“Securing press coverage is only one part of a comprehensive public relations campaign. I also believe that securing press hits isn’t necessarily what a client needs all the time. The best agencies are able to adapt to the business challenges a client has and offer them solutions around their pain points. Some months, that may mean content marketing, other months it may mean a heavy focus on digital. The one thing that is consistent is that only offering traditional PR will not satisfy a client for an extended period of time. The age-old question of ROI and “So what?” will soon come up, no matter how many national hits you get. That is why you need to diversify your offering to stay competitive.”
I had the pleasure to interview Kris Ruby, CEO of Ruby Media Group, a Leading New York Public Relations Firm and NYC Social Media Marketing Agency. Ruby is a sought after social media marketing strategist and PR consultant with 10+ years building successful brands. The New York PR Firm handles PR and social media for some of the top doctors in the tristate area. In addition to running a thriving social media & PR firm, Kris Ruby is also a trusted media source and frequent on-air commentator on social media marketing on the nation’s top TV shows.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for your time, Kris. I know that you are a very busy person. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I went to Boston University’s College of Communication and majored in Public Relations. By the time I graduated, I had 13 internships in all different facets of the communications industry. I was also fortunate to have one of these internships lined up for full time work upon graduation. Within a few weeks, I realized I would never be able to work for anyone else and launched my own company. Ten years later, I never looked back. I will never understand corporate America or what it is like to have a steady paycheck, company covered health insurance or any of the perks of having stability of a “regular” job. However, I feel I would suffocate and not be able to do my best work if I ever worked full time in an organization. I love the freedom and flexibility to create that comes with being an entrepreneur. I don’t believe being an entrepreneur is a choice. It is fundamentally who you are, and ingrained in your personality. The concept of entrepreneurship is trendy right now, but it is not something to take lightly. It comes with massive responsibility and a lot of uncertainty. It can also come at the expense of other aspects of your life like a social life or a long-term relationship. For many people, the idea of constantly being in survival mode is extremely off putting. For me, I thrive under it and can’t imagine any other way.
Yitzi: How did you get involved in the PR industry?
I started Ruby Media Group in Westchester County, NY as a social media marketing agency. When I started the agency several years ago, social media was still new and most business owners needed assistance with how to leverage it to build their business. One of my social media clients, a retail store in Rye, NY, asked me to do PR for the launch of their new store. So, I basically had to teach myself PR and do it by trial and error. Other than what I knew from PR textbooks at BU and internship experience, the rest was on me to learn. The launch was a huge success, and we ended up receiving recognition and awards for the work my agency did. Word of mouth started to spread that we could offer public relations, and gradually our business shifted to incorporate a heavy amount of “social PR” in addition to regular social media marketing. Today, I think businesses really need a nice mixture of both in order to have the maximum reach in digital platforms.
Yitzi: What do you wish someone told you when you started?
I wish someone told me how important “soft skills” are in addition to having premium knowledge in your field. A breakdown in communications can lead to a “break up” in the agency client relationship. This was very difficult for me to learn because I always thought that knowledge was enough, and that sot skills were more critical in larger corporate environments. I tend to operate at 150 miles per hour and expect everyone around me to be at the same pace. I have had to learn the hard way to slow down a bit and that people have other things going on in their life besides their PR campaigns. Today, I now believe management skills are critical for everyone to learn- from solopreneur to the owner of a Fortune 500 company. A mistake I made and that many entrepreneurs make is that they don’t invest in these skills and instead opt to invest in things more critical like new technology to service clients. You can have the best technology in the world, but if there are breakdowns in communication, you will have no one to use the technology on. Turnover is not profitable, and neither is the cost of acquiring and training new talent. Effectively learning how to communicate is an essential skill for any agency owner or entrepreneur.
Yitzi: What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact that I have done all of this on my own. I did not have outside investors and started my company with less than $500 in my bank account when I graduated college. I appreciate and recognize the hustle in others who have done the same. I am also proud of the fact that I have built a successful New York PR firm without going the traditional agency route. I believe that if I can do it anyone can do it who wants it badly enough. However, this does mean doing it all on your own, constantly learning new skills and troubleshooting problems.
Yitzi: Do you think the PR profession has changed over the past 30 years? How?
Absolutely! I believe that PR agencies that only offer traditional public relations will soon become obsolete. Securing press coverage is only one part of a comprehensive public relations campaign. I also believe that securing press hits isn’t necessarily what a client needs all the time. The best agencies are able to adapt to the business challenges a client has and offer them solutions around their pain points. Some months, that may mean content marketing, other months it may mean a heavy focus on digital. The one thing that is consistent is that only offering traditional PR will not satisfy a client for an extended period of time. The age-old question of ROI and “So what?” will soon come up, no matter how many national hits you get. That is why you need to diversify your offering to stay competitive. We offer clients a combination of content marketing, social media and digital PR. I also think the rise in so many new media platforms that connect journalists in real time to potential sources has changed the PR landscape. The method of offering journalists what they need in real time vs. pitching them on items they may or may not be working on is an infinitely more effective approach. We believe in “social PR” and optimized content that leads to conversions.
Yitzi: This is not an easy job. What drives you?
Seeing clients get media coverage! Or seeing a client’s new article perform very well and get hundreds of likes and impressions! For me, there is no greater feeling than that. For example, a plastic surgeon may look at a before and after of a patient and say “Wow, look at the amazing work!” For me, the equivalent of that is going on Google News, googling my clients, and seeing a solid page of national media outlets coming up for their name. Another example would be doing a before and after look at their Instagram grid to see the difference in branding. We have a strong focus in public relations for doctors, medical practices and physicians, so this would be the best analogy. I particularly like helping doctors receive recognition for the work they do in helping patients. The other fun part of all of this for me is that I get to learn medical information while promoting them. I am naturally interested in medicine and healthcare, so I feel very fortunate that I have the opportunity to work with and promote the brightest minds in medicine. It also helps me become a walking encyclopedia of random medical facts, which my family always finds amusing yet helpful at times!
Yitzi: Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
PR is not glamorous. It is not what you thought it was growing up watching “Sex and the City.” The majority of time, I am behind my computer answering numerous emails and responding to reporter requests. Also, you have to be really comfortable with rejection. If you want to work in an industry where everyone likes you or thinks you’re great, this is the wrong industry. You have to have really thick skin. I would also urge a young person interested in a career in public relations to start branding themselves. Finally, take advantage of internship opportunities to figure out what type of PR you like best. For example, fashion PR may be a better fit for someone who loves events and networking, whereas medical PR may be more ideal for someone who prefers being behind a computer.
Yitzi: You are known as one of the leading social media experts and have been on national television over 35 times giving social media advice (all under the age of 30). What advice can you give others who want to do the same?
Start local. When I started out, I lived in Westchester County, NY and Greenwich, CT before ever doing a national TV hit. For 5 years, I woke up at 3 am and traveled an hour to WTNH in CT to do local TV hits. You need to build a base of television experience before approaching the larger networks. Also, if you want to be on TV, you should be publishing frequently and promoting your content on Twitter. That is how I got discovered and booked for my first TV appearance by a Producer who read my JDate article on why social media changed the dating landscape. I would also urge people to consider what it is they want to get out of being on TV. When people come to me about TV, I always ask why they want to be on. Usually, the response is flimsy, so I urge you to consider what your long-term goals are and how this fits in with it. I love being an on-air commentator and discussing the latest breaking news and how social media fits into it. However, I also have to balance this with being behind the scenes as a publicist.
Yitzi: Which skills do you think are most important to becoming a successful PR professional?
Perseverance and determination. My motto is, “Turn every no into a yes.”
Yitzi: You are in a position of influence. How have you used your position and skill to bring goodness to the world?
I try to give back by speaking with public relations students at universities. I find this very rewarding and love offering career advice to aspiring publicists. I would love to get more involved with mentoring aspiring publicists- perhaps I will create a program around this.
Yitzi: Do you believe location matters when starting a social media agency or PR agency?
No, absolutely not. Since staring Ruby Media Group, I have operated out of Westchester, Greenwich and even Wall Street. The most important thing that matters is a wifi connection and communication with the media and clients. I am pretty confident I could be successful running the company from Kentucky just as much as Wall Street. The most important part is to hone your craft and focus on results. Results infinitely trump location. I wish more people knew this before packing up and thinking they need to be in NYC to make it in this industry. It is a myth!
Yitzi: Thank you Kris Ruby. It has been a pleasure to learn about your entrepreneurial journey in the PR world!