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Publicist Q&A: Getting to Know Lauren Berg Donovan, Presidnt of Skirt PR Front Row Fashion PR Interview Series

Publicist Q&A: Getting to Know Lauren Berg Donovan, President of Skirt PR

Skirt PR is a Chicago-based, full-service PR firm that excels in strategic media relations, brand marketing, event planning/execution and social media for clients in a variety of industries, such as beauty, fashion, and lifestyle. Skirt PR President Lauren Berg Donovan was on her way toward becoming a lawyer when a fashion PR internship with Skirt changed everything.

How did you get started in PR? 

I stumbled into PR and was in fact on track to go to law school after college. Thankfully, I interned at a law firm my junior year of college and discovered it just wasn’t for me. I wanted to do something with more creative freedom, where I dealt with people, not paper, all day. This led to some soul searching. I focused on what it was that interested me in my personal life. I’ve always loved media and subscribe to (and devour) countless magazines a month. Some friends in the journalism school at Northwestern suggested I might enjoy being their counterpoint in the industry – a publicist. I did some research, fell in love with a local PR agency called Skirt PR and was politely persistent until I landed an internship there. The internship turned into a full-time position after three months and the rest is history! I’ve now been at Skirt for seven years and am the president of the agency.

What is the mood like in the office? What are you working on right now?

We work out of a loft office in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago and the open, airy space lends itself to a creative and inspiring environment. The mood is collaborative and fun, but at the same time, the team is a determined and productive group so there’s lots of fingers pounding on keyboards for much of the day! Right now, we’re working on some exciting updates to the Skirt PR website, as well as some innovative campaigns for brands like Rent the Runway, Fromm and Hush Puppies. As I write this, I’m gearing up to work with a photographer at a society gala at Lincoln Park Zoo this evening, Zoo Ball. There’s certainly never a dull moment!

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The @SkirtPR Instagram is one of our favorites

What are three must-haves that are essential to your job?

1. An organized Outlook calendar. I honestly couldn’t live without my calendar – if it isn’t on the agenda, it pretty much isn’t happening. With most days filled to the brim with back-to-back meetings, a useful trick I’ve learned is to schedule time at my desk in advance and block it off, just like I would a meeting.

2. The Skimm. I adore this daily newsletter that provides me with the headlines and major news stories of the day. It keeps me informed and does so in a tone and manner that I find enjoyable and relatable. It’s important in our industry to be constantly informed – you never know where inspiration for a pitch will come from!

3. Starbucks Venti Blonde Soy Misto. I can’t effectively start my busy days without a jolt of Starbucks caffeine.

What makes an ideal client for your agency?

At Skirt, we are lucky enough to be selective when it comes to the clients we work with. An ideal client is one that we feel personally passionate about and easily integrate into our lives. Nothing fuels a PR campaign like genuine interest and belief in a brand and we’re lucky to say that we feel that way about all of the clients on our roster. It inspires us to work with fellow women-owned businesses, as well as young startups. Nothing feels better than being part of a brand’s success story and knowing that we played a role in helping them achieve their dreams!

Nothing feels better than being part of a brand’s success story and knowing that we played a role in helping them achieve their dreams!

What is a recent success story you’re proud of?

We recently worked with Rent the Runway to open their brick-and-mortar store in Chicago. This is a brand that I’ve been personally following (and using) since it launched several years ago, so the opportunity to help them make a splash in our hometown of Chicago was a dream come true. Due to the amazing efforts of my team, I’m proud to say that the opening was a smashing success. We secured just short of one million media impressions; introduced the brand to nine incredible entrepreneurial women that serve as ongoing brand ambassadors; and produced a launch event that was attended by more than 175 of Chicago’s finest tastemakers and generated 164 Instagram posts in just two hours! The client was thrilled and has continued to expand upon our partnership, which is the ultimate sign of success in my eyes.

Rent the Runway's first brick-and-mortar store in Chicago.

Rent the Runway's first brick-and-mortar store in Chicago.

How do you get the word out about your agency?

We are very fortunate in that 85% of our business stems directly from referrals. We prefer to fly a bit more under the radar when it comes to self-promotion – we leave that side of our brains to client-facing business. Our social media presence has been the primary vehicle (and an effective one, at that) for establishing a brand personality and giving prospective clients a sneak peek into who we are.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since you started working in PR?

Be politely persistent until you turn that no into a yes. But also accept the fact that rejection is part of the job and don’t let it get you down. In fact, let it serve as motivation and determination to get a yes next time.

SSkirt's 10 Year Anniversary Party

Skirt's 10 Year Anniversary Party

What excites you about PR these days?

What excites me about PR is what has always drawn me to the industry – its ever-evolving nature. Just as no day is the same for me or my team, there’s no blueprint for PR and where the industry will be in one, three or five years. I love that regular people who are doing cool things (we like to call them tastemakers) have emerged as key components to successful campaigns for the brands we work with. It brings a new, more organic feel to what we do. That being said, I will always love a good, glossy magazine and feel confident that print publications will continue to stand the test of time.

Thanks, Lauren! Don't forget to connect with Lauren and the Skirt PR team on Instagram and Twitter 

Show A PR Couture Guest Article By Danielle Robin

How to Build and Measure Brand Loyalty through Live Events

Yes, we live in a digital world, but live experiences are far from dead or passé.  From creative industry conferences to summer camps for adults, music festivals and Airstream pop-up shops, opportunities for experiential marketing abound.

It's easy to understand how in-person experiences can build brand love and loyalty among key audiences. Yet measuring the impact of these efforts is less than straightforward for many marketers. First, we must define success as being both about the quality of the event experience for attendees as well as the ROI of brand impact for event hosts and sponsors.  If we know to consider the full lifecycle of an event, we can pinpoint measurement opportunities at key moments, which unlocks our ability to truly understand the value of physical brand marketing.

Consider first impressions carefully

As marketers, it can be easy to focus on the post-event impact, when really we need to begin by recognizing the importance of that initial guest experience. In addition to crafting a truly special experience, be ready to adjust based on initial arrival response - how does the room feel, how comfortable do the first attendees seem? Is everyone being greeted properly? Is important signage being missed in their current location?  Notice anything that seems out of place or stuck in terms of flow and fix it before the night goes into full swing. First guest impressions can really help you steer the event toward success.

Plan for - and harness - the ripple effect

When done correctly, social media is the perfect compliment to a live experience.  However, success is not simply getting people to post on social media with a hashtag (or reporting that final number of social mentions as proof of building buzz). A stronger marker of event success is tracking how many people who were not at the event shared, commented or otherwise engaged with event coverage. On the brand side, you can help encourage this type of sharing by creating social media assets - think educational facts, inspirational quotes and moments, photos and videos - and making it easy for people to capture these at the event as well as encouraging reposts on brand-owned channels. Social media is powerful, but it's most powerful when you are creating opportunity for engagement but individuals who were not even at your event!

Build evaluation into the event experience

One of the best ways to determine the value of your event is to directly ask attendees, so don't be afraid to get feedback from your guests. Design a post-event survey or follow-up communication delivered at the end of the event (or the morning after), inviting attendees to tell you what they think. Qualitative research is a great way to analyze impact and make improvements for future events. You never know what you're going to hear, and it's always worth it to open these floodgates.

Develop a means for attendees to stay connected

If you are creating a live experience that engages, educates and inspires attendees, it's in your best interest to also provide an environment where that conversation may continue. Whether a follow up event, membership site, social group or forum, don't just let the energy of the event die. Drop in occasionally to recap the experience and remind everyone the key takeaways and keep them posted on brand movements.

Another way to understand impact is to continue to measure post- event conversation and engagement. From a business perspective, staying connected to attendees offers a highly engaged, loyal community who are likely going to be more interested in attending your next event, promoting your initiative or spreading the word than audiences who have yet to experience your event. Your community doesn't need to live on forever, but engagement should never stop when a live experiences ends.

Measuring event impact and success takes a lot of awareness and reading between the lines, but it can be done. We often view these types of experiences as having a clear start and end time- but once we open our eyes, it becomes clear that some of the best engagement is happening before and after the experience is over. If we can learn to capture that effect, we can produce huge results in brand loyalty.

PS: For a quick dose of inspiration, just take a look some of the recent brand activations at this past week's Comic-Con in San Diego.

About Danielle Robin 

Danielle is the Director of Content Strategy for CatalystCreativ. Listed on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 for Advertising and Marketing, CatalystCreativ is an experience studio that's focused on helping cities, brands and institutions flourish by developing educational and inspirational experiences through strategy as well as on and offline campaigns to engage Millennials. CatalystCreativ is funded by Zappos CEO and venture capitalist Tony Hsieh as part of the Downtown Project. Robin and CatalystCreativ have worked with brands such as NPR, Dell, Ekocycle and Starwood Hotels. Be sure to follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

 

Image via: Event Photos NYC

FPRF Fashion PR, Marketing & Social Media News for the Week of July 6, 2015

Instagram Marketing, The World of Internet Influencers & Chanel’s Casino Couture

  • Chanel's fall couture show goes Casino Royale with Kristen Stewart, Julianne Moore and a lot of dice rolling. (via Fashionista)
  • How to engage that interesting millennial brain on social media. (via PR News Online)
  • A guide to creating a killer Instagram marketing strategy. (via Sprout Social)
  • A celebrity divorce expert gives us the low down and why these seemingly perfect marriages aren’t what they seem. (via The Cut)
  • Saks is waiting for the Stuart Weitzman love in this new vine video campaign. (via Luxury Daily)
  • Are market appointments going to go digital in this new online world? (via Who What Wear)
  • The new subscription service that can change the way you deal with your period. Period. (via TechCrunch)
  • Retailers are bundling social and shopping networks together to create the ultimate experience. (via The Independent)
  • Social media, affiliate networks and Internet influencers. Oh my! An in-depth look at the new world of marketing. (via CIO)
  • A few words that need to make their way out of the PR vernacular. Bye! (via Paul Sutton)

Favorite Fashion Videos


 

Photo Credit: Shannow

Meet Crosby Noricks

Hi. I'm Crosby, Founder of PR Couture, Fashion Brand Strategist and PR Girl Mentor. I care about supporting and celebrating fashion publicists as well as helping companies connect with their audiences in more meaningful ways. Recently, iMedia included me in their annual list of 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, along with people from Starbucks, Twitter and Volkswagon, which I think is pretty neat. Like Elle Woods, I am a Gemini-vegetarian (that's about where the similarities end). Let's connect: Check out my full bio, Brand Elixir sessions or shoot me a note at crosby@prcouture.com.