Q&A with Kristen Novak of Wild Public Relations
How did you get into Public Relations?
I went to the University of Western Ontario and took a degree called Media, Information, Technoculture. This degree was really looking at how media impacted our cultural landscape. But funny enough, I didn’t even think about PR while doing my degree. It actually happened quite naturally. I started working for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors in Toronto running their charitable events and that had a communications element to it. And from there, each job just sort of put me on the path to ultimately working in agency. After several years in agency, and coming from an entrepreneurial family, I knew I had to take the leap into running my own PR business.
What is PR?
Public relations at its core is communicating a company’s messages to the public. There are so many facets of this industry from media relations to influencer marketing to more complicated and integrated communications plans to crisis communications. Every day is different and that’s what makes it so fun!
What industries do you work in? Why?
I chose the name WILD Public Relations for my business to reflect my passion for the outdoors, tourism and healthy living. It is these industries that make up the bulk of my business but I also love taking on clients that are just a great relationship fit. For me, it boils down to personality before anything else. If you are a good, kind person – let’s work together!
How long do you keep your clients for? How long are your client contracts?
It really varies. I have some clients who sign full year-long contracts and will renew them and I have some clients that only choose to do a quick month push. I love the flexibility of working with both long-term and short-term clients as it keeps things varied and interesting. I will also recommend a length of time to a client that fits their needs. I never try to lock a client in for a long-term partnership if I don’t think it is the right thing for them.
What do you do if media don’t pick up your pitch? Or what happens if you don’t get your client media coverage?
To date I have never not been able to get media coverage but I certainly have periods with clients where it can be slow. In these instances, I have a transparent conversation with my clients about the status of things and let them know what I’ve done and what my plan is next. In some cases, I will extend my scope for no additional cost to ensure I am always adding value.
How do you measure PR efforts?
Measuring PR has always been one of the toughest things to do and it really comes down to what type of work you are doing. If it is media relations, reports can include all coverage, the outlet’s reach, showcase engagement and comments, etc. If it is something like influencer marketing, there are very detailed metrics you can get from reach to impressions to time spent on a blog to blog page views, etc. I am getting a lot more diligent especially with influencer marketing to get proof of their audience. Even so far as to ask for Google Analytics screen shots and getting a breakdown of their demographic. The influencer landscape has some incredible gems but it is also full of fraud – purchased followers, purchased engagement, fudging numbers in media kits, etc. But if you show me a six-month screenshot of your google analytics for your blog, that doesn’t lie. And influencers that are hesitant to do so tells me they aren’t being honest and I won’t work with them.
Why do you like working for yourself?
More than anything, I love the flexibility – both with how and when I work but also being selective with clients. I also love the scalability. I feel like my earning potential is limitless where I feel capped and unmotivated in a salary environment. I had coffee with a previous client turned friend recently and we both joked that we were really bad employees as we hate being told what to do. But it is so true! I am so much happier being my own boss.
Most memorable campaign you’ve worked on?
I have been so lucky to work with wonderful clients throughout my years in PR so it is really hard to choose just one! But I have to say one that really sticks out was at a previous agency. Working really closely with my colleague and friend Madison, we literally launched the new runway at the Calgary International Airport. Think 10,000 people, logistics of running an event on a runway from security to scheduling how vendors get out to the runway to dealing with weather, etc. But man was the end result worth it!
Where does a client start with PR?
This is a hard question to answer! It really boils down to finding the right way to engage your audience. If you are a retailer – maybe you want an event to get people in store. Maybe you are launching a new product then getting media to write about it could be the route to go. It takes having a really good, hard look at your business and determining where you have the resources to allocate time and money and then pursue those with vigilance.
How do you get the attention of media?
Research, research, research! You have to finding the right media for your angle – ie – don’t pitch a food writer on a travel story! You don’t need an expensive media contacts database. Go onto LinkedIn and search for people there. For example, I have a number of travel related clients so I will go search by area and title for “travel writer, travel editor, freelance travel editor, etc.” and you start building a media list from there. And I am always looking for angles that are topical for media.
What’s the difference between earned, paid and owned media?
It’s actual really simple. Earned media is media coverage you received without paying for (ie what your PR person is for!), paid is coverage you purchased (ie: an ad in a magazine), and owned is anything on your channels (blog, social, etc).
What gives you anxiety or keeps you awake at night?
I am always asking myself – am I adding value? Am I making a difference in this client’s business? I start to stress myself out thinking that I am not doing enough. But at the end of the day, my clients are happy and that makes me happy!
What qualities do you value most in your clients/vendors/partners?
For me the most important thing is just being a good person. This baseline drives everything: managing conflict, communication, etc. I also heavily value responsiveness. I am a fast worker – I do things quickly and getting answers to questions or being available for conversation makes everyone’s job so much easier!
What is your biggest challenge of being a business owner?
There are two things that come to mind. The first is that it can be incredibly lonely – especially when you are running the business solo. There is no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to support the workload, no one to lean on when times are tough. It all falls on you and that can be hard and exceptionally lonely. And the second is just really believing in yourself. Believing you know what you are doing and believing in your value and skillset. But I would take these challenges over working for someone else again any day of the week!