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Kim Ring is a Publicist at Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency. Follow her on Twitter @KimBroPossible.
Kim recently graduated from the University of Missouri in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Media Studies. Throughout college, she continuously displayed her marketing and communication knowledge through numerous internships before diving into the world of PR.
Not long after graduation, Kim became a full-time associate at the Communication Strategy Group before becoming their Influencer Relations Specialist. Here her focus lied in building sincere relationships with journalists in order to craft personalized pitches and differing story angles. Her clients’ news has been featured in huge outlets, such as Bloomberg, Reader’s Digest, and Chicago Tribune, as well as on big broadcast stations like ABC, NBC, and CBS.
She just recently made her shift to Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency at the end of 2018 as a Publicist. She is continuing to foster her client relationships and successes as she begins her new position.
Read about Kim’s fast-paced agency life, her favorite Denver cider house, and a some advice for us all to consider next time we’re pitching, or being pitched.
1. What is daily life like for you as an agency PR professional?
I imagine the agency folks reading this just heavily exhaled thinking, “Oh man, how much time do you have?” I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I often go into the weekend thinking I just had the best week AND the worst week, possible ever. On the same day, you might have a huge win for one client and then another client’s hair is on fire and you need to shift into crisis communication mode. The Grasslands folks have joked about dressing up as firefighters for Halloween because we’re always there to put out the flames!
Some days are more challenging than others, especially when working with brands in the cannabis industry who are constantly innovating, shifting direction due to changing regulations and above all else, teaching me new things every single day. I’m always on my toes, but the moment I see my client’s name in a headline that I secured for them, I remember why I got into PR in the first place. I live for the overwhelming sense of accomplishment when I see my client kill it during a live broadcast interview, and the thrill of hearing a journalist get just as excited as I am about my client’s campaign. There are so many ups and downs in a single day. The only thing that’s certain is that you’ll never be bored!
2. What has been the best moment of your PR career so far? Is there more than 1?
There are a few moments that really stick out to me. They’re both very different but equally exciting.
It was my first day at a brand new agency and my boss was introducing me to a journalist at a networking event. She said, “We’re really excited to have Kim on board. She’s got street cred.” Of course, I called my Mom the next day to let her know how cool her daughter is. I was still so stoked that I barely heard her say, “Oh, umm, is that a good thing?”
One morning, I woke up to multiple texts from my client. Thankfully, I knew exactly what they were about before I was awake enough to read the words. The Bloomberg story ran. Finally. Two months prior, my colleagues and I spoke with our client about a jaw-dropping story idea that would turn the industry on its head. We shifted into research mode and learned everything we could about some incredibly complicated behind-the-scenes work from a tech client of ours. Then, with much help from my team, I finally came up with the perfect personalized pitch and anxiously hit send. I had already read it so many times, I practically had it memorized. The story that came out of it was fantastic, but the best moment wasn’t when I saw it run. It was when I got a response from the reporter almost instantly saying, “How soon can we set up an interview?” Right then, I knew all of the research, preparation and several iterations of messaging was all worth it.
3. If you could be a publicist for your favorite brand, who would it be and what would be your first order or business?
I’m in love with this local Denver cidery called Stem Ciders. I joke that I’m doing my part for the community by “drinking locally.” (I’m usually the only one who laughs at that joke.) After I convince Stem to start selling six packs instead of four packs, I’d like to help Stem curate a cidery hopping event that puts brewery hoppers to shame. I have Celiac Disease, which makes it nearly impossible to hang out with my friends when they go on their brewery binges. This also makes me somewhat of a cider connoisseur, given that Stem Ciders (and most ciders) are all gluten free. However, living this lifestyle is not cheap and gluten free options are almost always marked up on menus. It’d be cool if Stem worked with the Celiac Disease Foundation to curate a bar crawl for gluten free folks to enjoy. Only bars that sell Stem will be included and they’ll provide discounts on ciders and gluten free bites along the journey. Proceeds would go toward the Celiac Disease Foundation. Far-fetched, but a girl can dream…
4. What’s the best story you’ve ever pitched?
I was representing Cochlear Implants and pitching stories about people with varying degrees of hearing loss, who could hear again after getting their implants.
I was pitching several stories like this, but the best one was about a boy from my hometown of St. Louis who lost his hearing as an infant. Despite his hearing loss, he’s an incredibly talented violinist in several student orchestras who would put hearing students to shame. He has a Cochlear Implant and went through intensive training to get where he is today. As a fellow “band geek” who took four years of American Sign Language, this story struck a chord with me…. No pun intended. It was an honor to share his story, especially when I realized one of my favorite news anchors in St. Louis, who I watched every week on the news as a kid, was going to be the one to tell it. I pitch so many different stories as a publicist, but this one has a special place in my heart.
5. One of your most favorite clients to work with was…?
It’s hard to pick a favorite…and it’s not because I’m over moon about every client I’ve serviced. I’d call bullshit on any PR pro who tries to spin that. I’ve enjoyed working on certain accounts, because the point person is super intelligent and I like them as a human. That’s what motivates me, instead of the product itself. Even if the work they do is fairly dry, I still have fun building rapport, learning from their expertise and sometimes even building a friendship. Other times, I’ve been passionate about the product and exciting campaigns they’re working on, but that does nothing for me if the main contact I’m working with on a daily basis is a pain in the ass.
6. What do you wish journalists could know about PR professionals?
- Replying to a pitch by saying “unsubscribe” doesn’t somehow take you off of my media list like unsubscribing to automated text alerts from Chipotle. It does, however, guarantee a chuckle out of me along with a spot on my exclusive “proceed with caution” list.
- A simple “no” from a journalist, is better than no feedback at all! If I’m pushing a story so hard and I’m not hearing anything back, the client might think I’m not doing anything at all. And I start to slowly lose my mind. Sometimes, getting a “no” is a huge weight off my shoulders. If you send feedback about why you’re not interested in my pitch, I might just do a little happy dance in the conference room. We love hearing feedback. I know journalists get a million pitches per day, but taking two seconds to decline makes my life so much easier. I know not to pitch you that type of story again, my client knows what went wrong AND I won’t keep bugging you about it. Everybody wins.
- Don’t throw a party with a client and forget to invite their publicist. We get FOMO. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when I introduce my client to media for an interview, they exchange business cards and reporters take it upon themselves to reach out directly to the CEO of the company when they need a source. I completely understand that it seems easier to connect directly with the company’s spokesperson, but it throws a kink into the whole process. It also kickstarts a slippery slope of clients thinking “Why am I even paying for a PR firm when I’m handling all of these requests myself?” Or something like “Kim, YOU HAD ONE JOB.” The CEO who barely has time to take a break for lunch, likely does not have time to respond to you under your tight deadline. But you know who does have the time? Their publicist.
7. If you could change one thing about the relationship between PR professionals and media what would it be?
I love coming up with story angles, connecting people, and cracking jokes in the form of a headline. The process really gets me goin’. I’ve been getting into a bad habit of connecting people who aren’t my clients in my “free time” just because I love it so much. I once had a journalist call me to tell me about a series of articles he was working on and we spent the next 30 minutes on the phone brainstorming different approaches and angles for him to bring to his editor. If I don’t have a client who can speak to that particular story, I’ll likely have someone in my network who can. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of that to help a journalist? What I’m trying to say is, I want journalists to feel free to call me and pick my brain on story angles. We’re not always trying to pitch you. I work at an agency founded by journalists. We call ourselves a “journalism-minded agency.” I frequently swing by our CEO’s office and ask him if my subject line would strike a chord with him. I’d like to have that open communication with any journalist, and I want them to feel comfortable asking for my opinion as well. We’re all in the business of telling amazing, inspiring and informative stories for readers everywhere. Why can’t we all just be friends who help each other out?
Our next Publicists We Love feature is right around the corner. Read about more Publicists, and Journalists, we LOVE in our recent blog Publicists and Journalists Who Like Each Other on the OnePitch blog.