You can’t be everything to everybody. I made a promise to myself in the early onset of my business that I only wanted to work with individuals or organizations whose brand and/or message resonated with me. Taking on anyone and everyone just to have a full roster is not my style. I would prefer to have fewer clients that I can truly devote myself to rather than a roster full of clients I do not necessarily believe in.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Hale. Kim is a public relations specialist who unconventionally created her own career path after ten years working in various facets of the entertainment industry ranging from Talent Agent to Social Media Manager. A former professional dancer, Kim discovered a new purpose “behind the scenes” guiding and supporting artists at every stage of their career.
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 career as a publicist was a natural progression from my previous experience as a talent agent and in marketing/social media. While I was working at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles I interacted with quite a few publicists and began to see an intersection between my work as a talent agent and the marketing/social media world. Ms. Allen was always gracious in allowing me the opportunity to try new things which eventually led to me handling the PR for her 10th Anniversary production of the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker. I loved every minute of that experience. I immediately knew I wanted to dig deeper into public relations and began working with my friends Emmy Award-nominated choreographer Chloe Arnold and her sister Maud Arnold, one of the tap dance world’s leading ladies. The chemistry was instant and I started booking them immediately. I’ve come to realize that my work in public relations is not that different from my experience as a talent agent. You have to be passionate about the people you are working with and the stories you are telling.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
The most interesting story has been having to adapt to a new way of working during the global pandemic. Most of my days are spent working from home. What was once a very active and social profession has transformed into something much more isolating. With the shutdown of Hollywood, there are no more red carpets, premieres, or even set visits. I am basically communicating with my clients over the phone or via email and trying my best to support them in every way I can but it has been challenging. Client interviews are being done via Zoom and there are now Instagram Live bookings. The media landscape has changed and we are all being forced to adapt quickly. I have been fortunate in that many of my clients are involved with philanthropic work so that has helped keep them engaged in the media throughout COVID-19. I was so grateful to be able to recently accompany two of my clients to set. We are all so excited and invigorated by the opportunity even though it meant standing in the hot sun for two hours. This “new normal” has definitely forced me to cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude for every moment I get to spend doing what I love and for that, I am grateful.
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?
In February, I had the honor of taking Emmy Award winner Debbie Allen down the Grammy Awards red carpet. This was also the day that the world found out that Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had died and everyone on site was an incomplete and utter shock as was I. The Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the event was being held, is a huge complex with lots of underground tunnels, stairwells, and elevators that allow you to get from one place to the other. As a result of the shock of hearing of Kobe’s passing, I completely forgot to map out (I actually encourage you to walk it yourself) the route from the dressing room to the red carpet. I was mindful enough to ask a security guard if he would mind showing us the way.
Unfortunately, that was my first mistake. Once Ms. Allen was dressed and ready, the security guard began to escort us to the step and repeat. Halfway through the journey of the cavernous Staples Center, he had to leave abruptly and quickly blurted out some instructions of which I missed them all. I was dying inside. I had no idea where we were going. When I say we were completely lost…we were completely lost. I was begging and pleading with people to point me in the right direction and can you believe it, every single one of them was WRONG! Thank goodness for Ms. Allen’s patience because I was completely embarrassed. I am known as a very capable and prepared person but I truly dropped the ball on this night. We ended up laughing, taking our heels off, and basically giving up before a kind soul escorted us to an underground entrance where an SUV would ultimately drive us to the entrance. I made a vow at that moment that would NEVER happen again. My advice is to ALWAYS walk the route on your own in advance whether it be to a stage, red carpet, or car to avoid an embarrassing moment like what I endured.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
At the moment I am working on a few projects focused on making sure young people have arts education opportunities during the pandemic. There are many who believe that the arts are not essential; however, it is the creative arts that are helping us get through this challenging moment in our nation’s history. Where would we be without the likes of Netflix, YouTube, and Apple TV to name a few? Now more than ever it is imperative that we nurture and support the next generation of artists, creators, and innovators.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- You can’t be everything to everybody. I made a promise to myself in the early onset of my business that I only wanted to work with individuals or organizations whose brand and/or message resonated with me. Taking on anyone and everyone just to have a full roster is not my style. I would prefer to have fewer clients that I can truly devote myself to rather than a roster full of clients I do not necessarily believe in.
- Be patient. It takes time to build and nurture relationships with writers and the media. The good news is once you develop a solid relationship, it is there to support you when you need it most. Don’t beat yourself up. Take good care of the contacts you have and more will come.
- Others are not always on your time schedule. I think it is imperative to be clear about what your communication expectations are when you onboard a new client so everyone is on the same page. I know for me, it can get really frustrating when you see a client posting on social media but they are unavailable to reply to a text or email. This is why it is important to let clients know from the beginning that media outlets are on deadlines and often need a timely response. Remind them that you want to make every opportunity possible available and follow that up with an inquiry about what the best mode of communicating with them is when you need a quick response.
- The public relations landscape is always evolving. At the beginning of 2020, I could have never predicted the new forms of earned media that would emerge as a result of COVID-19. For example, podcasts have become a more important part of the media landscape and a viable means of communicating one’s message.
- Self-care matters. I cannot emphasize the importance of making self-care a priority enough. Public relations is, in many ways, a service profession. You are there to serve your client and help spread the message. That said, it is imperative that you schedule a time for yourself. This is going to look different for each person. For some it will be making an appointment for a massage and for others, it will be finding time to spend with family. Whatever you choose, give yourself the gift of taking care of yourself. Your clients will thank you later.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
COVID-19 is presenting some challenges to networking but there is always a way. My top three tips for networking during this time are:
- Social Media — I am finding great success connecting with others in various aspects of the industry via social media. I have an incredible amount of success on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. For example, rather than sending a blanket “connect” request on LinkedIn considers including a short message about their recent work or a shared interest.
- Zoom — We are all spending a lot of time on Zoom calls these days. If you find yourself on a call with new colleagues or individuals you do not know, take the time to send them a private message on Zoom to introduce yourself. You may want to add your email and/or LinkedIn handle. Or, better yet, follow up with them on LinkedIn and add a message letting them know you were on a recent Zoom call together.
- Online Conferences — Make it a habit to connect with a minimum of five people you interact with or who possibly deliver a keynote address. Here again, you can reach out to them on LinkedIn or even better, send them a handwritten note to their office thanking them for their contribution to the event, and a few words on how that experience impacted you.
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?
Believe it or not, one of the most powerful strategies I use to generate good, qualified leads is social media — specifically, Instagram. Yes, I said it, Instagram. I have made it a priority to follow the accounts of individuals in the same industries as my clients as well as other publicists. I spend close to an hour a day mining through my Instagram feed to see where these individuals are receiving media attention. I cannot begin to tell you how many media placements I have made from the leads generated on Instagram. Here is the key component of this approach.
As I said, I am following people in the same industries as my clients. Why does that matter? When I see a media outlet has done a piece on one of these individuals It confirms for me that this particular outlet actually covers and is interested in stories on this particular topic. For example, recently I saw that a new local entertainment news show did a piece on a hip hop choreographer I love. One of my clients had actually collaborated with that choreographer on a viral video. I used that as me in to introduce my clients who are tap dancers. Within a week my client was on set shooting a piece. So often, publicists send blanket pitches to media outlets rather than pitches that are strategic, well crafted, and targeted to the outlet. In my experience, when you use a targeted approach your odds of booking your talent exponentially increase.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I read How Starbucks Saved My Life — A Son of Privilege Learns To Live Like Everyone Else by Michael Gates Hill at a point in my life when I was struggling to find the next step in my professional career and it hit me like a brick. The idea that true happiness lies not in what you do but how you do it was life-changing. All my life I had been fueled by a quest for success, power, and influence when what I truly craved in my soul was a connection to purpose. This book gave me permission to reset and reconnect with my purpose which is sharing the stories of people and organizations that I value. My work in public relations is in alignment with this and as a result, I am happier than I have ever been.
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 start a movement to remove fear-based conversations from the media landscape. As a global community, we are fed a lot of fear in the media. What if we changed the narrative to include hope, inspiration, new modes of thinking, alternative medicine and conversations around possibilities? What kind of ripple effect might that have on our world? I see tiny micro-movements in this direction and I think it is absolutely wonderful! In order for this movement to flourish, we as consumers must post, share, and engage with this kind of content in order to demonstrate its viability in the marketplace. I continue to pitch and pursue stories of triumph of adversity and the many ways people are uplifting not only their local communities but the world as well.