Kosi Harris: “Don’t confuse activity with progress”

Don’t confuse activity with progress. Being “booked and busy” doesn’t mean you are progressing and being strategic with your time. If your activities don’t fit into your strategic plan, and you are taking clients for the sake of taking clients, you may be wasting your time on things that don’t matter and don’t align with […]

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Don’t confuse activity with progress. Being “booked and busy” doesn’t mean you are progressing and being strategic with your time. If your activities don’t fit into your strategic plan, and you are taking clients for the sake of taking clients, you may be wasting your time on things that don’t matter and don’t align with your values.

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 Kosi Harris.

Kosi Harris PR is a marketing and public relations company based in Brooklyn NY founded by Fashion Institute Alumni/Friendly Neighborhood Publicist Kosi Harris. Kosi Harris PR works with brands and individuals in the non-profit, lifestyle, travel, fashion, geek, entertainment, and tech space.

Founder Kosi Harris has been a public relations specialist for the past ten years. She specializes in non profit, consumer products and hospitality clients including: EveryLibrary, Time Warner Center, American Heart Association, Easter Seals, Besame Cosmetics, Wethos, Peru Tourism, Bird + Stone Jewelry, Tourette Association of America, Wham-O Toys, Grand Canyon Railway, and Reebok Watches.

She has become adept at amplifying the voices of brands and maximizing client visibility through key relationships with press, media, and prominent influencers such as Harper’s Bazaar, Fatherly, Thrive Global, USA Today, Forbes, People Magazine, Buzzfeed, NY Times, and Yahoo Finance.

Kosi holds a BA in Advertising & Marketing Communications from The Fashion Institute of Technology. In 2017, she received her MA in New Media and Public Relations At Southern New Hampshire University.

Kosi currently resides in Brooklyn, NY and is a self proclaimed geek.

Thank you so much for your time Kosi! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor, lawyer and fashion designer. I even had drawings making clothes. At 17, I realized I wanted a career as a publicist after a job shadowing day that my business teacher Mrs. Gulston arranged at a PR firm. I was very inspired by the account executive and asked her background and how she got started. She mentioned going to The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), applying for internships and the rest is history so to speak. I applied to a few communication schools, got accepted into FIT and made the choice to go. After a few internships I obtained a position as a marketing/pr manager at a knitwear company, then went into contracting/running my business osn after.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

I don’t think that there’s one real interesting story as much as the many interesting people that I have met along the way. I remember last year before the pandemic really hit I went to Washington DC for a client taping and in the green room. I met the inventor of the Sports Bra Lisa Lindahl when she was on the show discussing her memoir. Working with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for two non-profit client’s was a real treat

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?

Always double check every detail or give it to another set of yes to do so! A food client I had was promoting their new flavor of butter. I didn’t include “perisible” as a detail on the slipping slip so the editor who requested the butter got melted butter by the time the package got to her. Right outside her door!

Freshman year at the Fashion Institute of Technology, my first report I misspelled public so the title of the report read: “Pubic Relations and Marketing” haha the professor thought it was funny as well so much she didn’t take points off, I was mortified!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am doing amazing work in the non profit, small business, consumer and tech product space. I am working on Tourette Awareness Month with the Tourette Association of America, a wellness client who uses rose quartz in a product called Blossom + Stone, Non-profit Everylibrary raising awareness for the New York City School Librarians’ Association, Language platform italki, and content creator disability advocate GIgi Robinson. I recently helped Besame Cosmetics launch their limited edition Marilyn Monroe Collection and will start promoting Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film and Lecture series virtual events in the spring.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It’s not all glamorous, be prepared to put in the work. This is for any type of “beat” in public relations. The placement is the “glamorous part” but the BTS stuff though satisfying cfan include weeks or months until a writer replies to a pitch to get the placement, as well as managing expectations for the client in between pitching and waiting to see if there will be a placement.
  2. Trying and not succeeding is not failing, never trying is failing. Instant success is great but can be short lived, with my failures I learned from them. In those lessons I was able to achieve long term success.
  3. It’s ok to pivot industries close to a decade in your career. Take the risk. When I was 17 years old, I made up my mind one job shadowing day trip that I wanted to be a fashion publicist. After getting a job that gave me the opportunity to do that, around year 5 I was scared feeling that it was something that I didn’t want to do anymore but how can I leave since I made this commitment when I was 17 years old. I was worried about starting over and the “work” that would entail. The universe in a way pushed me to start over, it was a lot of work but well worth it. If someone told year 5 in doing fashion publicity that “it’s ok to change interests” I would love left in a heartbeat.
  4. Nurture, don’t compete. Put 70% more time to acknowledge the people who helped you along the way and 30% for new business. A few years ago at a comic con I went to a panel where the moderator advised us to “nurture, don’t compete” That advice always stuck with me esp during the time when I was developing the website. When I was about to announce my business website online I dedicated to go the guerilla marketing route sending my new business card to clients, family, and friend’s showing my gratitude and announcing the site is live. I had a lot of support from clients who took a chance on a girl who only did fashion pr for 7 years, which led to word of mouth. Family and friends who supported my pivot, it was only fitting they should see the site first before announcing it online. I also believe in paying it forward. It’s important to have a humble and giving heart; something I realized I did since highschool and why I am passionate about non-profit work.
  5. Don’t confuse activity with progress. Being “booked and busy” doesn’t mean you are progressing and being strategic with your time. If your activities don’t fit into your strategic plan, and you are taking clients for the sake of taking clients, you may be wasting your time on things that don’t matter and don’t align with your values.

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

Make social media work for you: LinkedIn-treat it as a professional brochure, include the most up to date information along with an appropriate profile picture.

Network in your own backyard: start with networking in your work environment.

Prepare your elevator pitch: don’t rehearse verbatim, it’s important to act as natural as possible, similar to how you shouldn’t read a powerpoint word or word, this includes no crazy buzzwords.

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?

  • Attend in person and virtual networking events
  • Attend in person and virtual trade shows and look at companies that fit your niche.
  • Share media placements online, dong so can generate more followers. Reach out to your contacts via email and share the placement as well.

Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?

There have been a few recently the first one is one my sister gave me called “More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say”) by Elaine Welteroth. A lot of experiences that Elaine describes in the book are ones that I’ve been through working in fashion and being a black woman. It was empowering to know I wasn’t alone and inspired me to keep going. One of my best friend’s introduced me to Marketing Brew that has been helpful in knowing the latest happenings in the marketing advertising world as I start to get through my emails in the morning. “The Spin Sucks Podcast” has amazing thought leadership episodes that PR and non PR folks should give a listen to. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Stephen Covey. My late father gave me this book when I was about 16 years old, the book helps teens understand what makes a person effective/successful in life.

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. 🙂

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