PR Pros: Kristen Skladd of The KMS Group On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro
Strategy: Understand the ins and outs of your clients and why their story needs to be heard. Develop a solid, clear and concise strategy to get them out in front of the right audience. What angle is going to make a splash and generate noise? A well-thought-out strategy will make a huge difference versus throwing mud at a wall and seeing if it sticks.
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 Kristen Skladd.
Kristen Skladd is a publicist and the owner of the KMS Group. With over a decade of combined professional experience in the public relations and media industry, she helps her clients sharpen their image and gain exposure on a national scale. A former news reporter, she is a storyteller by trade. Kristen earned her BA in Journalism from Oakland University. Originally from the Metro Detroit area, she now resides in South Florida.
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?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me! My career path began as a child when I developed a strong passion for reading. I loved spending time at the library because the thought of all the new books and getting swept away in one greatly excited me. In fact, the librarians all knew me by name because I spent so much time there — I couldn’t get enough! By the time I got to high school, I wanted to take those stories and make them my own. I loved English class and learning how to structure a piece, be it fictional or non. I started exploring different career paths where I could tell these stories and knew that becoming a TV reporter and marrying words with visuals was where I was destined to be. I spent nearly a decade in the TV news, radio, and digital worlds as a reporter, getting to do what I loved but through different mediums. During this time, I had always worked closely with publicists as they served as a direct link to bring the story to fruition. When I decided to move to South Florida, I made the switch to public relations and the rest they say, “is still unwritten.”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I began my company in the midst of the pandemic to make sure I had an LLC that my freelance writing and social media monitoring business could represent. I never had a desire to start my own PR company, per se, but at the same time, I knew that I wanted to grow my knowledge of PR and expand into working with clients from different industries, beyond what I was used to. Since I began my company, it’s like I showed the universe a sign that I was “open for business” and it heard me — and gave me plenty of work to do. I am so fortunate when new opportunities come my way out of the blue or when I find myself at the right place at the right time and say “Hey, I can do that!” as it gives me the opportunity to not sit still. I will say, when you own your company, you certainly won’t be bored a day in your life.
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 don’t know if it’s so much funny as it is a life lesson. But when I first started, I made the mistake of taking on way too much — and thinking I could do it all! When you’re only one person, you have to be reasonable about your limits and understand when you’re stretching yourself too thin. Sure, working 12-hour days can bring you a desirable income but what else are you missing out in the process? I want to be able to work with clients who I feel strongly about and feel united as a team that we are in this together for the greater good of telling a story, and I am grateful that I now have the ability to do that.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I love being able to work with clients who excite me so I will say this, they all excite me! Everyone — whether they are a restaurant, a product, a nonprofit, a start-up — all have a story to tell that the world needs to know it. They are doing new and exciting things and reinventing life as know it, they just need the proper channels to convey that to their targeted audiences and that’s where PR comes in.
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?
- Curiosity: In school, my classmates used to call me ’20 questions’ because I literally asked questions about everything. That only led to my calling to someday become a journalist and later a publicist and find out the nuts and bolts of each story and why others need to know about it. I think the day that you stop asking questions, some part of you fades away.
- Reliable: I am an extremely Type A personality (which can get stressful), but it also means that I get things done. I’ve had quite a few people tell me similar sentiments along the lines of “I can sleep well at night knowing you’re on my team and that you have it handled and I don’t have to follow up to know that something will be done with quality” really says a lot to me and makes me remain committed to not letting people down and seeing items through to completion.
- Punctuality: I’m the person who arrives 10 minutes early to everything and sets my clock forward 10 minutes (it’s silly because I know the real time). I don’t have a story to share for this one, but I will say that I absolutely hate scrambling and feeling flustered because I’m running late when I know that it could have all been avoided had I left the house a few minutes earlier. Time management is key to meeting deadlines and keeping things flowing. If you ever see me arrive late to anything, I definitely did it on purpose!
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?
As a publicist, you are representing your client, their brand, and their overall image. You want to project your client in the most positive light in order to illicit a favorable response from the public. To do so, the different forms of PR are:
- Earned Media — placements within targeted publications that are generated through media relationships. Examples are feature pieces, mentions within an article, commentary by a company’s executive on a breaking news topic, and social media generated leads.
- Owned Media — operative strategies that the business controls to increase exposure. Examples are external newsletters, social media content, and blog or website copy (implementing SEO).
- Paid Media — a ‘pay-to-play’ investment to increase awareness. Examples are advertising (whether in media or on social channels), influencer marketing, press release distribution, or a click campaign.
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?
I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism because I had the intentions of becoming a journalist (which I did and loved). However, during my time in college, I took a few PR classes here and there. It wasn’t until I actually worked as a reporter did I then interact with publicists on a regular basis and really understand more of what their role was. I also have a minor in communications but to me, communications is a broader and more all-encompassing field that could lend itself to many different careers. I will say that when I made the switch from PR to journalism, my degree only worked to my advantage. Because of the skills I learned, not only am I able to write my clients’ content, whether it be a press release or blog post or thought-leadership piece, but I am also able to understand the inner workings of the media. My journalism degree led me to so many interesting people while in college that I was able to experience different newsrooms from TV to print to radio to online work-from-home digital and understand their deadlines, tight turnaround times and more, which is critical as a publicist so that you have a better chance of securing a placement and creating those all-important relationships.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Take advantage of all applicable opportunities to network. Join career-related groups, groups with people who have the same extracurricular passions as you, groups with alumni from your college, whoever it might be. Networking will challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and put yourself on a stage. However, it’s important to remember that if you’re nervous, so many others are too. It’s never comfortable talking to strangers but eventually, those strangers become business contacts, friends, and even future coworkers.
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?
It goes without saying that a PR placement is worth its weight in gold and that’s why the field of PR is a lot of hard work and a lot of pitching that often falls on deaf ears. However, PR can do much in terms of lead generation for your clients and it doesn’t stop when a placement hits. It’s important to maximize the shelf life of any press pickup by posting it your website, using it in social media posts and linking within an external newsletter. Never underestimate the power of SEO and helping to get your business or story in front of new eyes with just a simple Google search.
It’s also crucial to generate leads by putting yourself out there. Whether that’s networking at an industry conference, mixer or even arriving early to a speaking engagement and meeting others in attendance, bring business cards and don’t be afraid to say hello. The same goes with social media. Use networking sites like LinkedIn to your advantage by connecting with others, sharing your passions, and giving a ‘humble brag’ once in a while.
Lastly, generate leads by doing a good job! Your clients are your best salespeople and when you demonstrate your determination, trustworthiness, and ability to achieve results, your work speaks for itself. I have found my way to some amazing clients just through word of mouth. Let what you can do talk!
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.)
- Strategy: Understand the ins and outs of your clients and why their story needs to be heard. Develop a solid, clear and concise strategy to get them out in front of the right audience. What angle is going to make a splash and generate noise? A well-thought-out strategy will make a huge difference versus throwing mud at a wall and seeing if it sticks.
- Persistence: Contrary to an outsider’s belief, PR is about so much more than distributing a press release and hoping it achieves the results you’re looking for. It takes research, relationship building, repeat contact, and the yearning to find new opportunities to get the story told. When one door closes, another opens — you just have to be willing to find that door and keep turning challenges into goals.
- Embrace rejection: Sometimes, your email will never be answered. Sometimes, you’ll get a flat out “remove me from your list” response. Understand that it’s not personal. While it may feel like a hopeless venture to you, especially when you feel that you know you have the best angle, great presentation and the right reporter that would care about this, sometimes, they might just not be able to take it on at that minute — whether for being overloaded, pressed for time or it’s just not in their wheelhouse right now. Don’t take things to heart and trust that you’re doing the best you can.
- Willingness to learn: The industry is changing rapidly by the minute — in fact, all industries are. You have to learn to grow and adapt with those changes or you’ll forever remain stuck. If there is new technology, try to see how you can incorporate it into your life. If there’s a new way of getting your messaging out there, find out what it is. Being willing to evolve is how you will achieve success.
- Writing Skills: If you can write, you can do so much more for your clients in an efficient amount of time. I’m a big believer in this as it’s helped me in crafting press release, blogs, guest post pieces, social media calendars, and so much more while continuing to develop my skills in the process. Grasping a basic knowledge of SEO and how to weave it into your writing will do so much for your clients.
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. 🙂
I would love to see a movement of more kindness on this planet. A simple ‘thank you’ for holding the door or not ignoring an email can go a very long way for everyone, everywhere and my hope is someday that we can continue to have more of that! Also, as animal welfare is one of my passions, ‘adopt, don’t shop’ is a movement that I hope to keep spreading the word about!
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.
PR Pros: Kristen Skladd of The KMS Group 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.