Hilary Reiter recently stopped by to tell Totalprestige Magazine about Redhead Marketing & PR and her career in Marketing and Public Relations.
Hilary, you took the plunge in 2010 and opened Redhead Marketing & PR. What led you to founding your own marketing and public relations agency?
Starting my own firm was very much a spontaneous and organic process. I had been working for an advertising agency specializing in luxury vacation home developments when the 2008 recession hit. The agency was adversely impacted given its real estate niche, but I managed to hang on to my role as PR Director until 2010 when the inevitable lay off happened. While interviewing for the few available PR jobs, various businesses approached me for consulting work. Before I knew it, I was too busy to go on interviews and discovered I could make a go of it for myself. Ironically, I struggled for weeks to come up with the most obvious name for my company. And then it dawned on me at 3 a.m. during a bout of insomnia. And that is how Redhead Marketing & PR was born.
Prior to opening Redhead Marketing & PR, you worked in marketing for major record labels. What inspired you to leave the music industry?
Growing up in New York City, sneaking out to live music venues to see bands, and having my first music industry PR internship at 16 years old, working in the business was all I ever envisioned myself doing. Ultimately, I became disillusioned by the lack of professionalism and cutthroat nature of the industry. I needed a break at only 24 years old, so I went off to the French Alps to spend six months skiing, practicing my French, and exercising my affinity for wine and cheese. There, I became enamored with the mountain resort lifestyle and sought to replicate it when I returned to the U.S. Had I been able to legally work; however, I probably never would have left France.
You have worked on a variety of marketing campaigns including mayoral candidate election campaigns, luxury residential properties, and many more projects. What are your favorite types of projects you work on?
I love working with startups because of the opportunity to be instrumental in shaping their brands. Our in-depth brand strategy work is a fascinating, comprehensive process that helps clients define their mission, messaging, audience, and visual identity. It’s exciting to provide that level of guidance to help a dream come to fruition. Having spent much of my career in public relations and embracing social media early on, it’s gratifying to see the tangible, measurable results from that work as well. With respect to industries, I am partial to hospitality, travel, luxury lifestyle, and real estate.
You started Redhead during the height of the recession in the noughties. How difficult was it to begin a business during that time and what challenges did you face early on?
Having seen clients at the agency I worked at cancel marketing campaigns, it was difficult to believe there would be enough demand for my services despite some word-of-mouth projects trickling in. I didn’t have funding that allowed me to take my time learn the skills that are essential to being a business owner. And I needed a website and logo – fortunately, friends helped me with both! Somehow it all fell into place, and I was able to simultaneously cultivate enough business to pay the bills while getting established. Another great challenge, which is a constant one, is knowing when to delegate. You can’t grow your business without doing so. It’s important to focus on your strengths and take the leap of faith to hand off certain activities – like accounting and web development – to other team members.
One of the reasons Redhead was founded was to give clients a more customized experience. How do you provide clients with a customized experience that they cannot get elsewhere?
Having spent much of my career working on the client side, I didn’t particularly care for the more formulaic approach of traditional, multi-layered agencies we hired for our marketing and PR services. It was also frustrating to work with a rotating cast of inexperienced account managers. Consequently, when I set out on my own I was determined to avoid the standard agency bloat and only collaborate with seasoned experts. This allows me to create the right team that’s well suited for each client, resulting in a custom tailored marketing approach. We tend to develop close relationships with the businesses we work with and truly act as an extension of their teams.
Right now, we are enduring the Covid-19 pandemic. How is the marketing and PR industry weathering the storm of the pandemic?
The industry is markedly different than it was in 2008 when businesses seemed quick to cut their marketing. Perhaps they learned from that mistake, plus the foundations of the economy were stronger when COVID hit than they were leading up to the 2008 crash. Businesses that scale back on marketing find it difficult and costly to catch up to their competitors when the economy starts to turn around. Now, there appears to be a greater understanding of the need to maintain brand awareness and a visible presence in the marketplace. Granted, marketing tactics have changed considerably since the Great Recession with the advent of digital channels, making marketing campaigns more targeted, measurable, and effective. The pandemic has also generated the need for many businesses to pivot in order to survive, so marketing is essential to do that successfully. Now more than ever, there is a tremendous need to be authentic and instill customer confidence. All of this requires strong and consistent marketing and communications, so I would say our services are not optional these days.
What lessons can the marketing and PR industry learn from the pandemic and bounce back when life gets fully back to normal around the world?
I think diversification is key, rather than maintaining a highly specific niche. For example, I wouldn’t want to specialize only in travel and tourism marketing these days. It’s important to maintain a healthy mix of clients to recession proof your business. Like many industries, ours is discovering that there is little need for fancy, high-priced office space. We’ve always had a remote team. It has been effective, and allows us to pass the savings on to our clients, which they certainly appreciate!
The Sundance Film Festival drew you to Park City, Utah in 2001, the home of Redhead Marketing & PR. What kept you there to establish the agency?
As a native New Yorker, I never imagined a work-life balance existed. Being able to hike in the beautiful mountains of Park City or go cross country skiing during lunch, and even meet clients for a ski day at Deer Valley is so invigorating and inspires creativity. Moreover, it’s a small community where I had visible positions working in PR for the Sundance Film Festival and the Park City Chamber, so the connections I accrued gave me the opportunity to easily establish the business here. Being a non-native of Utah is a differentiator. Having the Salt Lake City International Airport only 30 minutes away allows me to easily travel for work, and it also draws many affluent, sophisticated people from all over to our Park City community. All of these factors have made this a terrific place to get connected to potential clients no matter where they are based. Lastly, Utah has an incredibly resilient, diversified, and growing economy that has created a large pool of clients.
How has having contacts in New York City, your hometown, and Redhead being located in Utah helped you cultivate clients?
More than anything, the credibility, directness, and work ethic that come with being a New Yorker are traits that seem to attract clients. I may be in Utah, but I am certainly not of Utah. The same is true for most of my team, which gives us a more well-rounded perspective that benefits clients. Clients outside of Utah benefit from that experience and drive without the high price tag they find closer to home.
Hilary, tell us about the Redhead canine team and how you derive creativity from it?
It’s cliché, but dogs truly are stress relievers. I probably wouldn’t get on the trails nearly as much if it weren’t for them, and getting outside provides the ability to recharge so I can perform better at work. Jackson and Rusty have truly become part of the Redhead brand, and living in a dog-friendly town means they often make appearances at meetings!
How is a day in your life?
It has changed a bit since COVID came about, but I have always started each day by walking or snowshoeing with the dogs. It gives me energy for what lies ahead. Then I work for a few hours before getting my sweat on in a noon spin or boot camp class. This “adult recess,” as I call it, breaks up the day perfectly. Thanks to the pandemic, I invested in a Peloton bike, so I’m doing home workouts for the forseeable future. I am in contact with most clients daily. What I love about my work is the variety that comes with advising many different kinds of businesses. In essence, no two days are the same.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I love to write, and when I was a child I sent hand-written letters to my favorite ‘80s rock musicians – some of them even wrote back personally and would give me free tickets to their concerts and backstage passes to meet them. When I was in elementary school, I wrote and directed “Little House on the Prairie” plays to perform to classmates and teachers. And I would even wear a bonnet! You could say I was obsessed with the show and wanted to be Laura Ingles Wilder. Somehow, I graduated from Little House to hard rock just a few years later!
What makes you smile?
The beach in Southern California where I try to spend as much time as possible, my dogs, traveling to Europe, and when clients enthusiastically express gratitude for the results attributed to our work.
What scares you?
Since the advent of the internet, marketing has continually evolved, and there are so many different disciplines. It takes time and commitment to be on the cutting edge, so the thought of ever being in a situation where I can’t keep up with current trends or new approaches is a scary scenario.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
Racial inequality. Our society needs to end systemic racism, create opportunity, and embrace our differences and understand they are our greatest strengths.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If anyone is traveling to Park City and would like to connect, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Website is www.redheadmarketingpr.com