Fashion is an exhilarating, though occasionally overwhelming, business. Editors experience this firsthand during fashion week and holiday seasons, when they’re forced to churn out the same steady stream of great content while also socializing with industry connections and attending shows. While there are many moments of great fun, no one would deny that it requires some finely honed juggling skills.
That being said, there’s another sector of the industry that has an even greater challenge: working at this pace nearly 365 days a year. Enter the public relations teams. Whether placed in-house with one brand or representing a myriad of them under a larger firm’s umbrella, this largely female cohort has their work cut out for them day in and day out. What’s more, there's not a lot of room to be stressed, as a permanent smile and a chin-up attitude are essentially prerequisites of the job.
That’s why, whenever I meet up with a PR friend or contact, I find myself in awe. How do they manage? I wonder, when fashion week alone nearly bowls me over. To remain so calm and so clairvoyant in an industry that throws its fair share of punches is downright impressive, requiring not just a certain character but, also, a host of crucial skills. Curious to know what those skills entail, I spoke to some of the hardest-working women in the biz. If you’re interested in pursuing a PR career yourself, you don't want to miss this!
Scroll down to read expert tips on succeeding in fashion PR…
“Really my ultimate tip—and I say this all the time to the team—is that you have to read. Read as much as you can—it doesn’t matter if it’s fashion, lifestyle, fitness, business… it all helps.”
“You can’t pitch your client effectively if you don’t know who or what you are pitching. Journalists hate being pitched when you have no idea what they write about or what their publication covers. [Reading] helps you stay current on what is going on in the industry so you can always know what brands are innovating and helps advise you on how your client can do something better.”
“If you can find a company to work for that truly meshes with your aesthetic and values, it helps immensely. You are essentially going to be one of the faces of the company and being authentic is really important in every conversation you have in PR, specifically in the fashion industry. If you can find a company or brand you love, then your job will be a walk in the park!”
“Fake it 'til you make it. I didn't have a fashion PR background at all but recognized that my company could benefit from in-house PR. I have a few mentors who helped me along the way, but generally, my focus is just on building relationships—the product speaks for itself.
“Respond to every email… fast! People will ask you for things all the time and the one thing you can do, even if you don't know the answer right away, is respond. Set reasonable expectations for the time it will take you to get back to them, and make sure to follow through.”
“Always send a thank you note—by email immediately or handwritten via USPS to lend a special touch.
“Lean in when pitching/talking with your client, media, or VIPs—it makes them know that you are engaged in the conversation. Never look at your phone.
“Never leave your desk without your notebook—you never know when you will need to take notes from your boss or a client.”
“Be thorough and always check your work/email before sending—autocorrect can be quite frustrating these days.
“Don’t use mail merge unless you know how to use it and have practiced several times.
“Personalize every pitch and never blind-cc.
“Start your day by reading WWD and Business of Fashion.
“Know your audience and tailor appropriately.”
“Read everything! From understanding the media landscape to sparking fresh and creative ideas for clients, it's important to be up-to-date on everything from the latest fashion trends and emerging technologies to pop culture moments and breaking news.”
“Intern! PR is truly taught in the office. Take advantage of any opportunity, and show an eagerness to take on new responsibilities and projects. Get to know your managers and grow your network—often these internships turn into full-time jobs.
“Be flexible. From long-hours at the office to last-minute event changes, this industry is not easy. It's important to keep your cool during high-stress times and be open to change at a moment’s notice.”
“Intern—gain as much experience as you can. I know it sounds redundant, but I would not be where I am today if I didn’t have those opportunities. Not only do internships give you experience, but they are the best way to understand how the fashion industry and PR, in particular, work—which is vastly different on the inside. When you are starting out, be a true participant: listen, absorb, ask questions, familiarize yourself with every fashion magazine, PR agency, editor, brand, digital influencer, designer, model, stylist, and photographer.
“Beyond internships, don’t be afraid to reach out (via email; no calls—we are email-driven) to people you admire in the industry to ask for advice, pick their brains, or to hear how they got where they are. You’d be surprised how many publicists are happy to share the wisdom as long as you are conscientious of their time.”
“Fashion PR is multi-faceted, dynamic, ever-evolving, and fast-paced, and the most successful people I know are highly organized, committed, resourceful, self-motivated, and creative. Stellar communication and people skills are a must. We are ultimately storytellers for our clients and brands—we are behind the scenes and [act as] the liaison between our designer’s creative vision and the public. Practice writing— you will type more than you ever thought possible as a publicist. A personal network of media and industry contacts is vital; when you are starting out, be focused on growing these personal contact lists. What you can accomplish for clients is heavily reliant on who you know and how you leverage those relationships. And remember: There is a difference between being pushy and knowing how to push.
“When applying for jobs, be very specific. A vague résumé and cover letter about loving fashion are not going to cut it. I look for candidates that can specifically call out what it is about the company they admire and how they can be an asset. Job postings and descriptions contain enormous intel into what the company is looking for—identify those key terms and include them in your outreach. Is the company looking for someone that is self-motivated? Tell them you are.”
What would be your dream fashion career? Let us know in the comments!