"It is amazing what you can achieve if you just go for it." That's just one of many inspiring soundbites from our conversation with Suzanne Rosnowski, founder of Relevance International – a PR agency specializing in real estate, architecture and design and luxury lifestyle with offices in New York, Los Angeles and London. Someone who truly practices what she preaches, we spoke to Suzanne about her career, which started in Hong Kong, then DC and later NYC. A true change agent, she shared insights on the proprietary strategic frameworks she’s devised to guide her clients, plus advice for fellow entrepreneurs as well as those just getting started.
How did you get your start in PR?
I attended the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism as a PR major, with a minor in International Business. My first job was in Hong Kong, at a PR agency called Laykin Communications. I am very grateful to have been “thrown in at the deep end” with my first job. It had the most demanding pace, linguistic challenges, and foreign everything. After that, everything seemed relatively easy. It is amazing what you can achieve if you just go for it. After that, I worked in Washington DC at a healthcare PR agency, then for the government, only to realize I hadn’t quite found my spot in that type of PR. I moved to New York and spent 10 years at an agency where I worked my way up to owner/partner. I learned a lot over these years. I figured out what I liked and didn’t like and brought the best bits with me to where I am today. I wouldn’t change a thing.
How and why did you start Relevance International?
I had a different vision for the role of PR in companies and a strong yearning to make it happen. Very often, publicists get brought into the marketing process very late and do not have the opportunity to drive the big ideas, strategy and think beyond press. When I started Relevance in 2012, I wanted us to come into the process earlier in order to create truly innovative concepts. Our model is rooted in challenging assumptions, a deep understanding of brand strategy and developing creative content that drives great campaigns.
After a few years, we decided to take the company international and add our London office. We also added our own affiliate network we curated in house. Finally, we just launched in Los Angeles last year. The business has evolved to be a place where we can reach any target market, with any campaign, any time, with eyes and ears across time zones. My love for all things international and PR have blended and come full circle to where Relevance International is today.
Did you have any mentors or people who inspired you throughout your career?
Yes, some in PR, but so many women in New York real estate, one of our core areas of client expertise. I watched women thrive in a male-dominated arena and I took notes. Being from a small town in Pennsylvania, I was constantly soaking up their leadership and seeing how these women found ways to be heard. Businesspeople in New York continue to amaze me. They face insurmountable obstacles without hesitation. Often the most silent leaders held the room. The best always kept their word and led by example. I am very grateful to all of the women (and men) who help keep me inspired every day.
Relevance launched The 360 Suite in July, completing the transition to a full-service agency mid-pandemic. Why was this the right time to launch?
Sometimes we get to decide the timing of things and sometimes the world evolves so quickly that you either pivot or miss the needs of your clientele. There is no denying that the pandemic has fast-tracked the world around us into a more digital era. There is high demand for seamless, integrated messaging, dissemination and cohesive strategy across all brand touchpoints like never before. We met the demand head on with solutions that made it easier for the client, especially in these challenging times. Brand content runs to audiences through a mix of both earned and paid media and while I am always a publicist at heart, we still do our storytelling, just with more tools in our tool kit.
You created the proprietary R.I.S.E. brand strategy technique. Tell us about that.
I created R.I.S.E., which stands for Research, Insight, Strategy and Execution to help clients understand how they fare against their key competitive set. The magic is really not as much in the research matrix, but the strategy that lives in the solutions. It all comes back to key differentiators and creative ideation. One of the most surprising outcomes is how many people think what they are doing is original, only to realize everyone is doing the same thing in a similar way. It is enlightening and it gives clients a leg up to have more awareness. Data is key for informed decision making.
What is The Purpose Method and why is this service important?
The Purpose Method uses AI technology to help expedite the process of creating impact-driven brands. We are able to match nonprofit and charitable organizations with our clients and build dynamic programs that infuse purpose into the ethos of our clients’ businesses. We help truly “bake” the cause into the brand and customize their way of contributing based on their interests, assets and goals. The Purpose Method begins very high-tech and ends very high touch, with the development of a custom, expert-led strategic program. Plus, purpose work makes our team feel good. It is a little something we can do to help make the world a bit better and that is more important than ever these days.
In a time where change feels like the only constant, where are you focusing your agency’s efforts, in terms of day-to-day work?
Out of struggle comes great opportunity to reimagine how and why we do what we do. We are an international agency but are careful not to lose our boutique sensibility. We hold that sacred. We are still a place where the best idea wins (and by the way, it doesn’t have to be mine!) and we are always striving for positive, collaborative solutions. The only constant in life is change, so we embrace it and enjoy keeping one eye to the exciting future we get to help create. We simply love what we do and love helping to problem solve for our clients.
Are there any changes brought about by the pandemic that you think will become long-lasting industry trends?
Yes. This past year has forced us to look inward and that is a great opportunity for PR to find its soul again. Let’s all agree that the world needs to use our influence for more than followers and money. We are all change agents. We have a great stage in this world and yield a lot of power. Let’s rethink our field to really create deeply meaningful impact.
What have been some of your greatest learnings in entrepreneurship?
Give, give, give and embrace the power of collaboration. We pride ourselves in working well with other brands and agencies. The power of collaboration is only increasing. I am connecting daily with people all over the world to see how we can help connect them to solutions. This is the way to run a business in a fulfilling way. It all comes back in incredible relationships and access. We really are better together.
Any advice for industry peers looking to launch or grow their business?
Grow your business by doing great work, which is the best marketing you can do for your company. Results will win, every time. Vision to the future with annual visioning and goal-setting sessions, allowing everyone to contribute and voice their goals, aspirations and visions for your business success. Continue to challenge the old way of doing things. Allow the smartest ideas to win. Cultivate joy in every day. Embrace the new.
Feel free to call me. You never know where an opportunity exists. I will help you any way I can. Let’s come out of this mess stronger than ever, together.
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