Celebrity Interview: Reality PR Guru, Amanda Ruisi of AKRPR

 

 

Candace Rose: Did you always dream of a career in Public Relations and at what age did you realize this was something you wanted to get into?

Amanda Ruisi: "Love that question! It's actually all because of my mother. In middle school and high school I was kind of known as the social butterfly, I would constantly be socializing and I think that maybe a little bit too much sometimes! And so I was in high school at the time and I was a freshman and my mother said to me 'you know you would make a great publicist one day' and I was like 'publicist, what's that?' My mom had worked in the advertising industry for years as a producer and an advertising executive so she was on the creative side, so she really gave me a great intro into what this industry would be like. My first ever job was an internship at a fashion company called La Perla and I interned in fashion PR, and I loved the PR aspect of it but I wasn't quite sure that the fashion was exactly right for me, so I said to my mom, 'you know I don't know about this' and so she's like 'well, why don't we talk to our neighbor' who at the time was on a TV show called 'Ed'- Michael Ian Black and that show 'Ed' at the time was on NBC and so he had helped, and my mom got me an internship, so I got my first internship which I think was 2003 at NBC. I started as an intern, then I worked my way up and I got hired on full time like four months later. And then from there it kind of took off and I was at NBC basically my entire career, and I've been in this now almost 10 years."

 

Candace Rose: What was that experience at NBC like?

Amanda Ruisi: "Oh it was amazing. I absolutely loved the people I worked with, they really cultivated me and made me become the publicist I am today because of the experiences and mentors I had at NBC. I got to work with phenomenal corporate communications executives, I got to work with amazing *presidents (it cut out at this time, I think this is what you said?) of the network, and presidents* of development, producers, Mark Burnett, Donald Trump. The first show I ever launched was a show called 'The Apprentice' and I was then with that show for eight seasons. I used to work on the 'Law & Orders' and then I would do all the east coast specials- so I would do like the 'Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade', The 'Christmas Tree Lighting', 'TheDog Show', 'New Years Eve with Carson Daly'. I did a Madonna music special, and when you do these specials you're so fortunate because you're able to work with a variety of different talent, because every year we would have different musical talent. So one year it would be Gavin DeGraw, and John Legend, and Jessica Simpson, and Britney Spears. So I really got to work with a tremendous amount of people and those were just my specials, not in addition to the series and the other alternative and reality shows that I represented like 'Im in A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here', 'The Apprentice', 'Law & Order Criminal Intent', and a 'Law & Order' show called 'Revelations'. I was so blessed to have worked on it all. And then as I kept growing within the company I became the Talent Relations as well. At first I was just a Senior Press Manager but then they added on Talent Relations, so I was the only one out of the east coast that did both Talent Relations and Publicity because Talent Relations was based out of LA. So that really gave me an unbelievable opportunity to work with so many great people like Brooke Shields when we were working on 'Lipstick Jungle', I would work with 'The Office' cast so it was a phenomenal, phenomenal opportunity and I really built amazing relationships not only within the media but then within the production company; like Craig Plestis is still a dear friend of mine and actually just last year I launched a show for him called 'Minute To Win It'. I was still able to work with NBC which is amazing, so it's been great. I really feel lucky to have had that opportunity to just get that internship and then from there grow and stay within that company I'm glad that I stayed there for as long as I did because it really enabled me to have the relationships that I do now."

 

Candace Rose: At what point did you decide you wanted to go into business for yourself, because that's a huge decision?

Amanda Ruisi: "Yes, it is a huge decision. It was an exciting decision. I at that point had kind of realized that I loved the ability to really help and build a brand and what I mean by that is I felt that when I worked on 'The Apprentice' I helped build that brand so when you think of 'The Apprentice' and you think of 'Celebrity Apprentice' we really helped cultivate the relationships within the media, and Donald Trump, and all the contestants as well, then we called it product integration with the sponsors that were within the shows. And we would work with these great brands that were sponsors like Kodak or Dove and working with them I really got to get to know the brand side of things and I really felt that I would do such great service to my relationships with my clients or prospective clients if I were to go out on my own and help build these brands because I kind of had been thrown into this world of reality television and you know the last shows I worked on before I left was 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here' and I was working with Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt and a phenomenal cast of characters and then I had just been working on 'Celebrity Apprentice' with Khloe Kardashian and so I'd thrown out the idea of possibly going and doing something on my own and so when I launched my company I had Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt who were still on 'The Hills' at the time and then I had the Kardashian's for their skincare line and then I had Vinny Guadagnino from the 'Jersey Shore' and Jill Zarin from 'The Real Housewives of New York'. And then shortly after NBC came and I was launching television shows with them again and it evolved into Pauly D, and the Gastineau's and working with Rochelle who I think you interviewed as well and Arcade. And I was really kind of finding out on my own that what I do specialize in obviously is the reality side of it but helping people to have those unbelievable platforms which is whether it be a show or however they break into the industry and then taking that and helping them sustain with longevity within the industry so it's not just great you're on a top show and that's it- how can we put you with a brand that makes sense so if it's something where aligning a client with another celebrity client whether it be like Pauly D and 50 Cent or helping to make those connections were really do all that because it's like a 360 approach to help make these relationships cultivated."

 

Candace Rose: And you're always trying to keep them on their best behavior! I absolutely love your AKR approved tweets.

Amanda Ruisi: "Yes, yes. It's very funny, especially for me. You know I've worked with Doug Reinhardt for a long time too and he has the RKS Workout and I think Doug, and Vinny, and definitely Pauly too (I don't represent Vinny anymore) but Pauly D, I do and Doug. And when I would do these AKR approved or not AKR approved, I'd be reading these tweets and it'd be late at night and Pauly would be taking pictures with I don't even know. God knows! Porn stars or somebody and I would text him and be like that is not AKR approved and I would tweet something. I'm quick to go but it is because my first thing I explain to every client, I'm a very big advocate for social media, I think it's a very crucial part of everybody's brand, I think it's important to be concise across the board, so the message that you portray of who you are in the media, on television, in public, with your friends si the same message that needs to come across via your social network. You can't alter, you can't be a little bit vulgar on one and then not be like that. You know what I mean? And I'd rather they not be like that. I always say my thing is twitter is an extension of your voice and it's very, very true. We break announcements (just for example) two weeks ago we broke the announcement of Pauly D and 50 Cent coming together to produce a line of headphones. They partnered up with SMS Audio to create a line of headphones. We broke that on twitter and leading up to it we let twitter and everybody know that Pauly was going to be making an announcement via this twitter and we gave the date and time and that's just a way to give back to the fans too because there again, at the end of the day the fans are the consumers, the fans are the support that keeps the engine running and you have to give back to them any way you can and I'm a huge advocate of that and that's why I'm very particular about the clients I do work with because I want to make sure we're all on the same page about that because at the end of the day if you don't have those fans you don't have those supporters, then you really don't have much left. So I like to give back and have my clients give back in any way I can whether it's doing charity events for them or letting them feel like they got a first look at something going on in the first announcement, so they heard it first not heard it through a media outlet but heard it directly there. And the media actually responds very well to that because we'll give the media the heads up and say hey, just so you know Pauly's going to break this on twitter in the next 20 minutes and then I'll have the press release ready to go and the minute he tweets I'll then service it out and we'll put it on the wire so it's a very strategic plan and we're not taking away from the press at all we're just working within the new world of the digital arena."

 

Candace Rose: Do you feel during your time at NBC you learned about social media or have you just learned about it as you go along?

Amanda Ruisi: "It's funny, I actually did towards the end. I definitely started to. My twitter actually, it's funny because my friends always laugh at me 'how do you have so many followers' and I'm like I've been on twitter for forever. I started when I was at NBC. I remember signing up 'The Apprentice' and Donald Trump and I was doing NBCSVU twitter at the time and we were doing all these things because twitter was really at the forefront then of getting our celebrities and I was very big on doing live tweets so when an episode was airing we would have certain celebrities like I'd have cast members from 'Apprentice' do live tweets and that's really when I got just a little inkling into it. And then shortly after that I had left but when I was at NBC I was always a huge supporter of online media just in general because I was working so closely back then with Harvey Levin at TMZ and Perez Hilton and those were the guys that back then, sometimes at first people were like 'what is this?' and we were actually working with them breaking news on their sites because it was such a massive tool to reach a large audience at a rapid speed so I'm a very big supporter of the online blogs/community, everything like that because it really is obviously as we can see now the future of where we all are with everything that we do. So I've actually been fortunate enough, I spoke recently at Lincoln Center at Fashion 140 and I spoke about social endorsements, celebrities and their social networking and entertainment because what we do is we do a lot actually social endorsements which are those organic paid tweets so we'll align a brand with a certain celebrity that fits in their demographic and then we do an organic endorsed tweet so it's instead of a celebrity going on a talk show and saying 'oh I love so and so, I love this lotion' we're now tweeting about the lotion."

 

Candace Rose: What's a typical day like for you? 

Amanda Ruisi: "The day starts usually at 6:30 and goes till- I tend to never go to sleep before 2:30 in the morning. I'm just a night owl as it is but having so many clients in LA and with the time difference I'm always on the clock. I always say PR is 24 hours which is so true. My phone is never off. I have an office line, a home line and two cellphones because of that mere fact that I always am reachable and I always want whether it's the media or my clients; it's just as important for my clients to be able to reach me 24 hours a day as it is for the media because a lot of times they'll get something before my clients will even know so it's very important to be that accessible. So a typical day I'll say is coordinating logistics for whatever press launch we having coming up or thinking about strategies of launching new products with other clients or taking brand meetings with prospective clients or looking for the right brands ambassador. Then we'll take their brands and we'll help them align it with a celebrity and we'll do as I said either social endorsements or organic photo ops which are a great other way to do a one time smaller deal. So it's not a very big endorsement, it's not a major Pepsi commercial with a celebrity, it's on a much smaller tailored down level but you get instant immediate media impressions from it. If we do a photo op with a celebrity checking out a new toothpaste, we then go and we coordinate an entire thing. We pitch the celebrity on it, we lock in the celebrity, we then set up the photo shoot. We then take the photos and place it online, on blogs, in the weekly magazines as well, and we make sure that the appropriate brand message is within the caption that's approved by the company, the brand. So we kind of do a mirage of things. Every day it's always different, depending too if our clients have television shows on the air, it's always a little bit busier because then you're doing major press stores around it. We just got done with Pauly D, he was in LA; he did 'Leno', 'Kimmel', 'Chelsea Lately', then he want to CES and announced his headphones with 50 Cent. He came back and he did a photo shoot in New York so we're there there, we're with him, we're coordinating it all, doing all the details because when you're a publicist it's not just covering an interview, it's everything. It's approving every photo, it's approving every use of your clients name on a variety of things whether it's their products they're launching or if it's the network wanting to do a photo shoot. As a publicist because you're overseeing the image you really are in the throws of it. I remember overseeing every aspect of their brand and their image to the public. It's an exciting thing to be a part of because I love to see my clients grow, and I love to see them reach goals that when maybe they first start nobody is really quite sure of where they're going to go because the entertainment industry is very unknown. Everybody always says it's so unstable which it is and it isn't. It's just a matter of figuring out what your brand is and how to continue and stay on point. My thing is always don't go off point, it's not worth it to go off brand just for like an instant gratification, a bigger picture. If my brand is music, then lets stay aligned within the music world and what fits in with that. Let's not segway off and try and become something else because that's dis genuine to who you are and I think that's what's so important, like what I said is brand messaging and making sure your brand is concise across all platforms in everything that you do."

 

Candace Rose: And at just 29 years old you're known as the "Reality PR Guru". Did you have any idea growing up that you'd be this successful at such a young age?

Amanda Ruisi: "I don't know. I feel very lucky to have worked with the clients that I have too, and I always laugh because I'm like I love reality television by nature but when I first ever started at NBC the first show that I ever, ever worked on was a show called 'The Restaurant' with Rocco DiSpirito and Mark Burnett. That was my very first reality show I'd ever worked on and I remember because when I was interning I was working on a show called 'Whoopi' at the time and 'Ed.' Those were the shows that were on NBC and 'The Law & Orders' and then there was this show 'The Restaurant' and everybody was kind of 'ooh' this was fairly new and it was really right around the time when 'Survivor' had just taken off and nobody really knew what to do and what to make of these reality shows. I feel like I've been in it for such a short time and have worked on such tremendous reality shows and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunities to to have done that because when I look back and I'm like I've dabbled in a little bit; obviously the 'Celebrity Apprentice' was my show but having worked with the Kardashians and their skincare line and having worked with Heidi and Spencer on 'The Hills' and having worked with Vinny and Pauly on the 'Jersey Shore' I feel like I've been able to tap into each one of these reality phenomenons in some way. And it's been incredible to be a part of that because it really is remarkable, especially to work with the producers like SallyAnn Salsano is the creator of the 'Jersey Shore', so just incredible; and Mark Burnett- I absolutely adore him and I respect him so immensley because of how incredibly intelligent and savvy he was with creating and cultivating thise really pass*. And Ben Silverman I worked with him for years and he's another one that's just tremendous and Ben's great because Ben doesn't just do reality. Ben will cross over and Ben has 'The Office' or 'Ugly Betty', so to work with these people and call them your friend is just unbelievable for me because I'm so just so appreciative of their work and what they do that I feel very lucky to be able to just have worked with them in any capacity." 

 

Candace Rose: You are a big advocate on behalf of animals which you know, I absolutely love. How is Ruby, by the way? 

Amanda Ruisi: "I love her. Ruby was a gift actually. I'll tell you the story. I was at NBC at the time and one of my very dear friends was on the show that I was working on called 'Lipstick Jungle', her name is Lindsay Price and she actually gave me Ruby as a gift. Ruby was hers in the beginning and then she was travelling too much with such a hectic schedule and she gave Ruby, and it was like the best gift. We're still so close. I adore Lindsay and when I go to LA, I go to LA like once every three or four weeks and I bring Ruby a lot of the time and always go and see Lindsay, she's amazing. It's incredible, it's so funny. Ruby is the best gift I've ever gotten. 

    My new years resolution is (I tell my clients this too) we all have these unbelievable relationships and contact and abilities to get messages out there and so obviously I do it through my social networks but I constantly am tweeting out. I've done charities before in my mom's name. Usually every year we'll do a charity or we'll do the Avon Cancer Walk in honor of my mom but I really, really this year, I'm going to make a conscious effort to do as much as I can and help as I can wherever whether it's just me volunteering somewhere or hosting and helping bring together some celebrities to host an event and raise more research because it is so important. And I always say that animals are the ones that have no voice so however I can help and that's why I'm constantly tweeting things about animals and everything I can. And I want to make that this year coming I'm doing a lot more manually versus just the tweeting of, but that I'm physically out there doing more, so that is my goal."

 

Candace Rose: Do you have any advice for those looking to start a career in PR?

Amanda Ruisi: "Yes, I love, love twitter for this same purpose because I love when I get PR questions on twitter. I will respond to every PR question I get. I think some of these people will get annoyed because I'll just always respond to them but I won't stop doing that. I always do and then I always tell people they're more than welcome to submit resumes because we do hire interns, so I'll respond and I'll tell them. If somebody is asking 'what is the best way to get into PR'? Which I think is the question everybody asks, which is logical, what is the best way. I always say the best way is to think about what area of PR because there's so many. You could do corporate, you could do sports, you could do consumer, you could be doing on the finance side at IR (Investor Relations). You know there's so many different facets of public relations, that test a bunch. That's what I did. I tested fashion and it's so funny because in the beginning fashion wasn't really for me but I knew that entertainment, the television, that was. And the minute I got in there I knew it and it fit like a glove and you just know. And then from there and now having my own company, I do work on the fashion PR side of things which is so funny because it's like I started there and now I've kind of come full circle and we've dabbled in a little bit of everything and I think that's important because I think it also makes a really great publicist if you can work in all the different sectors. If you can t ap into consumers, if you can tap into fashion, if you can tap into beauty, and entertainment, and television, and reality, and film. I used to do the PR for the Boston Film Festival for years. I got to work with Jerry Weintraub, and Robin Dawson, and George Clooney when I did that and that was an amazing experience because that just gave me another set of tools and skills to be able to utilize now from having done that. So everything you try and everything you do is an experience that later becomes something you can tap into and reuse the tools that you learned. And was all make mistakes and we learn from them and we figure out how to do it. As long as you figure out how to do it better each time I think you'll continue to grow and my thing is if anybody ever reaches out and they say 'can you help us?' I always even if I'm not hiring, because I'm a smaller firm but there's firms that I have like eight offices; I don't have that but I always will forward people onto them that I know that are bigger because I'm like oh try this person, try that person because why not? Why not just do that? It takes one email to introduce somebody and that could open up a door for them and I'm such a firm believer in that and I always because, again, that's how I got my start. Had my mother and my neighbor not gotten me that one door open at NBC I wouldn't be here. I've been doing a little bit of college speaking which has been tremendous to communications departments. I spoke at some colleges in Connecticut, I have another one coming up, I think in New York actually, but it's great to talk to them and to hear their questions and see what their perception is. It's interesting because I'm on one side of it. It's great to sit there and listen to them and to ask them how they view publicity and what they think it is, and where they see themselves going and I always there giving out my business card to everybody and keeping in touch with them. I'll tweet them or they'll tweet and keeping that dialogue open because it's very important because we're all inevitably the future. They're where we were, where I was a few 8/10 years ago. But it seems like a long time but it's really not so it's great to help mold and grow and that's what I do with Samantha too, who works with me because it's very important to help teach people and I'm constantly learning. I learn everyday. I'm not the *__________*? by any means but I'm a creature of information and learning and taking it all in. And I'm constantly working on growing, myself, and my company, personally and professionally."

 

Candace Rose: So I just have to ask, what is next on Amanda's list?

Amanda Ruisi: "I think that it'd be obviously to continue to grow my company and work with, I always say 'who I work with they become like family to me', I think that comes through sometimes in my tweets as well, because you get vested with these people when you are working so closely all day everyday. There's no stopping. It's really, really an incredible thing to be able to build these types of relationships with these individuals and like I said to watch them grow and for me everything I do is a testament to my mom. I lost my mom to cancer six years ago. It was six years in November and that for me was the hardest thing ever and I didn't think I was going to ever get through it and figure out how to keep going. But my mom was such a supporter in everything I did and having her start me in this industry gives me that drive that I continue to do and  to want to make her proud any way I can in her name, to continue to build my company and the reason why my company's AKR is because my mother's middle initial was K as is mine. We have the same middle name- Kathryn so I wanted to put that in there somehow just as like a tribute to my mom and her really having gotten me the start so everything I do is for that and to make her proud.

Candace Rose: I love that, and I know that your mom's proud of you. You're an amazing person, Amanda.

Amanda Ruisi: "Thank you, you're so sweet."

Candace Rose: It's the truth. You've inspired me on many occasions, so I have to thank you for that.

 

Candace Rose: Where can people go for more information?

Amanda Ruisi: "My website actually right now is under construction but it'll be AKRPR.com, but then I also have twitter and facebook."

 

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