Published on Aug. 1, 2022, at 1:11 p.m.
by Jennafer Bowman.
What do a pediatric ER nurse and a makeup artist have in common? Their public relations firm.
Boost Public Relations is a woman-owned PR and branding agency based in Dallas, Texas. The two-person company offers coast-to-coast services in media relations, influencer marketing and more. The firm’s clientele include LuxSoma Spa, Makeup artist Lindsay Kastuk and Pediatric ER nurse Shannon Tripp.
Boost was founded in 2021 by University of Alabama alumna and Dallas native Kiara McKinney, who has created her own rules and her own role in the PR world.
After graduation, she worked in the digital marketing industry for two years and took on a managerial position before realizing PR was her true passion. She switched to PR and had to start all over again. As McKinney began working her way up, she hit a slight bump in the road.
“It felt like there wasn’t room for me,” said McKinney. “I’m a big-picture kind of girl, and I was being forced to niche down into specializations and I was frustrated.”
As McKinney began to bounce from agency to agency, she hit another bump, becoming the token Black person in the room.
“I was the only person of color, and we didn’t have any clients that were of color. Then the only time we got inquiries from people of color, they’d put me in the proposal meeting to show my face,” she said.
After trying to switch positions multiple times and being told “no,” she finally quit her agency job and decided to open her own agency, Boost Public Relations.
“I was really nervous because I was discouraged by all of my experiences and the way that everybody was frustrated by my big-picture thinking even though I produced results. It was a weird space in my mind where I was like, ‘I guess I could do this,’” she said.
Before she quit her previous job, she applied for an LLC under the name of Boost Public Relations and began building its social media presence. Before she knew it, Boost had taken off and acquired so much business that interns were needed. One of the interns turned into Boost’s first and only full-time employee. McKinney said that her only employee “complements” her.
Chloe Somerville is a public relations specialist for Boost Public Relations. She said that the best thing about Boost is McKinney.
“I want to work and I want to do well in this company because of her,” said Somerville.
The two-person company is mostly remote with a few days a month in the office.
However, with great success come more bumps in the road. As a woman-owned agency, specifically a woman-of-color-owned agency, it can be difficult to not fall into stereotypes.
“Most of the clientele you’re servicing is white men, so it’s a weird dichotomy,” McKinney said. “PR is definitely really underappreciated, undervalued and underpaid because women dominate the industry.”
“The whiteness is hard because as a person of color, you’re kind of touted in front of people as a statistic, as opposed to being treated like anyone else. It’s very isolating being a black woman in this kind of environment,” McKinney said.
Even though being a woman in the industry is normal, the act of public relations requires practitioners to defend themselves, which can be difficult for women of color.
“When you are a brown woman, you have to be really careful about not being viewed as aggressive or bossy,” McKinney explained. “And there’s a lot of like tiptoeing around people’s feelings you have to do while also being straight and transparent with them.”
Even with the bumps in the road, Boost is excelling in the industry, with McKinney adding that “the business is thriving and making a steady income.”
Besides the friendly atmosphere and women-owned and operated status, Boost Public Relations stands out from the typical agency life with its clients.
Shannon Tripp is a pediatric ER nurse with an Instagram following of over 500,000. Her account presents her empowering and educational messages for new parents. Tripp has been featured in Parents, a popular online magazine focusing on parenthood. Boost has been able to feature its clients on lifestyle websites and magazines such as Bustle, Allure and Modern Luxury.
“Being able to work with people like Shannon has been really interesting and fun for me to learn about. We have a very close relationship with our clients,” said Somerville.
Boost has a lot to be proud of — from its clients to its work environment — but the thing McKinney is most proud of is what she accomplished by creating the boutique agency.
“I’ve made something that I’m really proud of,” said McKinney. “I felt like I didn’t fit anywhere, so I made my own place. I built my own table instead of trying to sit at somebody else’s.”