Mallory Blair Created a Thriving PR Company — & She Did It With No PR Experience

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Mallory Blair took a look at the PR industry and approached it like no one has before. With a curiosity for online communities and a passion for thinking completely out of the box, Mallory co-founded Small Girls PR with no former PR internships or college experience. Representing your fave brands like Hinge, Billie and Mejuri, Small Girls has helped take brands from startup to household name status. 

We chatted with Mallory to hear what it's actually like starting your own business in your 20s, how she unintentionally created her impressive network, and some #realtalk on putting in work to fulfill your dreams.



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HC: How did you get involved in the public relations industry?

Mallory Blair (MB): 

I never interned in PR (public relations). I never worked in PR previously. I don’t know that I had even heard the term "PR" back when I was in college, as crazy as that may sound. Public relations and marketing is something that’s much less opaque today than it was 10 years ago.

When I was in college I was really involved in online communities, from online message boards to chatrooms, and especially emerging social media. My co-founder and I were using things like Foursquare back when it was called Dodgeball. We were two of the first thousand users on Tumblr. We thought, “You know what? Brands could be using these technology platforms to creatively connect with their customers.” No one was taking advantage of that yet! All of these platforms were so new — Shaquille O'Neal was one of the only celebrities using Twitter. 

Upon graduating, we turned this idea into Small Girls PR. One of our first projects included brokering a partnership between Tumblr and Paper Magazine; we were literally acting as the bridge connecting old and new media.

At the time, we already had a good hand on the digital landscape, and public relations firms were still mostly rooted in traditional press relations. To quote Wayne Gretzky, we thought, “let’s go where the puck is headed and not where it has been.” That’s why we decided to call our approach PR even though playing with digital communities on behalf of brands and designing events for social-sharing was not yet part of PR's purview. 

I always joke that we started our company in reverse. We had social and experiential, and then we eventually built out the more expected pieces such as brand identity and media outreach. Other PR agencies already had a strong foothold where we didn’t, but they were scrambling to package things meant for sharing online, and that's where we thrived. So that’s how I started in PR — I had a vision of what PR could be, built it, and have been doing that since I began at 21.



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HC: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the industry and how did you overcome those?

MB: The biggest challenge that comes to mind isn’t about doing the work or even getting more work, but really about scaling our culture as we grow. Our people are my priority so that's the most delicate and rewarding part of building a business. I personally had to figure out how to do everything, from how to hire a first employee to setting up maternity leave and 401k policies. Those are things I had to figure out when I was 21 (and had to make every mistake on my own dime). That was probably my biggest challenge, and for how fast we’ve grown — we’ve grown on average 50% year over year — I’ve intentionally slowed growth to make sure we scale sustainably. 

HC: What’s been your most interesting or exciting experience with Small Girls?



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MB:  My first hire just had her seven-year anniversary. My second hire left after five years with us and just returned to the business. It's been incredible to see people grow with you on this journey.

HC: What about with a client?


Before TaskRabbit was acquired by Ikea, we were with them for a long time. One of the first things they charged us with was breaking into women’s interest. They had business and technology coverage but wanted to breakthrough consumer outlets read by millennial women (their dominant users). Knowing that TaskRabbit was a global brand, we had to think about ideas that would later apply in the UK as well.

We came up with the idea to have TaskRabbit promote an "Instagram Husband" offering during NYFW to communicate the value of hiring a Tasker to do the tasks you can't complete yourself when life gets busy. We effectively did a spoof, relaunching TaskRabbit as a marketplace where women and men could hire "husbands" or "wives" to follow them around during NYFW to take their photos, return their clothing samples, and build their Ikea shoe closets to house all the new items they'd purchase that week — all for the inexpensive price of using TaskRabbit for a day. 

That ended up going viral. We were in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle — not just in the U.S., but in multiple countries where we weren’t even offering the service. It was the largest traffic driver for TaskRabbit in the entire history of the company. We love coming up with creative ideas that communicate our clients benefits while being clever enough to drum up news when there isn't any otherwise.

HC: What do you think is one essential skill that someone in the PR industry should have?



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MB: Interdisciplinary thinking. What I mean by that is being able to see something that’s happening in news or culture and quickly understand how the product or brand you’re working with might be relevant to that conversation. 

HC: What advice would you give a 20-something with aspirations in the PR industry?

MB: Use the free time you have in college to gain as much experience as possible with all of that extra free time. Get a job, get two, volunteer to help promote your friends' jewelry company or edit resumes in the career center. 

When I was in college, I did favors for everyone and anyone, with any time I had spare. I worked four jobs throughout but still cultivated time to help people with the companies they were starting or the ones they were working for, and I ended up having this unintentional Rolodex of people who felt like I had supported their own efforts. When I started my company, I had referrals out the gate for clients from these people who could personally attest to the value of my work, because they had experienced it firsthand.

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