When people ask what the most important support has been for Hello, Human, my response is always the same: Elli’s support with the financial . . . Since everyone’s always asking me to recommend them to Skopos, one of the campaign rewards is a sit-down financial strategy session with Elli.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked on all aspects of PR. I’ve worked the editorial side, receiving pitches from publicists; I’ve been on the client side of hiring PR agencies; I’ve worked in PR agencies; and I’ve had a PR agency, which has allowed me to see PR from every stakeholders point of view.
Prior to Hello, Human, I had an agency called Melting Butter Studios. When we first started, we were working on these high culture, low budget kinds of projects—really beautiful projects that I’ll always remember…but they didn’t keep the lights on. And eventually, like all agency models, we ended up looking for bigger corporate clients who could sustain us, so that’s naturally the direction we went, working with big tech and property brands.
I thought, there has to be a more mutually viable and beneficial way to work together that’s not a situation where you’re doing a favor for a friend.
When the pandemic hit, all of those projects disappeared. But it gave me a blank slate to think about why I do what I do. What’s the most interesting type of work I’ve done, and who do I really want to work with? I realized I wanted to work with my creative community; designers who I was friends with and who had never been able to afford my services before. I thought, there has to be a more mutually viable and beneficial way to work together that’s not a situation where you’re doing a favor for a friend.
I looked at PR as one crucial service for a small business and I broke the process apart to figure out why it costs so much money to work with an agency. And when I did that, I found that much of the work is hand holding the client, and administrative tasks like wrangling files into press kits and what not. It seemed apparent that there was a smarter way to do business, where we provide a streamlined service by focusing on the high-value work, which is me figuring out what the story is, sending it out to the right people, following up, and trying to place the story somewhere. And that all of the sudden opened up the idea of Hello, Human, by looking for mutually beneficial ways to work with the creative community.
Then I started to rewrite the process.
I began by making it more collaborative, and by having the client come prepared before we do anything. We’re heavily process-driven and transparent about the work. We cut back the amount of time that it takes to do PR to a matter of days, as opposed to a six month retainer, and then were able to charge accordingly.
The next step was getting in touch with people I knew from the industry. A lot of them had left the big agencies to freelance, and a big pain point for them was trying to hustle new clients. Hello, Human acts as a network, a collective, of PR consultants. We’re in charge of bringing clients in and sending projects out to the community.
A handful of Hello, Human’s clients: Tantuvi, Her Place, Loose Parts, and Cold Picnic
Coming back around to the mutually beneficial point—this applies to everyone. It’s mutually beneficial to the PR consultants we work with because we take a lot of the difficult work off their hands so they can focus on their clients; for the clients, who get crucial services they didn’t have access to before; and also for the media, who use us as a discovery platform. We help them find the up and coming designers that they wouldn’t typically have access to because they’re not used to working with PRs at that level.
Am I ready to hire somebody? At what point would I be ready and what should I be bringing in revenue wise? For those kinds of questions, I needed a sparring partner.
Hello, Human launched the summer of 2020, and I knew from the beginning that I needed someone to work with on the financial side. Elli and I were connected through our founding client, Ladies & Gentlemen Studio. I wanted to work with someone like Elli because this was a new model of working, so I needed somebody to poke holes in the model and show me how to make this more viable. She was able to jump into the numbers and explain them to me with a teaching approach. She helped me understand the real cost of delivering a service as opposed to what we charge. And she’s been able to help me make big financial decisions, like am I ready to hire somebody? At what point would I be ready and what should I be bringing in revenue wise? For those kinds of questions, I needed a sparring partner. It felt to me that Elli had skin in the game and cared about the health of the business as if it were her own. When people ask what the most important support has been for Hello, Human, my response is always the same: Elli’s help with the financial.
We’re constantly looking for more accessible inroads into PR. Hello, Human is currently in the middle of a fundraising campaign through iFundwomen to launch all kinds of new services like a pitch writing package and a custom PR strategy consultation, and online tutorials to figure out your own strategy. Since everyone’s always asking me to recommend them to Skopos, one of the campaign rewards is a sit-down financial strategy session with Elli. It’s a way to support us as a business and to get some concrete advice from a financial expert.
I always say, the biggest investments you can make are in your imagery and your relationships. Especially if you’re in a creative business, people don’t realize that the imagery you shoot is often what will end up in the publication you’re pitching to. If your photos aren’t up to scratch with the standard of the publication, you won’t be considered. And relationships—they’re the essence of life, not just business! We should all aim to help each other and keep in touch as much as possible.
As told to Madeline Jaffe. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Join SBIDC and Skopos in congratulating the achievements of this cohort!
Shinobu Kato, founder of Kato Sake Works, on scaling his business, organic customer growth, and finding a piece of Tokyo in Brooklyn
When I started Skopos in 2016, I wrote this Manifesto to expresses our philosophy, commitments and ideas that drive us.