With more than thirteen years of experience in prestige talent, PR, and influencer marketing, Courtney provides clients like Best Buy, Bare Escentuals, Hasbro and others with a unique holistic view of entertainment marketing, implementing ROI driven strategy and execution.
Courtney began her career in consumer marketing at Cohn & Wolfe Public Relations, and went on to accept a Vice President position at Alison Brod Relations two years later. She has been at Cogent since 2012.
Tell us a bit about your career journey to date
I started my career in PR and shifted into influencer and talent relations when I saw how it could benefit clients and there wasn’t anyone staffed to fill the void. I took a chance and started on a career path knowing I’d make a lot of mistakes along the way and learn through trial by fire – but I loved it! I was perfectly happy at the job I had, but then Mark Zablow (CEO of Cogent) came to me with an opportunity to build something from scratch with him. Something told me to take another risk and go for it – I’m so happy I did! We started as a company of 4 people and now have over 40 employees and a roster of global brands as clients. Cogent even won a spot on Ad Week’s “Best Places to Work” last year!
What are your primary responsibilities?
I lead over the talent team and work closely with Mark on strategy and overall marketing for our company. And I am always keeping an eye out for new fresh talent to pair with our brands. The influencer pool is so big so it’s important to do a lot of digging and find the perfect person who can relay your message authentically.
Tell us a little bit about how Cogent is structured?
We have a talent team made up of experienced talent buyers, former talent publicists, talent managers, and a mix of experts in the influencer space.
What is the mood like in the office? What are you working on right now?
We like to keep it light and make each other laugh. One of my favorite things about my job is my coworkers. We have an in-house (self-proclaimed) DJ that pumps ’90’s hip hop most days and Rise Nitro coffee on tap. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, but since we are dealing with massive amounts of deal flow and many little details, we go from fun to focused in seconds to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
What is a recent success story that makes you especially proud?
Fossil’s latest ad campaign was one of my favorite projects to date. We identified talent who had an emotional affinity to the Fossil brand and helped tell their stories through compelling content and consumer experiences. Partnering with Austin Mahone’s tour and having Yara Shahidi hosting a breakfast panel at The Wing on empowering young women are a few examples of how Fossil authentically approached working with talent versus the many “me too” influencer campaigns we see today.
Most memorable moment in your career thus far?
As someone who has had many mentors, I would say the most meaningful moment in my career thus far has been getting to the point where I can recruit and hire amazing team members. Having an opportunity to show them the ropes and support their careers is incredibly meaningful to me.
The influencer pool is so big so it’s important to do a lot of digging and find the perfect person who can relay your message authentically.
Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?
This question feels a bit ironic, because as anyone in the industry knows, our jobs aren’t actually that glamorous. But the stress up midnight emails and weekend conference calls that go into pulling together successful brand partnerships and events are worth it when you see a stacked red carpet, a campaign go viral, or when you can exhale and congratulate your team once the job is done.
Least glamorous moment in your career thus far?
I was traveling internationally for an appearance with a celebrity I won’t mention. On the way to the event she decided she did not like her shoes, but she liked mine. She squeezed her larger sized feet into my shoes, and I walked around the event shoeless for the evening.
PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?
At Cogent we use a phrase “batting average versus free throws” – basedon how you measure success you can go 5 for 10 and be the best baseball player or the worst free throw shooter ever… all how you measure success and manage expectations!
When I encounter circumstances beyond my control, I just pause and remember that I know my stuff. People get stressed or make a mistake, but in the end there is always a way to fix it. There is no situation in which a compromise or Plan B can’t be established to still achieve our goal.
What are three current favorite tools, apps, or products that you love and why?
Instagram will always be a favorite, because it helps me stay current on up and coming talent that I should watch out for. Also, getting a visual on someone’s style and personality helps me to match them with the right client.
The WWD and THR app – check them every morning before I get out of bed.
Postmates and Amazon Prime, because between work and my one and a half year old son, I don’t have time to shop.
What do you wish more people understood about your job?
There are no guarantees when it comes to talent. You could brainstorm the perfect partner for a launch or event, but they may not be interested in engaging with the brand. Or, you craft a campaign around a high-level name and it ultimately doesn’t move the needle for sales. Not every swing is a home run; it’s about being flexible and learning for the next round.
What are you excited about right now?
The surge of female empowerment that is happening with brands. The mix of fashion and entertainment and politics and advocacy for women is amazing and I’m here for it!
What’s the biggest challenge facing lifestyle communicators right now?
In the marketing industry, it is this bubble that’s occurred with talent commanding high fees for engagement. It’s why I find it most important to partner with talent that have a genuine connection to the brand or campaign message, rather than paying top dollar for an A-List name. They will work with you to give you what you need and get what they need within reason without high demands.
People get stressed or make a mistake, but in the end there is always a way to fix it.
What advice do you have for your younger self?
Don’t let anyone intimidate you!