The Daily Dishes With Lisa Smith Of The PR Net

by Alex Dickerson

Today is Daily Media day, a veritable online Super Bowl for PRs and brands to see all that is happening in the biz!  Who went where, who has a big client score, what editor is rising in the ranks, and what celeb is adding another hyphen to their title…some might say this is a weekly PR must-read. With that in mind, we sat down with Lisa Smith, the founder of The PR Net (another industry insider favorite), to talk shop.  Take it away Lisa!

What inspired you to start The PR Net?
I felt like there wasn’t a central platform for industry intel, whose tone and content was relevant to myself and my peers. I also saw huge potential for partnerships and collaborations when you brought a group of industry pros together, but again, the networking events on offer at the time felt staid and not relevant: think ‘My Name Is’ badges, soulless rooms in 3-star hotels, a stale croissant as the catering. I saw an opportunity to have a site with industry info that felt like a magazine, not a traditional trade publication and imagined gatherings in beautiful spaces where you could meet your peers in an organic and easy way, building out your network, and hatching lots of partnership opps. I spoke with everyone I knew working in that space at the time and built out the site based on their input. We hosted our first event at the (then) newly opened Park Hyatt in NYC, and started meeting at other newly-opened venues each month as The PR Net was born.

What were you doing before then?
I owned a PR agency in Sydney—we worked with a range of clients including liquor brands, fine jewelry, fashion, beauty, watches, and accessories. After having it run remotely for a couple of years while I was in NYC, I merged with another agency there and moved onto focusing entirely on the U.S. I then consulted at a few New York-based agencies and brands. It’s been essential to have that understanding of the industry from working in it prior to launching The PR Net.

What does The PR Net offer?
We have two main elements to our offering: content and events. The content piece includes event coverage, news, member offers, job listings, interviews and profiles, articles on trends and timely topics affecting this business. The events used to be in-person gatherings usually showcasing brand new venues and other cultural experiences, along with some expert speaker panels, but we’ve pivoted to digital since March. We now host webinars and panel discussions on a variety of the most timely, educational and relevant topics for people in our network.


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Who are some of your members?
For the most part, it’s marketing and comms specialists from in-house teams and agencies, but a lot of ancillary roles such as digital influencers, media, social media, and the like. Members range from many global companies and brands like Kering, Shopbop, Zegna, Christie’s, Roger Vivier, and Havas, to boutique companies and independent consultants. We like to think we have a decent chunk of the leading agencies from BerlinRosen, Karla Otto, Magrino, BPCM, HL Group, Purple—the list goes on—but there are always so many more great companies we’d love to bring into the network.

What industry trends have made an impact on you this year?
Disruption is ripe in 2020. There are some new players that act as marketplaces for agencies and consultants popping up that I think are interesting—certainly while there’s so much in flux. Bespoke offerings with more flexibility are also trending. Companies are giving clients more flex with length of retainers and scope of work. They’re working to meet their clients where their needs really are right now, which is quite an evolving place.

What lays ahead for the site?
The beautiful thing about being digital is that it’s removed most geographic limitations and opened up new markets, which we’d love to continue to see build. We just hosted a networking Zoom and had people from Boston, Dallas, San Francisco, L.A., New York, and Miami all connecting with each other, which wouldn’t have been possible when we only ran IRL events. We also have members overseas in London, Toronto, Sao Paulo, and other cities, so international expansion would also be welcomed. We plan to continue to lean into our industry-focused editorial content, with increased thought leadership pieces and profiles. The goal is to be a global source of intel and inspiration for marketing and comms pros.

How has the PR industry changed since you started in the business?
The successful PR pro of today has to wear a multitude of hats—it’s massively shifted from a traditional media relations focus to encompass a number of practices you have to, at least, be aware of and factor into your larger strategy, if not execute. Social media didn’t exist when I started out and that’s been a huge change, as has the erosion of print media and big book titles, and the addition and huge growth of the influencer landscape. It’s a more challenging, but more interesting, field now in my opinion.

What has been your most memorable event and why?
Probably because of everything that’s happened this year, I’d say our January NYC event. We brought over 100 people together in a West Village brownstone for our ‘event planners’ house party’ in collaboration with onefinestay, CxRA, and Champagne Pommery. It was a frigidly cold evening and such a warm and fun vibe inside—it felt like an old school house party. The idea of having such a large group in an indoor space feels foreign right now, but something we hope to get back to. Other memorable events have been either at incredible spaces (Baccarat Hotel, The Beekman, et al) or cultural–The Armory Show event we do each year is great, as was our private Whitney Museum tour pre-opening hours and our private events at Louis Vuitton’s exhibitions in NYC and L.A.. This is making me really nostalgic for IRL events! Having said that, there have been some career highlights in the programming we’ve done since COVID-19 hit. I’ve learned so much and have been privileged to have amazing panelists talk with us during that time.

What do you love covering, what makes you excited to feature on the site?
I personally love the interviews we do with various industry people—hearing how they got their start and scaled their companies/careers, their wisdom, advice, and predictions for the future of the industry. When IRL events were prevalent, it was great to showcase the best events of that week—seeing the creativity of the teams that organized those. This year in particular, I’m loving the thought leadership pieces. It’s so important during this challenging period to share and learn from each other. So much is happening and evolving so quickly, that it helps to lean on others’ experiences and expertise to stay in the know.

What advice do you have for someone pursuing a career in PR?
If you’re a student or recent graduate, I’ll echo what I hear from so many company founders and successful people in the industry—INTERN! I did about four internships when I was starting out, ironically on the publishing side and not in PR, but it was a great learning experience and I was offered several jobs while doing it. Treat your internship like an extended job interview: do well and have a great attitude and you’ll likely to be first in line to be hired when a position comes up. Worst case, founders know other people in the business and can refer you. If you’re already in your career, then I’d advise (especially in this current climate) to be agile and keep learning. Thinking traditionally or becoming complacent isn’t going to carry you to great places or keep you motivated and inspired. Clients come to you for your expertise and counsel, so you have more to offer if you’re staying relevant and engaged.

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