR? What does it take to succeed in PR? What are the different forms of Public Relations? Do you have to have a college degree in PR? How can you create a highly lucrative career in PR? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” we are talking to successful publicists and Public Relations pros, who can share stories and insights from their experiences.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kourtney Jason.
With more than 12 years of experience as a publicist, Kourtney Jason has worked with and represented celebrities, world-renowned chefs, and bestselling authors. She is the president and co-founder of Pacific & Court, a Brooklyn-based publicity and marketing firm working with independent authors and publishers. She led the in-house publicity departments at Ulysses Press and Time Inc. Books, and further honed her strategic communications skills at bread & Butter and Smith Publicity agencies. Her past work includes high-profile authors such as country music icon Martina McBride, actress Valerie Bertinelli, chef Todd Richards, TODAY’s Siri Daly, New York Times bestselling authors Syd and Shea McGee (of Studio McGee) among many others. She is the author of five non-fiction books, including Lights Camera Booze: Drinking Games for Your Favorite Movies, which was included in the Academy Awards swag bags. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My PR career path presented itself to me, due largely in part to the relationships I’ve maintained throughout my life. I studied news-editorial journalism at Chico State, which also offered a public relations option. I never took a PR class in college. After graduation, I immediately moved to NYC for a full-time unpaid editorial internship at Seventeen magazine. I landed my first full-time job shortly after, joining the editorial team at TWIST magazine, covering all things Justin Bieber and Jonas Brothers. A couple years later, I was impacted by layoffs and moved back to California. I took the next year to pursue freelancing full-time (not my cup of tea!), and I wrote my first book for independent publisher Ulysses Press. A friend from college was an editor at Ulysses, and she had pitched me as an author for this particular book. Through the writing process, I got to know more of the team. A few months later, I was told that they had an opening in the PR department. They asked if I was interested in the position, and I said yes! I spent nearly six years at the company before moving onto PR jobs at Time Inc. Books, bread & Butter, and Smith Publicity. Then, mid-pandemic, I partnered with the team at Ulysses Press once again to launch Pacific & Court, a boutique book publicity and marketing agency based in Brooklyn, NY.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
It’s wild to have launched a company mid-pandemic and have the support that we’ve had since launching. I never could have expected to be where I am right now. For years, my mom had asked me if I ever thought I’d launch my own agency, and I always said no. Because it really wasn’t a goal I had considered. Today, I’ve never felt more fulfilled by a job, nor felt the job-security I feel today because I am simply betting on myself to make it a success.
As for the most interesting thing that’s happened — I continued to be surprised that by doing my work (pitching media) leads to even more client opportunities for my company. For example, I had pitched the host of a career-focused podcast early last year about a client of mine, and the podcast host liked the way my pitch was written, she hired us for her book launch last year. And we’re still working together a year later!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I honestly didn’t know much about book publishing as an industry when I started at Ulysses Press as a publicist in 2010. I was learning everything on the job, and I was grateful for the kindness given to me through this learning curve. I understood the incredible relationship between journalists and publicists, having spent years on the journalist end of it. I had a better understanding of what made for a successful pitch than someone who hasn’t worked on the editorial side of things. That said, I knew nothing about publishing as an industry and had no idea I should be reading and aware of the industry news and key trade publications.
So one day, a couple months into it, my boss (the publisher) asked why the company wasn’t included in a feature in Publishers Weekly. Well, that was the first time I had heard of the magazine — yikes! I understood his disappointment and I made sure to never make that mistake ever again. I realized that the company and its books wouldn’t be included in the magazine if the news wasn’t pitched and submitted to the editors’ calls for information. From that point forward, I knew that for every feature that aligned with Ulysses, I would submit the relevant news to do my part in securing the coverage.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The most exciting projects for me are having the opportunity to develop long-term relationships with my clients. We have independent publishers that hire us for year-long contracts, and I love feeling like I’m on their team internally, getting to highlight their frontlist titles while also telling their brand story. We also have multiple authors who have extended their PR campaigns to focus on their personal brand PR long after their book launch has wrapped. These 3–4-month book campaigns have turned into year-long campaigns with some clients. It’s so important to me to have those long-lasting relationships where you can really solidify the team dynamic and continue building upon your successes and PR wins. Yes, you can reach major goals within 3–4 months, but you can make even bigger dreams a reality when you have a long-term strategy.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1. Kindness. Years ago, I remember working with one publicist, and while she was a total badass at her job, she also made everyone around her feel small and weak and incapable. There’s no place for that, and it breeds a negative environment. I always want to lift up those that I keep around me and in my work circle. Just because you’re successful doesn’t mean you can’t also be kind. Additionally, I believe it is my own kindness and warmth that has helped make my company a success in such a short time.
2. Resilience. I’ve been laid off from three jobs, none of which were ever due to my work performance. I’ve been professionally impacted by the Great Recession, corporate mergers (RIP Time Inc.), and the pandemic. And each time, I took a moment to be sad and process the shock of being out of a job. Then I’ve found my way to rebound. Through each of those hurdles, I’ve always ended up somewhere even better than I could have imagined. And I’ve always had a great group of people ready to support me as I made my next move. Working within media and publishing is tough, as there are endless mergers and layoffs. It’s hard to feel like you have job security. And COVID hasn’t help with that either. But if you are resilient, you know you will always land on your feet.
3. Fearless motivation. Every day I deal with rejections from the media on a story idea, but every day I try and try again. Rejection isn’t personal when it comes to pitching a story. Just because it’s a no for one story doesn’t mean it’s a no forever. You continue to pitch, you continue to build those relationships with journalists and your clients, and you continue to celebrate every single win of getting your clients into one of their wishlist media outlets!
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are?
PR is forever changing with the times, but here are the most common types of public relations you’ll see today.
Media Relations focuses on building relationships with journalists, editors, producers, etc. at media organizations and acting as their source for content and experts. This is booking a guest on the TODAY show.
Community Relations includes managing the public’s opinion of your company/brand/product, while also handling the communication with your audience directly via newsletters, events, and even social media.
Crisis Communications is the management of PR when problems arise or disaster strikes. When these problems become public, a company or person will turn to crisis management to take control of the narrative. Think of Scandal’s Olivia Pope.
Public Affairs/Government Relations means getting the government on your side of particular issues, campaigns, and/or political/social movements.
Internal Communications/Employee Relations is a corporation’s PR team that handles the internal communications to its employees regarding company policies, changes, news, etc. These tasks most likely will be handled by the corporate communications team.
Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism? Can you explain what you mean?
A public relations degree is not required to have a career in the industry, which continues to grow and is expected to surpass a worth value of $93 billion this year. You can easily learn on the job if you’re starting at entry level or through internships. And if you have spent most of your career in editorial journalism, you can likely make the transition to PR quite easily and potentially enter the industry at a more senior level. The one skill every publicist must have to succeed is the ability to write well and write quickly. If you cannot write well, you will find this industry challenging.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Networking takes time. Relationships take time. And authenticity is key if you want these relationships to succeed for the long-term. In order to ask for favors from those around you, you will have had to spend the time investing in fostering these relationships. I’ve also learned a lot about networking, mentoring, and sponsorship from my client Kimberly Brown, who is a career and leadership development expert. In reading her book, Next Move, Best Move, I learned more about the four pillars of networking. Every professional should have four key relationships in their networks — peers, coaches, mentors and sponsors. These relationships are a crucial piece of your career strategy, each with their own benefits to your professional growth. For any professional, you need to evaluate how many people you have in each group, then notice which relationships might be lacking and need more attention or effort. As Kimberly says, these relationships do not have expiration dates. As you’re moving through your career and expanding your skill set and experiences, so are those in your network.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
The growth of Pacific & Court in its first two years has primarily been through word-of-mouth. Sometimes you never know how far a referral will travel, and it’s rather empowering to know that good work and a happy client will foster more good work and more happy clients. To support our launch and build our own brand awareness, we’ve also done digital advertising. Once we’ve connected with a potential client, we set up discovery calls to learn more about the client, their goals and share what we do. It’s a chance for us both to see if it will be a fit as client-publicist. If it isn’t a fit for us, we have a wonderful selection of publicists we will refer to the client.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
To create a successful career as a public relations professional, you should have the following skills and perspectives:
1. The right attitude. PR is hard and it takes a certain attitude and mindset to succeed in the industry. You must be creative, you have to think quickly, you always have to have a back-up plan because things will change. If you are prepared and organized, you can most likely avoid the sparks that turn into fires, but you still need to be able to course-correct when things go wrong. With the growth and focus of digital media, the industry moves even faster than ever before and you have to move even faster to be ahead of it.
2. Rebound quickly from rejection. Don’t take it personally when you get a ‘no’ from the media or a potential client you’ve been courting. It happens, and then you have to move on and turn your attention to the next task at hand.
3. Follow up, follow up, follow up. I hate to be a pest, but sometimes you have to be a pest and send that third or fourth follow-up email to your initial conversation with a journalist! Persistence is key when a journalist has expressed interest in your pitch. We know what our own inboxes look like, so imagine being a journalist who is getting hundreds, if not thousands of pitches that may or may not even be relevant to their beat day after day, which adds to how quickly your message can get buried under a mountain of email.
4. Never miss a deadline. And if you are going to miss a deadline, let the journalist know as quickly as possible that you cannot deliver. If they are counting on your content or source, you need to give them time to find another resource. And if you miss a deadline, you risk getting blacklisted by that journalist. We all remember names, and missing deadlines will make your name synonymous with “unreliable.”
5. Believe in your team, including both clients and employees. I don’t believe in working with people or clients that you don’t like or respect. Yes, money pays the bills, but you will find greater success and career fulfillment once you make the decision to only work with people you believe in and want to support. As for hiring, I cannot stress the importance of hiring people who make you better and know things you know you don’t know.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Simply be kind. You never know what battles another person is facing. Kindness makes all the difference in the world. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it in an email or DM on social media.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.
PR Pros: Kourtney Jason of Pacific & Court On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.