Hey Alexis! I'm a freshman college student in Georgia and I love everything about beauty and mainly southern fashion (runway fashion, not so much). I am undeclared and I am having a hard time figuring out what I want to do. I am considering PR, marketing, business communications. Something along those lines. How did you know that you wanted to go into PR and do you honestly think working for a big company like you do was something you strived for or was it kind of a position you got out of luck?
I did not know I wanted to go into PR. I fell into it via a few internships I had in college. I didn’t really know where I wanted to work or what I wanted to do and when I found this PR internship as a sophomore in college at a beauty PR firm, I felt like I found my niche. I feel very lucky about the companies I have been able to work for, but I did not end up in those positions out of luck. It took a ton of hard work, long hours, little pay, self motivation, and drive to get those jobs and to end up where I am now. I have made a lot of sacrifices and worked very hard, which I am constantly reminding all of you to do to make it in this industry. Nothing is handed to you. You must put in the time and hard work to get what you want. Sometimes that is enough and sometimes it is not.
Since you are deciding what you want to do, I suggest you read the FAQs section, as it will highlight what it is like to work in this industry.
Hi Alexis, I'm sure you've answered this before but I can't find it on your blog. I was wondering where you studied and which kind of degree you have? I'm applying for grad schools in New York, but am unsure of which ones have the most reputable PR courses. I want to apply for NYU's Master of PR, but if you have any other recommendations that would be great. Thanks!
I studied Literature and Communication with a minor in Marketing and Art History at Pace University in Pleasantville, NY. The Master’s at NYU is an amazing program and I highly recommend it if you want to begin studying PR, but if you have a BA in Communications or something related, you don’t necessarily need a PR Master’s. I always encourage higher education, but on the job experience is just as good sometimes.
I have to be honest, I am not all that familiar with online internships, but I think they can be a good alternative to not doing an internship at all. I do think you need the in office experience in PR, but online internships are great for someone wanting to do more writing for PR or social media.
That said, Lauren Berger, the Intern Queen, will be featured on the blog in an upcoming Wednesday SPOTLIGHT, so she will address this questions as well.
I typically post a job/internship lead on Fridays, but today, I am sharing with all of you a MUST read if you want to break into this industry. Sisters Courtney and Britt Dunlop have teamed up to write an amazing guide on how to break into the beauty industry…
You can bu their new book on iTunes and/or find more information at breakintobeauty.com.
Who knows? Maybe this guide is the first step to helping you land a great internship or job in beauty, so get reading!
Name: Courtney Dunlop
Position/Company: Executive Editor, YouBeauty.com
Describe your job in one sentence: Working at YouBeauty is very challenging (in a good way!) because we really dig into the science behind beauty, health and wellness.
Where did you go to college? University of Missouri-Columbia and transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
What was your major? Fashion Merchandising and then Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing
First internship? What were your responsibilities? What did you learn? My first and only internship was in the beauty department of JANE magazine. My main responsibility was managing and organizing the beauty closet, which meant obsessively tracking all the samples that came in. I learned that I loved it! I was thrilled to scrutinize every product, track trends, and point out anything I thought would make a good story. I also called in products for stories, which gave me my first experience of working with publicists. I ended up going back to JANE about a year and a half after my internship ended and all the things I did as an intern became a real job, as a beauty assistant. This internship was how I learned that an intern’s job and an assistant’s job are pretty similar. If the intern isn’t around, the assistant has to do the work. So being an intern truly is real-world experience that you should never take for granted. So-called “menial” work is important and always offers a chance to learn something new.
You recently wrote a book about breaking into the beauty industry. Tell us a bit about the book and what prompted you to write it. I wrote the book (together with my sister, who also went through the cosmetics program at FIT) because I get so many requests for advice from people looking to get their foot in the door—not just in publishing, but all areas of the beauty business. I can’t help everyone, but I remember all the people who gave me advice along the way and I feel compelled to pay it forward. So my sister and I wrote the book and filled it with all the practical, tried-and-true advice we could think of. Actually, the book is probably better than seeing me in person because I would never remember all of the information in a meeting. And although I ended up in publishing, the book is for anyone interested in the business side of beauty.
What are 3 key takeaways from the book that you want everyone to know about breaking into the beauty industry?
- Read every beauty site and blog that you can, as often as you can. You simply must, MUST learn everything you can about the industry. It doesn’t matter what area you are trying to break into, you can wow an interviewer with beauty knowledge. It’s not enough to just like makeup. What is the latest trend? When do new collections hit shelves? What celebrity just signed with a big cosmetics company?
- You did NOT have to study anything beauty-related in college. A lot of people graduate with general degrees and look around at the gigantic scope of job types and are like, “Well, crap. Now what do I do?” Just about any degree can translate to the beauty industry, so a big point of the book is to simply open your mind to the possibilities. Because I really doubt that your psychology professor in Nebraska thought to tell you about working at L’Oréal. What matters is passion, beauty knowledge and experience (we explain how to get all three of those in the book). Sure, a marketing degree is helpful if you want to get a marketing job, but I know plenty of nutrition, women’s studies, biology, English, and economics majors who now have pretty sweet gigs in beauty.
- The most important thing is that you have to work hard. Sure, there are those people who land a job right out of college, but for many, it takes a lot of work to get in. You have to claw your way in and use every trick in the book (literally!). But it’s worth it.
What is it about beauty that you personally love? The thing I love about beauty is how it can lift people’s spirits. I hate when people speak negatively of the beauty industry and say it’s bad for women. Something as simple as red lipstick can instantly transform your confidence and the way people react to you. That’s not trivial and it’s not frivolous.
You work with publicists all day, every day. How do you prefer to be pitched? I prefer e-mail, with the press release and images in the body so it’s easy to see. I rarely open attachments unless I requested extra information. And although I work for a website, we plan in advance so I prefer to hear about new launches with long lead timing. We don’t write about things until they’re out because it’s not helpful to the reader if they see something they can’t buy right then.
Biggest accomplishment so far in your career? My biggest career accomplishment is my first beauty editorial job! It was not easy for me to get in (which is why I have so much advice to give for job hunters – I’ve tried it all!) I went on a million interviews and never got the job. I even had someone in HR at Conde Nast tell me I probably wasn’t cut out for being a beauty editor and I should do something else. Harsh, right? So that first job (as assistant fashion & beauty editor at Bridal Guide magazine) meant the absolute world to me, and still does. I’ve gone on to work at JANE and Marie Claire, and written for loads of top publications, but I’ll never stop being humbled by that atrocious job search after college and I’ll always be grateful for that first job.
Biggest lesson learned to date in your career? Stay at a job as long as you’re still learning. When you’ve squeezed every opportunity you can out of a job, it’s time to move on.
Who were/are your mentors? In order of appearance (haha!): Jill Schuck Taylor hired me as an intern in the beauty department at JANE (my very first big break), Erin Flaherty was the beauty director there at the time and trusted me with assistant-level responsibilities, and Laurie Brookins (now at Niche Media) gave me my first editorial job at Bridal Guide magazine. I basically owe my career to these three people and I’m still close friends with all of them! I also have to give a shout out to Jane Larkworthy, who I’ve pestered for career advice here and there over the years, for graciously putting up with all of my questions.
Best work advice? Take time out of the day to go outside and walk around. No one likes to be around a frazzled person, and it makes you seem unprofessional. Do whatever you can to keep your cool, no matter how stressful it is at work. Also, wear blush. It makes everyone look more awake.
In order to succeed in the beauty industry, you…must truly love it. If you don’t think you can sit through a presentation about frizz, it’s probably not the industry for you.
If you weren’t a beauty editor/writer, you’d be…an economist or work in finance somehow. I find economics fascinating and math is meditative for me.
Where can my readers—many of whom are beauty obsessed—purchase your new book? You can buy our new book on iTunes and/or find more information at breakintobeauty.com
Where can my readers follow you?
Courtney twitter: @beautyeditornyc
Brit twitter: britdunlop
Today, I am kicking off a new series that I am calling Just Sayin’ in which I will cover various random topics that come up in the PR world and provide my personal thoughts on them. Call it my soapbox or rant—or just some friendly advice… I will cover two topics in today’s post:
It is really quite simple. You are responsible for doing your job well. If you do perform well, you should be personally fulfilled and may even be praised by your boss. However, if you mess up, you need to own up to your mistakes and be accountable for what happened. I have seen it happen all too often where people point fingers, assign blame, make excuses, or blatantly throw others under the bus when something goes wrong. (Usually the same people who take all the credit for the big wins.) Most of the time, all your boss or client is looking for is ownership of the mistake, an explanation (not an excuse), an apology, and assurance that you recognized the mistake and will do everything in your power to make sure it doesn’t happen again. So, simply put, mess up, own up. It makes the problem go away much quicker and is the more mature route to take.
RESPECT THE PRESS
This may seem like a given to most, but I was speaking to a very high profile editor who told me a story about a recent exchange with a publicist that made my jaw drop. The publicist was yelling at her and was quite insulting and threatening as well, and I couldn’t believe that this person didn’t know any better. First of all, you just don’t speak to the press disrespectfully—and trust me, there have been many days when I wish I could have put someone in his/her place, but you just can’t. Secondly, I was shocked that anyone would speak to this particular editor so disrespectfully. Overall, you are just a complete idiot if you think you can get away with screaming at the press. You need them. You will represent not only yourself in the most negative way, but your brand and client(s) as well. And it will come back to bite you in the ass. This is a small industry, so be nice. Assert yourself when necessary, but don’t be aggressive, and never burn bridges.
Do you have something you want to “just say”? Tweet me at @theprcloset.
(Image credit: anewscafe.com)
Hi Alexis, I was wondering if as a first year university student I should print business cards? If so, what should it say if I have no PR experience? Love your blog!
I personally don’t think you need business cards yet, but if you do get them, include your full name, e-mail address, and contact phone number. You can always use them at networking events or for interviews, although this info would be on your resume as well. I will suggest, however, that the e-mail address you provide is not a university account but a separate personal email account like gmail, yahoo, etc… A lot of e-mails sent to university accounts end up in spam folders. Also make sure your phone number is not communal, as in a dorm number that many people answer. It should also be personal. Finally, make sure the cards look professional and not silly or overly designed.
Start looking for summer internships come Jan/Feb. A lot of companies start to post them towards the end of the year (Dec) into the New Year. However, if you are looking to apply for a competitive summer internship program, start looking now. Deadlines for those programs usually creep up around December, so you want to make sure you will meet those application deadlines. Good luck—and kudos to you for thinking about summer internships already. They are a great way to spend the summer months if you want to get a leg up in the industry.
Spent the day yesterday with the lovely ladies of Essence magazine’s beauty department having fun with makeup. From left to right: Aretha Busby, Tia Hebron (Bobbi Brown Makeup Artist), Crystal Martin, Andrea Jordan, and Tasha Turner.
(Makeup courtesy of Tia Hebron for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics)
My personal list of PR Dos—a few rules I live by and wanted to share. Take them, or leave them:
- Answer e-mails or return voicemails within the day, if not sooner.
- Always send a thank you note to press for a great placement if not a thank you gift. I prefer hand written notes for everything, always.
- Love your brand or you won’t be able to represent it well to the press.
- Learn personal things about editors like birthdays, favorite brands, etc, so you can maintain the most genuine relationship with them possible.
- Be assertive, not aggressive. That applies to how you interact with your teams, partners, and press—and everyone in general.
- Come from a place of yes—be solution oriented when posed with a problem.
- ATTENTION ALL MANAGERS! Value your team(s) and show them that you do. You cannot do your job without them. Motivate, elevate, and mentor.
- Respect your superiors and clients, but have your own opinions as well. Clients like to know you are thinking and can form your own thoughts. Just learn how to present your thoughts in a positive way.
- Only fight the battles you really believe are worth fighting for, as there will be small battles all along the way in PR that you have to pick and choose to fight or let go.
- Be accessible but not too available. Set boundaries that allow for a healthy work/life balance for you.
What are your PR Do’s? Tweet me at @ThePRCloset.
Name: Amy Ogden
Position/Company: Director of Marketing and Development for J Public Relations
Describe your job in one sentence: I direct business development and marketing for J Public Relations on both coasts – New York and California.
Where did you go to college? University of North Florida
What was your major? Marketing
First internship? What were your responsibilities? What did you learn? My first internship was at an agency in Florida. I did everything and anything! I remember one day, business was slow and they wanted to redecorate, so I painted a wall in the lobby. I remember I was just so appreciative to have the opportunity to work in PR that I would take any job they threw my way. It was a small agency, so I was exposed to everything from new business development to client relations, media management and reporting results. I was thrown in feet first and it was great – sink or swim!
First job in PR? My first job in PR resulted from that internship. I started as a PR Assistant and worked my way up at that agency for several years.
Did you move to another city (like NY/LA) to pursue your career in PR (if applicable)? Yes – when I moved to California a couple of years ago, I wanted to take my PR career to the next level. When I found JPR, I knew it was made for me! I was patient and it took a few months to get an interview, but it was worth the wait.
Favorite part of your job? Working with the team at JPR is my favorite. The women at our agency impress me every day with their intelligence, skills, and style. I learn from them constantly and love to bring my unique perspective to the agency.
Least favorite part of your job? Lack of control. Sometimes I can craft the perfect pitch for the perfect writer/outlet and it won’t get picked up. I’m a bit of a control freak, so that can be a challenge. But I find patience and resilience when that happens and keep on pitching!
Biggest accomplishment so far in your career? I had a pretty challenging client a few years ago – an architectural firm that designed hospitals. I worked diligently for months to get them in one of their target trades – Healthcare Design Magazine. The hard work paid off and I landed them a 6-page spread and cover in the issue that was run during the Healthcare Design Conference. This was a huge home run and the client ordered thousands of reprints to use as a marketing piece.
Biggest lesson learned to date in your career? Come from a place of “yes.” PR is not a black/white job – there are many elements to what we do and it’s constantly evolving. I love to come from an open-minded, “what if we…” state of mind and make clients, media and my team members happy.
Best work advice? Smile, have fun, laugh. It’s PR, not the ER.
As a publicist, you can’t live without your… So cliché, but my iPhone. I use it to snap photos for social media posts, stay on top of news, stay in touch with my team and clients. It’s my lifeline.
In order to succeed in PR, you… need to be excited about the industry(ies) you work with. It’s such an all-encompassing field and if you’re not super passionate about the industry you’re pitching, you will burn out quickly.
If you weren’t a publicist, you’d be… a professional matchmaker. I love setting people up and have two marriages that have resulted from my matchmaking!
How can my readers follow you? It’s all about JPR when it comes to my social media channels. @jprpublicity (Twitter); jpublicrelations (Instagram) and facebook.com/JPublicRelations.
One of my professional mantras is when you are not working, you should be networking. I recognize it is not as easy as it sounds. What exactly is networking and how do you get started? Hopefully, I can shed some light on what may seem challenging and get you networking in no time…
Networking is the cultivation of relationships—often professional—to build contacts and leads, and ultimately expand your network. Networks are important because so much of what we do in PR relies on our contacts. The title “Public Relations” says it all—the relationships we have with the press to benefit the public are everything.
So, how does it work? Well, first of all, get yourself out there as much as possible. Join organizations that allow you to mix, mingle and meet people in your industry. For beauty and communications, I personally like CEW.org and NYWICI.org. I also recently joined a Lean In circle of like-minded female PR professionals—an amazing way to expand my network. Taking courses, attending events, reaching out to people on sites liked LinkedIn, and meeting up with professionals in the industry for exploratory interviews, for example, can all be good ways to network. You can also find alternative ways of meeting new people like “sweat working”—business networking while exercising. If you know an editor, for example, who loves taking spinning classes, offer to take him/her to one. It can strengthen your relationship (and body) at the same time! (There is actually a company that focuses just on organizing these sweat working classes.)
The one thing I will caution about networking is that many people rely on meeting other people to advance their careers. That is NOT a reason you should network. Yes, it often results in leads and opportunities, but nobody is responsible for your career growth other than you. Keep that in mind.
On that note, here are a few networking takeaways that I live by:
- Make at least one new connection each month, but if you are just starting out in your career, bump that up to 3-5 new connections a month. That means you will have 36-60 new connections in one year.
- Keep up with those connections in a genuine way. Reach out to say hello every 6 weeks or so, congratulate them on a great campaign or feature you know they worked on, offer to meet up for coffee/tea every few months—it takes work keeping up with your network, so choose a few contacts that are important and put in the time.
- Don’t ask for favors—not unless you have become close enough to the person to do so. And when you do, use your ask for something good because you should not ask anything of that person again for a while.
- When attending a networking event, exchange at least 3 business cards—leave with at least 3 new connections and reach out right away to simply express how nice it was to meet that person.
- Don’t hide behind online—that includes LinkedIn or your email. Come out of your shell. It takes practice, but PR people cannot be shy, so attend a lot of events and introduce yourself to people. It will only help you overcome the intimidation of networking in large groups.
So, now that you have a better idea of networking, I challenge you to meet someone new today. Get working!
Have more questions about networking? Tweet me at @ThePRCloset or ask me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/alexisrodriguezpr/.
Today, I wanted to share an article that ran in The New York Observer about the growing strength and credibility of the PR industry. The article points out that PR has rapidly increased its stake in the marketing mix over the past 20 years—- where once we barely had a seat at the table, now we’re emerging on top. They note a number of contributing factors to this evolution including the growth of digital media, the decreasing size of the newsroom, the increased complexity of maintaining a good image, and so on…
Given the difficulty of quantifying PR’s value, I thought this article was a valuable read for current and aspiring publicists alike…
Sure, why not? If you are just starting out, those jobs are good to list because they show that you have work experience and skills. You can also link work experiences at those jobs, like customer service skills or sales goals, to potential PR positions. If you have been working for years in PR, you can start to lose those types of jobs and just list the ones related to the industry.