Posted May 1, 2012 by Chris
Caren West learned a thing or two before staring her own PR firm at 26
Twenty-six might seem a young age to start your own PR firm in Atlanta, but Caren West had already learned important lessons from her 12 years working in hospitality: “Your job is to make sure your guests have a good time and a great meal.”
Now she counts restaurants, musical events and media companies among her firm’s clients. “It’s more than a job, it’s someone else’s dream that we get to be a part of.”
When she was 13, Caren walked across the street from her home outside Baltimore and landed a dishwasher’s job. During college summer breaks from Auburn, she worked at the Weekapaug Inn in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. “Think Dirty Dancing,” she suggested. “Auburn’s summer breaks were longer than other schools, so I raked it in at weddings and big dinner parties after the other students went back to school. It helped pay college expenses!”
She wasn’t headed for a career in PR. She majored in communications and minored in psychology (her mother’s field). “I was interested in TV production and I landed a job at Turner, but they merged with Time Warner before I could start and my job was caught in a hiring freeze. So I decided to evaluate what I was going to do next. I tell people I didn’t find PR, PR found me.”
She started at a music label and soon was pulled into working for two small PR firms, yet continued freelance writing – her first love. “I loved the media and I’m obsessed with magazines. I thought I’d try journalism, but people kept asking me to do PR.” She eventually landed a weekly column at the Sunday Paper, was special projects editor at Jezebel and landed a weekly on-air gig on 99X. Then her PR projects started getting bigger and bigger and Caren West PR was born.
CWPR clients include the 20th anniversary of Jeffrey Fashion Cares, Wild Heaven Craft Beers, next month’s retirement of Monica Pearson from WSB-TV as well as CounterPoint, a new music festival planned for this fall in Chattahoochee Hill Country.
“I have a passion for writing. In PR, it’s important. You have to be great writer to be able to tell a story with every pitch. There is so much noise, so many blogs and social media, having consistent and meaningful messaging is so important.”
She partnered with graphic artist Chad Shearer in 2005 and the four-person firm keeps an office in Old Fourth Ward with four dogs. “It’s a zoo. I love it,” she said.
“I’ve had offers to go to New York, but I always turn them down. I love Atlanta. Atlanta was on the verge and I wanted to be here,” she said. “It’s an entrepreneurial city. The PR community works together to breed success. I love the fact that I can partner with other PR people and cross-promote.”
CWPR was an early adopter of social media and building the buzz. Jezebel Magazine just listed Caren’s personal Facebook page as Atlanta’s funniest. (Better hurry if you want to be her friend, she only has a few spots left before she hits the ceiling of 5,000.)
She was especially honored to be asked by WSB to handle Monica’s retirement schedule. “I love media people so much and I respect the hours that go into what they do and I’m willing to jump through hoops to do whatever they need.”
– Chris Schroder