Business Categories Reports Podcasts Events Awards Webinars
Contact My Account About

Navigating The Digital Powered Media Landscape With Susan Woods, Principal and Founder, Woods & Co.

It's a Matter Of...Candor

December 13, 2020
December 13, 2020

Brands are no longer in control, consumers are. Technology, social media and the rise of influencer marketing changed the business of public relations forever. The one-way communication funnel of traditional PR that carefully placed and controlled the message of clients evolved into the dissemination of information in real-time and brands having actual conversations with their audiences. Kelly talks with Susan Woods, Principal and Founder Woods & Co., about how she has flawlessly navigated the digital evolution of media providing a playbook for agencies and brands. 

[beginning of recorded audio]

Kelly Kovack [00:00:08]: This episode is presented by Happy Farm Botanicals. Happy Farm Botanicals is a leader in custom solutions for prestige brands, specializing in non-toxic and natural formulations.

Susan Woods [00:00:25]: Hi, I’m Susan Woods, Principal of the Woods and Co., and to me, it’s a matter of candor.

Kelly Kovack [00:00:35]: Technology, social media, and the rise of influencer marketing changed the business of public relations forever. I’m Kelly Kovac, Founder of BeautyMatter. Change is good, but it isn’t always easy. The one-way communication funnel of traditional PR that carefully placed and controlled the message of clients evolved into the dissemination of information into real time, and brands having actual conversations with their audiences. Brands are no longer in control; consumers are. Paradigm shifts can be perceived as a problem or an opportunity, and they result in obsolescence or resilience. Susan Woods, the Principal and Founder of Woods and Co. has flawlessly navigated the digital evolution of media, providing a playbook for agencies and brands.

So, Susan, thank you for joining us today. Can you share a little bit about your background and how you came to found Woods and Co. and focus on indie beauty?

Susan Woods [00:01:37]: Sure, thank you for having me, Kelly. I love being here with you. So, what a long strange trip it’s been. Basically, 22 years ago, I was working as the VP of Development at Paramount Pictures, and I’m now professionally confident enough I can tell this story truthfully, because for a long time, I fibbed. A friend of mine came to me, and he said, “You look pretty miserable. Your job looks like it pretty much sucks. All you’re doing is working on the weekend, getting paid no money…” I had this lofty title, but I was miserable, and I didn’t know what to do with my life. And he said, “I have a great idea: let’s start a PR firm,” and I said, “JP, honestly, I know I was a journalism major and I’m a good storyteller, but PR just seems like puffery to me, and I’m not really into that kind of pushing products and people and from what I’ve seen in entertainment, what traditional PR people do,” I wasn’t really that into it. He said, “I just know you’d be good at it.” So, out of desperation, and stupidity, probably, at the time, we were so young that we didn’t have a lot of overhead or bills to pay, we just really had meager rent in L.A. I said, “Okay,” what could be worse than what I was doing then, you know? So, we founded Choir Communications, and our first client, bearing in mind this was 22 years ago, were organic food clients, and why? Because nobody else wanted the business. 

Kelly Kovack [00:03:01]: That is amazing. That’s amazing.

Susan Woods [00:03:03]: Isn’t that amazing? Literally, I had to call reporters on the phone, this was before the computers were a big thing, like we were still faxing, I believe. Some people were starting to email, because I remember at Paramount, we had a few executives asking for pitches via email, and we were like, “Wow, okay,” but it was really at the advent of the technology boom. So, our first clients were organic food, this was right when Whole Foods started to perculate, and I would have to call people on the phone and convince them why they should make healthy choices, and the reporters, food editors at the time, would say, “But, it tastes like crap. I’d rather not eat crap.” Our first client was Organic Choice, natural soups and servings, I kid you not.

Kelly Kovack [00:03:50]: You say it like you’re still pitching it. 

Susan Woods [00:03:55]: Oh yeah, well, I pitched it so hard back then, I was like, “Please, just try this stuff,” and literally, they would say, “That was the worst tasting soup I’ve ever had in my life,” and so I learned a lot about how to convince people to make different choices and try organic, and why they should think about what they were ingesting as being important. And so, we became the go-to natural food company, and I started walking the halls of Organic Natural Expo West, back before it was anything but you know, a hall filled with virgin companies that just hoped to make it, and now, when I go to Whole Foods, I’m so proud because so many of the companies at Whole Foods, I had a hand at launching. So, we built a decent sized company with offices in New York and L.A., and I was flying back and forth, because my partner had no interest in going to New York, he doesn’t really like it, and I was flying back and forth, we got a foothold in New York, and I started expanding Choir to go into fitness and wellness and health, and then naturally, into beauty, and when you go into beauty as a PR professional, you sort of have to be in New York; you can’t do it as effectively from L.A., it’s so relationship-driven, and so much of the business of beauty happens in New York that I found myself commuting between New York and L.A. every two weeks, even though I had a young son, so I was getting pretty tired, and my ex-husband turned to me, and he’s like, “You can’t keep up like this,” and I said, “Yeah, you’re right.” We had sort of outgrown our partnership, and so seven years ago, I said, “You know, I think it’s time for us to get separated,” you know, my business partner and I, and I took beauty, fitness, health, as it pertained to anything topical, and he took anything ingestible, including food, and then most recently, of course, a couple years ago our non-compete dissolved and we’re still really good friends, so we’re sister agencies, so here I am, New York, and I’ve always maintained a presence in Los Angeles, but you know, beauty has really been pretty much 80% of what we do, other than some fitness and health clients. That’s how I got into indie beauty, and of course, some of my first clients were natural clients, back then, seven, eight years ago – well, I guess it was ten years ago now that I got into beauty, I would say it was 70/30, 30 naturals, 70 not, and now, of course, that’s all changed, so it’s been really interesting.

Kelly Kovack [00:06:38]: It’s very interesting, you know, that you say you knew that it was – that sort of the partnership had run its course. You know, I think so many people enter partnerships, and when you start a business, everyone loves each other, but as the company evolves and people get older, very often, priorities change, business dynamics change, and some people kind of stick with it, but very often, the parting of ways doesn’t end in friendship, it ends up being really acrimonious. How did you navigate that?

Susan Woods [00:07:15]: It was really hard, actually. I think JP and I had started as friends, and we had just…I don’t know, we tried everything from marriage counseling to all kinds of professionals, you know, counselors, business coaches, and so we really had a lot of water under the bridge; we really had talked a lot about where we wanted to grow the business, what we were interested in and what we weren’t, and so I think it was just a natural step that we both looked at each other and said, “This isn’t working.” So, it wasn’t acrimonious at all, and actually, I talk to him all the time; we go on vacation together, we ski together, we still fight like brother and sister, but we love each other like brother and sister. He could be one of my first calls if something happened, you know? 

Kelly Kovack [00:08:08]: That’s pretty special.

Susan Woods [00:08:09]: I think so. I mean, there’s still – quite frankly, and I think he would agree if he heard this, a little bit of competitiveness between us, and there’s, you know, I think that’s part of the reason why we sort of didn’t succeed. I got the greatest piece of advice from one of the business coaches. You know, JP…every business coach I would get, JP was like, “Oh, that guy’s a dunderhead, that guy is a dunderhead, that guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” So, I used to work at CAA, before I worked at Paramount. So, I called one of the agents that I knew over at CAA, and I thought, “Who do these big ego, entertainment guys get when they get into a partnership? Who do they get? I want that guy,” and it cost me a ton of money – or us a ton of money, it’s a really simple piece of advice that sort of formed my thinking about doing business, it’s really quite simple and I think everybody should hear this: on one side of the piece of paper, write down what you love about your job, and on the other side, write down what you don’t. Chances are, you’re really good about doing the things you love, and really not good doing the things you don’t. So, if you can carve a partnership into a model that enables you to focus on what you love, and the other partner probably focuses on other things, you could have a kickass partnership. Unfortunately, in our case, I found that JP didn’t really value what I did that much. He thought I was too social, and liked the parties, and stuff like that. We’re just different. So, that’s sort of what happened.

Kelly Kovack [00:09:50]: You know, it’s really interesting that you sort of started your first agency when kind of business was being – was evolving because of technology, because I kind of feel like PR has gone through almost, I guess, in your case, a second sort of digital revolution, because the rise of digital technology and social media kind of created a paradigm shift for the PR industry, and that sort of one-way communication funnel of traditional PR evolved into a dissemination of information real-time, and brands have to actually have conversations with their audiences now, that are very often unfiltered. How has this informed your business model? How do you engage with clients, and how do you actually do the work? Has how you approached sort of PR and the agency model changed?

Susan Woods [00:10:57]: Yeah, of course. I mean, I think I was very lucky in that I kind of saw it coming many years ago, and so, we – I remember that was one of the things that JP and I were debating. I said to him, like ten years ago, “Print is dead. This is a dying breed, JP, we have to pivot,” and you know, we would have a lot of arguments about that, and that was really painful to a lot of people to reckon with, and I think the companies that didn’t do so fast enough are the ones that really floundered. So, I kind of saw it coming, and was able to modernize and develop in ways that kept us relevant. So, what we immediately did was started a social media department, obviously. The omni-channel opportunities that have arisen as a result of the digital transformation, or landscape, as you said, Kelly, have been so significant, and what that does, as you mentioned, is allow brands to talk to consumers directly, therefore having access to information that formerly, they would have to hire big focus groups, studies, etcetera, and now you can really talk to your audience. Think how lucky that was, especially at a time when D-to-C sales channels have become very, very critical for brands, especially during COVID. All of the brands we represent, if they didn’t have their digital strategy in place, as well as that D-to-C communications sales channel going, they’re really suffering, because retail, obviously, has been so compromised by the pandemic. So, you know, we’ve been doing – we have different ways of talking to both editors and consumers, we’ve tried all different tactics, from even video desk side, this is before COVID even, I was recommending, here in New York, we rely on desk side meetings formally, even before COVID. Why not have an editor in another place, whether it be secondary media markets, also have access to the brand founder via digital communications strategies, including video? So, I think, you know, a lot of positive changes have come as a result of the digital transformation of our industry.

Kelly Kovack [00:13:23]: You know, I want to talk about influencers just a little bit. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it really feels like things have changed a little bit. There’s sort of this ecosystem of some very large influencers, who will all remain nameless, that kind of fueled these ridiculous self-inflicted dramas and infighting that brands sometimes got caught up in the middle of. All of the sudden, this feels really dated. I mean, we all have much bigger problems, in the world, than what influencers throwing shade at the other to remain relevant. I think it kind of come to a head that Alicia Keys was going to – or, at least it came to a head for me, you know, she made an announcement that she was going to launch a brand, and immediately, there were these influencers kind of spouting off that she had no right to start a beauty brand, and I’m thinking to myself, who made you the deciding voice of who can and cannot start a beauty brand? It’s sort of reached this level of ridiculousness that felt so…almost desperate and attention-seeking. What’s your take on the current influencer landscape? What trends are you seeing? What are consumers gravitating towards? Have brands sort of changed how they’re making the decisions of who they partner with?

Susan Woods [00:15:06]: Well, being that we’re in indie beauty, we’ve never played the macro game, really. So, most of our outreach has been confined to micro-influencers who really are authentic brand ambassadors for our clients, and just love the clients. That’s, of course, the mainstay of what we do, is we try to identify who those authentic influencers are who really like the brand, because I think the consumers see through that now, and they kind of know who’s being paid, who’s not, etcetera, and they sort of discount it as an ad, and some of them are just posting so much content, it’s just redundant, and it’s just become saturated. So, we have one brand, interestingly, that is playing in that field, and we’re just helping them identify a handful of paid partnerships that will drive sales, because that tactic has been very, very successful for them in Ireland, in particular, where the brand was founded. So, other than that, we’ve really not played that game, and of course, now, all the rates are being completely cut, everyone – I think the influencers know that…a lot of brands are leaning off of that now, to me, from what I’ve seen, and really looking for partnerships that are going to be on-going and true – truth in their partnerships, and I think that’s what the consumer is looking for, too. The consumer wants to see people really talk about the efficacy of a beauty brand and really believes, you know, that what they’re hearing is true. They’re tired of being just pitched product by influencers. I just don’t…I don’t know, I just don’t think that that works anymore, and in terms of influencers, they’ve had their own reckoning recently, because if you look, so many of them have made mistakes during the pandemic in terms of being tone deaf, or Black Lives Matter in terms of saying controversial things or beign caught wearing something that is politically charged, and so they’ve had their own reckoning, many of them, and we’ve been called upon to counsel some of them. One beauty brand, in particular, influencer sort of got under her hood and found her wearing a MAGA hat from years ago, and really were writing things all over Instagram, etcetera, and so, you know, they’ve become both the watchdogs and the watched. It’s sort of crazy, and that’s all since the advent of social media, but they’ve had their own reckoning, you know?

Kelly Kovack [00:18:02]: Yeah, you bring up an interesting point, because we’re sort of at an inflection point with social media, with kind of this social media power transparency that’s given rise to this callout or cancel culture, and sometimes it’s warranted, sometimes you pull back the curtain and it shows people and brands for what they really are, but sometimes it feels unjustified and vindictive, and regardless of the intent, the result is the same, especially if it goes viral. I would imagine, for you, it’s a bit of a minefield, because you have to help clients manage in this landscape. What do you do if you wake up and find out one of your clients has been outed on Estee Laundry, for example?

Susan Woods [00:18:51]: It really depends what they’ve been outed for. I think we had one situation, thank god not on Estee Laundry, but we had one situation where they were called out for not developing enough of a broader color palette for foundations, and you know, it was interesting, because my counsel and that of my staff was two different things. My staff said, “Tell her after her initial – after she address…” and I’m favoring what they said, they said, “Tell this woman, who owns this brand, to apologize, say it’s being addressed, and not to engage in the dialogue, because you have all of these people, every time you answer a DM, they will DM five more times, and then write on your post ten more times, and next thing you know, you have this ongoing conflict that just doesn’t die, meanwhile, they’re just looking for opportunities all over Instagram to just call brands out. It’s not, really, that they care, so much about the respective brands, they are just opportunists who are looking for controversy, and the minute you engage in the dialogue, you’re making it worse, once initially addressed, and of course, listening to their comments and making sure that you are addressing them, and making sure you are developing a broader color palette, if need be, etcetera, of course it’s something a lot of brands have learned during this time, but just continuously engaging in the dialogue, I think, will just fuel it.” So, I was sort of surprised to hear the counsel of my staff, but they had many examples of having seen that just further embroil a company into that.

Kelly Kovack [00:20:41]: As a brand, the relationship you have with your contract manufacturer is a fundamental part of the supply chain and your success. Happy Farm Botanicals marries innovation with old-fashioned customer service. Located in the DC metro area, Happy Farm Botanicals is a leader in custom solutions for prestige brands specializing in non-toxic and natural formulations. Their full-time, in-house team works with brands from ideation to product development through manufacturing and fill. For more information, visit

Do you advise clients to have a crisis management plan in place in the off-chance that something like that happens? Because, you know, it happens more and more frequently, and when it happens, it happens fast.

Susan Woods [00:21:36]: What I would advise is that you have a solid team of advisors around you that you can tap, right, immediately, and that are always available, because I think if you do have a PR firm, if you’re lucky, of course, they can be very reactive to any crisis. With certain crises that have arisen, especially of late, to have a plan in place really wouldn’t have applied, necessarily, to the crisis at hand, so you have to be very reactive, and I think key, and something I’ve always counseled, is to be authentic and to be transparent in your communication, because if you are that, the consumer will always forgive. We are human. To be human is to make mistakes and to err, so we’ll always make mistakes as humans. Of course, if we don’t make them…if we unknowingly make them without ill intent, or if we unknowingly make them without any attempt to deceive the consumer, then, of course, the crisis communication plan is more easily enacted. Brands that have lied, quite frankly, to the consumer, or to the press, are the ones that really land themselves in it, in terms of their formulations or ingredients being natural and they’re not, and we’ve seen all of these kinds of problems in the past, that they had to come out and say, “Look, I’m sorry, it was a huge mistake.” I think those mistakes are less forgivable than ones that have been made during the pandemic. Obviously, we have to be sensitive, we have to mindful that a lot of people are going through really challenging situations right now, and of course, it’s horrible to watch television every night to see what’s going on around this country, so I think brands just have to be on top of mind, on the news, and know what’s going on, and be continuingly transparent and authentic.

Kelly Kovack [00:23:42]: Yeah, I mean, it’s one of those times where I think I’m very happy to be sitting on the sidelines, because I can’t imagine having to navigate sort of the business realities of trying to keep a brand kind of growing when retail is shut down. That kind of takes one type of thinking, and then, you know, to be dealing with really profound kind of cultural issues that require attention, almost requires a completely different skillset, and they’re happening at the same time. I think it’s compounded by sort of this call-out culture environment, because I’ve talked to a lot of brands, and I’m sure you have too, that have the best of intentions and want to fix things, but are afraid of having the conversation, in fear of miss-stepping, and I think it’s a little sad, because I think the way forward is probably through a lot of very awkward conversations. I think it’s the only way we grow, but there’s not really a very safe way, at the moment, to do that.

Susan Woods [00:25:00]: I agree, and I’m fortunate in that I have a diverse staff, and I’ve always talked to them very openly about issues prior to BLM, prior to the pandemic, everyone has always been mindful of their own journey, and so now, frequently, our clients will say, “What do you think?” and what I think might be different from what they think, and so I am fortunate that I can call them and say, “You guys, I’m asking you.” It is awkward, and if I did not know them so well, because they’ve been on my staff for a while, long before the pandemic, I would feel very afraid about approaching them with certain topics, but now I have that comfort zone. I just think having people in your life – again, harking back to that advisory board, that you can really lean on for counsel during difficult times, because no one is going to have the infrastructure in place, especially in indie beauty, to be able to navigate all situations all the time. I mean, the pandemic, as we said, has presented its own set of problems, as well as now the BLM movement and the social unrest in this country and all of the things that we’re dealing with with regard to navigating the upcoming election, this is a multi-layered moment in time that is unprecedented. Nobody really has…there’s no clear solutions. There’s so many points of discussion and on-going dialogue, and we don’t really know what’s around the corner, and so I think, just again, I think it’s really helpful to have good friends and a solid business advisory board that you can reach out to during these times and say, “What do you think?”

Kelly Kovack [00:26:45]: Yeah, I mean, do you think that brands, that their role is sort of to react to how consumers are feeling? Or, should they be leading a new narrative? Or, is it some combination thereof? 

Susan Woods [00:27:03]: It really, I think, is some combination. It really is so specific to who the brand founders are, and what…it’s really very specific to what the brand is. We have certain brands that solely talk to the African-American community, but they were founded by people who are not African-American, so they have to be very, very careful about how they’re talking to people and how they’re listening to their community, and what their community’s concerns are. It’s just an unprecedented time, and I think obviously, we all learn so much during periods like this, right? When you go into it, you just don’t have the answers, when you come out of it, you probably still don’t have the answers, but at least you’ve navigated something successfully that you never thought you had to before, and therefore you have a layer of…you feel a little more able to be able to navigate something like this in the future. It’s just…we’re all listening now, as we said. Formerly, we just would react. Now, we’re listening, and I think that’s the big thing – brands have learned to stop and listen, and not just spitball communication ideas.

Kelly Kovack [00:28:25]: You know, I think one of the things – some of the brands I feel very sorry for, are the brands that had plans to launch during COVID, and you know, as you know, with indie beauty brands, these people don’t have the luxury of waiting it out and waiting to launch when sort of things are better, and a lot of them are sort of navigating this new normal. But, you know, I think there are some sort of tried-and-true, probably, kind of communication and marketing strategies that can be leaned on. You’ve worked with tons of brands over your 22 years, and I think that some of the biggest learnings come from mistakes. What do you think are the most common mistakes brands make when they launch, regardless…like, let’s take…let’s look beyond sort of the COVID framework, but just sort of in general?

Susan Woods [00:29:35]: Well, I think one of the biggest is just not knowing what you’re getting into, and not being well-funded. That’s what I’ve seen, like I’ve seen a lot of smaller brands think that it’s a short haul to launch, and they don’t amass enough money. You really need a significant marketing budget; you need money behind you to do it right. You can’t do it on the lean. And, I’ve seen brands not really be prepared for that, and think that they’re going to execute a six-month campaign and that it’s going to be successful, and it’s just, to me, throwing money into the toilet. You can’t start the engine and then just let it die; you have to keep fueling this beast that has only become bigger due to all the omni-channel opportunities presented, right, and now we have certain cases, earned media’s not resonating, well then you have social media, you have influencer marketing, you have paid ads, you have all kinds of other tactics that you can try, and you have to be prepared to try them to see what sticks. I heard this example of this guy, great, great company, guy launched a couple years ago, but he can’t play in the earned media…he has a clear point of differentiation, which is another thing that I think is really important, but he can’t play in the earned media game that hard, because his cost of goods is so high he can’t sample to editors, or he doesn’t want to, and he’s just…earned media isn’t going to go as well for him as other marketing tactics would. Talking to the consumer directly is where his efforts should lie, and he’s having tremendous success doing that, just cutting out earned media entirely, but he’s well capitalized, so he knows earned media is not working, or won’t work, because I talk to him all the time about why it won’t work – I’m very honest about certain things, and I said, you know, you really should be talking to your consumer directly, you are a D-to-C brand. Social media, maybe some select influencer marketing, but social media and paid advertising is really going to be where you’re going to get the best return on investment. But, he’s well-capitalized, and he knows he had to invest in his ad campaign for five months before he saw an ROI, and now, of course, he’s ticking along and he’s doing fantastic, even though this all happened during COVID.

Kelly Kovack [00:32:07]: I mean, what advice are you giving to your clients to sort of…or pivots you’re telling them to make to break through the noise and deal with the reality that desk sides and events are probably out of the question until next year?

Susan Woods [00:32:25]: It really depends on the brand, it’s so hard to say one overarching piece of advice. I will say we’ve had some great success doing video desk sides, viral desk sides, you know, Skypes, etcetera, Zoom meetings, etcetera, like leaning on technology has been really fun during this time, and at first, we were seeing the editors were a little apprehensive to tape meetings, because they thought, “I don’t want to do this,” and “We’ll be back in the office soon,” and now they realize, actually, it’s not so bad. It’s pretty easy just to put on a nice top and put your hair in a top knot and meet someone. So, we have had some success doing that, it really depends on the brand. Some brands I would say don’t bother, and if the brand is a D-to-C brand, if the brand is relying on retail, it’s very dependent, but there are, again, certain things…there’s a silver lining to any kind of struggle, and that’s new efficiencies emerge that are going to really recreate the business as we formerly knew it. I mean, Kelly, you know this game: how often have we convinced a client to fly across the country to do desk sides, only for some terrible thing to happen the day before? The subway is shut down, the editors can’t get to work, whatever it is, it just changes their time spent in New York doing desk side, or, heaven forbid, an event. How stressful can events be? I mean, I remember doing an event in LA, it was a workout class being led by gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, nobody came. I didn’t counsel didn’t the event, I was the one that said, “Don’t do the event,” the client, they insisted, and doing the event in L.A., I was thinking, “Oh, this is going to be a disaster,” and sure enough, it was, but we don’t have to worry about things like that anymore. If you’re going to blow $30,000 on an event, I can think of ten better, more effective uses for $30,000 that’s going to be guaranteed of an ROI. All of these things had to go, anyway, and the pandemic just sort of pushed them out the door a little bit, and so I think, you know, just crafting the message, and if you’re not sure who is going to deliver that message, having that conversation with your client, like clients aren’t always the best people to talk up their product line. These conversations have to be had. Sometimes, it’s positioning a doctor in front of the line, or, you know, a lot of people are very entrepreneurial, but they shouldn’t maybe do media interface, that’s just the way it is. So, we’ve had some great challenges identifying who that front person for a line should be and who should talk to the media, and when we do that successfully, the media listens, and these virtual things happen, and they’ve been fantastic, I think.

Kelly Kovack [00:35:24]: Yeah, I mean, you know, I think these are kind of defining times for businesses and leaders. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to make it to the other side of this thing. Some businesses are just fighting to keep their doors open, while others are finding opportunities that didn’t exist. Where are you sort of seeing, I guess, brands and founders? What are you hearing about sort of, you know, we’re almost six months into this, and if you live in the U.S., still a very uncertain future heading into Q4. You speak to lots of people, what’s the word on the street? How are people feeling?

Susan Woods [00:36:08]: Well, it’s really very dependent on the category. Obviously, some categories are booming. Anything to do with at-home care is really booming, and I’m seeing – look at the example of all the companies that have launched during COVID to capitalize on the at-home fitness trend, like Peloton, he was a visionary, the CEO; what a visionary he was, but now, he’s got a lot of copycats coming at him, and those are proving to be, some of them, formidable companies that really embrace technology and are negating the need to go out of your home to exercise, and of course, in terms of beauty, there’s all these beauty launches that have come up that are at-home devices that are doing very, very well, LED lights and etcetera, but there are certain categories that are stumbling, funny enough including lipstick, because you know, what was the old saying when lipstick sales – when the recession…

Kelly Kovack [00:37:06]: A lipstick index.

Susan Woods [00:37:09]: The lipstick index, thank you. It’s the opposite now, because we have to wear a mask, so lipstick isn’t doing well, but skincare, certain categories of skincare are doing very well, and others aren’t. I mean, if you were really reliant on your retail-facing partnerships to drive sales and you didn’t have that digital strategy in place, well, you better get one quick, because you know you’re not going to survive without it. And, of course, for brands, D-to-C lines their pockets; the margins are such, what an attractive proposition to get if you can get the D-to-C outreach right, but I do think there’s always going to be some credibility, especially with the editorial community and having a retailer, I do.

Kelly Kovack [00:38:01]: Yeah. Well, I mean, we definitely live in interesting times, and you know, I think that we definitely have sort of a long road ahead of us, even though the beauty sector is a resilient sector, it’s really sort of navigating the unknown every day. You’ve owned your own business for 22 years, it’s a PR agency, but it’s not any different than – you’re just as much an entrepreneur as any brand owner, except your brand is yourself. Is there a piece of advice that you were given, or that you would give to another entrepreneur that you think could have a profound impact on how they run their business?

Susan Woods [00:38:52]: Yeah, that question I actually wrestled with. I actually think not micromanaging and delegating and creating a team that you’re able to delegate to is going to be your biggest friend, because again, harking to that piece of advice that I got from that business coach, I think we all can’t do everything well, and identifying what you do well and leading with that, and stepping off the things that you don’t do well is going to enable your business to thrive, and I see too many people getting their hands into every pot, and they basically don’t get out of their own way, and I see a lot of big brand founders who could even be bigger if they just got out of their own way. I really believe that, and having those conversations with the people who have now emerged as sort of control freaks is a hard thing to do, but harking back to ever since I paid for that very expensive piece of advice, I’ve been living my life doing exactly like that, and it’s been a lot more effective in terms of running my business.

Kelly Kovack [00:39:57]: Well, I guess it was a worthwhile investment.

Susan Woods [00:40:01]: Yeah, somewhat. I don’t think JP listened, but I certainly did.

Kelly Kovack [00:40:07]: Well, Susan, thank you so much for joining us today, and for all of your advice. You know, evolving with how sort of brands and PR agencies has changed is sort of a testament to your skills as an entrepreneur for sure.

Susan Woods [00:40:26]: Well, thanks, Kelly. I’ve always admired you and everything that you do, so that’s very validating.

Kelly Kovack [00:40:39]: For Susan, it’s a matter of candor. No matter the message or the platform, transparency has become the currency of our digital age. Navigating today’s always on and digitally-powered landscape where something can go viral at a moment’s notice is a double-edged sword; on one hand, it can lead to insane traffic and meteoric sales, but the ugly underbelly is the callout and cancel culture that has emerged. Both of these inflection points require careful navigation to either maximize or manage, and that’s where a good comms partner comes in. Susan has built a resilient agency grounded in her decades of experience across categories, but leaning into the new world order, creating content and driving conversations that move businesses forward. So, in the end, it’s a matter of candor. I’m Kelly Kovac, see you next time.

Susan Woods [00:41:35]: Hi, I’m Susan Woods, and to me, it’s a matter of candor. Why? Because I value honesty and the truth, and I think there’s tremendous sentiment in being able to talk frankly to other people, and to the business community that I represent and that I communicate with.

Kelly Kovack [00:41:55]: It’s A Matter Of is a production of BeautyMatter LLC, copyright 2020. You can find more content and insights on, and follow us on social media @BeautyMatterOfficial.