Judith R. King is one of the most prominent and respected names on the New York PR circuit. As the charismatic owner of King + Company, Judith is known for her abundance of enthusiasm, which comes bundled up with her high-energy persona; together, these are unquestionably at the core of her charm. These qualities, alongside her commitment to delivering stellar results for her clients—of course—are undoubtedly at the core of Judith’s success.
Over the course of her career, Judith’s ingenuity and passion for crafting bespoke branding, PR, and social messages have earned her the respect and custom of star players in the non-profit arena (with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Susan G. Komen For the Cure and The Estee Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign among them), as well as consumer brands including household names like Rodale, DreamWorks Classics, Marquis Jet, Ritz-Carlton Club, and David Barton Gym.
When she’s not busy crafting slogans, conceptualizing ad campaigns or writing top-notch marketing materials, Judith travels the country giving media training to CEOs, celebrities and prominent figures who are facing the public eye.
A couple of weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to grab five minutes to sit down with Judith for a quick tête-a-tête during which we picked her brain, learned about her career track, and discovered a little about what makes her tick.
gA: Describe your journey from account exec at Dan Klores to founder of King + Company.
JK: I was working at Dan Klores as a writing and ideas consultant—or a freelance writer—call it what you will. One evening, I was driving somewhere with my parents and my mother turned to me and asked “Judith, do you believe being charming is a career? Because, quite frankly, your father and I do not.” She then continued her diatribe during which she advised me to use all my gifts as well as the abundance of interpersonal relationships I had generated in order to get my career on track. And that is what I did—I started a small PR firm. Of course that makes it sound so simple but, really, simply using my contacts and my friendships, I did it! And I have since grown it into a company that grosses a revenue in excess of $3mn a year.
gA: New York is a heavily saturated playing field for PR and marketing professionals. How have you endured at the top for more than 12 years in the industry?
I got the best advice from my good friends Ian Schraeger and David Barton: you must always look to the word ‘modern’ as the most important concept there is. Meaning, STAY RELEVANT.
To this, I would also add the following advice:
1. Nothing is ever wrong or boring when you have the right ideas—you can never saturate the market enough with good ideas—they’re what keep your company fresh and your clients impressed.
2. Nimbleness is not as important as constantly innovating. You see, PR victories have very short shelf lives so you must always be thinking on your feet. It is essential that you remain engaged with your client and the world around you because you can always learn more. And I have to tell you, I don’t want to ever wake up thinking “I know enough.”
3. Nobody is indispensable but everyone is important, including yourself. Make the people around you feel that and believe it. It’s infectious. Seriously, I wish more people in my position understood that, as a leader, you can’t just command—you have to commend. I believe it’s because of my attitude that my team knows that, while I am the boss and I expect a lot from them, I want their success as much as my own. I can honestly say that for this reason I’ve never come into the office in a bad mood… ever. It’s not fair for bosses to put their own negativity on the people who are just there to do their best for them. At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to be kind than unkind; so bring your life to work but don’t make work your life. I believe that it’s essential for both our success and our wellbeing that we all come to work as fully engaged human beings, approaching each new day with a love for it.
4. And last, but not least: Be fearless but not destructive.
gA: What’s your secret PR potion?
JK: I see how important it is to entertain and excite people. I want my clients’ eyes, ears and minds to be inspired with visual and intellectual newness. I am great at new business because when I get into a meeting I quickly analyze the prospective client’s needs and get inside of what they want so that I can make their eyes sparkle.
gA: You have received much acclaim for the working environment you created for your employees. Tell us a little about it.
JK: It’s always been one of the most important things to me. As creative individuals we need the eye to be as excited as any of the other senses. (Plus, let’s be honest, I am rather house proud!) At King + Co I have created an environment that boasts high ceilings, natural light, and open workspaces. In addition, I am rearranging things all the time to keep my team—this keeps them awake to the possibilities of change. However, what does remain consistent are the colors—blue and yellow—which symbolize sunshine and hope.
gA: What are your top three tips for (a) young professionals entering the industry and (b) professionals at the midway mark in their career?
JK: To people entering the industry, I would say the following: (1) Be open-minded; (2) Be fearless but not destructive; (3) Don’t be afraid to decide it’s not what you want to do—you now have the freedom for trial and error. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
I would also add (4) Be open to possibility, surprise and the unpredictable. Your job is not the be all and end all. And (5) Come into work in a good mood every day. Moody employees are an absolute no-no in my book.
To professionals at the midway mark of their career, I say this (1) Be kind; (2) Be open to new knowledge every day; (3) Keep career goals in mind knowing that they may change from month to month and even from year to year—be adaptable to change. It’s essential to keep a micro and a macro view of your career at all times, especially in the 21st century.
gA: Describe your typical day.
JK: I start emailing at around 7 or 7.30 a.m. every day. Some days I work at home—I work really well privately and I think it’s healthy for my employees to have a sense of independence from me. However, I normally am in the office by around 10.30 for internal meetings, which are usually followed by a business lunch and more meetings. Typically, my day ends around 9:30pm. It’s busy and crazy and all of that stuff but I make room to laugh a lot all day—I would say that I am laughing a good hour of the day with my colleagues every day. Laughter is so important. I sing a lot during the day, too.
gA: What are your top 5 essential PR/ marketing tools?
JK:(1) The phone: voice to voice will never ever be eclipsed; (2) Email; (3) Weekly team conversations with a client to create total connectivity and engagement with them; (4) Profnet/ Vocus/ Cision, i.e. the tools that connect me to global trends and stories; (5) Reading EVERYTHING—it is absolutely essential for me to understand what is going on in the world (not just my region) so that I can possibly find new context for my clients’ stories. In my opinion, newspapers are still a VERY important part of that.
gA: Why do you think your clients ultimately choose King + Company rather than your competition?
JK: Our longevity track record is unbelievable because we inspire profound confidence in our clients, which—I believe—is because my team and I don’t rest on our laurels. In everything we do, we strive to show up with original ideas that (we hope) will impress our clients. In my opinion that is essentially what keeps them with us on a long term basis and, in turn, has them recommending us to their colleagues and peers. Let me tell you, my team is a great combo of young, fresh-faced talent and well-seasoned storytellers and strategists; together, we make it our mission to understand the clients’ mission in order to deliver first-class deliverables.
gA: How do you craft the perfect client pitch?
JK: It’s simple—by spending a ton of time with the prospective client. My team and I invest a lot—in both time and research—so that we can get to know each new client we acquire. Let’s put it this way: my aim is to know them better than they know themselves. During our process of discovery, we dive deep inside the prospective client’s business soul in order to understand the company’s—or organization’s—past experiences, alongside their current goals and future objectives. In addition, we scrupulously study the competitive landscape. We also encourage prospective clients to take a look at the constantly updated newsroom on our site so they can see what we do on a daily basis for our existing clients. In a nutshell, we walk the walk and talk the talk. Together, these two factors inspire the ultimate in confidence from all who retain our services.
gA: How have you seen the industry change during your career?
JK: The landscape has completely changed during the course of my career thanks to technology developments. Collectively, these progressions have generated endless mediums and outlets that are appropriate and necessary for a client’s PR outreach. Relating to the public is literally what lies at the core of PR—so whilst it used to be that the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Oprah were all that mattered, the media is now one million times more comprehensive, exhaustive and expansive than it ever was before, and we have so many more tools at hand to us for relating to the public. Think about it: today, niche blogs have as much potential reach as the traditional media. There are so many haters of this phenomenon but I think it’s wonderful that in 2014 there are a million more many ways to skin a cat. In our 21st-century world, everyone—literally—is within reach. At the end of the day, isn’t that a fantastic thing to be able to say?
gA: If you were to write a book about the communications industry, what would be your angle?
JK: The limitless possibility of communication.
Thank you to Judith King for her time and wisdom. In honor of her, we thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite Judith-isms with you.
- “Be Yourself, But Take the Council of Others”
- “Be Fearless, But NOT Reckless”
- “Study, And Associate Yourself With Successful People”
- “Always Challenge Yourself, And Push Yourself Further”.