Lisa Orman, PR President, KidStuff
Public Relations (PR) is primarily an awareness-building tool. PR firms navigate the digital realm, ensuring clients maintain a strong online presence and engage with diverse communities. Offering strategic counsel, they align communication efforts with business objectives, identifying opportunities for positive exposure and collaboration. In an era of globalization, PR firms adapt messages for cross-cultural resonance, while their data-driven approach ensures measurable impact, contributing to the sustained success of brands and organizations.
In the pool of women entrepreneurs who are transitioning into outstanding ground breakers, we interviewed Lisa Orman, to know how she and her team are effectively building awareness for companies and their products. President and Founder at KidStuff PR, Lisa explains how they’re specialized in raising awareness among families by employing targeted strategies that address their unique needs and challenges.
What’s your perspective on the present state of the PR industry? What major challenges do PR firms face in the current landscape?
The PR industry, like many others, is in a state of consolidation with acquisitions and mergers. For those of us who remain independent, which KidStuff PR has for 30 years, it is imperative that we differentiate, provide exceptional services, excel at our service and remain relevant by constantly innovating, educating and training ourselves in new techniques, tools and practices.
One of the main obstacles for PR firms is a lack of understanding by clients about the role PR serves. Primarily, PR is an awareness-building tool. Advertising and marketing drive sales. The three can work together for excellent results. But we must educate clients about what PR can do well, and what it can’t or isn’t meant to do and to build realistic expectations. The ROI can be exceptional!
When was KidStuff Public Relations established? Could you outline the core values that drive the company’s mission and vision in the PR domain?
KidStuff Public Relations was founded in 1994 by me. I started with a team of independent contractors who were mothers of young children and professional publicists. They were based around the country, and all worked from home—remote work that was considered pioneering at the time!
We focused on, and still do, working with specialty toy and game companies and others in the play space. We specialize in working with startups and entrepreneurial businesses. When we started, our children were our play testers. If they didn’t love a toy and weren’t engaged by it, we didn’t work with the company. Now our kids are grown. As experienced parents, along with various play certifications we have attained, we trust our gut instincts on successful toys. We also achieved the Certified Play Expert qualification from Astra, a toy trade association.
Can you give an overview of the services and solutions KidStuff Public Relations offers that stand out as company’s strengths?
We build awareness for companies and their products or services by getting them featured in traditional media like TV, print publications, digital media and on family influencer channels. We also work with toy, gift, and licensing trade media.
Our business model is quite different than that of most PR agencies. Most are vertically oriented with the president or top execs pitching new accounts and winning business contract, and then clients are assigned a (usually young, inexperienced) account executive. That person is responsible for all activities the client needs, including tasks the account executive is just OK at doing, or worse, bad at performing and they dislike doing them. This leads to mediocre work product and inexperienced people working on client accounts. Employees are unhappy because they spend a lot of time doing tasks, they aren’t great at, so they get a lot of negative feedback, plus they don’t earn a lot of money, so this leads to high turnover. I’ve had clients come to me frustrated that they’ve had four account executives at their last PR agency in one year and there’s no institutional knowledge of their company at the PR agency. The president of the agency is not involved in strategy or client relations at all, or very little.
At KidStuff PR, we have a horizontal business model, where our experienced team members including President Lisa Orman, only work on the things they are great at and love to do, and they do these things for all clients, rather than doing everything for only one or two clients. This makes for a much happier and productive team, longevity with our team members, and a top-quality work product and performance for the client. Orman is the primary contact for clients and deeply enjoys working closely with clients to craft a strategy, lead it, shape it and advise the client if changes need to be made and why.
As the President of KidStuff Public Relations, could you elaborate on your responsibilities? What aspect of your role do you find most fulfilling and impactful?
Although we have worked with some of the biggest national and global toy manufacturers, I find working with start-ups and the smaller mom-and-pop companies to be the most fulfilling. Our work and success for our clients is more meaningful and impactful than for a huge company with a huge budget and team. We build trust with our clients, and they believe we have their back. We feel truly gratified when we are a big part of their success. To have a company look back 5-7 years after they started their business and say “I’m so glad I hired KidStuff PR when we started out. I know we are where we are now because they helped us navigate our way as we started, helped us build awareness among our target audience and now we have loyal fans and our business is expanding.”
I also know that I am lucky to have raised my kids with my toy business and they are brilliant adults now because they grew up playing with developmental, educational toys. I am gratified I was able to do that for my PR team of moms, and we all had flexible work hours which allowed us to be very involved in our children’s lives and school activities while also working full-time. I am thankful to provide good jobs now for my team, which includes a dad with three sons.
As a former journalist for the Des Moines Register, Wall Street Journal, Crain’s Chicago Business and USA Today, it’s gratifying to trust my news instincts for what will be a compelling story, and have media respond positively.
The future of the PR industry from KidStuff Public Relations’ perspective, considering your expertise and impact.
As the importance of social media grows, I think integrity will be even more important to ensure quality partnerships that are beneficial both for the influencer and for the client, not to mention the agency as the go-between.
I envision traditional media continuing to be important, though the way we attain it may change. We must always be authentic, and be willing to learn, change and grow. Just because we’ve been doing this for 30 years doesn’t mean we can get lazy or think we know it all.
Could you share a success story where KidStuff Public Relations made a significant positive impact on a client’s brand image and overall outcomes?
We have been working with Moonlite for 3 years. We submitted their bedtime story product to many prestigious awards, and they won the Parents.com and Good Housekeeping Best Toys of 2022 Award, among many other awards. Because the Moonlite management team trusts us, they bought the (very expensive) seal license to use in advertising and on their site for both big awards. The company’s revenue was grown incredibly in 2023 over 2022. They have added numerous titles and been able to experiment with different pricing and bundles because of this success. They are a very gracious client who gives credit where it’s due and we really enjoy working with them.
In a rapidly changing PR landscape, how does KidStuff Public Relations stay ahead of digital trends to deliver effective campaigns for your niche clientele?
We use Meltwater, which is a state-of-the-art PR tool which includes database, distribution, monitoring, and reporting tools. We are educated by our account rep and attend webinars the company offers. They also own Klear, our social media database, distribution, relationship management, monitoring, and reporting tool. The biggest PR agencies use these tools and we have adapted them to our needs. They are employing AI for media pitches, and their reporting tools help us see if our campaigns are effective or might need tweaking. Klear has integrated Shopify so we can link influencer partners to client ecommerce sites and their backend, so we can monitor custom shopping links to see which partners drive the most sales over a period of time to the client ecommerce site. Some of it feels over our heads sometimes, but we have patient teachers at the provider to coach us in how to set up campaigns and use the tools to their best effect. You must be willing to learn, and to try new things and be willing to fail.
How does KidStuff Public Relations cultivate partnerships to amplify client campaigns and create wider-reaching initiatives?
KidStuff PR is very selective about the clients it works with and is very passionate about the partners we choose. So, when we talk with media or influencer partners about the companies and their products, our passion is contagious, and we have a very high hit rate because of this. We care, and caring goes a long way to helping us do the job to our high standards.