There are certain things in life you never forget: your first love, your first kiss and if you happen to be a PR pro — your first client.
It was July 2014, the middle of another sweltering Tel Aviv summer. I was minding my own business, just trying to get comfortable at the PR agency I had joined just a few days before when I was hurriedly rushed to the conference room for something called a “kickoff meeting”. It was there that KeyBoots first came into my life.
Sitting opposite me was Kobi Bodek, the startup’s Founder and CEO. A cheerful young Israeli entrepreneur, Bodek had been backpacking through Thailand a few years prior when he met some other tourists there and started chatting with them. They told him how what started out as a short holiday had turned into a much longer extended stay because they were able to find (and barter for) local seasonal jobs (helping out on a farm, bartending, being a nanny, etc.) in exchange for room and board. The idea immediately reminded Kobi of the kibbutz volunteer system that existed in his native Israel. When he returned home, Kobi set up a website platform, which he cleverly called KeyBoots (a play on the word “kibbutz”), where both “Keys,” local businesses looking to hire seasonal workers, and “Boots,” young people on holiday willing to “strap on their boots” and work in exchange for lodging, could find each other.
I wish I could say that I secured amazing press and media coverage for Kobi and KeyBoots, but in spite of my best efforts, that just wasn’t the case. We worked hard on the campaign, but with few results. Soon the project ended and I was assigned to work on other clients, tech startups whose products and services were more attractive to the media and netted significant exposure. After a couple of years, I moved on from that PR agency, and bootstrapped (pardon the pun) KeyBoots closed in 2018.
After five years working outside of PR (in journalism, then in an international non-profit organization), last week I returned to the PR world when I joined Finn Partners Israel. Once again I did not have to wait long for my first Finn PR client. On my very first day, I was added to the account for Medaware, an Israeli company transforming patient safety through AI-empowered decision support solutions for the early identification and prevention of medication errors. In other words, they catch prescription errors which saves lives.
But you never forget your first. And so, after my first day of work at Finn I took a moment to reach out to Kobi Bodek on LinkedIn and reminded him of KeyBoots and how he was my first client. In his reply he admitted it was his first project as well. I guess we have both moved on.
But what was so special about my first client? Why does KeyBoots still stick in my mind — and my heart — all these years later?
The slogan of the KeyBoots platform was, “Don’t Just Visit, Live It!,” According to Kobi, the only way you can really get to know culture was not to be a tourist but to experience it from the inside. I think that mindset is exactly what I – and all PR pros — need to apply to every client, to take a genuine vested interest in them, to not just visit (take a casual interest), but LIVE IT!
So, Happy Valentine’s Day, KeyBoots! You will always be my first.