A career in PR developed organically for Rosie Davies-Smith – from innovative intern to founder of PR Dispatch – a membership-based platform dedicated to honest PR for small brands and independents. We find out more about Rosie’s work and life…
Hi Rosie! How would you describe your work?
We support small businesses and independent designer makers in getting their product and business featured by the press. The end goal is for our members to increase awareness, trust and credibility through press coverage.
How did PR Dispatch come to be?
Ten years ago, I’d just finished a textile degree at university and like every design graduate, I was interning with as many brands as possible. One was a two-week internship with independent knitwear brand, Lowie, and I was given the task of managing their PR.
I had absolutely no idea what PR was, but Bronwyn, the founder and design director, threw me in at the deep end. I sat down with a pile of magazines and started to email editors about the latest Lowie products. As the two weeks came to an end, I was starting to get responses. I convinced Bronwyn to keep me on one day a week looking after their PR.
The brands I worked with grew from there.
Bronwyn recommended me to other brands and before I knew it, I had a PR agency, LFA. At LFA we managed the PR on behalf of brands, and it was incredibly exciting working closely with emerging businesses, helping them build their awareness.
Being so immersed in the creative PR industry and having countless conversations with independent businesses, I quickly realised there was a big need for a more affordable option for smaller businesses – an alternative that would make PR more accessible.
I knew that with the right learning, support, and press contacts, smaller brands could get great results by doing their own PR. So, in 2017 I launched membership platform, PR Dispatch, alongside running the agency to do just that.
How did your career begin?
I studied fashion and textiles at Liverpool John Moore, and then an MA in textile design at Chelsea College of Art & Design. Compared to some other students in my year, I wasn’t particularly talented, but I could navigate Adobe and have always been a creative person.
When I finished and fell into PR and marketing, it felt like the right mix of creativity and strategy. I’d seen my dad set up a business and I knew I wanted to do the same. I never thought it would be PR though – I didn’t even know what PR was!
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Oh wow. Well, now I have two young babies it’s much harder, but a solo holiday would always leave me with so many ideas, yet a clear mind on how they all work together.
Nowadays, if I am stuck in a creative rut, I’ll leave the place I’m working in and go elsewhere. I live in South Devon, so I’ll take a notepad and go and have some lunch by the sea with a good playlist, until the mind fog clears.
I find inspiration by being out and about. That could be at a makers’ market at the weekend or visiting a local boutique – and just generally talking to people.
How did you first discover your love for what you do?
I wasn’t a ‘PR person’ – far from it. I was a creative person that just so happened to be supporting brands to get their products and stories out there through PR.
I was determined to change perceptions around PR. I’d seen first-hand what it did for Lowie – I could see it wasn’t about sales, but about awareness and trust. I approached PR like a creative and through PR Dispatch, I could teach other brands to do the same.
We now have over 350 brands and small businesses pitching to the press and getting great coverage. I have a long way to go to convince everyone, but I know that every one of our members understand why they need PR and approach the press in the best way possible – that’s why I love what I do.
Describe a typical working day…
I usually wake up at about 6am – I have two babies under two, so it’s rare that one of them will go past 6am. After breakfast we drop them off at nursery and my working day starts around 8am.
Since relocating to South Devon my commute to the studio at the end of the garden is worlds apart from my old commute through South East London traffic.
Once I’m in the studio, my mornings usually consist of catching up with the team, working on new content for our members, or doing a PR workshop for a partner. I usually swing by our village shop for a toastie, then head out for a walk with Milo (our dog), whilst checking in with our members via our Facebook community group.
I try to keep my afternoons free to work on strategy, business admin and anything else that pops up before I collect the girls from nursery. I’ve stopped working evenings and weekends as much as possible, especially since having the girls.
What’s the ethos behind your business?
Honest, affordable PR for product-based businesses.
What has been the greatest hurdle in starting your own business?
It’s something I am going through at the moment – I’m currently suffering from insomnia. It’s really flagged up how I’m not managing the work-life balance looking after two babies.
I’m having hypnotherapy and we’ve discovered that I have no time for myself. I’m either working, or looking after my two little ones. So, I am having to deduct time from my work time to make more time for myself and I find this very difficult, as I love what I do.
Trying to find the balance isn’t easy – I’ll get there, but it is definitely the biggest hurdle I’ve faced in the past nine years of running a business.
Describe your workspace…
We have two spaces. One is a small studio in Peckham Levels, South East London, and the other is my garden studio in South Devon. The studio in Peckham is a lovely space, filled with magazines and coverage from past and present members.
I try to get back once a month. It’s great when we are all there together and I feel so lucky that I can go back to London and still feel like we have a home there. We moved to Devon in November 2020, and I knew that I would need a quiet workspace that I could feel creative in.
A friend of mine had a Mokki garden room, and I fell in love – it was exactly what I was after. The studio was built in September 2021 and is one of my favourite places to spend time.
Tell us about your business’s location and community…
Our London studio is in a converted car park, which is now home to over 100 local designer-makers, photographers, film makers and creatives. Upstairs are independent food stalls and bars, a yoga studio, hair salon and other spaces.
We’ve had a few offices in South London over the past ten years and I feel like we’ve found our perfect space. It’s just such a great and friendly place to be. My Devon studio is in a small village just outside Kingsbridge.
I love the independent vibe here – there’s a great community, and everyone is so supportive. I’ve made many friends who run independent clothing brands, shops, coffee places and even the photographer, Tessa, who took the images of my studio lives locally.
Is there an element of your work that you love the most?
Yes! Hearing the responses our members are receiving from the press and seeing the coverage they receive through using PR Dispatch. The coverage they achieve is mind-blowing and our community of members are just fantastic.
I’ve been known to shed a tear of pure joy when reading messages from our members saying, “We never thought we would be featured!” They never imagined as small brands that they could be featured in The Times, or Red magazine etc. There is no better feeling.
How valuable is the online community to your work?
We couldn’t survive without it! Instagram is great for helping brands that are not yet members by posting useful (and hopefully engaging) posts, covering everything from the benefits of PR, to getting your brand ready for the press, and busting many myths around PR.
Our members-only Facebook community group is my favourite part of the business. The peer support blows me away – PR has often been seen as a competitive industry – but our Facebook group members’ supportive activity has shown me the opposite.
The group encourage each other in getting featured in the press and when someone shares coverage there are so many lovely comments. We’re always on hand to answer questions from our members and we get to know them really well – they feel like friends.
How do you approach your own marketing and PR?
Running a small business, time is always limited. And as we tell our members, PR is a non-urgent but important task that will always go to the bottom of the to-do list, which means we have to schedule the time for it.
We have the wonderful Phoebe, who started as an intern with us a few years ago and now works freelance handling the lifestyle PR for PR Dispatch. She’s had some great pieces for me in The Telegraph and 91 Magazine (which has been my dream!).
I love lifestyle press as it’s visual and tells our story, but we find the best PR that we do is workshops and tips around doing your own PR.
We run regular live online workshops on a range of PR topics – and we have a network of amazing like-minded businesses that we host workshops with and produce blog content for – and vice versa. Being able to make more businesses aware of the importance of PR, while demystifying it, is great.
Understandably, a lot of businesses find the idea of PR daunting, and we hope that our workshops and advice help take away that fear and encourage them to start their PR journey.
Email marketing is definitely one of our main marketing channels… we’re a bit obsessed with emails, it’s very powerful. We also invest a lot of time on Instagram as it’s a brilliant platform to engage in conversations with other small businesses.
What have been your business highlights so far?
Apart from our members’ coverage, which will always be the highlight for me, it will have to be PR Dispatch surviving Covid 19 and pivoting the business with a three-week-old baby. LFA had most of its contracts cancelled overnight, while PR Dispatch flourished.
I was so sleep deprived, but it taught me many lessons about the business, the team (and how great they were), the future of working, and about myself. It was stressful, but the adrenaline kept us going and we helped many small businesses to gain press coverage during this challenging time.
People had the time to spend on PR and it was amazing to see the results.
Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?
I love window displays. I don’t have a shop, so I decorate our home windows. We are on the main road in the village opposite the pub, so I love decorating the windows with a seasonal display.
At Christmas, I had a huge branch hanging in each window wrapped with string lights and paper decorations hanging off them. I just hope people don’t look too closely and see the trail of destruction my kids have left.
What is the most important lesson that running your business has taught you about life?
Don’t be all things to all people. You’re never going to please everyone, and that is okay.
Any good advice for independent creative businesses just starting out?
Invest in your imagery! Cut-out product shots (on a completely white background), lifestyle shots that speak to your customer, and behind-the-brand imagery that is press-worthy (headshots, studio shots and maker shots). Great imagery is an absolute essential when it comes to PR and can really help elevate your brand.
What does the next year hold for you?
We have just redone all our learning content for our members, and we are rolling out the new and updated platform this month with a whole host of new press contacts for our members to pitch to.
We always have a selection of free workshops available on our website, so anyone wanting to know more about PR, check them out! I’m also running an Instagram Live every other Tuesday at 11am for any PR questions (no question is silly!) – I’d love for people to join me there.
Books I love: Eek, I’m dyslexic so anything with lots of pictures. Information is Beautiful, by David McCandless, is a great book.
Creative Heroes: It has to be Bronwyn Lowenthal, the founder of @ilovelowie – my first ever client and now friend. She’s a creative genius – her products made my first experience of PR easy!
Shops I love: Trouva
Inspirational places: Barcelona
Instagrammers I love: @ginamartin