I receive a lot of emails from fashion PR's who are thinking about going rogue, as in, leaving their current agency job and starting their own gig. They may be fresh out of school, living in a location where there are no fashion PR agencies, or years deep in the NYC career climb, but they all have a common goal - they want to work with clients on their own terms, and are looking for the autonomy that entrepreneurial life can bring. Previously, their inquiries inspired me to write "Going Solo: A Guide to Working Freelance in Fashion PR" which continues to be one of the site's most popular posts.
In this piece, I connected one curious fashion PR with Lauren Rich of RICHPR. In December 2006, Lauren graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Advertising + Marketing Communications from FIT, and launched RICHPR that same month with two clients she gained while still in school. For the last 3+ years, she has successfully grown RICHPR into a thriving Fashion, Accessories & Lifestyle PR Agency. Lauren is also a contributing writer at Young, Fabulous & Self-Employed, definitely worth a read.
Q: How do you deal with lack of experience and getting that first job? I know that I'm well educated w/ a BA in Fashion Merchandising and an MBA in Marketing and past internships and paying positions in Fashion PR, and writing internships, but it's so much different setting out on your own.
A: Lack of experience can only hold you back if you’re not a) motivated and b) resourceful. Make the most of every internship, position, project, opportunity, etc that comes your way. Ask questions, work hard, make contacts, and take on as much responsibility as you can. I lucked out in getting an amazing internship the summer before I graduated, where I met two of my greatest mentors and really learned the ropes of PR. That led into my last semester at FIT when I started working with my first client (who I had also met through FIT), who led me to my second client. By the time I graduated I had two clients in tow and basically took a leap of faith. Given I had no prior agency experience beyond internships, I really had to rely on instinct and common sense to basically make up my own rules as I went along. Sure, I definitely made some mistakes that 1st year, but you know what – you learn from them, grow stronger, and keep going.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is no set way to do things. Just because one agency does something one way does not mean you have to do it the same way. Think outside of the box, find what works for you, and stick with it. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely world if you have no one to bounce ideas off of, so be sure to surround yourself with others in the industry to build a support base. How to find this support base? Network, network, network. And although this may sound cliché, follow the Golden Rule – be nice to people and help others out, and they will be nice back to you and help you out.
As far as securing clients in the beginning, lack of experience can only inhibit you if you show it. If you arrive to a meeting nervous and doubting yourself, the client will sense it. Stay strong and confident, and where you lack in experience prove you can make up in motivation, creativity and resourcefulness. Most importantly – stay optimistic. If a client doesn’t work out or a press hit doesn’t come through, do not feel defeated. You are going to have both achievements and pitfalls, and you have to be able to let go of the negatives and focus on the positives.
Q: Is it ever a good idea to model yourself after other PR agencies?
A: There is a big difference in admiring other PR agencies and comparing yourself to them. Personally, I really admire Alison Brod. She is so well respected in the industry – among both editors and brands – and I’ve only ever heard great things. However, once you start comparing yourself to other agencies, you’re going down a slippery slope. Do not get wrapped up into what others are going and start thinking you’ll never get to that level. Admire other PR agencies, yes, but do not compare. It’s unproductive when you should be spending that time focused on doing the best YOU can do for your agency and your clients.
Q: How do you compete with other companies that may be able to offer more by way of services than you, without having to budge on the price of the services you are able to offer?
A: When you’re meeting with a client leave your doubts at the door and stay CONFIDENT. If they tell you, “Well, ‘x’ agency offered us this and this at the same rate you’re offering,” counter with the value that you can bring. Maybe ‘x’ is offering more services, but maybe they also have 20 clients and are understaffed. You, on the other hand, may be a 1-woman shop with only 3 clients, but you’re able to devote time and personalized attention to each of those 3 clients. Know what your strengths are before heading into a meeting, and show what value you can bring to the account that other agencies can’t.