“Claire’s is a fast paced place to work, and as the only person in my role, my duties range and change constantly. Yet, that is what I feel makes it a lot of fun.” – Jennifer Lezan
After years of freelancing and diligent schooling (a background in Fashion Marketing & Management and an MBA in Small Business & Entrepreneurship with a focus in Marketing & Digital Media), Jennifer Lezan is currently the PR & Social Media Coordinator for Claire’s Stores Inc, handling both the Claire’s and ICING brands. However, Jennifer first landed a fashion PR internship with Claire’s via LinkedIn.
What is your background?
My background includes an undergraduate degree from The Illinois Institute of Art-Schaumburg. I maintain a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion, with a focus in Fashion Public Relations, Graphic Design, and Marketing Management. I also am a graduate from Benedictine University and hold an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management. I have been working in the industry for about 3 years with 7 prior years of retail and office experience. I currently work for Claire’s Stores Inc. as their Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator, and I am an adjunct professor in the Fashion Department at the Illinois Institute of Art.
Why Fashion PR?
It took me a few years of school to realize what I actually wanted to do with my life. I initially started in Fashion Design and completed an associates degree, but realized that in order to make it in the industry, furthering my education was imperative. I embarked on my Bachelors Degree in marketing, took a few communications and PR classes and was hooked. I found that with Fashion Public Relations I could combine my love of fashion, branding, talking to people and writing.
I had been writing for a few years before I actually started freelancing as a PR consultant, and due to the connections I made in the industry while writing, working as a freelance publicist was not as difficult as I initially imagined. I understood how to pitch because I was usually the one being pitched to, and that made my job easier because I could angle a story so that it would be picked up. I found I was passionate about connecting my clients with influential bloggers and editors.
How did you land your position?
The story behind my start at Claire’s is an interesting one. I like to call myself a “Linked In Success Story.” I had been writing a column in the Chicago Examiner since I graduated with my BA. It was one of the first jobs I landed straight out of college, but it was not anywhere near full-time. My first full time job out of college was a bittersweet experience; I was laid off 6 months into my first post college position so I jumped on LinkedIn and establish a professional profile. Eventually I decided to apply for grad school and continue to work in retail full-time in retail.
I am the type of person that always has a plan, and the first few years out of school did not go according to my plan. As a young mother however, I really had no choice but to find work and stick with it. I started taking side jobs here and there to build my portfolio of clients within PR and Marketing and whenever I did a new project or landed a new client, I added it to my LinkedIn profile and requested a recommendation. In return, I would recommend them. After a few months, I had built enough of a client base to quit retail, and I continued to do freelance PR work until Claire’s reached out to me.
I received an email from the Vice President of Claire’s Marketing and was interested in me due to my Linkedin Profile and honestly, I thought one of my friends was playing a joke on me. However, I did a google search and found that this person was in fact who he said he was.
Of course, I quickly shot back an email stating that I was DEFINITELY interested. Two weeks later, I started on a journey that has changed me, my career and my experiences forever. The VP pretty much said he cyber stalked me via LinkedIn and because of my professional online established profiles, he was impressed with me before he even met me. Ladies and gents, it is critical to realize that we can do so much more than cyber stalk our exes online. We can use this little beaut as a way to catapult our careers into the trajectory that we want to see them go in. We are marketing ourselves online, and it is important that we put our best profile forward!
What is an example of a typical day in the office?
To put it quite frankly, there is no typical day at Claire’s. It is a fast paced place to work, and as the only person in my role, my duties range and change constantly. Yet, that is what I feel makes it a lot of fun. I usually check email first thing in the AM, get my store marketing/PR requests completed, follow up with outstanding issues with any major projects I am working on, do merchandise pulls for magazine requests, update all of our social media profiles, listen to tons of voicemails and try to make as many follow up calls as I can. I may have to go to a few meetings here and there with buyers or managers depending on the projects I am working on, but not one day is usually the same.
What are your responsibilities?
My role is dedicated to Public Relations, Mall Marketing and Social Media. So, I usually spend my days pitching magazines like Seventeen, Teen Vogue, Self, Lucky & People Stylewatch to get product placed in editorial stories. I also try to keep up with celeb stylists to find out what their needs are and send them items as I can in order to try and get our product placed with upstanding celebs.
I also focus on social media. I spend a lot of my days researching trends and pop culture to find innovative ways to highlight our product on our social media pages. I also spearhead major promotional events and cause marketing initiatives and coordinate them from corporate to our field teams. I also spend a lot of time checking emails, talking on the phone, updating media lists using Cision, and writing press releases.
What is a recent success story that you have been a part of?
Any time I get a placement, I consider it a success, but as of late, the best success story I have initiated has been our work with budding star Cody Simpson. I initiated a relationship with Cody’s team at Atlantic and their Marketing Agency to get them to film in Claire’s for his On My Mind video. From there I spear-headed a sponsorship for his Coast to Coast Simon Mall Tour. I was able to work with our store operations, field and corporate teams to organize a national sweepstakes: Claire’s sponsored Meet & Greets with Cody and got tie ins from Tiger Beat/Bop Magazine.
It’s great to get on board with a celebrity that is just on the rise. We can say that we were a part of Cody while he was just starting to rise to the top. It is amazing to see our customers connect with a celeb on such an intimate level, and it is all happening within our stores. What is so incredible about this promotion is that it is not strictly only in store, but we are getting placement in online magazines; Cody tweets and facebooks about it (as do we), and we get to connect with people also on a viral level.
What challenges are attached to your job?
As is with any role, I do face challenges on every level. Due to my age, it can sometimes be hard to be taken seriously. I am quite young, and people have a tendency to associate young people with not much ambition sometimes, but I feel I am proving my worth.
I am also a mom, and that can cause issues as well. I have to work extremely hard to have a work/life balance. Anyone will tell you that when you are first starting out, putting in your major hours is imperative. Yet, as a mom I need to ensure that I don’t let my duties as a mother slip through the cracks because of my goals to further my career. I guess it helps me to stay on task as I need to be sure I leave work at a decent hour, and in order to do that, I need to get my work done.
Corporate can also be a tricky place to work in due to the processes and approvals you need on many different levels. It is EXTREMELY different from agency work, but I feel that it is a great learning situation. I am technically the only person in my role that does what I do at work and that can be a huge burden at times, but with the right amount of elbow grease and time management, I have been able to accomplish some wonderful things.
What aspects of the job requirements were a surprise to you?
There weren’t too many aspects that surprised me as I was doing freelance PR for some time before I came on board, but the way things were done in house surprised me. Sometimes, what I feel may be the best route is not always considered the best route due to it being a corporate setting. I feel like I need to incorporate our legal department a lot to ensure I follow the proper protocol.
In a few words, how would you summarize your agency?
My department is definitely fast paced and sets the tone of the brands that we carry. We are the backbone to the company and ensure that the brands become names everyone knows.