“It’s hard to believe we’ve reached such a milestone,” says Buckhead resident Kristin Cowart on the eve of her company, Brave Public Relations, celebrating its 20th anniversary.
STORY: Jill Becker
PHOTO: Sara Hanna
“It causes me to reflect back on so many people and organizations that took a chance on me and the firm. They could have gone with a global PR team, but they went with a boutique firm. It’s humbling for sure.” The Florida-born entrepreneur had never even seen snow when she headed to Boston College to pursue a career in broadcast journalism, but taking a PR class her junior year changed her path. Today, her all-female firm handles regional and national clients such as T-Mobile, Coca-Cola, Giorgio Armani, Pike Nurseries and Chicken Salad Chick.
You weren’t even 30 when you opened your own firm. What was your journey like?
I moved to Atlanta in 1993. I got an unpaid internship, then was offered a position at Golin/Harris. I worked there for four years, then wanderlust set in, so I started applying to global PR firms. I got a job at Edelman in London. I got there on a Monday, and by Thursday I was working a press conference in Oslo. I stayed there for two years, then got the bug to start my own shop.
What was your vision at the time?
I had seen how work was done in a big corporate structure and had ideas about to how to run a company differently—how to service clients, how to structure a team, etc. It felt like the right thing to do.
What’s one of your most memorable client experiences?
It involves the Tour Championship at East Lake [Golf Club]. I pitched them in 2016 and went through a whole lengthy process. At the end, I was told we weren’t the right fit, which, of course, was disappointing. But a week before the 2017 tournament, one of the executives called and said, “We made a mistake.” They had gone with an agency that had a background in sports, but they realized they wanted to tell their story to a broader audience. We took over with the 2018 tournament. It just goes to show how unpredictable the business is.
What’s the most common misconception about PR?
It’s often glamorized on TV as being a bunch of press conferences, parties and other events. It fails to show all the details and minutiae that go into in. Our biggest challenge is that people don’t really know what PR is. They think we can just snap our fingers and articles [on them] will appear. But it’s not a turnkey, fast process.
One of the services you provide is reputation management. Does that mean you’re on call 24/7?
Yes. I think clients find our greatest value on a random Tuesday night at 9 p.m.
Given that, how do you juggle your home and work lives?
I have two kids: a daughter, 10, and a son, 12. There’s a lot of classic working-mom guilt. But the company is my baby as well. I do love that my son sees an example of a strong working mom, and someday that might be the norm. I bring my daughter to work a lot and love that she’s exposed to [a company run by women] on a regular basis. I hope it inspires her.
Do you ever unplug and step back for a while?
No. I know my team doesn’t need me, but I kind of can’t help it. I have an insatiable curiosity to know what’s going on. My family and I went to a remote area of Nicaragua over spring break, and I did try to unplug, but it lasted maybe two days. I knew everything was being covered; it was the wondering that caused me anxiety.
Who’s one of your role models?
My grandfather. He grew up in south Georgia as one of nine children. He went to school through the eighth grade, then quit because his dad needed him to work on the farm. Later he got a job as a busboy at Morrison’s Cafeteria. He worked hard and got promoted again and again until he became CEO of the company. I’m so awed by his story.
What are some of your go-to places in Buckhead?
True Food Kitchen. I could eat there all day, every day. And Baby Braithwaite. Sometimes I just go in and walk around. It takes me back to when my kids were babies.
What’s one of your guilty pleasures?
Krispy Kreme donuts. If the “Hot Donuts” sign is on, my car automatically drives into the parking lot.
Name something about yourself most people don’t know.
My father was a professional race car driver, and I grew up in the pits.