by Gemma Jones This post can originally be found here
Ah fashion PR. Ever since the the high brand fashion PR girls (you know…the fashion media goddesses, such as the almighty OscarPR girl/Erika Bearman…) decided to publicly tweet, blog and Facebook away about her job antics..with you know the “usual” 9 to 5 agenda, the casual name dropping of celebs, the oodles of international trips and champagne swilling parties, a career in Fashion PR has never before looked so (in the worlds of the immortal Coco Chanel) “classy and fabulous.”
The success of popular reality TV shows like “Project Runway,” “Kell on Earth” and “The City,” have also inspired many public relations students and recent graduates to break into the world of fashion PR. But one must remember that all these lavish ladies such as Whitney Port, Olivia Palermo, Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington… they are at the peaks of their careers. And before you can even think of sipping some martini’s at a high end Monte Carlo fashion bash or hailing that yellow cab in New York City, you may have a long and laborious ladder to climb first.
So what does a PR do exactly? Since publicity is free, a fashion PR company or executive would be responsible for; building relationships with the press (they basically have to make friends with fashion editors, writers and journalists so that these people will write about/feature the product); organising and managing guestlists for promotional events; gifting (sending free product to key editors or celebrities in the hope that they’ll use or write about it); writing, distributing and following up on press releases and press packs; dealing with requests from the press and celebrity PRs; and reporting back to clients on the publicity they’re getting for the brands. PR Reps also help maintain the public image of the brand. They may help with marketing initiatives, or photo shoots, or just maintain the overall perception of the brands mission and image to the market.
So like any other sector in the media (such as journalism for instance) fashion PR is becoming more and more competitive because of how popular culture is depicting is as one of the most charismatic and glamorous jobs in the fashion industry. All the fashion aesthetic and pleasure without the hardcore and challenging sewing/design work. And of course it can be all these stylish things, but only in good time. One must be be prepared to start from the bottom and become acquainted the pains, pressures and hard work that will in due course put you on the winding road towards PR success. So, still fancy becoming the next Gucci PR Gal or Lavin PR Lady? Darlings, go get yourself a notebook and please be ready to take note…
Here are some essential pointers that could assist you onto conquering the yellow brick road of a Fashion PR career:
1. University degree: If you are lucky enough to live in the metropolis of London you may be able to just study for a college diploma in Fashion or for your A-Levels and brave the world of fashion by falling straight into internships. However most Fashion PR wannabe’s will consider doing an undergraduate degree first just as educational insurance in case this becomes a requirement later on. Regarding the academic discipline of your degree it be anything you wish. Still most successful employees in the PR industry usually have an undergraduate degree in the following areas: Journalism, PR, Media studies, English, Fashion, Marketing, History etc. If you don’t have a degree in these disciplines it may still be possible for you to pursue a career as a PR associate however you may need to do some independent research/work to put you up to scratch with the others. I suppose if you want it enough you will be determined to prove your worth!
2. Work experience: This is a absolute must if you want to place a foot in the first rung of that PR career ladder. While employers aren’t so fussed on your degree discipline, nothing in the world beats hands on experience on the job. When you do your work experience however is entirely up to you. Many students who do a sandwich 4 year course at university will opt to do an industry placement as part of their course. Other students who follow through with more traditional degrees like English may have to do work experience alongside their studies and attempt to balance it out. The best advice is to gain some sort of work experience in the first or second year of your degree so you can concentrate getting the very best marks in your last year. And if you live outside of London where many of the placements and internships are, be prepared to plan ahead and email in advance to avoid nasty surprises of clashing dates and availability!
3. Finding work experience: Finding work experience has never been so easy in this day and age. Long gone are the days were we would have to write letters and deliver them by snail mail post, now we have the world wide web at out fingertips. Sit down with a brew and scour through job websites such as FashionMonitor.com and FashionJobs.com to keep up to date with the latest internship and work placements as and when they happen. And do not just limit yourself to search engine websites. The social media era has now become pervasive with everyone, in every country and with every age. Even your Grandma has probably got a Facebook account and is probably in more tagged pictures than you are. So instead of just using Facebook and Twitter for talking to your friends use it for tracking down companies and employers!
4. Twitter, the biggest social network of them all: Never before has Twitter been in demand so much. Many find it an unfamiliar social media to begin with but once they have sent a few dozen tweets and gained a few followers, it has never become so addictive. You find yourself hash-tagging everything in virtual sight. So if you find yourself on Twitter more times than you would like to admit, use that internet hovering to good use! Track down other who are in similar positions to you to ask for advice, tweet companies directly asking for work placements, follow important people in the industry who might be able to get you a job and reply to their tweets as friendly as you can, in order to show an interest…believe me in the end you will be rewarded for your research and friendliness!
Nonetheless even though Twitter may have its advantages, I’d advise also to be wary of what you voice on there. Unlike Facebook, Twitter has less privacy settings regarding your personal information so don’t write anything down on there you would not want a prospective employer to see. But all in all, regarding PR placements and internships, Twitter is thee place where they are most regularly advertised. All day every day. You never know when Jonathan Saunders may need an assistant or if Henry Holland requires a few dozen interns. You just have to be at the right virtual place at the right virtual time…
5. Blogging – As a PR student it might be an idea to show an interest in your area of work by writing a fashion blog. Fashion bloggers have really made their mark in recent years and because of their willingness to write fashion/beauty reviews, articles or whatever interests them they have ended up landing secure PR jobs and placements because of that blog. An employer for instance would gain a brilliant insight into your personality and a taster of how much you want a particular role or how you would fit into the philosophy of their company just through looking at your blog content. And never fear if it’s not as good as some of the other “big bloggers” blogs. Employers will be able to see through that facade of how many “followers” and “comments” being tantamount to your “success.” It is sheer nonsense. Evidently if you have hundreds of followers then that by all means is fruitful. BUT they will appreciate content over the social factors of it. Blogging after all is not a popularity contest nor should it be enthused to be so.
6. Gaining work experience: Congratulations on getting a placement! But this is were the hard work begins. You must ensure you are punctual for your first day in order to set a good impression. Be friendly, appeasing, willing and approachable as the team you are working in will appreciate those qualities. As it’s fashion PR they won’t expect you to dress so corporal so feel free to dress to revel in your own normal attire. Nonetheless remember it is a fashion placement so be sure to adhere to particular style that will get you noticed for your creativity or wear certain trends you know to be in vogue to stress that you are indeed “style savvy.”
Sadly you may be making tea, photocopying, sitting at a desk, liasoning, answering the phone, on Excel etc on your first day but don’t feel disheartened by this. You must take it on the chin and continue to smile. What did you expect on your first day? That’d you be whisked away with a senior member of staff to eat danish pastry The Savoy or to go to an exhibition in Paris? Of course not. So remember to use your time to observe productively. See what other employees are doing. Ask them questions on how they got their role or to show you how to function particular software or operate different tasks. As a result you will be appear an interested and eager individual and more likely to be remembered for all the right reasons instead of sulking in the corner like a diva. This may be a job in the fashion industry but it gives you no right to appropriate “model behavior” akin to that of Naomi Campbell.
7. After the work experience: YAY you have survived your first tests of PR Fashion girl work. Now what? Well the experience should have taught you whether you feel that PR would be the right career for you or not. If it is and you imagine yourself in your mind as the next Olivia P then you should be focused on securing your next placement. However that does not mean you should disregard the first company that took you under their wing. If you had a really productive time, perhaps suggest an opportunity for working for the employer again in the next few months? Perhaps write down the names of the contacts you have made and ask whether you can keep in touch? Remember networking is crucial to the fashion industry and by regularly tweeting, writing emails and referring to a previous colleague who knows what that person could do for your potential career prospects? One day you could work with someone who knows Kate Moss, Lily Cole or the editor of a big fashion magazine. What I’m saying is that without networking, if you never ask, you will never know! I’d particularly stress making a LinkedIn account to, a social networking site designed for professionals. (www.linkedin.com)
These tips then are just the basis to springboard your career into the fashion PR industry. These points would probably be the most traditional of avenues but don’t feel you have to completely adhere to it. Most PR employees have diverse and wide ranging backgrounds of how their secured their jobs in the industry which makes it all the more interesting, attainable and reassuring to us who may be apprehensive or nervous about whether we can succeed! Still, it would not hurt to take this advice on board to know what you are up against. As a person you need to be (like with any other career in the fashion industry) determined, hard working, willing to work long and unconventional hours, fashion conscious and knowledgeable, adaptable, passionate, calm under pressure, have a range of interpersonal skills and most significantly of all, be confident. Fashion is a industry full of strong willed characters therefore it is essential that you raise your voice high and proud to have it heard. There are no quiet or mousy plain Jane’s in this field of work. Oh no. Only a parade of colourful and loud characters that bring personality and essence to a brand. Candidates of the highest style calibre if you please…
So the question is…could you then be the next OscarPR girl or a Lagerfeld lass? Oh Reality TV watch your back or indeed watch your production budget…because slowly but surely they’ll be a new influx of PR girls swarming into town…