March 31, 2010

What the Kell?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:49 pm by R

Before I begin, I need to apologize for breaking my own social media rule…not being consistent. The good news is that I’ve been busy with great things at a job I’m just nuts about. Who has to pinch themselves on the way to work Monday morning because they love their¬† job so much?…I’m bonkers — in a good way. I digress. Sorry I haven’t posted in like a month.

Now, to the point. In the headline I posed the question “What the Kell?” Which of course is a reference to Bravo’s Kell on Earth about Kelly Cutrone’s Fashion PR House People’s Revolution.

Having worked in the agency world for the first four years of my career, I get the kind of nuts-o, non-stop insanity that is the agency lifestyle. It’s high stress, high pay-off, demanding, thankless –yet somehow strangely rewarding– work. And I think that Kell on Earth is in some ways an accurate representation of the scope of competencies, projects, changes and dynamics of PR today.

That being said…

There are a lot of trade secrets and other — let’s call them “agency habits” — that I always assumed all PR people were sworn to secrecy on. I can’t imagine that some of People’s Revolution’s clients were happy to see the turmoil of people quitting, doing things wrong, getting fired, buckling under pressure just when the moment counts…

That being said…

Getting your clients mentioned in this platform is incredible. People’s Revolution truly guaranteed coverage to their clients for full-on fashion shows, behind-the-scenes video shoots, exclusive events and more! Can you put an ROI figure on that? Is that figure worth the potential damage to your company’s reputation in terms of what others might think of your process and professionalism¬† once revealed through the fascinating medium of reality TV?

People’s Revolution represents a highly niche clientele, who are — let’s just be honest — a lot more willing to take risks than 99.99 percent of businesses out there. This is probably exactly why Kelly Cutrone can get away with this. She’s a smart enough business person to have gone through the hoops of legality and approvals from all the clients featured during the first season of the show. (Additionally, she’s a “No Apologies” kind of gal, so that probably works in her favor too.) What’s more, fashion folk know that being talked about is the life-blood of the industry. It’s not enough to have your garment on a hanger, your name needs to be hanging on everyone’s lips too.

So, even as I struggle with some of the things I’ve seen on Kell on Earth in terms of the chaos of the office (bill collecting, firing clients, being fired by clients, clients behaving badly in front of the press) and the panic of pulling it all together (the last-minute craziness of planning any event, not having enough tequila to keep editors entertained), I have to concede that no other company could get away with this (Lizzy Grubman sure didn’t!).

Every other PR agency on the planet will have to maintain their “corporate creativity,” toeing the line between being the foot-lose visionaries who are coming up with the next wild and brilliant idea and staying buttoned-up enough to be able to relate to the “Suits.”

Analysis of the show aside, I hope viewers, especially those aspiring to a career in PR, take a good hard look at what’s required to make it and how hard people work to pull it off.

Agency life asks you to abandon the principle of work-life balance and requires you to take on menial tasks coupled with those well beyond your preparedness — both at the same time! It is not a glamorous martinis-at-lunch, event-planning, elbow-rubbing social free-for-all — not even for the most seasoned partners and owners.

While I’m reconciled to the idea that this may have been a brilliant PR strategy for the People’s Revolution team, when the credits roll at the end of the show, I always catch myself thinking, “What the Kell?!?”