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5 Things I Learned My First Year as a Freelance Publicist

Freelance PR Independent PR Fashion PR Beauty PR Career

Last year I was let go from my job and living in an area where no one was hiring—especially in the PR field. Considering my passion and experience was in public relations, I chose to take it upon myself to create my very own career path as a freelance publicist.

Some make a brave, planned jump into consulting, while others are more forced into it due to circumstance. My foray into freelance work started without any clients and no experience in the business aspects of independent contracting. Happily, a year later I have successfully built a freelance career. I have four consistent clients, and have had to turn down projects I can’t fit into my schedule.

Making the shift into solopreneurship has been one of the most terrifying and rewarding experiences of my life. I’m definitely looking forward, but every now and then it helps to look back on everything I’ve learned.

1. I became comfortable with pitching myself

As a business professional, and especially when you run your own business, it’s so important to keep track of – and stay in touch with – your contacts. For freelancer work, these existing relationships are often the lead to your next client referral.

As a natural introvert, the idea of having to sell myself to potential clients used to give me anxiety. But I had to force myself out of my comfort zone and become comfortable with networking and asking for work in order to grow my business,

So how did I start to build my business? Thanks to Google and LinkedIn I was able to get the contact information of businesses and individuals I wanted to work with. Then, I wrote an email explaining how I believed I could help, as well as highlighting previous experience, including my contact details and resume. I also reached out to former contacts and let them know about my new circumstances and latest areas of expertise.

2. I figured out my personal brand

Before my freelance career, I didn’t fully understand the idea of personal branding. To be honest, I would roll my eyes whenever someone would say, “you are your brand.” Now I understand that when you work for yourself, this statement couldn’t be more accurate.

Starting a freelance business really makes you realize what it means to be your own brand. Over the past year, I cleaned up my social media presence by separating my personal and professional accounts. On my business profiles, I only share professional articles. I also branded my website, and learned to talk about my experience and services in a consistent way. I used Tumblr to share my portfolio, including press clippings, and Canva to create my logo and other fun, fun digital brand assets, which made a huge difference in my professional brand for very little cost.

As a natural introvert, the idea of having to sell myself to potential clients used to give me anxiety. But I had to force myself out of my comfort zone and become comfortable with networking and asking for work in order to grow my business,

At my previous PR firm, I never worried about my social media presence being a direct means to grow client work;  we weren’t allowed to add clients on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. But as an independent consultant, your online and social media efforts must help prospective clients to discover you and desire to contact you.

3. I learned how to save and spend more wisely

The whole “feast or famine” myth for contract workers is absolutely true. Sometimes I had a full roster of clients, to the point where I was overextended, and other times my workload was minimal. The natural pendulum of project work means that income can be unpredictable, which makes budgeting (and a backup plan should work run out) imperative.

Once you make over $400 from freelancing gigs, you are required to report your income and pay quarterly estimated taxes. These are typically anywhere from 20-30% of your annual earnings so I made sure to factor that in when charging clients, and automatically tucked away 20% of all of my earnings for tax time.

I quickly paid outstanding credit card balances; the fees and APR charges really add up in the long run. I also looked for easy places where I could save with a bit more effort. I stopped eating out all of the time and switched to a cheaper internet provider.

Day Designer Work Planner Life Planner Image: Polka Dot Whimsy

Day Designer, Image: Polka Dot Whimsy

4. I started to track…everything

Setting income and saving goals, and tracking spending is essential to running a successful business. But there is so much more data and planning that is valuable to me as a freelancer. These days, I use both physical and digital tools to stay on top of my work.a day designer to map out my days, weeks and months. Having a visual layout of tasks helps me stay on top of everything from invoicing to project plans.

I use a day designer to map out my days, weeks and months. Having a visual layout of tasks helps me stay on top of everything from invoicing to project plans. And, I use Toggl, a free task timer tool that lets me easily track the work I am providing, organized by projects and clients. Toggle provides various time summary reports that make it easy to prepare accurate invoices, and provide a detailed recording of time spent, should there be any client questions come billing time!

5. I learned to take control of my schedule

The reality is that I work more now as a freelancer than I ever did at a 9 to 5. My days tend to be longer, and I have larger workloads. However, I can honestly say I would never go back to an office job. There’s no better feeling than being able to make your own rules.

I never thought I would be running my own business, but freelancing has helped me realize how much I appreciate my freedom to be able to create my own schedule, and work on projects and clients of my choice. Next year I plan to commit to a content calendar for my blog, continue to work on securing ideal, consistent clients on retainer and take a work-free vacation!

Are You Guilty of These Common Mistakes When Pitching the Media?

Media Editors Fashion Public Relations Publicity Placement Brand

Mastering the skill of pitching is essential to garnering press coverage in clients’ target publications. A great pitch can result in anything from beautiful multi-page, in-depth features for clients to stronger relationships with top editors.

While it’s not an exact science (everyone has their own style of pitching that works for them) there are a few mistakes you should try to avoid at all costs to ensure the greatest outcome for your outreach.

Mistake #1 – Pitching the wrong person

Different editors cover different beats – from accessories to beauty, and down to specific columns. Make sure that the contact you are pitching actually covers whatever product you are pitching by researching their recent contributions before you reach out.

This can get tricky within the fashion world as many editors only cover one specific niche. If you are unsure, the best way to find know what someone covers and to make sure you are pitching appropriate info is to simply send a quick email to the person you do have contact information and ask. I like to send a one-line description and one or two images of a client’s latest line and ask who the best contact would be for XX market. When you keep it short and simple you’re likely to get a helpful response.

Mistake #2 – Including the wrong information

Make sure that every pitch you send out addresses your editor by her first name, and that you have spelled it correctly – Lindsey vs Lindsay, for example. Proofread (preferably by at least an extra set of eyes) at least twice. Resist the urge to tell a designer’s entire life story and instead focus on prioritizing the information most relevant – product details, pricing and purchase information. A poorly written, or overly wordy pitch is more likely to be trashed. If you are lucky enough to get a bite, you run the risk that incorrect info will make its way into the coverage you receive. Proofread, proofread, proofread and keep your communication brief.

Mistake #3 – Botching the Subject Line

It’s easy to put a ton of focus on the pitch itself, but the subject line you choose is often as important as (and sometimes even more so) than the body of the email. Make the editor want to open your email with your subject line with a few words that are compelling yet pithy. Choose a few words that describe the type of product rather than the brand (unless you’re working with a highly-recognizable or coveted brand) and if you have a great price point, put that in the subject line as well (“Under $100 Fall Fashion: Plaid Flannels, Lace-Up Denim, and more!”)

I recently wrote a pitch for a jewelry client that received a great response from editors. The subject line “Dainty, Sparkly Jewels to Dress Up Holiday Outfits,” resulted in interest and sample pulls from outlets including W, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, and more.

Mistake #4 – Pitching Products Off-Season

If you are pitching a super cool swimwear line, don’t pitch your bikinis to long lead (print) media in August. Your “Keep Cool this Season” email will be dead in the water; toward the end of the summer editors are working on December and January issues.

Now, just because you have an off-season item doesn’t mean you have to wait months to reach out. In PR, it’s all about the story angle – what about pitching warm weather escapes for those headed somewhere tropical for their winter holiday? However, your best bet for the most coverage is to hold off until December/January when publications begin sourcing for their (inevitable) swim stories.

I recently wrote a pitch for a jewelry client that received a great response from editors. The subject line “Dainty, Sparkly Jewels to Dress Up Holiday Outfits,” resulted in interest and sample pulls from outlets including W, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, and more.

You can still pitch for short-lead/bloggers/influencers year-round with seasonal apparel and accessories (sunglasses, winter coats, etc.), many of these people travel frequently and are working on shorter turn-around times for articles. Your rose gold bikini might be perfect for next week’s swim essentials post.

Mistake #5 – Attaching Large Files

It’s definitely important to have images that accompany your pitch, but large file sizes are often blocked by editor email servers – meaning your pitch won’t even make it to their inbox. If your email does reach your intended recipient, it’s annoying and cumbersome to have to download a large file. Instead, embed low-res image files that fit within a standard email window (no larger than 600 pixels wide).  If you have a linesheet or fashion lookbook, consider including a dropbox link instead of an attachment. Or, compress any PDF documents first with software or a free website like SmallPDF.

By avoiding these five common pitching mistakes, you’ll increase your chances of securing some fantastic placements for clients!

PR Job

Position:  Fashion & Social Media Publicist
Company: Mannfolk PR
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Learn more

NYFW via Google, Ted Baker’s Open Door Social Strategy & Staying True to Your (Online) Voice

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Fashion PR Fridays: Top Fashion, Public Relations, Marketing and Social Media News

…for the week of September 5, 2016

  • Can’t attend fashion week but want a backstage pass & the chance to shop the runway? Google has you covered and all you have to do is search “fashion week” (via Women’s Wear Daily)
  • Conde Nast pairs with IBM to adopt Watson, a platform that will further analyze the consumer’s perception of specific influencers to develop more personal digital marketing campaigns (via The Drum)
  • There are more fashion weeks in the world than New York, London, Paris, and Milan – but can these other international events bring the worldwide spectatorship afforded their more famous counterparts? (via Racked)
  • Gone are the days of creating new fashion trends, because there aren’t any new ideas left. Now the challenge is restyling the past (via The Daily Beast)
  • Ted Baker turns to social media to get people in their doors, literally (via NewsTalk)
  • Street style meets street photography; is it a craft or simply a popularity contest? (via City AM)
  • Amazon officially takes the plunge into the luxury fashion market and they’re planning for the long run (via Business of Fashion)
  • Karen Walker shares why NYFW is no longer part of her brand strategy and how she’s reaching her end consumer (via New Zeland Herald)
  • Bring true to yourself can be tough when you have influencers coming at you from all angles, but there are some great ways to maintain your online voice (via Create + Cultivate)

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10 Printable Etsy Art Posters to Instantly Dress up Agency Walls

Office Decor Ideas PR Girl

A creative work environment is an essential part of enjoying coming into work each day, not to mention setting a welcoming and on brand experience for the clients, editors, and stylists stopping by each week. New art is a quick and often affordable way to elevate workplace vibes, whether you are cubicle central or creating a gallery wall in the conference room. The task becomes even easier when you choose digital downloads, which you can then print to your exact specifications at a fraction of the cost. To help get you started, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite downloadable prints from Etsy that would be perfect eye candy for any lifestyle PR professional agency or office walls.

PR Girl Mantra
Pribish Printables, $2
Gratitude #FTW
Designs by Maria, 5.99
It's not a crime...
Words and Confetti, $5
Essential for fashion publicists
Inspire Empire, $3
Don't forget it
Type Secret, $3
..and get back to work!
The Antlered Seal $4.50
You read that like Rihanna, right?
Zeal and High Heels, $2
A sense of humor makes it better...
Gracie Lou Printables, $4
Bonus! While not a printable (or from Etsy), we couldn't resist including our very own gold foil print, perfect for any PR office! PR Couture, $28 PS: Save 20% with code GoodVibes20 until Sept. 30

PS: Welcome to our new series, PRoducts We Love! To submit an item for editorial consideration, email hello@prcouture.com or use our contact form.

PR Industry News: Small Girls Take on No Subject, BoF’s New Paid Access & INK & ROSES

PR Industry News Agency Announcements

PR Agency and Industry News

NYC-based PR and Influencer Marketing Agency Small Girls PR has acquired Los Angeles-based Event Production and Influencer Marketing Agency No Subject (for more on the founder’s of both agencies, check out this interview with Small Girls and this one with No Subject and Create & Cultivate Founder Jaclyn Johnson)

Business of Fashion has announced they will move toward a paid, subscription model starting October 25. BoF Professional will include access to all articles as well as Professional-only analysis and special briefings.

Editor database for the cosmetics industry beautypress has announced the appointment of Carmen Alfaro Baxter to the role of Sales Manager US and UK.

Full-service marketing firm INK & ROSES is now Public Relations Agency of Record for mi*Brite®, a luxury at-home teeth whitening collection. In addition to traditional PR programming, INK & ROSES will support the mi*Brite® brand by providing ongoing strategic counsel as needed for various business functions.

To submit your agency or company news for consideration, email hello[at]prcouture.com

Meet Sarah Owen, Trend Forecaster + Senior Editor at WGSN

Sarah Owen, PR Couture Interview

As the Senior Editor of Digital Media and Marketing at WGSN, Sarah Owen has spent her career examining trends in pop culture and translating them into the forecasting direction for a wide variety of industries, including fashion.

During her career, Sarah has worked with publications like Kinfolk, Vogue, and Nylon. She’s reported backstage from New York Fashion Week, written for The New York Times, and interviewed Karl Lagerfeld. For Sarah, endless analysis to identify and predict which micro-trends will eventually become meaningful is just a day in the life.

Sarah Owen, Trend Forecaster and Senior Editor

Photo: Caitlin Mitchell

Name: Sarah Owen
Company: WGSN
Title: Senior Editor of Digital Media and Marketing
Current City: New York City
Instagram: @WGSN
Twitter: @WGSN
Personal Instagram: @sarahsarahowen

How did you get started in your career?

I got started in journalism and photography quite early in Australia. I used to be the editor-at-large of a now defunct street publication called Clay, back in 2007. During that time I was also doing street style photos at festivals way before it was really a thing. I had a handful of different jobs in Australia, the most prominent one was at Country Road. I came to NYC to assist at Vogue, and that’s when my career started to take off.

How did you get the job you have now?

I joined WGSN as an assistant covering global youth trends. As the company evolved, so did my role. I ended up as Senior Editor of digital media & marketing trends. It felt like a natural transition; now I’m forced to stay tuned into cultural happenings across social media.

What are you working on?

My current role includes a lot of monitoring and reporting on social media trends, marketing strategies, and new technologies. I’ll be paying attention to all of these aspects, embedded into a collection or used to enhance a show, during New York Fashion Week.

What is most meaningful to you about your career?

Meeting and working with some of the most talented and inspiring brains in the industry – both internally and externally. My colleague Andrea Bell (who heads up our Think Tank directory) constantly motivates me and brings the most innovative perspective to the table. Getting to be a part of the conversations that shape the future is the most rewarding part of working at WGSN. 

What are you really good at?

Being curious and being a chameleon.

WSGN's Sarah Owen at a festival

Photo: Diego Zuko

Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?

Two that come to mind include the time I took a private jet to an Opening Ceremony and Intel launch during a blizzard in NYC. We needed to get to Las Vegas, so just balled out, basically. The other glamorous moment was interviewing Karl Lagerfeld, which was a childhood dream really.

Getting to be a part of the conversations that shape the future is the most rewarding part of working at WGSN. 

What do you wish more people understood about your job?

I wish more people knew that we do more than fashion-based trend forecasting. WGSN serves a multitude of industries spanning from retail and design to automotive and fast-moving consumer goods. We work in real time up to two years in advance on trends.

What are a few challenges you see facing communicators right now?

I think a few key ones are keeping up with the pace of change, especially with the increase in technology/innovation. Measuring ROI is a tough one for marketers along with the need to allow consumers to have control and be an integral part of a brand’s story.

What would you tell someone who wants to do what you do when they grow up?

Stay focused and hungry. Consume as much information outside of the industry you work in so that you bring unique knowledge that complements what you are expected to know.

Thanks Sarah!

4 Ways Publicists are Different From Event Planners

event planning career

Popular culture has led many to believe that the PR industry is just a whole lot of party planning. I blame some of our favorite fictional publicists like Sex and The City’s Samantha Jones for the onslaught of graduates with pipe dreams of planning fabulous parties for book releases, celebs and movie premieres.

Spoiler alert: it’s not always glamorous, and planning a flawless event is hard work.

While there are many similarities between PR professionals and event planners, as events are often part of a brand’s overall promotional strategy, expertise in public relations and communications doesn’t necessarily make someone skilled at producing events.

An event planner is someone who plans and executes all aspects of an event, be it internal, corporate, external or promotional. Duties often include coordinating and confirming locations and venues, transportation, on-site logistics, program schedules, guest speakers and red-carpet arrival times.

In contrast, a PR professional often collaborates with an event planner or producer on the overall concept of the event, and is often responsible for ensuring the right people (media, influencers, VIP customers) show up and are followed up with post-event. The PR person in charge acts as a defacto host during the event, facilitating media interviews and ensuring everyone understands and uses the event hashtag. The event planner in on-site to ensure all the important elements, from signage to flow, are working smoothly to ensure everyone has an amazing time.

Still, clients often mistake these two roles as one in the same, expecting a publicist to be as skilled in event execution as pitching the media. While some agencies may have an events division (particularly those who produce events regularly for fashion week, or large influencer activations), the two roles are very different.

Here are four big ways event planners differ from publicists.

A PR Pro is the life of the party but the event planner is the life behind the party.

Aside from natural differences in workload, PR professionals and event planners typically have different mindsets and thought patterns. PR professionals tend to be right-brained, possessing great creativity, critical thinking, verbosity, spontaneity, dexterity and communications skills to manage PR campaigns and client reputation with complete confidence. Event planners are usually ruled by their methodical, task-based, analytical and logical left brain, in order to give such great attention to detail on event logistics. While both jobs attract fairly outgoing and congenial individuals, each thinks differently about how to get the job done.

Preparing a client for a media interview is not the same as prepping an events team

In part, a PR professional is in the business of helping clients stay on message during media interviews, which is in part about relating to the audience or readership, and speaking in easy soundbites to ensure the best media coverage possible.

When it comes to events, every decision, from napkins to photo both props, must reinforce a brand’s unique positioning. And, beyond what attendees see, any planner worth her pay rate prepares for the worst case scenario; the host’s shoe heel to break, the bartender to run out of ice, the caterer to run late, an unexpected downpour, etc.

A PR pro friend might be able to get you out of a word jam, but your event planner friend is going to be the one with duct tape, bandaids and fishing wire in her purse.

A PR Pro is up at the crack of dawn; event planners go to bed at the crack of dawn

Those in PR are all too familiar with the 3 and 4 a.m. phone alarm to get out of bed and get on set at the TV station, primed and ready for morning show segments starting as early as 4:30 a.m. In contrast, those in event management know all too well that just because everyone else has left the party, doesn’t mean the work is done. Between clean-up, wrap-up and briefing the bosses, it could be sunrise before the event planner rests. Running an 18-hour day and falling into bed at 3 a.m. is just part of the event planers life on event days. On the other hand, PR pros will keep setting double and triple the amount of alarm clocks to keep waking up before the sun to hustle story opportunities.

A PR pro friend might be able to get you out of a word jam, but your event planner friend is going to be the one with duct tape, bandaids and fishing wire in her purse.

A PR pro faces deadlines every day, but an event planner faces the ultimate, immovable deadline

Publicists are typically facing daily, if not weekly, deadlines that keep them pitching the press, crafting great media materials, defining communications strategies, fielding crises and meeting with clients. For event planners, a ton of effort goes into just a few hours (or in the case of a fashion show, minutes). For annual or anniversary events, event planners can carry the pressure and stress of planning for months or even years.

Yes, you need “p” and “r” to spell party, but brands who understand that they need both a communications expert and an events expert will ensure better results and bigger reach from events. 

How to Pitch Beauty Editors, Life Before the Internet, & the History of #RoséAllDay

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Fashion PR Fridays: Top Fashion, Public Relations, Marketing and Social Media News

…for the week of August 29, 2016

  • Ahh the tricky business of celebrity endorsements. Do you know about the all-important morals clause?  (via Branding Strategy Insider)
  • What PR skills are necessary for a successful PR career? Here are three that will help you to stand out from the rest (via PR News)
  • The last generation to know life before the internet speaks up, and what they have to say may surprise you (via Quartz)
  • If you’re also feeling like the #roséallday hashtag came to life overnight, you’ll appreciate this analysis of the rosé trend (via Red Door)

PR Girls We Love: Sarah Lynch, Global Brand Marketing Manager at Missguided

We Interview the Global Brand Manager of Missguided UK

Things are about to get crazy for Sarah Lynch, Global Marketing Manager for UK-based fashion brand Missguided.  The company just announced that it will branch out from its current e-commerce only strategy and open up a 20,000 square foot store in London this fall. Add to that the continued growth and development of the Missguided shopping app, which currently has over half a million users, and it’s clear that the brand is in an exciting period of major growth.

In between the chaos, Sarah managed to slip away from her desk at the company’s new headquarters in Manchester to chat with PR Couture about how she got started in the industry and the challenges ahead for marketing and communication professionals.

Photo of Missguided Global Brand Marketing Manager, Sarah LynchName: Sarah Lynch
Company: Missguided
Title: Global Brand Marketing Manager
Current City: Liverpool
Missguided Instagram: @missguided
Missguided Twitter: @missguided
Instagram: @sarahlynchie_

How did you get started in Marketing?

I worked at numerous marketing agencies before getting my advertising and social media experience at Shop Direct, a large online department store group based in the UK. I’ve been with Missguided for almost two years now and currently manage marketing, PR, advertising, and social media for all global territories.

What are your primary responsibilities?

My primary responsibilities in terms of PR are to oversee the management of our PR agencies in UK, US, and Australia. I also create and execute PR strategies that are designed to meet our business objectives and drive brand awareness and growth in each territory. This includes building relationships with media and influencers and creating or considering proposals for activations and events. I also work closely with other departments at Missguided to create integrated campaigns and marketing plans. I love to invest time in my team to make sure they’re happy, motivated and progressing in their careers.

Being thrown into the deep end meant that I learned the ropes quickly across numerous countries around the world.

How did your marketing career morph to include PR?

My background is in advertising and social media, and when an opportunity came up at Missguided which included managing the PR team, I jumped at it! I’d worked closely with PR managers and agencies in previous roles, and had good knowledge of the media and press industry, so I had a good understanding of what was involved and knew I could make the right decisions, even if I hadn’t had much experience in the day-to-day workings. I took a bit of a risk and just went for it! Being thrown into the deep end meant that I learned the ropes quickly across numerous countries around the world.

What are you working on right now?

We have a couple of really exciting launches coming up this fall which we’re all working towards at the moment, but I can’t give anything away. In addition to supporting the constant stream of new product drops and stories, Christmas is a key season for us, so we’re focusing on making it the best party season yet!

PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?

I have the outlook that you can only do what you can do, so as long as I know I’ve tried my best and tried every possible option, if something doesn’t come off how I’d hoped I don’t get too down about it. There’s a lesson in everything, so as long as we learn from rejection or challenging times, it will always be better next time.

What are you really good at?

I have good attention to detail, but especially as I’ve worked up to a more senior level I’ve found I’m good at seeing the bigger picture, knowing where something falls in the grand scheme of things and whether it’s going to make a difference or not. It helps that I’m from a brand background, but also have a good grasp on the commercial side of things, which helps me make the best decisions and work well with other departments of the business.

Missguided UK Headquarters with Sarah Lynch

Sarah Lynch inside the chic Missguided HQ.

What is a recent success story that makes you especially proud?

Our Spring 2016 brand campaign with Pamela Anderson was a particular highlight thanks to the amount of global coverage we achieved and the positive response to Pam and our work with her. Pamela is an icon and a figure of empowerment, which is what we stand for as a brand, and so it was the perfect partnership to launch us into Spring/Summer ‘16 and make people look twice!

What is the most memorable/meaningful moment in your career thus far?

I think it would be early on in my career when I was just starting out working in social media, I was asked to live tweet for a brand from the red carpet of a big televised awards ceremony here in the UK. I was new and super nervous, but I was trusted to do it, and I was on an absolute high afterward. I loved every minute and thankfully it went well. I probably wouldn’t think twice about it now, but at the time it gave me a huge confidence boost and the motivation to push myself outside of my comfort zone, so it meant a lot.

What about the most glamorous moment in your career thus far?

I’ve been lucky enough in my work to attend fancy events and to be treated to lovely meals and hospitality. One of my favorite ‘special’ moments was being flown first class to Cape Town for work and given cocktails on arrival at our lovely hotel. It was a special experience and one I’ll never forget.

Swing Chairs at Missguided Headquarters in UK.

Swinging chairs at Missguided HQ.

Least glamorous moment in your career thus far:

There have been many – for every glamorous moment there have been at least 20 un-glamorous ones that aren’t shared on Instagram! Spending hours sorting through samples, doing paper work, sitting in a wet field for hours on end while we captured the perfect shot was how I spent many days early on. It wasn’t very glamorous.

What do you wish more people understood about your job?

I wish more people understood that it’s not always fun and glamorous! Behind every piece of coverage or event there’s a lot of hard work, things to consider and decisions to be made, which might not seem obvious to people who only see the finished piece but without it, the outcome could be very different.

The biggest challenge for communicators right now is the speed in which people consume information.

What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion communicators right now?

The biggest challenge for communicators right now is the speed in which people consume information. We have to know how to tap into it and ensure that we’re relevant while also reaching the right audience- it takes strategy and planning. It’s also a huge opportunity for us because our audience is so digitally savvy which makes keeping up and standing out from the competition a constant challenge.

Thanks, Sarah!

Is Your Workplace Toxic? 5 Signs it’s Time to Rethink Your Current Job

5 Signs of a Toxic Work Environment

No workplace is perfect. There will always be challenges and obstacles to overcome, even in what might seem like an ideal office. However, if going to work feels more like being in a scene of the Devil Wears Prada, your office may have unfortunately crossed the line from challenging into toxic.

What exactly is a toxic work environment? If your workplace is showing any of the following 5 signs, it’s time to re-evaluate your current position and explore finding a better fit elsewhere. Life is too short to be miserable at work!

1. There are Constant Communication Breakdowns

Lack of communication within an office can be detrimental to the growth and success of the business. Without healthy communication, it is virtually impossible for a team to work together to accomplish a task. If you aren’t given all the information necessary to complete an assignment, are left out of the loop regarding major decisions, never receive timely reviews or consistent feedback to improve yourself, then communication isn’t functioning where you are. Lack of transparency, encouragement and recognition leads employees to feel as though they aren’t a valuable part of the business. Eventually, this can lead to a losing the passion and drive that you feel for your career.

2. Overwhelming Negativity

Lack of communication and openness often breeds resentment and negativity. No one wants to dread going into work every morning, and if walking through the doors each day puts you instantly on edge, nervous, or uncomfortable, it’s time to take a step back. These types of feelings can crush creativity, hamper your ability to produce high-quality work, and discourage you from asking to receive the training you need to advance your career to the next step. If your office is embroiled in cliques, complaints and a general air of stress and frustration, your probably in a toxic work environment.

3. Lack of Leadership

Creating and maintaining a positive environment of an office starts at the top, with executive and management personnel setting the tone for everyone else. If you see your supervisors acting more like middle school mean girls, that will inform the standards of behavior for the entire office. f your boss puts herself first, takes credit for other people’s work, gives special treatment to a chosen few, or expresses anger in an inappropriate way, you’re likely finding it very difficult to be successful, feel heard and have any trust for those in charge. 

4. Competition is praised over Collaboration

In public relations, much like other creative and service-based industries, collaboration – across teams, disciplines and with other agencies, outside experts, and vendors will have a direct impact on success or failure. A work environment turns toxic when employees are more concerned with their own personal success and promotion than what’s best for a client or the agency as a whole. When competition between team members becomes more important than collaboration, or a need to “own” the work results in a lack of willingness to bring in outside help, or entertain other perspectives, quality of work and reputation are put in jepoardy. If you’re working with people who only do the work when it benefits them, or who are unwilling to go the extra mile to share knowledge and friendly advice, the toxic flares have gone up.

5. Your Personal Life is Affected

For the amount of time you spend we spend at the office, it’s a bit like a second home. Being in a toxic environment for 8+ hours each day can negatively impact your quality of life and your habits outside of the office. If you’re finding yourself engaging in behaviors like unhealthy eating, running shoes gathering dust, restless sleeping and increased alcohol consumption, you might be trying to soothe or escape from the realities of your job. If you find that you are starting to indulge in unhealthy habits outside of work as a result of your day, it’s time to re-evaluate your position and whether your job is worth your personal health.

If you find yourself in a work environment that possess one of the above signs, it’s important to set aside time to re-evaluate what you are looking for in an employer, how much it is affecting your personal life, and how much longer you can maintain your happiness in your current the position.  While no office will be perfect all the time and speaking up about the problem may lead to a solution, once you have exhausted all attempts, or are experiencing emotional manipulation, fear-based tactics or a general growing dread of going into work, remember that you’re not stuck; your perfect job could be just around the corner.

Create a Brand Ambassador Program in 3 Easy Steps

Turn your Audience into Brand Ambassadors.

A brand will be hard-pressed to grow without the support of its audience. Take the Skimm for instance. I learned about the company through a friend and my friends regularly hear about the company from me. This sort of word-of-mouth endorsement happens all the time, and often under the radar for many brands.

In order to capitalize on the natural recommendation engine that powers conversations among friends, family members and coworkers, many companies rely on support from their loyal audience members to amplify awareness and enthusiasm to help drive business goals. By inviting customers to become part of the company mission as ambassadors, loyalty and third-party credibility is strengthened.

What can we learn from brands who have successfully mobilized their audiences to help with promotion? Here are 3 key takeaways to help you formalize an ambassador program, or simply ensure you are making it easy for brand enthusiasts to help drive the message forward:

1. Focus on where ambassadors and potential customers naturally interact with one another

As part of its 10th-anniversary activities, the Jessica Simpson brand offered a one-semester brand ambassador program aimed at college women at 10 universities. To be part of the program, ambassadors had to complete a multi-step application process which included interviews and completing a creative project. “Jessica Simpson is an awesome brand, especially because it caters to all sizes of females,” says Emily Randall, program manager at Youth Marketing Connection (YMC) — the company that coordinated the ambassador program. “Her line doesn’t discriminate and anyone can wear and feel good in Jessica Simpson.” The brand listened to the customer and was authentic and personable, and had ambassadors at each school represent and promote them through social media content and events. She also notes that “The results of this program were the successful awareness of the Jessica Simpson brand, increased engagement of the brand on social media, and increased social impressions on social media, ultimately leading to increased sales online and at store retailers,” and that although this was a one-semester deal, they are still in contact with the brand and hope to offer another activation in the future.

Nia Washington was one of two ambassadors at University of Georgia, and her role consisted of spreading awareness via social media, hosting free events ranging from fashion to pop-up shows, and visiting campus organizations to talk about the Jessica Simpson brand. At each event attendees left with free JS clothing, accessories and beauty products. Nia believes it was successful because the Jessica Simpson and YMC teams used college girls to market to, well, college girls. She says, “We knew how to relate to our audience because we were part of the target demographic. People want to hear about fashion advice from people they can relate to and trust.” She also notes that “the program allowed me to strengthen my marketing skills, grow my social network, and add a ton of beautiful pieces from the JS collection to my wardrobe.”

2. Build in feedback mechanisms (and take suggestions to heart)

Another brand that successfully targets the college demographic is 31 Bits, a socially good fashion brand. Each semester, the brand works with a team of international students who represent 31 Bits on their campuses. Reps have the opportunity to earn money through sales tied to their activities and to gain experience in event planning and social media. They also help their reps set up a marketing plan, use an exclusive Facebook group, and have a handbook that provides information about the jewelry, the company, sales tips and tricks, and event ideas.

Courtney Frantz, 31 Bits’ Director of Involvement, explains that “campus reps have truly paved the way for 31 Bits’ future in each of their own communities and campuses. Thanks to our passionate advocates and campus representatives, 31 Bits has been able to make an even larger impact on empowering people to rise above poverty.” Importantly, the company listens to ambassador feedback to help improve the program and influence company decision-making.

3.  Connect around lifestyle/values, not simply the product

For nearly 4 years, FitGirls_Inspire has celebrated women who love to lift and lead a healthy lifestyle through apparel and content.  The company’s brand ambassador program focuses on working with social media influencers who are already passionate about health and fitness. Ambassadors are required to share a weekly photo or video highlighting Fit Girls_Inspire clothing (ambassadors get new styles first), along with an ambassador-specific discount code that can be shared with followers.

The company understands that truly effective ambassadors balance passion with promotion. Founder and CEO Anual John Jackson Jr shares that he looks for ambassadors who are excited to “spread not only the clothing but the entire message on which the company was founded,” noting that “being honest and believing in what you stand for is the best way to grab audiences’ attention and grow organically.”

These are just a few of ways brands are connecting with their audiences to become brand ambassadors. In the end, authenticity, access, and respect are tenants that make it easy for enthusiasts to continue to spread the good word about the companies they love.