Although Pittsburgh-based Pretty Living PR recently celebrated just one year of business, it's been year of incredible growth and recognition. Recognized by Pittsburgh Magazine’s Women in Business Spotlight, and finalists for the Stiletto Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award, Charissa Lauren and partner, Allyn Lewis, have quickly made a name for themselves in the fashion, lifestyle, beauty and events space. In addition to running their PR firm, the two entrepreneurs also launched Pretty Living Magazine and Pretty Living Weddings. This summer, the two women will present at the 4th Annual Women in PR summit being held in Chicago.
How did you get started in PR? What was your first job in the industry?
My entire life has been PR, I just made a full-time career out of it. After working for quite a few years in fashion, entertainment, event planning, writing and editing I began working directly with company promotion and development after becoming a branded name that people would come to for business tips and coordination assistance. Anything that anyone needed, they came to me. After a while, I realized that this was the career direction I was heading towards and that all of my talents and passions combined became and asset in the role. I first started independently handling press and PR duties for companies and began to envision Pretty Living PR when I met Allyn, from there the company goals came to life.
Allyn & Charissa
What led you to start your own agency?
Working in the industry, I’ve seen true struggle for fashion or beauty brands starting out simply because they were not New York or LA based. I wanted to change this. I wanted to give brands an opportunity to excel no matter their location. With proper development and publicity, any label and brand can truly thrive in the industry. We just needed to bring the opportunity to life. I am very passionate for small businesses and women-owned companies. I enjoy working directly with small businesses in taking the company to the next level. Though I’m a co-owner with Pretty Living PR, my main role will always be to work directly with our clients in seeing their dreams and efforts surpass their expectations.
I also wanted our company to be an internal source of exposure and serve as a foundation to not only connect companies, but to promote and publicize businesses within fashion, beauty and lifestyle. Furthermore, I believe that everyone should do exactly what they love and that a career should be a passion. These beliefs and ideas are solely what lead me to beginning the firm, I see opportunity in everyone and everything.
Working in the industry, I’ve seen true struggle for fashion or beauty brands starting out simply because they were not New York or LA based. I wanted to change this. I wanted to give brands an opportunity to excel no matter their location.
What is your vision for Pretty Living PR?
I want Pretty Living to stand as a source of confidence for dream builders around the world. I don’t ever just want to be a PR firm. I want our team to encourage women and entrepreneurs every single day and become a trusted outlet of hope. I want our work to be a guideline for businesses and I want us to show every person we work with that dreams are possible, you can do this and we can show you how. Pretty Living is a full-service firm and we’ve combined our team’s expertise to provide extraordinary options in publicity, promotion, development and beyond. I want people to be able to come to us for anything that they need. This is why we’ve parented two branches, Pretty Living Magazine and Pretty Living Weddings, to further connect and publicize these brands.
What makes your business partnership work?
I think our partnership is extremely balanced in that we both offer very different aspects to the company. I am very introverted, creative, and idealistic. I enjoy brainstorming, researching and working one-on-one with clients, in my own pace. While I handle more of the backend work, Allyn works tremendously well under pressure and is in charge of managing our staff and structuring the firm. We are both entirely different but I do believe that’s what compliments our company so well. Our main similarity is the passion we both have for our dream and the people we represent.
What are some of the biggest wins from your first year in business?
We’ve had so many this past first year but personally, my biggest win has been seeing the public’s reaction to what we’ve been doing. We’re always receiving such compliments and I know so many women who are stepping out and making a career from what they love because we’ve encouraged this. This is what makes me the happiest! Seeing a difference because of something we’ve done. We were also recently honored to be featured in Pittsburgh Magazine’s Women in Business Spotlight, named finalists for the Stiletto Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award, asked to speak for the upcoming Women in PR summit and right now I’m a little star struck answering questions for PR Couture, my online bible, so I guess life’s pretty good!
You recently launched a magazine - what is the strategy behind this publication and how do you choose whom to feature?
We began with a blog and a bi-annual print magazine to serve as an extra publicity incentive. We are now in the process of finalizing the branding of Pretty Living Magazine as both daily online and bi-annually printed. The online magazine is used to work with brands we aren’t representing but would still like to develop a working relationship with. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I love small businesses, I think their products are so unique! Not to mention, I have a soft spot for entrepreneurs, being one and all! Our e-zine features many upcoming beauty and fashion brands, business women, entrepreneurs, women making a difference along with career advice. It’s designed as another outlet to connect, promote and publicize while making business relationships along the way! I love to connect with people and I’m generally fascinated with everyone’s unique start-up story. It’s been a privilege to work with people around the world and share their work with our platforms.
What is one PR strategy that is working really well for clients right now?
I do not believe in one basic strategy! I think that every single brand is different and needs/wants what is best for their brand. Everything we do for our clients is niche specific and customized according to their business goals. We do not create PR Strategies until discussing the ‘Grand Brand Plan’ for our clients. I coordinate customize press lists via our mass list to meet their press goals, I select products to emphasize of which they want emphasized and I coordinate them with current trends. If a client tells me they want featured in Women’s Health Magazine, I make it my personal goal to make sure they are featured! I think the beauty of client work is that you have to learn to showcase their brand to direct audiences, there is kind of an ‘aspect ratio’ to publicity. You have to find common grounds between a platform, a target audience and the brand to have success. It’s all about the story angle!
You have to find common grounds between a platform, a target audience and the brand to have success. It’s all about the story angle!
What's the mood like in the office right now? What are you currently working on?
Currently we are juggling! We are launching the 3rd print issue of Pretty Living Magazine, we’re hosting our 1 year anniversary party on May 23rd, and we’re finalizing our upcoming ‘PR Girl Program’ for undergrads and entry level PR professionals, of which I am personally excited for! As we continue to grow, we’re spending the majority of our time assuring that we are suited with the proper staff. We are now being very particular with employee hires and have developed an amazing training program to guarantee the quality of our future PR Gals.
Share a bit about the fashion industry in Pittsburgh and how Pretty Living PR is involved:
The fashion industry in Pittsburgh began its true direction in 2010 with the launch of Pittsburgh Fashion Week, of which I’ve had the wonderful privilege to be a part of for a few years. I do believe that Pittsburgh is home to so many emerging designers and brands and that the talent is there but there absolutely needed to be a source of firmer direction. I think that many people based here aren’t sure of the next steps to take to grow their brand and that’s where we come in. Though we do not only work with Pittsburgh-based companies, we do work with several! We are very loyal to our community industry and only hope to benefit it. I only see positive growth for the future of Pittsburgh and it’s already been amazing to see it grow just in my years alone.
What suggestions do you have for publicists who aren't based in NYC or LA to launch or grow their careers?
Goodness yes! You do not have to be in NYC or LA to be a respectable publicist! Business is EVERYWHERE! And here’s the best part of it, there will always be business and new brands on the merge! You just have to find it. Keep a great network around you, have a solid brand, connect with people and businesses daily!
What are 3 must-have tools, apps or products that are essential to your job?
A job as a business owner and public relations professional is double the fun. A lot is expected from me so naturally, I need a few more than 3 things to keep me up to speed. Coffee. My day planner. My cell phone. Aromatherapy everything. Chamomile tea. A quality camera (for product images). Candles. My laptop. Temperatures of 60 degrees or higher. White wine. 3 different color highlighters. Just a few things that keep this PR Gal on her feet.
Images provided by Erika Banks