Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Katherine Rothman. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Katherine , thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I spent several years as the vice president of another Manhattan PR firm representing medical doctors in the field of public relations during the mid-1990’s. Most entities who retained PR firms were large corporations or celebrities at that time. It was a novel concept for doctors to engage PR firms. Most of the clients were elective practices such as dermatologists, cosmetic dentists, cosmetic surgeons, and ophthalmologists performing Lasik surgery. Since they operated outside of managed care and were not typically receiving hospital referrals, they needed media exposure to impact these competitive arenas. The business lessons I learned while there were invaluable and the PR experience. At the age of 28, I decided to venture out independently. I opened my PR firm in 1998- KMR Communications. While I did carry the torch of representing both elective medicine doctors, we broadened it to include physicians in other fields such as psychologists, cardiologists, spine surgeons, internists, holistic medicine, gynecologists, divisions of hospitals, etc. At the same time, an exciting trend was emerging. Plastic surgeons and dermatologists were developing eponymous skincare lines and opening medi-spas. This started a new category for KMR in the fields of beauty products, spas and medi-spas. I wanted to be niche specific with my firm and not a PR generalist from the outset. As time progressed, we began to represent beauty products from all parts of the world that wanted to have a presence in The United States, the most competitive market to play in. In addition, we represented haircare and at-home beauty devices, which were also becoming a big trend and still are today. From there, the last natural progression was into the fitness realm. Beauty, health and fitness tie together. These three categories are cohesive and strengthen our media relations and the internal connections we can provide for our clients. To this day, KMR has likely represented more physicians than any other PR firm in the country. We have also been responsible for promoting new advances and discoveries in the aesthetics field. Within months of the firm’s inception in 1998, PR Week Magazine named KMR “one of the nation’s top 50 medical PR firms.”
KMR has been at the forefront of introducing new procedures and medical devices to the media such as Hydrafacial(TM) Cellulaze, Ultherapy, Neograft, Thermage, TiteFX, Fraxel Laser, LED Photo Modulation, Titan, Hylaform, Sculpta(TM) PhotoDynamic Therapy, Hairmax LaserComb, and Orbera Gastric Balloon.
KMR hosted a Botox party when it was first FDA-approved for the treatment of wrinkles. The party was filmed by CNN and covered by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Live with Regis & Kelly and numerous other outlets.
KMR was the 1st to introduce Mesotherapy to the U.S with NJ physician Dr. Marion Shapiro resulting in coverage on The View, CNN, Inside Edition, WABC-TV, USA Today, Newsday, U.S. News & World Report, ELLE Magazine, the Daily News and many others.
In May of 2011, KMR set a personal best record securing over 50 media placements for an NJ plastic surgeon in a 24-hour news cycle on the topic of Bristol Palin’s alleged plastic surgery makeover. Examples of this coverage included People.com, Radaronline.com, Yahoo, MSN.com, CBSNews.com, OK! Magazine and radio outlets nationwide.
While KMR was fortunate to have an excellent run cornering the medical and beauty sector for a period of time, the trend for physicians and beauty companies to promote themselves took a firm hold in the early 2000’s and various PR firms began to incorporate these clients into their rosters even if not all specialized in it solely. The challenge became how to differentiate oneself in a changing business landscape with increasing competition. KMR knew early on that the web would be an essential tool in promoting a business. As such, we were among the 1st PR firms to have a comprehensive website and to use sophisticated SEO. That may sound almost trite in 2022, but in 2001, it was novel. While other firms were expanding their sectors, we turned away potential clients not in our niches of beauty, health, and fitness. We firmly believe that we do not want to become “a jack of all trades and a master of none.” To do so effectively requires a huge corporation. We wanted to remain purposefully boutique so that as the CEO, I, along with senior management, could give each client the utmost personal attention.
Trend forecasting was another vital element in remaining relevant and competitive. In the mid 2000’s we saw the importance of blogs and digital media. While it was initially hard to convince clients to participate in online opportunities and impart their value versus print media, we saw the writing on the wall in terms of the online world. Early on, KMR established relationships with key editors at online editions of news and magazine outlets which still exist today. We taught our staff early on how to pitch and write for short lead media with faster deadlines than long-lead media. When social media emerged, we quickly adapted to that and encouraged our clients to do the same. We opened a Twitter account in 2009 just as the platform gained popularity. At one point, we had over 100K followers, presently 25,300, as we use that medium much less frequently now in favor of Facebook, Linkedin.com, and Instagram.
According to Forbes.com, “LinkedIn lists more than 12,000 PR companies in its U.S. database. IBISWorld estimates nearly 100,000 people are employed in this field that generates $13 billion in annual revenue.” When we started KMR, there were not nearly as many PR firms, and the LinkedIn numbers likely do not reflect PR freelancers or others firms that do not advertise on their platform. The competition has become intense. We have thrived independent of economic downturns, the Covid 19 Pandemic, and additional players in the field because of our firm commitment to being niche-driven and honing knowledge and media connections within the trio of fields we operate in. We feel we can and do deliver quality and consistent results, with personal attention that is unparalleled in the PR disciplines we practice.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I began working in public relations following a foray into the music business. I left the music industry because it was too much of a “boy’s club.” The PR industry has always been more female-friendly. I worked in music PR and then I transitioned to PR for television shows. The job that really helped me on my path to owning my own business was working for a medical PR firm. In this company, the owner gave me a chance to shine at 24 years old. Medical PR at that time was a new niche of the business. I told the CEO that I wanted to travel throughout The United States to pro-actively search for new clients. Pretty soon, I found myself in almost every major city meeting with plastic surgeons, dermatologists, cosmetic dentists and others. Within a year, I tripled the roster size of this agency. After staying with this firm for several years, I decided to open my PR firm, KMR Communications in 1998, at the age of 28, first as a medical public relations firm and shortly thereafter expanded to include beauty, fitness and fashion clients. By the time I was 30 in the year 2000, I had 25 employees and dozens and dozens of clients nationwide. I am proud to say we are still in business and thriving 25 years later!
One of the struggles was being such a young business owner and dealing with both clients and employees who often were a great deal older. Being young and a woman, one has to prove that you have the “chops” and deserve to be where you are.
Another challenge was the recession that began in 2008. PR is a discretionary expense, so some individuals and companies eliminated it and others decreased their monthly budgets. At that time, we were in the same boat as everyone else. I knew if we could economize internally and continue to do the best work possible, we could weather the storm. Doing so meant raising the bar in terms of our client media results and going above and beyond to surpass client expectations.
Another challenge has been the proliferation of beauty/medical PR firms that exist now. In the first few years of KMR Communications, we had somewhat of a monopoly on this niche of the business. Now that there is stiff competition with both boutique and large firms, we have to rely on our vast industry experience and knowledge to keep pace and surpass the competition. I like to think this makes us better as a whole. We have to keep current, constantly broaden our knowledge base and discern how we can provide more value-added benefits for our clients.
KMR Communications is a boutique PR firm in Miami Beach. The firm was started by me in 1998 in New York City. We specialize in PR nationwide and worldwide for clients in the arenas of beauty, health and fitness. The firm was based in New York City until 2012 when we moved to Miami Beach in the Sunset Harbor area. KMR Communications was one of the pioneers in public relations for those in aesthetic medicine such as dermatology, plastic surgery, and medi-spas. We were also early providers of PR for skincare, haircare, fitness products and services, and medi-spas. As a company we are very proud of our “firsts” in the industry. We were the first to throw a “Botox Party” which was covered by CNN at the time. We introduced the fat melting technique Mesotherapy to the United States with our client Dr. Marion Shapiro, We represented the Hairmax Laser Comb, a first-ever at-home device approved by the FDA to regrow hair for men and women. We were the longtime PR agency of record for the fitness franchise “The Bar Method” which is a favorite of celebrities, and we represented Bosley Hair Restoration which is the world’s largest hair restoration company.
We were also very honored to produce a launch party for a yoga music DVD “Lokah” the Ivy Ceiling” where we had Sting and Russell Simmons as our guests in addition to “The Real Housewives of New York City” cast. The event was featured on an episode of that show. Another highlight was being interviewed for a segment on “CBS News Sunday Morning” to address the topic of doctors and public relations. I appeared in the segment alongside the cast of TV’s “The Doctors” and famed dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone.
What sets our business apart?
What sets KMR apart from other firms of its kind is our specific industry experience with beauty/health/medical clients, our in-depth knowledge of these sectors, and the personal attention we give to every client. As the CEO, I am totally hands-on with every account.
Miami is a burgeoning city. It is an excellent place to “get your feet wet.” If one is doing hospitality PR i.e., for restaurants and hotels, this is an ideal city. If you seek a different niche of PR such as tech, investor relations or celebrity PR, Miami only has a limited number of PR firms that one can choose from. Miami is growing by leaps and bounds each year from both a cultural perspective and infrastructure. There are places we have now that were non-existent 7 or more years ago such as Brickell City Center, the fabulous retail stores of the design district, and all of the amazing restaurants in Wynwood. I think all that Miami needs is time to become everything it can be. If businesses here hire more “home grown talent” instead of turning to New York or Los Angeles that will help individuals living in Miami to thrive financially, it will keep the talent pool here, and help our overall local economy. Almost all of my staff, both interns and account executives have been students or alumni of the University of Miami and I have been very pleased with these KMR team members and the way U of M has prepared them for this field.
What’s a lesson you had to unlearn and what’s the backstory?
Don’t ignore your gut instinct. As business owners, we often see a potential employee who looks perfect on their resume, a potential client who fits all the right criteria, or a freelancer whom we wish to hire who seems to have all the right attributes. We want to make the situation work because the credentials fit the bill. In one instance, I was interviewing a candidate to do some tech work for the firm. This individual said all of the right things, provided examples of previous work and was engaging. As someone who has studied body language to a degree, I was decoding deception in his/her body language that I chose to ignore. The gestures and posture signaled boredom, deceit, and arrogance. I told myself that I was being “silly” and emphasizing “mumbo jumbo” instead of facts and analytics this person was showing me. When he/she exited the interview, my 6th sense left me uneasy. I proceeded with the hire for the project, and unfortunately, my gut intuition was 100% right. The lesson learned is trust your intuition even if the numbers, analytics and the words on the paper tell you otherwise.
What’s a lesson you had to unlearn and what’s the backstory?
Don’t do business with friends Over the past two-plus decades I have had friends ask me to represent them for PR. Of course, I have felt honored that they would place their faith, trust and finances in my firm and me. Through one negative experience, I learned that business and friendship should be kept separate. If you can do a favor for a friend through your talent and experience, do it- but do not exchange money, it is the fastest way to end a friendship. When doing business with close friends, you might be inclined to give them a discount on goods or services. Because a personal relationship exists, that friend may not respect the same boundaries that a “regular” client would and the expectation of deliverables could be higher for less money. The bottom line- Do your friend a favor, discuss their needs and offer to refer them to the best person, product or company you know so that you maintain your friendship and they receive what their business requires.
- Website: www.kmrpr.com
- Instagram: @kmrpr
- Facebook: KMR Communications
- Linkedin: KMR Communications
- Twitter: @kmrpr
- Youtube: KMRCommunicationsInc
Image was taken by me