A Refinery29 Style Diary: A Day in Beauty PR

Today I will take you through a busy day in my life working at a Beauty Public Relations agency in New York City.

Spoiler Alert: it’s not a lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Name: Nicole – Occupation: Associate Account Executive (AAE) – Location: 45th ST. NY, NY Work Day: 10AM-6PM

5:05AM I wake up to the worst sound in the world; my alarm. It’s still dark af outside. A notification pops up on my phone: “Get your ass to gym”. I fall out of bed and manage to put on workout leggings.

5:20AM I walk into the gym and immediately want to walk out. I chug overly concentrated pre-workout and head for the treadmill. Then the elliptical. I go over to the free weights. I pick things up and put them down.

6:40AM I stand under boiling hot water in the shower for too long.

7:10AM *obnoxious rattling* I down a protein shake out of my blender bottle because “gains”. I use vanilla protein with almond milk. For an extra kick in the morning and for a little extra flavor, I add in a teaspoon of instant coffee. I fry up some egg whites and my favorite Morning Star meatless spicy sausage patties.

7:50AM I sit in a freezing car waiting for my wind shield to defrost.

8:06AM I board the (what I only imagine hell feels like), train. NjTransit, if you’re reading this, I hate you.

8:55AM I transfer trains at Secaucus.

9:22AM I take the subway to Bryant Park.

9:50AM I sit down at my desk.

10:00AM I scan for placements online. We use a tool called Cision which notifies you based on key words when a client has been featured on a publication site or magazine. I find three new placements for one client and two for another. I send an email with write ups on the placements including UVPM, links and images to clients. I input the new placements into our Rolling Report, a fluid excel document that holds all placements to-date. This report is sent to the client at the end of the month for review.

11:00AM I have a call with a client. I print out the agenda I created the day before and dial in.

11:30AM I recap the call in a word document and send back to the client with any additional feedback or information discussed on the call.

12:00PM Print publications have been folding left and right and editors are getting laid off. Every month we send magazine editors the newest launch from our brands. I comb through our list and delete all the editors out of work. I’m left with 24 editors. I print labels and start assembling gift bags. Each gift bag receives a product, press release, note and business card.

1:00PM Lunch arrives. Every Thursday we have an agency wide catered lunch. This week is Indian, my favorite. We sit at a long table in the middle of the office discussing any difficulties teams have been having with clients, products etc. We brainstorm a few solutions while everyone finishes their curry. Someone mentions a funny story about an old intern and it kicks off a chain of funny stories about the old agency owner.

2:00PM I begin scouting makeup artists for this month’s seeding. I collect information such as Instagram followers, email and agent representation in a word document template. The very specific format takes a long time and I end up taking a break.

2:50PM An old client needs their inventory sent back. I pack up the skincare products and any old collateral. We have our own shipping station so I play UPS woman for a while.

3:40PM I take a stab at some pitching, regional to be exact. Regional or mid-lead refers to magazines specific to a regional such as the AMNY(New York) or DMagazine(Dallas). I send a blast and respond to some reactive emails from the pitch.

4:00PM I run downstairs for coffee. We are lucky because we have 3 Starbucks locations within two blocks, a Pret A Manger IN THE BUILDING and a Gregory’s Coffee a block away. Options, people.

4:30PM Two more placements come through. I send the write-ups to the client and update the Rolling Report.

4:45PM I can’t find a hi-res image of a product in our shared drive folders. I decide to reorganize all product images by name, date and category because i’m crazy. And maybe a little bit of an over achiever.

5:30PM I am spearheading an Influencer program at the agency so I am slowly updating contacts in our influencer media list. Every day we receive requests from bloggers to be added to our media list. Once added, these bloggers receive pitches and are eligible to receive samples to try, review and write about. There are roughly 2,000+ contacts in this list. Slowly but surely we’ll get there.

5:40PM My team regroups for an EOD meeting. We discuss any outstanding work and what needs to be prioritized for tomorrow.

6:01PM I head for the subway to Penn Station, take a connecting train to Secaucus and board the Bergen County local train.

7:50PM We arrive in my town. I sit in a freezing car waiting for my wind shield to defrost and drive home.

8:00PM I’m home. I eat dinner and watch television with my mom until 10:30PM. I need to move out ASAP.

11:00PM I scroll through my Instagram feed in bed liking images or girls in bikinis and think about how much the gym will suck tomorrow morning.

11:30PM Lights out. Do it all again.

What You Need to Know Before Your Career in Public Relations

I have worked at a number of prestigious agencies in New York City and have learned a thing or two about what to do, what not to do and what you can expect. As a twenty-three year old professional, I definitely do not have all the answers but I have collected some key take-aways that will make you think twice about nose diving into this crazy industry. If you are seriously considering entering the world of Public Relations whether that be fashion, beauty, lifestyle, travel etc. here are a few things to keep in mind.

I think it’s a well known fact we all put “proficient in excel” on our resumes but when push comes to shove, how do excel formulas even work? I was in the same boat. Efficient, but didn’t know the first thing about creating spreadsheets. I am here to tell you that I use excel every single day. Let me emphasize; every. single. day. Do yourself a favor and watch a few youtube tutorials on the basics of excel. It will make you look like less of a liar on your resume and those skills will make your job significantly easier.

Writing needs to be your strong suit but if it’s not (yet) that’s okay.  I think you have to enjoy crafting articulated sentences and know how to get your point across in as little words as possible to be a truly great writer. This takes time. I am not the world’s greatest writer but the more releases you write, the more emails you send, the better you become. My advice is to research releases online. Pick your favorite company and search for their most recent press releases. You can see the verbiage they choose and start recognizing differences in tone. Ultimately, writing is hard but with practice this can become your strongest skill set.

Asking questions is a very important skill. But asking questions you know the answer to, is the number one cause of passive aggressive emails and lack of trust. Take a step back and think about what it is you are trying to accomplish. Make a list of possible solutions. If none of those solutions work, you may then ask questions based on your attempts to solve it on your own. This shows everyone you are willing to take on a managerial role as well as can think critically.

Double Dog DARE yourself to DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING. Attention to detail is so so important. The subject line of an email to a client cannot show it has been forwarded. Your emails have to be spell checked. If someone asks you about inventory, you better check twice before saying you don’t have the item. Re-read your work and even go a step further and have someone else check it if it’s something super important. Small details are what make the biggest differences.

PR isn’t always ground breaking work, especially not at the beginning. It’s a lot of stuffing gift bags, sending mail, making lists, and researching people/events/locations. It’s easy to get discouraged by busy work but if you love this field, you need to understand the funnel. All work is important from the CEO down to the interns. Every job has a purpose and plays a role in the bigger picture. Keep your head high, appreciate and understand why it is these small tasks will become the building blocks and foundation of your career.

This industry allows us to work in a creative space among other outgoing and outspoken individuals. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and lose your sense of professionalism. Make sure you maintain a level head even when speaking casually with a friendly co-worker. You never know who is watching and who hears you. Things can very easily be taken out of context and explaining yourself down the road never pans out in quite the right way. Events especially, are a space where you have to watch yourself. There is often alcohol flowing and mini apps circulating setting a casual mood. Even though you are around fun people having a great time, remember you are there for work not pleasure. Key take away here is to keep your surroundings in mind and act accordingly.

Not all clients are created equal. You will work with brands that have awesome products and are progressive and eager to work with you on a partnership level. But there will also be clients who are rude and difficult to work with. They will be tired and stuck in their old ways. This type of client is challenging but it is your job to show passion and enthusiasm for the brand while maintaining a positive and respectful relationship that leads to great success. As a great publicist, you need to be able to make the client trust in you and have faith your efforts will result in great press.

9-5 isn’t a thing. Sorry to burst your bubble. If you are looking for a job where you can clock in and clock out, you’re in the wrong field. This is a 24/7 job. Even when you’re not at your desk, you’re in bed checking social media, you’re thinking about the work that needs to be done when you get back to the office. It’s a fast-moving and stressful environment. It becomes your life and if you’re not ready to have your job be a part of your life, then you’re not meant to work in public relations. I love seeing something on social media and thinking about how I can apply that with my brands. I love learning new skills and applications that can help me better myself as a PR professional. My surroundings become my job because I allow it to. Give yourself up to your job because you want to, not because you have to. This is when you really need to take a step back and assess if this is what is right for you.

Handling stress 101. If you don’t handle stress well, you won’t survive in this industry. It is a fast moving, super chaotic and deadline ridden industry full of people looking to get ahead of one another. You better believe there will be grey hairs on that pretty little head of yours after a few years but it’s how you manage your time that separates you from those who can handle stress and those who cannot. Evaluate what is important and what can hang out on the back burner for the time being. Knowing how to prioritize and most importantly, how to not let stress affect your relationships within your work and personal life is extremely vital. I personally work better under pressure which is why I am good at my job. You can be successful too, if you find a way to manage stress that works for you.

A boss of mine once told me that us millennials are snow flakes. We are afraid to step out of our comfort zone and are perfectly fine staying in the sanctuary of our bubbles. This type of attitude, this “snowflake” mentality will get you nowhere. If you never take risks and can’t accept a challenge, you won’t grow as an individual and you will never climb the corporate ladder. Standing still is just about as bad as taking steps backwards. Hitting a plateau means two things; you are comfortable and you are unmotivated. Find something that scares you and challenge yourself to overcome that fear. Falling flat on your face trying something new shows initiative and teaches you perseverance. Take it upon yourself to push through difficult tasks and prove to yourself you can accomplish anything if you try. Remember, the world owes you nothing. You are the only one who can make things happen.

PR is ever evolving. It’s no longer getting clients into national magazines. Those days are gone. National pubs are folding every day and media has transitioned into digital content. Now it’s the Allure.com’s and the Byrdie’s and Popsugar’s that are driving sales. PR has transitioned into orchestrating organic relationships with influencers and editors who have large social followings of their own. Youtube has become a go-to platform for ambassadors and persuaders. And while some aspects of traditional pr remain, marketing and advertising are slowly creeping into a singular category morphing into a one stop-shop. We are becoming creative agencies rather than PR or advertising or marketing. We are now creating the tactical strategies, developing the business plans, laying out the social roadmaps and intertwining them with creativity.

Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or want advice about a career in public relations. I am happy to chat and let you in on some other insider details I may not have mentioned here.