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Breaking Into Fashion PR With Crosby Noricks of PRCouture.com

The skinny on how to become a fashion publicist.

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fashion pr
Photographed by James Law
There are tons of hot fashion career paths, and working in fashion PR is one of them most enviable positions at all. But what exactly does a fashion publicist or a fashion social media coordinator do? When we wanted to find out, we went straight to the source -- Crosby Noricks, social media director of Red Door Interactive, author of "The PR Couture Guide to Breaking Into Fashion PR" and the creator of PRCouture.com, a one stop shop for all things fashion public relations. She gave us the inside scoop on exactly what a fashion publicist does, how to score an internship at a PR firm, and what she really thinks about all those fashion PR centric reality shows.

Teen Fashion: Did you always want to work in fashion? How did you know this was the right path for you?

Crosby Noricks: I always knew that I wanted to work in fashion, but I didn't really know how or exactly what that would look like. When I was in High School I did a couple of things to explore my interest in art and fashion. I took a summer course at the California College of the arts, where I took classes in painting, fashion sketching, and draping. I quickly realized I'm really bad at sewing and I’m not the best with a stick of charcoal. When I went to college I became interested in film, communication arts, and especially web and graphic design. I studied abroad at London College of Fashion as a junior, and tried to find a way to make fashion fit in with my other interests. I originally wanted to do wardrobe for TV and print, so I moved to LA and did that for a while, but it wasn't really taking off. So I went back to school and got my masters degree in communications and I realized I really liked PR. You have to be business minded but also creative because constantly come up with campaigns and ideas for the same brand or product that are newsworthy. I like coming up with strategies and plans, but the other part of me that is also creative and artistic gets fed when I work with fashion brands.

TF: What exactly does a fashion publicist do, and what is a typical day like?

CN: The most important way a publicist demonstrates her value to a client is by securing ongoing media coverage for the client. She does this by pitching story ideas to fashion editors, morning show hosts and fashion bloggers, and trying to get articles, editorial spreads, and photo shoots published on behalf of the client. Those results are the part of PR people typically see -- when you open up Lucky Magazine and you see the "Fall Essentials" page, and there's a pair of boots, usually they're there because information about the boots were sent to the editor by a PR person. Having a publicist, whether its someone who works for the company itself or for a PR agency, is really about having a skilled communicator who supports the brand’s growth and helps to grow brand awareness. This may involve being at a photoshoot to make sure it’s represents the brand, throwing a fashion event or fashion show to celebrate a new line, or developing an annual plan that charts the communication goals of the brand over the next year.

TF: You are also the director of social media at Red Door Interactive -- what is the difference between a social media director and a PR person?

CN: With PR the primary audience is still the media. With social media your primary audience is customers, or potential customers, so you're planning ideas and campaigns that result in a customer taking action. You want them to submit an Instagram photo, enter a Facebook contest, share a video, or respond to a tweet. The goal of social strategy is often twofold: to help the client grow their community, and to drive engagement on social platforms as well as tracking entering the contest, retweeting you, and taking action. And overall, just taking a look at how brand affinity is increasing based on the ways people connect with the brand online.

TF: A lot of girls are watching shows like Kell on Earth, The City, The Hills -- how accurate are those portrayals of what you do?

CN: For me, Kell on Earth was the closest example to what a day in the life of a publicist is. But it's still reality television, and everything is elevated and escalated to create that drama and make people want to watch the show. So I think shows like that and The Hills provide a little bit of insight as to what it's like, but they're over dramatizations of what's typically going on. Of course sometimes it's really hectic, and of course in fashion there are a lot of powerful personalities, but the majority of fashion PR agencies are filled with smart, creative, driven practitioners who work together to help clients succeed. So it’s much more about the client than the agency. Another thing the TV shows do is put an emphasis on free clothes and access to parties. A really good publicist knows her job is to stay in the background and create a remarkable experience for her client. Yes, on occasion you can get free products and have great experiences going to fashion week and parties, but the majority of the job is much more behind the scenes than what you see on TV.

TF: Do you have any tips for girls looking to score fashion PR internships?

One of the things that makes somebody really stand out to me is whether they started their own blog or website, or a have an existing social media following or media contacts. When you start a blog you become savvy about how the social tools work and showing your ability to write well is crucial to succeeding in PR. In an interview, demonstrate an understanding of fashion industry trends; there are so many amazing blogs and publications that you can use to prepare. It shows a level of passion and initiative that helps you stand out.

The book that I wrote, The PR Couture Guide to Breaking into Fashion PR, goes into a lot more detail about what to wear, as well as making a good impression in your interview.

TF: What should fashion PR interns expect on the job?

It varies based on the agency you're working for. Larger agencies tend to have a dialed-in process driven because they have a comprehensive intern program. If you're working for a smaller, boutique firm you may have more opportunities to support beyond the standard intern duties. Generally speaking, the intern helps with press clippings, which is essentially putting together a report for the client every time there is a media hit, doing a lot of media research, putting together and updating what we call media tracking lists, which is information about the pitches that have been sent out, packaging up and sending out samples, and taking samples to and from photo shoots. Sometimes interns have an opportunity to pitch media; I always encourage interns to sit in on as many meetings as possible and get their hands on as many pitches being put out by their team. Then, pay attention to language being used and how the idea is being communicated. Also, try your hand at writing a pitch, go to the boss and ask if they will review to see if you are on the right track. Pitching really is an art form and it takes time to get confident when reaching out to the media.

TF: What can PRCouture.com and the PR Couture book offer current or aspiring fashion publicists, current ones, and entrepreneurs alike?

The site has content for three main audiences; one is aspiring publicists and students, we have a ton of info about internships, we interview entry level practitioners and current interns where we ask them how they got the position and what their goals are, so interns can get a real sense of what to expect. For designers we offer a lot of tips and tricks to do their own PR, and how to work with a PR agency. For general consumer audience we feature a lot of independent brands. The book was everything that I wish I had known when I started my own career and it's in response to all the questions I get asked over and over again. I wanted to put that into an easy to digest, fun read. There's a lot of specific information in there that isn't on PRCouture.com. I also went and spoke with a ton of industry contacts, so it's not just my opinion but also the experiences and recommendations of PR practitioners at all different levels, including agency CEO's, many of whom shared some invaluable information, like their favorite questions to ask during an interview

Make sure to visit PRCouture.com and check out Crosby's book, The PR Couture Guide to Breaking into Fashion PR.
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