I believe every entrepreneur has to find the one way to market themselves that they feel comfortable with – and stick with it.
Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a New York based public relations and social media marketing agency. Kris Ruby is a frequent on-air TV contributor and speaks on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. Kris is an award-winning digital media strategist and she is a frequent on-air contributor on Fox News. Kristen is at the epicenter of the social media marketing world and frequently speaks to associations leveraging social media to build a personal brand. She also presents social media workshops for CEO groups to empower business owners to utilize social tools for their networks. Kristen was honored by Columbia University’s Business School to lead a social media workshop for its alumni organization and was chosen to speak on personal brand authenticity at Microsoft. Kristen graduated from Boston University’s College of Communication with a major in Public Relations. Kris was chosen by the Business Council of Westchester as the youngest “40 Under 40″ Rising Stars. Kris is a columnist for The Observer and covers social media, public relations and tech trends.
Where did the idea for Ruby Media Group come from?
I don’t believe entrepreneurship is a choice- it’s either in you or it’s not. For an entrepreneur like myself, to work for someone else would literally be like someone cutting off my ability to breathe. I love the freedom and flexibility that comes with creating and controlling my destiny. The idea for Ruby Media Group came when I graduated from Boston University’s College of Communication. I had a job lined up upon graduation, and after two weeks at the job, I realized I could never work for someone else. As I immersed myself in the social media industry, I realized that there was a real need for my services in the Westchester County market for small business owners. So, I lasted all of two weeks in corporate America and have been on my own ever since with my own company!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We now offer full-service public relations and social media marketing services. The two really work hand in hand these days, so it’s almost impossible to only offer just social media or just PR. Therefore, my typical day is different every single day. I usually wake up and check the trade outlets and breaking news. I then go through all of my emails with incoming client requests, and check to see if reporters have responded to me or if they have any follow up questions for articles they are working on that my clients are placed in. In addition to running Ruby Media Group, I am also an on-air commentator. Sometimes mid-day I will get a request from a producer to cover a breaking news story, so I will have to shift gears and focus on covering the story and any latest breaking developments prior to discussing it on-air. After the segment, I resume posting social media content for clients, and checking the editorial content calendars and posting any new press placements secured. No two days are ever the same.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by spending the adequate amount of time necessary in a key discovery phase with clients. Many clients want to jump right into the execution component, but I won’t fall into that trap. Every time I’ve ever said yes to that it never goes well. In order for a PR practitioner to truly promote you, they need to understand what they are promoting and what makes you different than all of your competitors in that niche. I spend the first two months of my engagements uncovering this information about my client, and then I use my PR “lens” to promote it in the best way possible.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me is how media companies are creating episodic “series” for Instagram stories. Brands now realize they are media companies and can cut out the middleman of traditional media. This is a really exciting time because you can gain national attention for the fraction of a traditional ad spend. As more people realize this, they are taking advantage of creating their own media content and placing it whether it’s through Facebook Live, Instagram Stories or their own YouTube series. It’s exciting to see people take the power back and realize they control their own destiny in the digital world, instead of thinking some traditional media outlet does. That is actually very empowering.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that makes me more productive as an entrepreneur is to have a power team of people I run things by. I call them my virtual advisors. I typically chat with one of them daily through Facebook Messenger, and get feedback on critical decisions before shooting off an email or agreeing to terms that may be out of scope. I believe everyone should have a trusted advisor, someone who can tell you that you are way off or who can be completely honest with you. Without that, there is no way to really grow. My advice for entrepreneurs is that everyone should have one person like this who holds them accountable and can give them feedback.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Restraint of pen and tongue. The advice still holds true for me today, and I still haven’t mastered it, but I will keep trying. People say business isn’t personal, but I’ve never agreed with that philosophy. I take it very personal especially when I invest my time, energy and life into creating brands for people. My work is personal, because my work is my life. I have trouble making a distinction between the two. I don’t see business relationships as commodity transactions, I see them as real relationships that should hopefully grow over time. I never want to feel treated like a line item, and want to work with people who have the same mentality.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Virtually everyone I know believes that the customer is always right. I am the only one I know who fundamentally disagrees with this. We are living in a very challenging time as social media marketers. As a social media practitioner, each platform has a very different aesthetic to it. The way you would post on a Facebook fan page is different than what you would post on an Instagram account. Many people today are still struggling to keep up with the constant changes, and aren’t engrossed in the minutiae of what works on one platform vs. the other. For example, if I am sent a piece of content and told to just post it across every platform, there will be a lengthy discussion and I will most likely say no. Someone who believes the customer is always right will post it without question and will not say boo. I won’t. I believe I have an ethical duty and obligation to share with a client that just posting the same message across four channels is not in line with best practices, and is seen as spam. To post the same piece of content on multiple social media channels, you need to alter the creative of the message so that it will best resonate on each native platform it is placed on. I care about doing what is right for the client’s social media community, and sometimes that comes at a high price because they may only want someone who will do what they are asking them to do. As the expert practitioner, it is up to you to have these tough conversations and give a fair amount of pushback if something creatively doesn’t work. This is not you being difficult. It is you doing your job. You need to put yourself in situations where you are empowered and equipped to lead, and where the people around you trust your creative judgment and expert guidance. Without that, you will be set up to fail and it will ultimately be a constant struggle to handle day-to-day execution.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I believe personal branding is a critical component of entrepreneurship. As someone who runs a PR agency, my own marketing often comes last, because I spend my days marketing everyone else. So the idea of then updating my own web site or social media can be exhausting. But at the end of the day, it has to get done if you want to remain competitive. I believe every entrepreneur has to find the one way to market themselves that they feel comfortable with- and stick with it. For me, that is television and writing. For others, it could be YouTube or speaking at conferences.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that has helped grow my business is having a budget for branding, PR and marketing. Many social media practitioners are anti traditional media- I have been lucky to not make the same mistake. Fundamentally, it’s not about the media you consume, it’s about the media your target audience consumes. So, if my target demo isn’t on Instagram, then I shouldn’t be marketing there. If they are reading magazines and newspapers, then that makes more sense, even if it sounds like an old-school idea. I’m not about drinking the social media Kool Aid, even though I run a social media and PR firm. I believe in making strategic marketing and PR decisions that are based on data and results. I don’t believe in throwing things against a wall and seeing what sticks. I think a lot of marketing/PR decisions are fundamentally driven by ego, and ego driven PR is not a strategy.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure was not investing in management training. I started my company out of college so I missed some of those fundamental corporate skills about working with others that you learn when you work for a big company. I have overcome this failure by understanding my strengths and weaknesses. I try not to bite off more than I can chew these days, meaning as much as I love the idea of managing a huge team around me, if I am not going to be able to give them the time they need, then I don’t want to do a disservice by taking them on.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Hire a videographer! As Gary Vaynerchuk says, the focus should be on documenting instead of creating. I think this is great advice for any entrepreneur right now. The annual salary for the videographer could pay dividends in the amount of content created in one year simply by having someone dedicated to this function for your business!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent was on a new app. I always like to invest in new content creation apps that are new to market because they give me new ideas on how to market my clients.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Believe it or not, the notepad in my iPhone keeps me most productive. I use it for so many things from copy for client’s social media posts to lists of hashtags and more! This helps keep me organized especially when I am managing social media accounts across several different verticals.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Any of Gary V’s books are great!
What is your favorite quote?
“You are either at the table or on the menu.”
- Adapt to the business challenges a client has and offer them PR/Marketing solutions around their pain points.
- Ego driven PR is not a business strategy. Data driven PR tied to metrics, goals and clear objectives is.
- Results trump location. If you are good at what you can do, you can do it from anywhere. Don’t get sucked into believing you need to start out in the most expensive market in order to make an impact. You don’t.
- Stop focusing on the ROI of Social Media and PR. It’s like asking what the ROI is of breathing air. It is just something you have to do. The tactics you choose to deploy may change, but the fundamental business need to do it will not.
- Educate yourself on the value of things you need for your business instead of depending on vendors to do that for you. A publicist can execute a PR plan for you, but it is not their job to continually explain the value of PR and why it’s so important for you to have it. The more time they spend doing this, the less time they are spending pitching you to media outlets. Your words/emails/requests all have a price attached to them and all convert to billable hours. Choose wisely.
- If you hire a pro- let them do what they do best and for the most part, stay out of their way. People do great work for people who treat them well. Empower your consultants with trust and respect and you will be amazed at the level of work produced.
- Properly vet prospects up front and qualify the buyer. Ask critical questions. Has someone already gone through 6 PR agencies prior to working with you? What was the retention rate at each firm? Do they have a list of complaints on why every other firm didn’t meet their public relations needs? If so, do you really think you are likely to meet their expectations? Stop trying to be the hero and win every piece of business. Pay attention to sales red flags and spend more time qualifying up front before agreeing to terms that are not profitable for your business or mental health.