PR Pros: Jen Rogers Of Hudson West On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro
An Interview With Kristen Shea
You need to get joy and fulfillment from seeing your client on the TODAY show, or your client’s product in a Bustle roundup. If the end results of your efforts don’t excite you, it might be better to go into another line of work.
Have you seen the show Flack? Ever think of pursuing a real-life career in PR? What does it take to succeed in PR? What are the different forms of Public Relations? Do you have to have a college degree in PR? How can you create a highly lucrative career in PR? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” we are talking to successful publicists and Public Relations pros, who can share stories and insights from their experiences.
As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jen Rogers.
Jen Rogers Co-Founded Hudson West in 2012. Hudson West is a bi-coastal elite, entertainment and lifestyle PR and branding firm. Splitting her time between offices in Scottsdale and New York, Jen’s strong relationships in digital, print, and broadcast, in particular, enable her to produce consistent top-tier exposure for her clients. Before starting Hudson West she held various production and PR positions at boutique firms as well as television production companies like Telepictures, Sony Pictures Television, and HARPO.
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 first job after college graduation was at the cable network, Court TV. I knew I wanted to be in television but didn’t know what that looked like.
I had an amazing opportunity to be the personal assistant to the lead on-air talent, Catherine Crier. During that time, Catherine’s first NYT best-selling book came out and I was able to go on tour with her. During that trip, I became a sort of Junior Publicist being shown the ropes by her personal publicist, and my future mentor, Heidi Krupp-Lisiten. Looking back, I believe being an assistant was one of the best starting positions for me. Client management is a huge part of owning your own business and moving up the ladder at PR firms, and approaching it from a detail-oriented, organized position puts you one step ahead.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
COVID was an interesting time for everyone — the PR industry was unstable and we had no idea what it meant for long-term business plans. Hudson West was fortunate enough to have a client roster full of quarantine-relevant consumer product goods, specifically air purifiers and home office products. With everyone now working from home, we were able to reestablish personal relationships with so many of our media contacts. Learning where they lived, what products fit into their space, and even what types of pets they had, really helped our team secure media placements while building up media relations and personal connections during a very turbulent time.
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?
One miscalculation I made when starting my own company was thinking I’d never be working for or alongside a previous boss again.
Over the past 10 years, Hudson West has contracted projects with several of our former bosses’ firms and agencies, resulting in amazing projects and events. Our team has become well-known for delivering top media placements and we are often asked to assist behind the scenes to help other agencies get the results they need for their clients. We even refer potential clients that would be a better fit with another agency and they often do the same for us in return. I love how my former bosses and colleagues have become an amazing support system for work and referrals.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
When we started Hudson West, many of our first clients were television shows, podcasts and entertainment-focused entities. As the years progressed our client roster was more and more focused on consumer products — which I loved learning about, and eventually mastering- especially the art of a product launch. Some of our CPG clients include manufacturers like Regal Ware, ACCO Brands, and GHP Group. We’ve had the opportunity to run Influencer Campaigns for many client brands and it’s thrilling to watch brand awareness and recognition drastically increase through the combination of PR and social media marketing.
Over the years we’ve also worked with some great non-profits like FWD.us, the National Sikh Campaign, and most recently Free Bikes 4 Kidz. These projects are always rewarding, and with the Free Bikes 4 Kidz campaign we were lucky enough to experience a bike collection drive in Phoenix, and see first hand how the media coverage we garnered led directly to bike donations made in real time!
The best part about Hudson West’s clientele is that we are able to become partners with them — they look to us to advise them on all aspects of communications and brand building. For a few of our more notable clients, we’ve begun working as their Corporate Communications arm, in addition to the regular PR work we do.
Despite the pandemic, 2021 was Hudson West’s most successful year to date, and we are on track to keep growing throughout the rest of 2022.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Organized. I have a type-A work personality, and when it comes to organization- I love spreadsheets and GDocs. My partner, Lori Jung, is the creative one — always thinking of fabulous ideas and campaign hooks. The intersection of these two traits is what has made Hudson West so successful.
- Heart. From day one, Lori and I decided that we’d never take on a client we don’t believe in. When we pitch, we do so from a passionate place about the product or production, and I truly believe that comes through when we are speaking to the press about our clients.
- Positive Diplomacy. A positive attitude is essential for a leader — it trickles down from the top. Applying that to client management, while being straightforward and honest with your clients and peers, is the perfect one-two punch.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are?
Great question! Over the past decade, the lines between PR, marketing, and social media have become extremely blurred. We love it when we can blend consumer PR strategies, with B2B tactics, social media, and internal corporate communications; this is where Hudson West thrives as a full-service agency. Here’s how I like to think of it:
Traditional Public Relations is securing editorial coverage in magazines, newspapers, websites, and on local and national television. This definition has drastically changed over the last 10 years, as more local and syndicated broadcast television shows have initiated a Pay For Play model.
Affiliate Marketing for online articles has exploded since COVID, and the definition of a press contact has expanded from reporters/editors in the 90’s, to bloggers in the 2000’s, to the influencers of today. Now public relations can be executed through advertorial placement, social media campaigns, and even certain aspects of marketing.
Over the past 10 years, Hudson West’s business model has grown from a boutique firm, to a full-service agency — where we partner with amazing video production companies, social media managers, ad sponsorships, and even other PR firms to service clients on a broader scale.
Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism? Can you explain what you mean?
Take writing classes — any and all writing classes.
I graduated with a double major in Communications and English — and my English degree was by far more helpful.
When I started in PR 20+ years ago, so many of my conversations with the press happened over the phone or over lunch/drinks. With the rise of email, social media, Slack and the like, fine-tuning your writing skills is essential.
When Hudson West hires interns we always look for the best writers, because while you can teach anyone to pull a list from Cision, drafting a killer press release and pitch is an art form.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
- Think of building your network like you do building friendships. Get to know the person you are connecting with on a personal level. Where do they live? How many kids do they have? What do they like to do for fun? You’ll be surprised how often you reference back to this information and how developing the relationship on a deeper level is helpful to both your business and your soul.
- I personally think the Thank You note is alive and well. Whether it’s snail mail or email, making sure to thank someone for a job interview, or even press coverage is timeless and appreciated.
- Be open to new experiences. You never know where a networking opportunity might present itself.
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?
Hudson West has built our entire business on reputation-based referrals. For 10 years every client we’ve worked with has been introduced through a former client, a referring PR or marketing firm, or even friends and family. We keep our operations streamlined so we are always in a unique position to be able to offer senior-level service at competitive rates.
The bottom line is that your press placement results need to speak for themselves. Using a service like Covereagebook to showcase garnered press and campaigns for current clients, and share them with potential clients, is a great strategy to implement.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why.
- Joy. You need to get joy and fulfillment from seeing your client on the TODAY show, or your client’s product in a Bustle roundup. If the end results of your efforts don’t excite you, it might be better to go into another line of work.
- Building Your Foundation. When starting in PR, whether in-house or at a firm, it is of the utmost importance to master the PR tools (Cision, MuckRack, etc.), plus take criticism and feedback in any form you can get it. The art of creating a Press Schedule and Briefing Sheet should never be overlooked. Making sure any client-facing documents are completely buttoned up and have no spelling errors or grammatical mistakes is crucial. Establishing these types of good PR building blocks are what can make for a lasting career with quality job opportunities.
- Network. PR is all about the network you have — with media, plus with other publicists and professionals. Building and maintaining those relationships over the entire lifespan of your career is essential. The fun part is growing WITH your network — for example, those interns, editorial assistants, and production assistants I used to drink with in my 20’s are now editors and executive producers.
- Fortitude. Pushing to get press placements for your clients can be challenging. Hearing back a “yes” or “no, because…” from your press contacts is what you always need to aim for. “I’ll pass” is a very necessary response in the world of PR — a “Maybe” is just not an answer that you can go back to your clients with.
- HAVE FUN!
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. :-)
Over the past few years, I’ve dedicated my volunteer time to educating others about tolerance and acceptance. Two fellow moms and I created a non-profit where we offered fun and entertaining events to expose children to diverse faith traditions. Our goal was to increase awareness of different religious traditions — in a non-threatening and interactive way — highlighting the commonalities in everyone while exploring our differences.
I recently joined the Board of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix, which works towards creating an environment of fairness, inclusion, and accountability.
Teaching inclusion, tolerance, and kindness can never start too early or too late in life.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.