Heather Ripley started her entrepreneurial journey after working in marketing for more than a decade, and then spending several years in senior management for two other agencies. She has been on both sides of the table – hiring a PR agency for the company she worked for and trying to sell the agency’s services to clients.
Heather quickly learned that most agencies are generalists, trying to be all things to all people, yet never doing anything exceptionally well. But what companies really need when partnering with a public relations or marketing agency, is a true expert that understands their unique challenges and their industry. She says, “Ripley PR was a culmination of all of my previous years of marketing and PR experience for various industries.”
In May 2013, Heather started Ripley PR with zero clients, and by December of that year, she hired her first salaried, full-time employee and rented office space. Today, Ripley PR is the top agency in the country in many of the industries it serves and has evolved to specialise in even more industries.
Ripley PR is an elite, global public relations agency specialising in building and skilled trades, franchising, B2B technology, and manufacturing. It offers a full range of strategic communication services, including content creation, brand promotions and award nominations, communications strategies, crisis management, media relations and social media management.
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between the World’s Leaders and Heather Ripley.
Tell us about your background and what did you do before you started/joined Ripley PR?
I started my career working for a department store buying office in 1996, and while I was an assistant buyer in home goods, I fell in love with copywriting. After that, I served in a variety of roles for other companies, managing marketing and public relations. I was also a freelance journalist for a few years in Bradenton, Florida. In 2008, I managed the marketing and PR for one of the largest home services franchisors in the country, Clockwork Home Services. It was there that I secured a spot for our three franchise brands – One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, and Mister Sparky – on The Celebrity Apprentice. After that, I entered the agency world and managed PR for two different agencies before starting Ripley PR in 2013.
What differentiates you from the other marketing firms?
We pride ourselves on deeply understanding the industries we serve. Through our work with the franchise industry and home service trades, for example, we gained the knowledge and experience to create the most effective PR strategies for these industries. We speak their language and know the best messaging strategies for this market.
How do you handle team members who have different opinions about the direction of a campaign?
The core teams that serve each of our clients work well together behind the scenes to consider all ideas and arrive at the best solutions to present to our clients. Because of our focus on proven earned media strategies, and our employees’ commitment to teamwork and each other, we avoid much of the internal friction that can arise in other agencies.
Tell us about your proud moment as a leader and the achievements of Ripley PR?
There are so many, it’s difficult to choose just one. We were named to Forbes’ list of America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021 and have been on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 10 Franchise PR Agencies list for four consecutive years. These awards are humbling because they are based on client surveys and feedback. I’m also proud of my team for working hard every day to help our clients reach their business goals, whether that means securing earned media stories in local or industry publications, attracting prospects to their franchise opportunity, attracting investors, or positioning their company for acquisition.
How do you ensure a culture of integrity and innovation in Ripley PR?
My biggest asset at the agency is my team. I aim to always hire professionals and treat them like professionals. We promote ongoing training, growth and education and maintain an open-door policy for our employees. We also are intentional about choosing the right clients to work with and don’t just chase dollars. We’ve put in place a strong foundation and operational systems that help our team members succeed.
How do you keep updated on marketing trends, tools and techniques?
Ripley PR is a member of IPREX, a global group of independent public relations and marketing agencies. We have more than 100 communications agencies in our network where we can learn from others’ marketing successes, share tools and techniques for operating more efficiently and profitably, as well as stay abreast of new worldwide trends and best practices.
What elements does a marketing campaign need in order to be successful?
A successful marketing campaign includes all the elements of business communication: marketing, advertising, branding and public relations. One element of successful marketing is to establish the representatives of the brand as thought leaders using a combination of written articles, speaking engagements and interviews that feature their expertise. Consistent online awareness is also key, so a good campaign needs to include regular, engaging content and posts that speak to your target audience.
What career advice would you give to new leaders who are interested in working in marketing?
Beyond developing written and verbal communication and organisational skills, I would also encourage young leaders to read business books and work to develop a strong business acumen. To be able to consult the C-suite of a large business about their growth strategy, you must have an understanding of how companies make and lose money. Reading can add to your personal development and range as a communicator—and audiobooks can come in handy when you’re in your car or cooking dinner.
Tell us about your vision for Ripley’s PR.
My goal was to create a world-class PR agency in my hometown in East Tennessee and serve clients all over the world. I wanted to build a team that is results-focused, yet able to maintain a strong work-life balance. That’s generally pretty difficult in the agency world because many companies have flex hours and employees work in different time zones and email around the clock. We’ve created systems and processes for our team so that we are able to maintain balance in non-crisis situations.
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