I have the honor of going way back with the amazingly accomplished Andrew Joseph, founder and dynamo-in-charge of Andrew Joseph Public Relations. AJPR is a New York based full-service communications firm specializing in shelter, design, and lifestyle brands. We had a chance to catch up on a recent visit and I couldn’t resist squeezing in a little photo shoot on the sidewalks of Chelsea. When the talent is this good, who can resist?! Andrew graciously accepted my request for a quick interview, and his insights are invaluable!
NR: How did you get into PR? What was your vision for the firm you wanted to build? What drew you to working with shelter, design, and lifestyle brands?
AB: When I moved to NYC in 1999, I was as prepared as I could be; I thought I had a job lined up being a rep for a perfume company, but as life would have it, that job moved to Baltimore as I was in the process of moving from San Francisco. As one does, I scrambled to find work by networking the heck out of my contacts and landed a job at Vanity Fair, a Conde Nast publication. After Vanity Fair, I moved on to another title: Allure. In the time I was there, as magazines seem to be, there was a constant musical chairs of staff changes and I thought, “well, maybe the magazine world is not for me and I should try this PR thing,” which seemed somewhat more stable.
NR: What’s the secret sauce in PR? Is it industry connections, a finely tuned intuition, timing media cycles, pure style? When you’re absolutely in your stride, which of your many skills are you using the most?
AB: You hit the nail on the head- it’s a combination of all those skills, but mostly it’s being mindful of who you work with and represent. I spent years working for other firms before I started my own, and my goal at the time was to work for clients that you are excited about. That said, above and beyond, any qualities a good PR person needs to have are honesty, integrity, and the ability to pivot and evolve with your business model as the industry and media landscape change around you.
NR: What are some of the traps in communications strategy? Are there “empty calorie” efforts that seem appealing on the surface but don’t produce results? How do you know what strategies really have substance?
AB: Good public relations skills are like a painting- every brush stroke counts, both big and small. There is a quote from Jane Russell that goes, “Publicity is terrible; but only if you don’t have any.” That being said, as I mentioned in my previous answer, you have to pivot in this world of how people disseminate and process information. So I try not to be stuck in “what are you supposed to do.” I think people that stick with what works, which doesn’t always work the day after tomorrow.
NR: How do you feel about paid social media?
AB: Authenticity is the name of the game. From time to time a pay to play strategy pays off, but more often than not that does not always reach your target audience.
NR: Is PR seasonal in a universal way or are the cycles more industry specific?
AB: Totally and fully universal and always a hurry and go strategy. There is never a down time.
NR: In the age of startups it feels like brand identity is constantly evolving and being revamped as companies find what works. Are PR dollars spent before brand identity is solidified wasted dollars?
AB: Brand identity is the why someone cares and if someone does not have a story to tell that is fine tuned and honed – then what are you telling? Branding first!
NR: How should creative professionals approach PR? Is there a possibility for results with a less-than-corporate budget? What’s one solid effort that can yield results without breaking the bank?
AB: We work with solid and established brands as well as those that are up and coming. The first thing you need are assets you can share with the media. In my world, working with architects, interior designers, and luxury home furnishings – photography is where you start to make an investment – without that – what are you sharing with media? it’s a very image driven industry.
NR: Frequency, duration, and intensity are often used as measures for the likelihood of success in exercise; do these translate to the world of PR?
AB: That is so funny ask that question. I frequently speak with another PR professional on best practices and how designers work with public relations firms, and she always quotes me saying that PR is very much like a gym membership. You can pay, but if you don’t put in the work it’s like not going to the gym. Meaning, PR folks are only as good as the clients they work with if they put in the time to do the homework. There is always homework and all those qualities apply.
NR: You’ve shared your amazing fitness journey, what gives you the best results? What motivates you on the days when your body says “Screw you; I don’t want to go to the gym!”?
AB: Thanks for noticing. I simply turned a corner about 2.5 years ago at a point that I was 40+ pounds overweight and I was like “No- no more.” And rather like starting my own business, make the choice that giving up was not an option.
NR: What’s for breakfast?
AB: Coffee and exercise.
NR: What are you reading?
AB: I wish I read more; I average 400+ emails a day so when it comes to personal reading, I have to say, I am lacking.
NR: What’s your most recent tattoo?
AB: A Fornasetti inspired tattoo wrapped in a serpent.
NR: What’s your happy place these days?
AB: Happy place is 1000000% my home in upstate New York in the country outside of Saugerties, NY. It is an investment in my sanity. Four acres in the middle of the woods with no neighbors in sight and the sounds of the woods are more healing than I thought possible.
NR: You always look damn good, do you ever have trouble deciding what to wear?
AB: Almost every day I change twice 🙂