I have seen empathy and compassion in unexpected places. People are coming together in support of one another and the greater good. It is inspiring.
We can do with less. Look how far we have come and what we have been able to live without.
This is a learning moment for us all. Let’s take at least one key lesson away from this all.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Laufer Gorenstein, Founder and CEO of KLG Public Relations, an NYC-based communications agency that specializes in wine, spirits and celebrity-owned brands. Her other title is mother to her 4-year old son and 1 year old daughter. To Kate, family is everything, and she considers her all-star team of powerhouse women at KLG PR as part of her family too.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Absolutely. I will begin by saying that while my career path was certainly not easy, it came naturally. I’ll explain.
Unsure of what I wanted to do after school (I had majored in Business with a concentration in Managerial Finance), and just weeks after graduation, I found myself working for a mutual fund. I considered myself competent at that job but knew that I would never stand out in that role. Soon after that, an acquaintance reached out to me, informing me that she was leaving her PR job and was looking for someone to take her place. I knew it was a long shot given my lack of experience and having very little knowledge about the industry, but I was interested and knew that there was really no downside so I went for it. I arrived at the interview and was ushered to sit in a room with twelve others, all vying for the same job. We were asked some questions, given a writing assignment and, low and behold, I got an offer.
I quickly fell in love with PR as a profession. It was a great match for me and my personality and I couldn’t get enough of it. I found the work thrilling and, unlike my finance position, it inspired confidence in me because I felt that I was a valuable asset and contributor to the agency and successful PR campaigns. Every day left me feeling excited for the next one. I worked my way up in luxury hospitality and, after taking an “all agency personality test”, I was named the lead of the agency’s most coveted spirits account. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled to trade in my time at five star hotel/resort properties for a distillery, but once again, I kept an open mind and figured there was a reason for this match. Sure enough, I found the world of wine and spirits to be utterly fascinating. My interest in the industry only grew when I came to realize the sheer scope and reach of the category, with its vast potential for PR opportunities…and as my father pointed out, it was recession-proof.
My work on that account put me on the radar of the brand’s parent company and, without applying, I was offered a job overseeing PR for North America at the world’s 4th largest wine and spirits company — a job that no 27 year-old could refuse. Without ever visiting the place, I picked up and moved to Chicago for my new position.
I eventually moved back to the east coast to be closer to my family but continued to do in-house PR work, this time for another large spirits company. It was during my tenure there that I experienced my most significant personal growth. I met my future husband, got engaged and then married, and became pregnant with my first child.
While on maternity leave, my company was acquired and yet another opportunity soon presented itself to me. A high profile client of the former company had left and offered to be my first client if I was to ever start my own agency. Like many women I suppose, especially in a male dominated industry like this, I had grown accustomed to the chorus of voices insisting that I had to pick between my career or a family, but deep down I always believed it was possible to have it all. With a three-month old at home, I resigned and KLG PR was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
The most interesting moment for me was not what happened, but what didn’t happen. I was approached by a potential client asking us to handle their PR. The brand was reputable and the retainer was large, but I just didn’t have any passion for it. Without too much thought or deliberation, I simply declined the business.
The move left many people confused, but I just felt that this is my company with my name on it, so I always want to be mindful of not only working with brands that I believe in but also approaching that work with the best intentions of affecting positive change for those brands. If I couldn’t do that then I was out. It is also important to me to control growth and make sure that I don’t compromise the quality of the work being done for my existing clientele by overextending my resources to aggressively expand.
Another very interesting time was mid-March. The world was seemingly folding before our eyes and I started to receive a flurry of calls, texts and emails from clients, reminiscent of Jerry Maguire. The unique and varying responses to COVID was fascinating. You had clients who were vocal about sticking by the agency during what was sure to be a difficult time. There were clients who immediately asked to pause all PR before anything even happened and then there were clients who decided to double down on all efforts. It was terrifying to be honest, but also very reassuring and encouraging.
I am so proud to say that not one person on my team has been let go, furloughed or had a reduction in salary. I have worked (at least) twice as hard to make sure that everyone was taken care of and that they felt some sense of comfort knowing that I was here to help them through this time. It is personal to me, and nothing, not even a pandemic, is going to change that.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We recently launched Avaline, a brand-new, clean wine brand from Cameron Diaz & Katherine Power. What is interesting about this product is that they are trying to bring ingredient and nutritional transparency to the wine industry.
I think shining a light on something that has been done one way without question for so long is important. I hope it helps others re-evaluate and reassess choices they are making and opens the door for not only industry-wide change and improvement, but also spurs action even among the general public to just be more mindful about the products they consume and the processes that go into them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My son Will.
The company wouldn’t exist without him. My fear of leaving him and missing his many firsts in life was greater than my fear of failure. He (and his little sister) motivate me every single day.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
The biggest family related challenge due to COVID has been trying to navigate the ever-changing situation, especially as it relates to exposure to others. Be it through school, play dates, sports or every day outings, there is no clear answer or road map to follow. It has been difficult to strike the right balance between what is best for the emotional and mental health of my kids and standing firm in those (often unpopular) decisions when those around us have made very different choices.
The same goes for my team. I refuse to put them in a potentially dangerous situation, especially for personal gain. As we continue to discuss reopening, I am discussing the impact this will have on their individual anxiety levels. Interestingly enough, a handful of employees have expressed how eager they are to return to the office.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I have decided not to solely rely on advice but to customize an action plan that is unique and flexible to my family, my team and our needs. This has required a lot more work and creativity than originally planned, but at the end of the day, I am not willing to compromise our safety or well-being.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
A challenge which should not be marginalized is the added responsibility of homeschooling while trying to run a business that requires extra attention during a pandemic, as well as still running the household. There is an unspoken expectation for a mother to be involved in remote learning, and as the class mom, I felt additional pressure to be visible and present.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The saying “if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person” exists for a reason. I feel I was able to step up to the challenge and was able to do so because of the incredible team and support system that I have in place both at home and at work.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Be flexible. Schedules and routines are always important. In fact, they are two of my favorite things. . . but we cannot be rigid during these times. There are going to be days where our kids need extra support or reassurance and there are going to be days where work needs extra hours. Nurture both.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Sweat. Make time for self-care.
Unplug. Without a separation of work and home life, it can be easy to get fully enveloped in work.
Sleep. It can be hard with little ones, but do your best to get adequate sleep. Everything is a bit easier to handle when you are well rested.
Hug. I found one of the things I miss most are hugs from extended family or friends. I have found that giving my husband and kids extra hugs has helped keep me happy.
Find those silver linings. No denying that this year has been challenging, but I constantly look for the silver linings. Less time commuting, more time with my family, new interests. I promise there is at least one good thing.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- We were all moving quickly, too quickly. The pace that we were accustomed to caused us to lose sight of the little moments and details. Interactions and decisions were rushed. Exhale, you can now catch your breath and restart at a speed that feels comfortable to maintain.
- I have seen empathy and compassion in unexpected places. People are coming together in support of one another and the greater good. It is inspiring.
- We can do with less. Look how far we have come and what we have been able to live without.
- This time has created distance for some, but it has also brought to light those that are important to us. With fewer distractions and plans, it offers us the opportunity to lean into those relationships.
- This is a learning moment for us all. Let’s take at least one key lesson away from this all.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Acknowledge their feelings. We’re all experiencing additional stress and challenges right now, some the same, some different. Everyone’s experience is valid.
Break the cycle. Do something a bit out of the norm to change the routine. I am a firm believer that a physical shift can initiate a mental one.
Offer support and encouragement. Sometimes just knowing that this is in place offers a bit more peace.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Lead with humanity”. In the business world it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we’re all human beings, often facing many of the same challenges. If this year has taught us all anything, it’s that the world needs more empathy.
I am mindful to lead by example. I have found it critically important to host weekly zoom meetings with my employees as we transitioned to remote so I could look them in the eye and ask them how they were doing. I need to see the whites of their eyes at least once a week.
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram @klgpr for everything business related or @laufette if you are looking to see endless pictures of my children.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!