Alyson Roy is the Founder of AMP3 Public Relations, a boutique consumer lifestyle agency that specializes in Fashion & Lifestyle PR campaigns. AMP3’s services include traditional PR & media outreach, social & digital media PR, and special event PR & production. Alyson has served as chief of publicity for Nolcha Fashion Week for the past eight consecutive seasons, and just handled PR for the inaugural season of LAUNCH NYC during NYFW in February, 2014 (a showcase for Made-In-NYC designers with an emphasis on keeping manufacturing local). She is also the publicist of record for Cat Footwear, and handles publicity for both emerging and established fashion brands. She contributes to a slew of lifestyle media outlets, and sits on the Advisory Boards for Nolcha Fashion Week, Fashion Advance, and Blazetrak.com. Alyson is also a founding Junior Board member for Rosie’s Theater Kids–Rosie O’Donnell’s non-profit organization that provides complimentary music, dance and theater training to underserved inner-city youth.
With all that going on, I’m honored that Alyson took the time to share a bit about her career journey and thoughts on fashion PR with PR Couture. I think you’ll be especially inspired by her transition from living room to Midtown Manhattan office, thoughts on the value of runway shows, AMP3 client non-negotiables and special invitation at the end of this article. Enjoy!
How did you break into fashion PR? What was your first gig?
I actually arrived in Fashion PR by way of Music PR. My first PR gig was at Arista Records. It was an interesting time to be in the music industry when everything was shifting to digital and there were constant shake-ups and mergers amongst all the labels. It was a great experience to work in-house for a major corporation and I was so passionate about the music, but eventually, I learned that being one person on a floor full of cubicles wasn’t the career for me. I wanted to be more hands-on with the clients and the creatives. I didn’t want to serve in one department; I wanted to wear all the hats! That’s when I discovered the concept of a boutique PR agency, and went to work for a Fashion & Lifestyle PR firm instead. This setting was much more my speed. I loved the variety of clientele, and I loved the opportunity to work on all aspects of a project from pre-launch all the way through to execution. Soon, I discovered how rewarding working with fashion brands could be and I was hooked!
I loved the variety of clientele, and I loved the opportunity to work on all aspects of a project from pre-launch all the way through to execution.
What was your initial vision for AMP3 PR and how has it evolved since you started?
Initially, AMP3 was an answer to a problem. When we first launched the company, the very nature of PR was in a transitional phase. The term “social media” hadn’t been coined just yet, but it was clear that the days of cold calling (and *gasp* we even sent faxes at my first agency job!!!) were changing. AMP3 was designed to be a triple-threat, providing traditional, digital, and event PR strategies for emerging brands. In the beginning, we were more arts & entertainment centric, but over the years, we’ve really come to find our niche in lifestyle & fashion PR. I should also mention that the company started out on my living room floor, literally, and we’ve since grown into our Midtown Manhattan offices. There was a time when I thought we would just keep growing, with the goal of some day being a mid-size firm. I’ve since changed my goals, which is important to do along the way. Quality is much more important to me than quantity. By staying small, we’re extremely nimble and we adapt quickly. Because of this, we’re able to be really selective in the clients we take on and fully dedicated to the projects we attach our name to; it’s been amazing to finally arrive at this level.
What’s the mood like in the office? What are you currently working on?
We have a very relaxed office vibe. We like to make each other laugh and to dish on the latest celebrity gossip (our current hot topic of choice is the “Lindsay” docu-series on OWN…. wow… just wow!). We’re also very focused, and although we sit in an open think-tank environment, sometimes we are so in the zone that we’ll go hours without speaking to each other. I’m a big believer in working smart. If someone has done all they can and they are counting the clock waiting for the work day to end, I’ll send them home. It’s all about balance and we certainly have our fair share of marathon days. Fashion PR is a lifestyle and you have to be alert and on call at all times, so if you’re blessed with some downtime, you’ve gotta take it!
Currently, we’re winding down from our February Fashion Week frenzy, and focused on our long-term client campaigns. One of our favorites right now is Cat Footwear, the global footwear licensee of Caterpillar Inc. Most people know their bold yellow & black logo for it’s construction equipment, and we’re having so much fun educating the fashion consumer on their lifestyle collection for men and women. They are a great brand to work for (and it helps that the people are awesome, too!), with so much room for PR growth.
For those who don’t know, what is Nolcha Fashion Week and what are your primary responsibilities as Chief of Publicity?
Nolcha Fashion Week is a showcase for global independent fashion designers, which takes place during New York Fashion Week every February and September. Each season, they present a slew of runway presentations, in addition to a fashion lounge and other networking events. February was our eighth consecutive season handling PR for the event. As chief of publicity, I’m in charge of overall PR for Nolcha as a brand, and individual PR for each participating designer. We handle all guest lists, all seating-charts, all interviews, and all chaos! Nolcha is known as a hot incubator of new fashion design talent, and it gives us the opportunity to see what’s trending in fashion around the world, and to be a part of the emerging fashion scene.
How has the role of fashion week evolved over the last decade? What are the biggest benefits to designers these days when it comes to runway shows?
Fashion Week has been evolving over the past few years and there has been a lot of chatter in New York about how the shows in the tents are getting stagnant, with many major designers drifting downtown to alternative venues. With the growth of the style blogger and social media in fashion and the immediacy of our culture, the existing life cycles are interesting, because people don’t want to wait another 6 months for the collection to reach the consumer.
Our clients have been doing some really innovative activations to combat this. We handled PR for Launch NYC Fashion Week, which had its inaugural season in February, and they had a fantastic 3-pronged approach. Their pop-up space on West 17th Street housed runway shows, a showroom for wholesale and a pop-up store for retail all under one roof, providing a 360 degree experience for editors, buyers & fashion consumers. Their concept was brilliant and really shed light on the possibility of a new model for everyone in the industry.
The good news is that with all of the digital tools available to designers right now, there is an incredible opportunity to get creative with what constitutes a “runway show” and to maximize the exposure of a runway show (by using livestreams, social channels, etc).
What makes for an ideal client? What do you need from a client in order to be an effective fashion publicist?
On the technical side, there are 3 non-negotiables when it comes to what we need from a client in order to be effective: 1) product samples (ideally multiple for sending to editors and bloggers), 2) well-done product photography, and most importantly, 3) a functioning and well executed website.
If a client is lacking a website that gives the right impression for a fashion editor, we will often tell them they aren’t ready for PR and to come back when their site is up to speed. It’s underrated and oh so very important.
On the emotional side, the client must have passion, innovation, and a story to tell. It is very difficult to PR something that is just like everything else. When a client whole-heartedly believes in their product, you will too. This is a vital ingredient. We consider ourselves an extension of our clients’ in-house family, and the ethos and drive from the team is key in bringing all the moving parts together.
What are a few pros and cons of working with emerging vs established brands? Do you have a preference?
Emerging brands are exciting, innovative, hungry and inspiring, but they are always an uphill battle with media when you are building their brand reputation from scratch. They are typically also still building their distribution channels, and sometimes, too much growth too quickly can be a silent killer, so we have to be strategic in securing PR that aligns with their climb.
Established brands can also be doing exciting and innovative things, and typically have the budget to bring big PR ideas to life. You can typically open more doors based on the clout of their name alone. Of course, with bigger companies come more cooks in the kitchen, more paperwork, and more red tape.
It’s fun to have a balance of both types of client, so that we can present our editors with a blend of content.
What is one PR strategy that is working really well for clients right now?
In addition to traditional look books, we’ve been creating Style Guides ahead of each new season. For this, we showcase our favorite style bloggers and influencers by approaching them to style & shoot the product, before anyone else gains access. Along with their fashion photos, we run a mini profile on the bloggers. Together, this creates a crowd-sourced look book that is inspired by tastemakers instead of directed by the brand. As such, it produces a really honest look at how people are wearing certain trends and where style is headed in the season to come.
How is fashion PR changing and what new skills are necessary to stay ahead of the competition?
Social Media is no longer a forward-thinking skill; it is a requirement. You have to be ready to share content online and you have to create editorial calendars that make sense in real time. Another big change is that you really can’t rely solely on warm relationships. Turnover in the media is at an all-time high and shake-ups happen fast and sometimes during a client placement you’ve been working on for months. Being able to rely on your knowledge of the outlet’s content and your ability to create a unique window for your client’s content is a much stronger skill to hone.
Social Media is no longer a forward-thinking skill; it is a requirement. You have to be ready to share content online and you have to create editorial calendars that make sense in real time.
How do you stay on top of industry trends? What tools, apps or products are your PR essentials?
We love our trusty media database and our social media analytics tools like Sprout Social, and of course PR Couture! There’s also a growing group on Facebook called “PR, Marketing and Media Czars” and their tagline is “Publicists who actually like other publicists.” I love it because there is so much competitiveness, and dare I say cattiness, amongst publicists. Many keep their cards close to their chest, but we really can be so productive if we share our knowledge with each other. This group is a space for anything & everything PR: asking for advice, sharing contacts, suggesting vendors, offering up media opportunities and much more. You have to get an invite from a group member to get in, but it’s wonderful! Email me if you want an invite and I’ll hook you up Alyson(AT)AMP3pr.com.
Connect with Alyson on Twitter @AlyAMP3