A Conversation with Jamaican Born, Public Relation Expert, Karen Taylor Bass

This week we interview Jamaican-born, PR expert, Karen Taylor Bass. She is considered one of the premier authorities in the public relations industry and has created “out of the box,” public relations, branding, and marketing campaigns for celebrities, athletes, entrepreneurs, and corporations for over 18 years. She has also provided coaching to entrepreneurs, mompreneurs and small business owners. 

Where in Jamaica are you from?
Pembroke Hall, Kingston

Do you visit often?
Yes, once a year

Tell us about you PR seminars and Boot Camps?
The PR seminars/Boot Camps is a national tour with the target audience of entrepreneurs, students, individuals and small business owners. The premise is to introduce the audience to the concept of meaningful public relations AND how to define and grow a competitive brand in 90 days; leveraging relationships to gain clients; understanding how to write a winning press release, meet the media, get noticed, and be an expert in one’s respective field.

Have you done any PR seminars or Boot Camps in Jamaica?
No, I would love to, however, no invitations as of yet. I have conducted a series of workshops in St. Lucia.

Tell us about your book “YOU WANT CAVIAR, BUT HAVE MONEY FOR CHITLINS – A Smart PR Guide for Those on a Budget”?
The best-selling, critically acclaimed book (2nd printing) is a do-it-yourself book for entrepreneurs, small business owners, students wanting to understand public relations on a national level, however, operating on a limited budget. The book utilizes actual case studies, practices and tips I have used in my 24 years as a public relations expert. The book is also available as an e-book and sold online at amazon.com, target.com and taylormademediapr.com

Can you explain to our audience who what CHITLINS are?
It’s the scraps of food (pig intestines) slaves used during slavery to cook meals for themselves to sustain energy. I guess in JA it would be like eating tripe.

When will you book be available in hard copy?
No plans for a hard cover; the soft cover and e-book have done very well for us as publishers.

Can you tell us a few of the entertainers you have done Public Relation work for in the past?
Jill Scott, Ray Allen (NBA), D’Angelo, Shabba Ranks, Richie Stephens, Patra, Mad Cobra, Maxi Priest, Musiq Soulchild, Mariah Carey, Puff Daddy, etc.

Now you mainly focus on companies. How different is it from doing Public Relations work for an entertainer? 
I love the art form of public relations so whenever I get a chance to create a campaign I am excited. The difference is basically with corporations there is no drama and the deliverables are always quantified from the inception. Which one you liked more? Now that I am in my early 40’s – I prepare working with small business owners, entrepreneurs and corporations.

What is the favorite part of what you do?
Creating the public relations campaign and crafting the strategy for the brand.

What is the least favorite thing about what you do?
Dealing with unnecessary politics and egos.

People say PR puts a “spin” on reality. Do you agree with this statement?
Yes/NO. Public Relations is creating a favorable opinion to the general media to the public; the “spin” aspect is when you are taking an unfavorable situation and making it palatable.

What is your dream client? 
A client launching a revolutionary product with a global impact like Steve Jobs of Apple.

Do you have a mentor?
Several, they come in all shapes and sizes.

What new projects are you working on? (Our interview was conducted before the launch)
My company, TaylorMade Media LLC is launching a new exciting product on July 10, 2010.

In your experience do you think Caribbean Business in the US value the importance of good PR?
Not at all, PR is perceived as a luxury good for many and its not – it is essential for the growth of a brand.

What advice is the one PR advice you would give to a new business?
Begin to leverage yourself as an ‘expert’ in your business; start writing articles and utilize social media to launch your campaign.

What is the one technology tool you can’t live without?
My Blackberry – it keeps me connected.

How has it changed your industry?
Deals can be made anywhere at anytime.

How to balance it all family life and work?
It’s not easy – I have a great support system – my husband, nanny, family and friends.

If you were not doing this what would u be doing?
Teaching at a university/college about public relations/marketing/branding/

What is the most effect ad campaign you have seen recently?
General Motors campaigns announcing the rebuilding of their brand in 2009 after accepting the government bailout and loan.

If you were doing PR for Tiger Woods right after the accident, what would you have done?
I honestly believed he handled it perfectly by going into hiding, not releasing a statement until he was ready to face the media and his fans. The Tiger Woods incident was a personal matter.

Here is another scenario. The sale of Air Jamaica has been unpopular. If you were the doing PR for the Jamaican government how would you handle Air Jamaica sale? 
This is a hard one – I was in Jamaica recently and was disappointed to see that we Jamaicans don’t own anything; many manufacturing plants are closed; merchants from South Asia own many enterprises on the island, and, most importantly the dollar is not being recycled in the country. The government should have fought hard a decade ago to change with the times and make Air Jamaica competitive – its sad that Jamaica has become a country of import.  As a PR Expert – I would really have to research this deal to find a positive spin.

Which movie can you watch over and over again without getting bored?
Love Jones with Nia Long and Larenz Tate.

What book are you reading this month?
The Girls’ Guide To Building A Million Dollar Business by Susan Wilson Solovic.

Thanks for the interview. Do you have any closing thoughts?
Thank you for the opportunity and I want to empower others to view themselves as a million dollar brand. I have a weekly column on PR on BlackEnterprise.com.