After several years at a national, award-winning public affairs agency, and working client-side at a top 15 global law firm, Ruthie Thomas made the leap into entrepreneurship with the launch of Birds of Paradise Public Relations. By combining her passion for public relations with her love for her culture and heritage, she created a communications agency to help businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the Caribbean, and within the diaspora, reach beyond their boundaries and create open dialogues with their audiences.
Her personable approach to media relations and astute intuition has allowed her the opportunity to develop strong relationships with an eclectic group of media professionals and earned a prestigious SABRE Award for top-notch client service. Ruthie recently relocated to Los Angeles after living in New York City for over a decade. In her free time, she enjoys cooking her favorite Caribbean dishes, spending time with family and friends, and exploring her new city.
SB-C: Tell us about your background and how you got into PR. RT: Public Relations wasn’t the career I thought I was destined for. I studied broadcast journalism and aspired to one day be an anchor on a major network TV news outlet. However, through a chance encounter with one of the longest running news anchors from a local TV news station in Connecticut, I was encouraged to explore a career in PR. That encounter sparked my curiosity and changed the trajectory of my career path forever.
Right out of college I started my journey in PR at a national, award-winning public affairs agency. I was hooked. After several years working both at PR agencies and client-side at a top 15 global law firm, I made the leap into entrepreneurship with the launch of Birds of Paradise Public Relations. With Birds of Paradise Public Relations, I wanted to combine my passion for public relations with my love for my Caribbean culture and heritage. As a daughter of the Caribbean I am not only acutely aware of the region’s potential, I am also attuned to the challenges it faces. I am genuinely invested in helping to secure a better future for the Caribbean and I am eager to share all what region and its people have to offer.
SB-C: Your niche is the Caribbean, what has the experience been like working with international brands looking to enter the Caribbean market? RT: The Caribbean is a beautiful, vibrant and full of positive vibes and great energy. We have encountered international brands that recognize the tremendous opportunity to reach a captive and enthusiastic group of potential customers and employees, and are eager to engage and do business in the region. We find it necessary for these foreign entities to approach the Caribbean with a good understanding of the people, culture and economic challenges, and incorporate education in every engagement.
SB-C: Give us the profile of your typical client. RT: Just as no two Caribbean islands are the same, no two Birds of Paradise Public Relations clients are the same. Due to the wide range of services we provide, combined with our niche clientele, on any given day we are working with top Caribbean chefs and restaurants, entertainers, entrepreneurs and social media influencers.
SB-C: What would you say are the major differences between PR at home in the Caribbean and PR in the USA? RT: Unlike businesses in the U.S., many Caribbean businesses and entrepreneurs do not quite grasp the tangible benefits and value of public relations. PR is seen as a “luxury” service, reserved for large corporations, fancy resorts and businesses within the tourism industry. While many understand the need to be visible, few are inclined to invest in the service. We are on a mission the change the perception of PR being unapproachable. We think all companies, from startups to corporations should have access to expert public relations.
SB-C: How can prestartups and startups gain exposure if they do not have a huge PR budget? RT: We advise start ups and small businesses with limited resources to employ various PR methods that will enhance their visibility, attract new clients and increase sales, all on a shoe-string budget. Simply building and maintaining a good online reputation and providing consistent, top-notch customer service goes a long way.
SB-C: The PR industry is changing from traditional communication how is your business maintaining its competitive advantage? RT:Our business model thrives in the ever-evolving world of PR, and frankly, it is simply out of sheer necessity! We are mobile and remote with team members working and living in three major U.S. cities and the Caribbean, and in two different time zones! We rely heavily on technology to communicate with clients and as a team. Applications like Slack, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Drive and Hootsuite keep us connected and in sync, no matter where we are! Additionally, over the last year, Birds of Paradise Public Relations recognized a niche area of service that has not quite been filled by traditional agencies – Influencer management. We expanded into this avenue almost by accident. While we are by all accounts ‘traditional’ in our public relations and journalism backgrounds – we found we could adapt these skills to serve in the new, growing and thriving industry of social media influencers.
SB-C: How do you help your clients identify their ROI? RT: PR is intangible, so for us research, accountability and measurement are a mainstay. Before we launch any PR campaigns or start any new engagements, we invest a bit of time to research to determine goals and set milestones. Throughout every engagement we perform “temperature checks” to gauge effectiveness of our efforts and fine tune our strategy.
SB-C: What advice do you have for those who want to enter the PR industry? RT:Like anything else in life, passion, hard work, and consistency are key! PR is a very exciting career. It can also be rather stressful and all consuming, but if you love what you do, it never feels like work.