Courtesy of Lisa Smith

Community Builder

Lisa Smith

Roxanne Motamedi / October 29, 2019

Lisa Smith moves fast. After starting her own PR agency just three years after graduating from college, she relocated from Sydney to New York City shortly after and turned from connector publicist to publicist connector. The PR Net, her members network for publicists, marketers, entrepreneurs and lifestyle journalists has become the glue between many of the leading professionals behind The World’s Best Events.

From Sydney to New York, from PR to PR Net: How you got started and how you ended up where you are today?

I started my career in Sydney and initially was on the media side, where I did my internships, followed by a bunch of freelance magazine writing. It was at the launch of one of those magazines that I met the owner from my future employer, an eyewear distribution company. I handled their PR before starting my own agency. It wasn’t something I thought I’d do so early in my working life, but while interviewing a friend for a story I was writing, he proposed a contra whereby I’d work on their brand’s PR in exchange for an office space above their store – I would just need to find the other paying clients to establish a business. Friends referred me to a few clients (I actually owe the now designer Rebecca Vallance for at least a couple of those) so that’s how I got my start.

I happily worked on the agency for the years leading into a fateful holiday in NYC in 2009, which was the catalyst for my moving here in April 2010. With a general manager in place I kept my agency going for about 18 months after I left, but once I realized that I wanted to stay here long term (and the crazy time difference and remote running of a business wasn’t sustainable), I went back to sell the business and wrap things up.

I freelanced for a few brands and agencies in New York and during that time had the idea for The PR Net. We soft launched late 2014, but our real beginning I date to September 2015, so we just celebrated 4 years. I have loved working on something that draws on my background in the communications industry and brings people together.

How did you come up with the idea to create a network for communications, events and marketing professionals? 

The idea came at a time when ‘PR’ was moving from being almost interchangeable with ‘media relations’, to encompass much more: partnerships and collaborations being a big part of that. There was so much to be gained from connecting with other people who worked with complementary brands, but no occasion that formalized that coming together. I also felt that there was a gap for a fresh media platform and industry resource, that spoke to other people working in the lifestyle space: art, travel, design, fashion, beauty.

The spirit of collaboration and inclusivity which has risen in recent years has really helped. I really believe that having a closed or competitive outlook limits your professional development, so it’s great to see there are so many people who want to learn, share and collaborate.

What are the resources you offer PR and events professionals?

Our events program provides opportunity to discover newly opened venues and meet other industry professionals. We also produce panels covering topics in marketing, communications, events and media, as well as host cultural events such as our annual Armory Show private reception and guided tour.

Online, we feature our members’ calendar listings, jobs & internships, post-event coverage, profiles on industry figures, member offers and other helpful information. We have been actively expanding our editorial content, covering industry trends and tips – topical pieces on everything from diversity in communications, to the rise of podcasts as a PR tool, to marketing of the cannabis industry. We heavily draw on our network’s expertise to contribute expert quotes, story ideas, or just to highlight the outstanding work they do.

Many of your members are highly recognizable brands and agencies. How have you cultivated the members that you have and how would you hope to expand on this?

The vast majority has been from word of mouth and referrals. The aim was certainly to have a high quality of people involved and we feel lucky to have the support of that level of companies. We have a range of members from multi-national mega-brands and agencies, right down to independent consultants and solopreneurs.

In terms of expanding the network, there are so many interesting companies in this wheelhouse and the further we extend, the better the content and quality of the resource.

The PR Net showcases newly opened venues through its events programming. How do you select the places and what in your opinion makes a great event venue?

The selection process is fairly easy – we ask ourselves, is the venue aspirational, will our members be interested in discovering it and potentially using it for their events? If the answer is yes, then we move forward. We are lucky that there’s an ever-replenishing stock of fabulous venues in the cities in which we host: Members clubs are on the rise, boutique hotels seem to be constantly opening, and creative, new spaces for events keep popping up.

A great event venue is the perfect blend of thoughtful and uplifting design, good amenities and location, and last but perhaps the most important, a high level of service and hospitality.

What is next for your company?

We have members in a variety of cities from Miami to Las Vegas, Canada to the UK, but we currently only offer events programming in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We’re excited to develop the events program in other places and continue to expand our editorial content to feature things happening around the world.

Another exciting development in the works is that we are building an event venues database, which will be housed on our site and accessible to members for their planning needs. We will be very industry focused, collating the ‘best of’ which we have sourced from our members and our knowledge from several years of hosting PR Net events.

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