I started my PR career over 10 years ago. I was young, hungry to work and very creative. I used to get outfit inspiration from people walking in the street, from celebrities who nobody knew and from magazine editors – who no one saw in front of the camera.
I found people amazing, so interesting and from doing lots of work experience in magazine, while working part time and attending uni working on my degree – I knew I had to work in fashion. I remember my first day and even my interview for my first ever PR job – a big PR agency who are still going strong today working with big high street and online brands. The townhouse was packed full of rails, shoes, bags, and the doorbell was always ringing with a hundred and one couriers a day. It was fast paste, hustle and bustle and I loved it!
I didn’t meet the Founder, as she was away on a location shoot – so I met her right hand man. She was confident and friendly and I was so naive and young and knew I had to be honest and show them how much I loved fashion and wanted a job. On the spot I got it.
The next week – after the May bank holiday I went down to the dungeon room – a room filled from the floor to the ceiling (literally) of boxes, rails and clothes everywhere that it wasn’t easy to even stand in the room. I was told to hang everything up. As an intern this was normal to me. I started and cracked on. An hour later I was told to go upstairs – call some mens press and get their ‘stories’ – which means find out (and don’t let them put the phone down) until you know exactly what they are working on.
30 minutes – 6 phone calls later and 3 stories in I still didn’t realise what I was getting myself into. I passed the test and I stayed in the office, attached to the phone for 3 years.
I moved on from that agency and went onto work for a couple more – some I worked with niche brands, start up brands and also more expensive brands. I also worked on fashion shows, London Fashion Week and Graduate Fashion Week and absolutely loved it.
I was the first in the office at 7am at times and on Friday nights I was the last one out – normally at around 10pm sometimes much later. That is when we ordered dirty pizza and white wine. You have to remember there was no Twitter or Instagram back then. If your Director wanted you in YOU magazine, or for you to organise a desk appointment with the Fashion Editor of Sunday Times Style you did it, and you did it pronto.
I worked on many press days. It was bloody tough! You were on your feet all day from 7am-10pm and most of the time in heels (it was only later on in my PR years that trainers were acceptable at press days). Yes, believe it! Trainers used to be used only for walking to work and the gym.
At some press days we had to dress over 50 mannequins. That was just the mannequin section. But I loved every minute of it. I learnt so much, grew my confidence up, improved my people skill and became an ever harder worker. If you are looking to move into PR, in particular Fashion I thought I would give you some hot tips.
Back in the day, this was what working with celebrities and influencers looked like. Blurred images in central London in the rain.
- Be polite – You are not going to get anywhere or anything with a bad attititude. Treat people how you wish to be treated and if you are in need of something, just be honest and kind. Tell the person you are speaking to about your problem and get through it together. I got so much from people just by being kind and being myself. I spoke to them with respect and asked them politely to help me. There is a time and place to be stern.
- Never leave somewhere negatively – The Fashion Industry is a very small one. Everyone knows each other and you will work with someone you knew / spoke to / interned for years ago at some point. Not everyone has to like each other but remember the world turns and you will meet again at some point.
- For PR confidence you need to step out of your confident zone. Its scary but the best results come out when take a leap. I used to be so scared to call the Fashion Director of a big glossy magazine or Editor of the Fashion section of the newspaper. But they are not witches, they are not dragons – they are humans like you and me. They have feeling and opinions and talking to them and expressing how you can help – really does work.
- Once you are on the phone. Do not get off! – When I started in PR there was NO social media. If you wanted to know where somewhere was you called, and called and called until they answered. Once you get the ball rolling, speak slowly (don’t rush), ask them how they are, did they watch that episode on Netflix? Have a lovely weekend? Go to that festival they mentioned? Potty train their little one…? You will see you will not shut up. Once you pop, you will not stop and that’s the best way to be.
- Persistence pays off – there are some journalists that would hear my name and instantly say they are busy, not working on stripes (the week after, there was stripes in the paper), were on a shoot etc. I have heard it all. But keep on going – you will get there in the end. You have to be clever and help press. Make sure you read up on the publication, check the pages their work on, what is their style, how do they write, check their social media – how do they curate their Instagram, lighting, do they like certain items of clothing, a certain flat lay they use etc. It all adds up and helps. If you feel you are getting nowhere try a new angle. You will get it!
- If all else fails – always organise a desk appointment. You get to meet the journos in the flesh, see what their style is, how they react with you and you can ask them as much as you want as they cannot escape as they are in front of you and have booked time to see you. You get to bring clothes, accessories and Look Books with you and they can even take them back to the office with them. I also brought little gifts, vouchers, cupcakes, macarrons, biscuits and even fruit baskets in with me. Anything and everything that got them to remember me. And it worked!
- Be yourself – The only way to get your done job and done right is to be yourself. Being someone else benfits no one. Your Director hired you for a reason so stick with your guns and get the job done!
- Do some research – I always used to feel that I was taking homework home after work. I always asked to take monthlies home, I would search Vogue.com and Style.com for catwalk copies. I read up on blogs (especially blogs written by other journos) and I loved it as when I went back into the office on Monday I felt like I was ready for the week and ready to crack the whip.
- Find a common ground with your Director. OK she might look like a fire breathing maniac who is constantly at the gym, running and shouting up the stairs and barely in the office. BUT – – she sees and hears everything. I sat behind my Director and she used to throw her bag on my desk, her coat on my chair, invoices, sushi boxes all over my desk and I just cleaned up, stacked it away and made sure I was one step ahead of her. I made sure I asked her if she wanted tea – which I put in her favourite mug, made sure her favourite flowers were brought and placed in the office, and I even helped her when she joined Weight Watchers. She is still my favourite MD I have ever had.
- Lastly – enjoy the ride. If you feel unease, over worked and stressed every day. Its not the place for you. PR is hard and can be overwhelming but the pros outdo the cons. The only way you can be confident in fashion PR is if you enjoy your job. It’s a great place to be – specifically in your 20s. Soak up every part of it. Its amazing.
I hope these tips and this blog post was useful and I would love to hear your comments. If you would like more information about fashion, PR and social media please do not hesitate to ask and drop me an email.