Go with your gut, but recognize that good things take time.”
An accomplished PR maven and #girlboss, Kelly Howard is making her mark as the CEO of EightSixtySouth. Having served as Post+Beam’s West Coast Director for the past five years, Kelly acquired the company in October 2016, leading her team and the company through a full rebrand. Making waves since the acquisition and transition to EightSixtySouth, the company has continued to develop impactful strategies and data-driven results for their clientele.
Backed by Howard’s expertise and killer spirit, as well as Post+Beam’s successful track record, EightSixtySouth sets the stage for what’s next. An accomplished and passionate public relations professional & strategist, Kelly is seasoned in creating targeted approaches for consumer brands in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle market.
Specializing in cross-channel marketing and drawing from expertise in PR, content strategy and digital, her work builds meaningful and ROI-focused brand experiences for a diverse roster of clients.
Prior to joining Post+Beam, Kelly worked for Kip Morrison & Associates, an LA-based boutique public relations agency, as well as Taylor Public Relations, an award-winning strategic public relations agency in New York City. Her work has garnered client placements in top national publications and television programs such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, New York Times, E! News and The Today Show.
In 2011 and 2012, Kelly also acted as the Director of Fashion’s Night Out Los Angeles, spearheading efforts for the one-night celebration, coordinating in-store events, designer appearances, celebrity guests and fashion shows throughout the city.
Despite her tenure in both Los Angeles and New York, Kelly is a Midwest native at heart, growing up in Minnesota and later obtaining her degree at Iowa State University. On the personal front, you’ll often find Kelly prefers brunch over lunch, heels over flats, and is always game for a good happy-hour margarita.
Where did the idea for EightSixtySouth come from?
After joining bicoastal communications firm Post+Beam as their West Coast Director nearly five years ago, I had the opportunity to acquire the business at the end of 2016. As I worked through the acquisition, I made the decision to take Post+Beam through a complete rebrand. The rebranding process was an opportunity to bring the company back to its roots at the Cooper Design Space at 860 S. Los Angeles St. in the heart of downtown LA (coincidentally the same location where Post+Beam’s first LA office was opened), streamlining our focus on fashion, beauty, and lifestyle strategic communications as well as developing who we wanted to be as a company. Thus EightSixtySouth was born, making its official launch in the Summer of 2017.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Oh gosh – where do I begin? The great (and sometimes challenging) truth about the PR industry is that no two days are ever the same. Additionally, as a CEO, the business is always top of mind – so my day often begins as soon as I wake up, checking my email inbox and scrolling through social media. Once I get into the office, I check in with the team on their priorities for the day then begin sorting through & responding to emails I hadn’t gotten to that morning. For the remainder of the day, I’m following up & pursuing new business opportunities, taking meetings and calls with clients, and staying in touch with team members and prospective partners to take advantage of all opportunities. At the end of the day, I always remember that it’s my responsibility to keep the business alive and running, so not being productive just isn’t an option. I take on the tasks that I can and delegate to my rockstar team where applicable.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As someone in PR, I’m constantly consuming information – whether that be reading a magazine, scrolling through social media or listening to a new podcast. I find that my inspiration is driven by keeping my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry, and from there I take it to my team for a brainstorm session followed by thoughtful execution.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I find the uprise of influencer marketing extremely interesting – when I began in the industry, the blogger didn’t exist, Instagram didn’t exist – and now it’s a key part of every client’s strategy. I can only imagine where it will go next.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur, I feel that my ability to wear many hats and get my hands dirty when needed has made me highly productive. This is something that I tell my team as well, that no matter what your role, be committed to making the business successful as a whole – not just your part. So, whether it’s sending out a pitch for another team member if they’re having a busy week, to even just washing any extra dishes to keep the office space clean, you do whatever needs to be done.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’ve said it before, but it still reigns true. Go with your gut, but recognize that good things take time. Along the same lines – don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This one is hard…there’s a few that would disagree that my dog is a human, yet then there are others who whole-heartedly agree. I imagine I might also find opposition to my belief that heels are always better than flats…but then again, “the higher the heel, the closer to God.” So there’s that.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Before I took over the business, there was more of an opportunity to ‘turn off’ at the end of the day because the company’s success wasn’t in my hands. Nowadays, I have this feeling that moments spent not working are moments that could be spent creating opportunities for the business and the team. That being said, the one thing that I always try to do and would definitely recommend – accept that the business is always on your mind but try to find that work-life balance and really take time to rest, unplug and recharge.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
After rebranding, the most effective strategy to grow the business has been getting referrals from known colleagues. To stay top of mind, I put together regular email correspondence – everything from an announcement of the rebrand to updates of what we’ve been up to over the course of the year. It’s a great way to keep EightSixtySouth top of mind and initiate conversations and dialogue in the right places. Staying connected to your network in a genuine and thoughtful way is definitely key.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
This isn’t necessarily a failure, but I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered as an entrepreneur has been managing the day-to-day responsibilities I had as West Coast Director of the company, compounded now with the responsibilities it takes to run a business. As I mentioned earlier, to manage both successfully, it requires me to “let go” and delegate to the team as needed. As an entrepreneur, assembling a team of true talent that I can trust is one of my greatest rewards!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
One of the best events I attended was a fireside chat with Amy Wilkinson, author of The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs. Wilkinson wanted to break down the six essential skills to success, regardless of industry, interviewing CEO’s from Tesla, Spanx, Starbucks and beyond. Number Three on this list was “Fly the OODA Loop – Observe, Orient, Decide and Act”. The acronym’s last element is Act, meaning that if you have an idea – act on it…before someone else does.
So even if I have a business idea (which I do), the key to success means acting on it before someone else does…and not being willing to give it away.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
If I don’t have to cap it at $100 exactly, the best money I’ve spent recently is two fold – this past Christmas, I was able to track down a discontinued Alexandra McQueen wallet for my boyfriend. He’d wanted it for sometime and had given up hope that he’d be able to find it – and I did.
The second was for our team retreat in December. I took the entire team out of the office for a day, renting out an AirBnb and putting together a full day of team building & goal setting. We spent the day doing a deep dive into our personal & business goals, then ended the evening with a great dinner in West Hollywood – and a dance party.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
This may be a bit simple – but Google Calendar. I use alerts & my schedule to keep myself on track, delay items that don’t need my immediate attention and give myself reminders when something needs to be done.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
What is your favorite quote?
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.