Public Relations in 2018? A Different Take with RIOT Media's Alyssa Baker
Through her ability to push brands to the next level in the ever-changing media landscape, Alyssa Baker founded RIOT Media Group with her passion for brand storytelling
When Alyssa Baker started her PR career, she intuitively knew that influencers and bloggers would be the celebrities of the next generation. "Growing up with a sister 10 years my junior put me in a unique position to see firsthand how Gen Z consumes content, and I used that knowledge strategically," Baker tells BTI.
Working with Fortune 500 companies and start-ups alike, Alyssa’s roster features top-tier media, influencers, thought leaders, celebrities, industry experts, and more.
"Today, more and more brands understand that everything lives online and there are additional advantages to earning coverage online. It's never been easier to share articles, purchase products, and influence others than it is today," says Baker.
Baker, who founded RIOT Media Group in 2014, says she and her team have always been able to recognize, champion, and predict the power of online media, so their strategy has not been affected much by the ever-changing digital landscape.
One of the most common ways of helping brands gain exposure in the PR world is by harnessing relationships with celebrities and influencers, and RIOT has pioneered this approach.
This industry, like most, is run by relationships, says Baker, who recommends identifying and using on-brand influencers at various levels of "insta-success."
For example, don't make a list of 20 celebrities with over one million followers and expect them to post about your product unless there is an existing relationship or a massive budget. Instead, make a list of 20 influencers across a broad spectrum in terms of following.
Sometimes a micro-blogger with a niche fan-base can provide more results (i.e, sales) than a celebrity posting about your product once, Baker says: "The bottom line is that you can make wish lists all day, but you have to start digging and finding those common connections for collaborations to really take hold."
Hit up that friend of a friend of a friend to the Kardashians—you may never know when they will need that product you've previously pitched, and then end up on their show, their apps, and on 15+ magazines. (Yes, this really happened.)
But how exactly are these deals brokered? Are companies paying influencers for Instagram ads or just gifting free products and services in exchange for social media exposure?
Baker says the RIOT team focuses on earned media coverage, meaning they take the same principles of old-school PR pitching and apply them to the digital world.
"Giving a product away is never enough, and when our clients earn major coverage from a top blogger, magazine or celebrity, that is always earned through a combination of product gifting/education and our professional relationships," she said.
And then there are sponsored events. We see pictures and geotags and unique hashtags all over social media, but do they actually translate?
Baker says events are an incredible way to get a target demo all in one room, giving them a "first look" and showcasing the client in real-time to their audience via social media.
RIOT produces several media events a year, and each one is custom-tailored to the goals and needs of each respective client. Events are often expensive, so be clear about what your goals are from the beginning, Baker advises.
If the goal is to get people talking about the client during the event, make sure the majority of the focus (and budget) is spent on over-the-top photo opps. If the goal is to increase app downloads by 50 percent, make sure each person who walks through your doors has to download the app and register in order to get a gift bag. There are ways to be creative.
As a seasoned PR expert named People Maven’s most Brilliant PR Expert Under 30, Baker says she was "blissfully naïve" when she started her business, and that if entrepreneurs actually knew how hard it would be, none of them, including her, would actually start.
"Each day brings new challenges that nobody can predict. Building a talented and dedicated staff is hard in any business, but especially hard in an agency model like RIOT," Baker says.
"Just like the magazine editors are having to take on more work, a similar shift is happening as the lines between PR, marketing, social media, and advertising continue to blur. We are under constant pressure to perform for our clients while budgets and timelines continue to decrease."
But even with all the pressure, Baker still keeps her cool. The most important step in overcoming the challenges, she says, is the maintenance of a positive and healthy mindset by way of a wellness practice.
"Meditation, setting time aside to relax and get off the devices, yoga, Reiki and crystal-healing are all self-care methods I use to make sure I am balanced. When I'm not balanced, how can I show up for my clients?" Baker poses. "You have to take care of yourself first and foremost to be your best self, especially when you're the vehicle that's representing others/their brands."
But being the boss does come at a price. "Everything is your responsibility, so there's never time to 'take it easy' and the work never stops," Baker says. She mentions that no matter how much she personally likes her employees, she makes a concerted effort to ensure the lines between and employee and friend are not blurred in the workplace.
"Your life also begins to change simply because of the sheer amount of pressure you're under." she advises. "You no longer have the time or energy for trivial things that won't matter in the long run—and believe me, you’ll want to be in it for the long run."