You could say that Taryn Scher fell into her career by accident. Working as an executive at a fashion company in New York, she realized that the company’s retained public relations firm wasn’t quite pulling in what it should. She challenged her manager about it, and he gave her three months to see whether she could do better. Those three months later, the company fired the PR firm and retained Scher to keep doing what she had proved she was good at.
When she moved to Greenville a few years later, that fashion company was her first client as she began her own business — TKPR — at age 24. That was in 2008, as advertising and public relations budgets were slashed to compete with the looming threats of a global recession. Although her own client list didn’t take a hit, getting new clients was harder, so she decided to volunteer with a local event called Southern Exposure, which would, over time, grow to be known as Euphoria.
“They didn’t have any PR, and they couldn’t afford any PR, but I didn’t have any friends, and so it was a tradeoff,” Scher says. “Little did I know what that would mean for me ultimately, but now, every client I have gotten can be traced back to the fact that I worked on that festival.”
Taking what she knew of national PR — that it’s built on sustaining relationships with the right journalists and publications, and that it requires looking at the bigger picture, not just an event — Scher grew her pitches of Southern Exposure to include Greenville as a whole as a destination location. Soon, she was hired by the Convention and Visitors Bureau to represent the city on a more formal basis. Today, after working with the office, now called VisitGreenvilleSC, for almost eight years, TKPR has helped bring to the city a long and still-growing list of national (and global) accolades.
“I have the most fun showing off Greenville, because it’s not work,” Scher says. “It didn’t start off as a job, either; I was doing it because I got to bring people here and show them a place that I chose to live that I love, and that wasn’t because somebody had hired me to do it. … It was because I was doing it already.”
Today, her client list includes a few Upstate groups — represented in addition to VisitGreenvilleSC are now the burgeoning art festival Artisphere and restaurant group Table 301 — but they are the clients that excite her at a different level, because she gets to know them and their local impact in a much different way.
“Getting to play tourist in a place that you live is amazing,” she notes of Greenville and all it offers. “We get to play all day long. Yes, it’s work, but we also get to play.”
While Scher sees a number of trends in the marketing and PR industries — namely, the need to expand social media offerings or content creation — they aren’t trends she chooses to participate in. Rather, her focus remains on what she calls “traditional PR” — building portfolios of earned media that isn’t paid for, but is earned by the validity of her clients, their products, and their services.
“It’s important to know the difference,” she says, between earned media and paid content. “A lot of people do paid content now. We don’t even work in that space. But we will focus on one thing and do it well, and people will hire us because we’re the best at it.”
Still, she is quick to acknowledge that times have changed, and getting true, national impact on your story is not easy.
“In 2018, you can’t just blind-copy 50 journalists with your pitch,” she says. “You can’t send out a press release and think that you’re going to get any response.”
Instead, Scher touts a different approach, one that hearkens back to the 1960s-era, Mad Men-esque advertising firms. That, she notes, requires building relationships with journalists, news groups, publications, and producers.
“One of the largest stories the city has gotten to date is because we saw a byline of a journalist who had written about another South Carolina city, and we reached out,” Scher says. And although she thinks the city deserves every piece of coverage, she’s quick to note that these opportunities don’t fall out of the sky. “These things don’t just happen; there is a lot of work that goes into them behind the scenes.”
With cries of “fake news” at every turn, digital offerings getting most of the praise, and people disputing the validity of media across the globe, Scher says that businesses can still gain traction by telling their story through the more traditional formats. She notes that one of her clients saw a one-weekend spike of $20,000 in sales after being featured in the Chicago Tribune, proving that print and broadcast still have a strong influence.
“I very much believe in real journalism,” she says. “Someone’s reading it. Someone’s paying attention.”
10 Best Coverage Pieces of 2017 (does not include 52 Places to Go)
- Wall Street Journal, “Daufuskie Island: An Idyllic Spot With a Stormy History” (PRINT)
- “The Doctors,” CBS – Hilton Head Health
- Vogue, “Where to Find the Best Food and Drink in Greenville, South Carolina”
- Travel + Leisure, “The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2018”
- “The Today Show” and “NBC Nightly News” – Jonas Paul Eyewear
- Food & Wine, “McCrady’s Alum Michael Kramer Debuts a Pasta Place in Greenville, SC”
- CookingLight, “Chard-Stuffed Trout with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette from Teryi Youngblood” (PRINT)
- CondeNast Traveler, “Where to Eat and Drink in Greenville, South Carolina”
- Fast Company, “What Happened When I Wore the Same Pair of Cellulite-Reducing Jeans for a Month”
- Travel + Leisure, “The Best Travel Jeans, and More Comfy Denim Favorites”
- “Fox & Friends” Eclipse
- New York Times “52 Places to Go”
- Redbook Print JPE
- FamilyFun KBF
- “Beat Bobby Flay”
- Vogue Nose Dive
- Cosmo Haig Point
- Travel Channel Haig Point
- PREVENTION https://www.prevention.com/mind-body/wellness-retreats
10 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Getting Media Coverage
- Be prepared: Don’t start reaching out to the media until you have a website that you are proud of and that clearly represents your brand. Also have a sample inventory that you can send out for photoshoots/testing, clean product photographs (preferably shot on a white background), and a digital media kit.
- Know who your spokesperson will be. In a perfect world, the owner or founder of the company is the spokesperson, but in certain circumstances you might want to think about someone else who is more camera-friendly.
- Drop everything when the phone rings. If a reporter calls you, you need to call them back within hours — minutes if possible. They are always on urgent deadlines, and if you don’t call back immediately, they will find someone else (probably a competitor) who will.
- Position yourself as an expert in your industry. Some businesses may not lend themselves directly to PR opportunities. Financial planners, lawyers, doctors — you might not necessarily be able to get a PR campaign around your specific business or practice. In this circumstance, you, the individual, need to be the one getting the PR. You should position yourself as an “expert” in your field and try to be quoted whenever possible when your area of expertise is on the discussion board.
- Don’t ever try to sell the media. You aren’t trying to get them to BUY your product or service; you simply want to inform them about why it’s better than or different from what’s already out there. If your product/service is that exceptional, they’ll be able to see that based on the information alone.
- Pay attention to the news. When William and Kate got married, everything British became HOT — so any opportunity to promote anything Kate was wearing or “honeymoon destinations for royalty” were opportunities to pitch the media. There is always something fresh and relevant for TV and newspaper coverage, too.
- Find something newsworthy. Every once in a while, even if you have a product that is perfect for a PR campaign, you might need to be creative. In looking for a way to stay relevant for a client that makes custom superhero capes, I found out that National Superhero Day is April 28. So, I began contacting every TV station nationwide and asking their anchors if they would consider wearing a custom superhero cape on April 28 to celebrate.
- Know who you are pitching. The best thing you can do is familiarize yourself with the publications or TV programs you are trying to pitch. As a rule of thumb, they’re only going to cover topics that are relevant to their content. Don’t waste your time reaching out to publications that are too much of a stretch. Go for the obvious choices.
- Quality, not quantity. Don’t waste your time blanketing every publication east of the Mississippi. Where are your customers hanging out? What magazines are they reading? What TV shows are they watching? Make a Top 20 and pitch each one differently and targeted to its readership/viewership. What good are 5,000 media placements if no one is reading those magazines?
- Know how to pitch a journalist. If you can’t sum up what you’re trying to say in three or four sentences, you are definitely going to lose interest. Reporters barely make it past your first sentence. Keep it short and to the point. If you get a bite, the reporter will ask for more information.