MAR 1, 2016 – 7:00AM

CHELSEA WILLIAMS

 

INTRODUCTION

It’s no secret that Fashion is one of the most competitive industries to work in. With over 4 million employees in the US market alone, the fashion industry is a pillar leader in our global economy, with an estimated net worth of approximately 1.5 trillion dollars. Throughout this already selective industry, competition only increases within each sector of it; perhaps the most notoriously competitive being, of course – Fashion PR.

 

Fashion PR is known to be ‘cut-throat’ – not for the faint of heart. When Taylor Swift wrote the lyrics, “darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a day dream,” she was talking about the Fashion PR girls! Not only are they young, beautiful and chic, but the men and women who work in PR are incredibly smart and witty. They have to be able to think on their feet, making major decisions within a matter of seconds sometimes, and must be able to deliver the same message to several different publics, in a way that each group can not only understand, but can appreciate. They must find the best way to launch and present a campaign – and stay within budget while doing so. Working in the Fashion Industry is stressful, regardless of which sector; and PR is stressful regardless of which industry – so when you bring the two together into one career, you need someone who can handle the heat, and stay on top of the media and your publics.

 

Last week I interviewed my former boss, current mentor, and very dear friend of mine: New York City fashion publicist, Amanda Ranieri, hoping to get an inside look of what life is like working in one of the most competitive industries in the world, in one of the most competitive sectors in the world, in one of the most competitive cities in the world. Throughout my interview, I asked her several questions about her personal experience using social media and how the tool is used in the fashion industry, PR, and her day-to-day job. She offered substantial advice on how aspiring publicists, and fashion industry hopefuls, can prepare themselves for the post-grad job hunt by staying ahead of the social media game to ensure a successful career in PR.

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TRANSCRIPTION (VIA FaceTime)

C: Amanda! It’s so wonderful to see you! I can only imagine how incredibly busy you must be this week, since New York Fashion Week: Fall/Winter 2016 (FW16) presentations and shows were last week (February 11-18), so I really wanted to thank you so much so setting aside the time to talk with me today and answer a couple of my questions!

A: No problem! I’m more than happy to answer your questions and give you a look inside what I do, and maybe offer some advice on how to work in fashion PR – or better yet, survive it!

C: Survive it! That actually is a better way to put it! During my internship, when you were my boss, there were definitely times when I wasn’t sure I would make it – but of course I did; and better yet, it taught me how much I LOVE this job!

C: Amanda, when you were my boss I looked up to you so much. You taught me more about myself (my strengths and weaknesses, my passions, my dreams) and about what I wanted to do in those three months than I have learned in my entire time being an undergrad, and I am so honored to be able to share your wonderfully useful knowledge with others!

A: I am honored myself to have the opportunity to pay it forward, and share my experience with others! When I started, I had a little bit of help here and there, and that help and advice made all the difference for me; so I’m excited to share what I know!

C: That’s awesome! On that note, we’ll jump right in – with question number one.

C: So Amanda, how important/relevant is it to implement social media in the fashion PR industry? How much of your job, working in Fashion PR, involves social media on a daily basis? Specifically, take us through your work day using social media!

A: So, to answer your first question – ‘How important is it to implement social media in the fashion industry?’ It’s not important – it’s vital. My job as a publicist is to, not ONLY earn press for clients – it’s a LOT more than that! Another part of my job is to actually track and report that press to said client – which sounds a lot easier than it really is.

To tie your next question into the first: ‘How much of my day involves social media’ – I would say nearly all of it, because of that combination of earning press, and the process of tracking and reporting. Earning press coverage is really kind of pointless if we don’t know when and where we’re being covered – if we didn’t show the client numbers, it would be really difficult to determine what’s working, and what isn’t. It’s my job to also know exactly where a designer’s (client) garment was featured and when – and generally speaking, in a perfect world –  as the publicist, I should be the FIRST to know about the coverage – then the client – then the public. If the client knows before I do, then I’m not doing my job. They are literally paying us hundreds of thousands of dollars (amounts that most designers do not have to lose) to help them earn press and then report that press back to them. A client should never be reporting press to me – I should be the one calling my client saying: ‘Hi Karen! Have you seen Women’s Wear Daily today? You’re going to die – your pants made the cover!” A client should absolutely never call me and ask me if I saw WWD because she heard the good news from either a friend or one of her employee’s; and on the flip side – when it’s bad news, a client should never be the one to inform me of press coverage (or the lack their of) because they’re usually not happy about it. I should be the one to deliver the bad news so that I can come to the client with a solution and a plan in a way that they can understand, and help to keep the client clam and happy.

So – because of how incredibly important it is for me to report updates to my client, social media is VITAL to use in PR; it’s basically my job to filter social media (nearly all day long), looking for press coverage for my clients!

On an average day, my social media use begins first thing in the morning. I usually wake up, and while I am lying in bed I check international, national, and local news using my NPR and CNN applications on my iPhone. Then, while I’m drinking my coffee and eating my breakfast I check all the major print publication websites (such as Vogue), web-based publication sites (such as Refinery29), and major blogsites (such as ManRepeller) – looking for any press coverage for my clients. On my way to the subway, I usually pick up a copy of ‘The Wall Street Journal’ and ‘Women’s Wear Daily’ AND check their websites after. During my commute, I usually check several celebrity/socialite Instagram accounts (such as Gigi Hadid) – especially if I am anticipating any present coverage. Then throughout the day (usually every hour or so) I recheck all of the outlets I have mentioned to see what’s going on and to see any coverage. I also do the same thing at night before I go to bed and make any notes on my iPad that I need to. I really cannot reiterate how incredibly important it is to monitor social media CONSTANTLY and consistently when working in PR. It’s a major part of our daily job

C: Do you think that you use social media more often in your job or in your personal life (outside of work)?

 A: Absolutely – 100% – I use SM more in my job. I’m sure that people in other fields use social media in their personal lives more, but like I explained earlier, social media filtering is how I spend about 60% of my day. So for me personally, and I’m sure most other PR professionals, I use social media significantly more often in my job than in my personal life! It’s sort of funny actually when you think about it! Since I started working in PR, I’ve double, if not tripled, my social media use, but spend time on my personal accounts probably 90% less than I used to! To be completely honest, personal social media is not really where my interest lies. If I am on my personal social media, it’s usually only when I am commuting to work on the train in the morning and at night.

C: We are constantly seeing Instagrammers/bloggers and celebrities with new outfits, jewelry, clothes, shoes, etc. on social media websites – in class, we call this social media ‘swag’. Very few people realize the ‘swag’ we see on SM is actually loaned or gifted to them – not purchased. Someone like you, a fashion publicist, is the person that sends, regulates, tracks/manages that ‘swag’. Can you try to explain, to the best of your ability, the process of gifting and loaning clients clothing/products and why this is a necessary process in today’s fashion PR world regarding social media?

A: Of course! Before working in fashion PR, I had no idea that the majority of what we see celebrities wearing in either magazines, award shows, premieres, or even just doing their groceries sometimes, is generally not actually theirs – and in fashion, it’s the job of the publicist to regulate that process.

Before you are able to actually go to the store and buy that super cool ‘Rebecca Minkoff’ jacket, fashion publicists are getting the ‘proto-types’ of those garments – nearly eight months before. As soon as those collections hit the PR showrooms (NOT retail floors), stylists are fighting to borrow those looks for personal projects (such as magazines, websites, blogs, TV shows, movies, music videos, and celebrity appearances). Those stylists want to be the first to show their audience the cool, ‘new’/’hot’ thing, or have their celebrity clients be the first one to wear it. But since we only have the ‘proto-types’ of these garments, it’s generally the ONLY one that currently exists – besides pieces that other PR Firms have and the copies that the designers have –  because of this, the celebrity can’t buy it; and why would they, when their stylist has built relationships with publicists who will ‘loan’ them for free? The stylist will request the garment/look, the publicist will send the garment to the stylist, the stylist will them to use or not use the garment, and then send it back to the PR agency by the agreed upon deadline.

SO – most bloggers/Instagrammers/celebrities DO NOT actually own the product that they are featuring; ESPECIALLY if that item/garment is not yet available to the public via retail/department stores – it’s usually borrowed from a representing PR agency; and that it basically the majority of my job! The reason that we loan these garments is because that person is going to feature/wear our clients clothing and earn our client millions of views, likes, and comments via social media – which is the majority of my job!

C: What specific fashion blogger/Instagrammers do you think are currently the most important/influential in the fashion industry? What is it about them that makes them so popular – what is their ‘IT’ factor, in your opinion?

A: Like I mentioned earlier, fashion blogger: Leandra Medine, who created ‘ManRepeller’ was recently said to now be more influential than Anna Wintour, so I think right now she’s the one to be watching. What makes Leandra so popular or/what her ‘IT’ factor is, is that she is SO relatable. Even though she is a famous fashion blogger, wearing a variety of luxury garments she is relatable – when you watch an interview with her, she reminds you of your best friend. Of course, not all famous bloggers are like that, but I think the majority of them are. I tend to believe that their ‘IT’ factor is the fact that most of them come across as very normal, down to earth people, which is not always something we see with celebrities and the likes of.

C: What people/organizations do you follow to stay up-to-date on social media trends and why?

A: As far as the fashion industry goes, the people that I follow and look to to stay up to date on social media trends most often would be Leandra Medine who runs the blog/Instagram ‘Man Repeller’. She was recently said to be more influential in the fashion industry than Anna Wintour – so right now Leandra is a “big deal”. I also follow, for the most part, the major fashion print publications, such as: all the ‘Vogue’ accounts (VogueSpain, VogueAustralia, VogueChina, etc.), Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and others like that. As far as online publications go, I keep up to date on Refinery29, PopSugar, and others like that.

C: How was social media used this year during New York Fashion Week (FW16 & SS16 seasons)? Do you think that it was used in a ‘new’ way – if so how? How is social media changing/currently being used by fashion industry professionals?

A: The biggest way that NYFW utilized social media in the 2016 Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer fashion week presentations was by featuring their personal GeoTag on SnapChat. Fans/followers were easily able to see their favorite celebrities, models, and designers post personal SnapChats. By using SnapChat, viewers were given an inside/behind the scenes look to the event. NYFW, for years, has been considered pretty ‘exclusive’, since most shows require an invitation for admittance – so by using a GeoTag, NYFW reached a new/wider demographic than they have in the past.

C: What do you think is the most important upcoming trend in social media and why is that trend important?

A: Although it does relate to the fashion industry, I think the latest and upcoming social media trend is the use of ‘SnapChat’ with GeoTagging and companies, publications, etc. using personal ‘SnapChat’ to promote either their company, business, or an event – and I believe this will (or at least should) apply to every industry (Automotive, Food, Cosmetics, etc.). Using a SnapChat GeoTag isn’t free – which is something that we, as companies and journalists, have been spoiled by with the explosion of free social media promotion through Instagram and Twitter – however it truly is money well spent since the app is free to users (our target), thus, their more inclined to download and use the application – GeoTagging already is big, but I believe that it will continue to grow.

C: Ten years ago, social media was dominated by young people who wanted to socialize with their peers. You probably know better than most that nowadays social media is used by everyone: of all ages, race, gender, etc. – everyone is using social media in business and education, and using it to advance their careers! What advice would you give to aspiring fashion publicists about how to utilize modern social media for their benefit? Do you, as a hiring manager, take a special interest in applicants who mention their blog, or online portfolio on their resume?

A: Not just publicists in the fashion industry, but every entry-level applicant or recent grad who is looking to work in PR should be utilizing social media on a daily basis, on several platforms, and should be consistent with it! There is no reason why you, a person who has been formally educated in publicity, image management, etc., should not be utilizing social media.

It really, really is a HUGE plus when an applicant includes a link to their social media accounts and blogsites – and so when I see those on a resume, I absolutely check them out! You already told me what you can do on your resume; this is an opportunity for you to show me – prove to me that you not only talk the talk, but you also walk the walk. It’s an opportunity to say, ‘I told you that I follow X,Y, and Z publications consistently on my resume. Here’s proof that I actually do!’

So my advice to aspiring fashion publicists is to: A.) find what you enjoy in the industry – your niche and B.) Start a blog/account dedicated to that thing, and get creative with it! Don’t just tell them – SHOW those employers why they should hire you.

C: What advice would you give to aspiring fashion publicists about social media modesty/privacy? Ten years ago, parents and adults all around were terrified about their children/students sharing too much information on social media. Now, people are sharing much more, but where should we draw the line? What is appropriate for social media, and what is inappropriate for social media? How important is it, as a fashion publicist, to exercise caution when it comes to your personal social media posts?

A: I think we can all remember the days when social media was widely considered to be ‘dangerous’, and seen by most adults/professionals as just a way for young people to interact and socialize with each other – but now-a-days, it’s considered a tool rather than a toy; which is awesome! People today are still trying to test the waters when it comes to how explicit or modest they are with their content.

In my personal opinion – how much you share on your accounts/sites is really dependent on the goal or purpose of the site; the message is what matters. So if you are a stand-up comedian, for example, you may be ‘allowed’ more controversial or risqué posts because of your industry and goal; but if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you may benefit more from being modest; creating/circulating content that appeals to a wide variety of audiences. But for the average Joe or Jane, I think a good rule to follow is before you post/circulate content, ask yourself the question: ‘Would/could this content offend my boss, parents, or peers?’ If the answer is yes, then you probably should not post/circulate the content. Everything you post on social media has the potential to follow you, and with a little of bit of searching anyone can find an old post of yours. Just be sure to ‘Think before you post.’

The rules regarding social media digression for PR professionals is a little bit different. It’s quite a bit stricter. As a publicist, you are expected by clients, partners, employers, and others in your industry to be an expert in brand/image management, and I believe that should reflect on your social media. Absolutely everything that you post should hold to the standard of your position. PR specialists need to be extremely mindful about what they post about their personal life, but more importantly what they post regarding their firm, or the clients that they represent – and should reflect your nondisclosure agreements at all times.

C: Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social
media professional?

A: One piece of advice I would give to aspiring social media professionals would be to learn how to utilize social media to advance your career from a professional stand point – AKA just because you have a personal Instagram account that you use to casually interact with peers DOES NOT mean that you know how to use Instagram for a business – you would not include on your resume ‘Proficient using Instagram’. Businesses are not concerned that you know how to post cool pictures of you and your friends – they’re interested in what they can post to create conversation around a product and make money! I would suggest to recent grads to really begin looking at social media from a different perspective: take it from strictly ‘social media’; meaning socializing with just friends and peers, and really start looking at it from a ‘socially-professional media’. Learn how to bring your SM skills to your professional environment!

C: Amanda, thanks so much again for taking the time to talk with me today – you gave such incredibly useful advice, and really gave us an ‘outside the box’ perspective on things – which I think is so important! Such as: being super mindful about what you are posting on social media – there really aren’t ‘how to’ books dedicated to using social media to promote yourself, while respecting your audience, so that was really great advice! We definitely learned a lot today, and like you said, once we’ve acquired some experience like you, we’ll be sure to pay it forward and share our lessons with future PR professionals!

 

CONCLUSION

Miss Ranieri offered some really great advice, and even raised a TON of valid points during the interview. One thing that seemed to come up more than once was the fact that companies are really beginning to utilize SnapChat, and are successful with it because it offers a more personal, ‘inside look’, into what goes on within a company on a day-to-day basis. The main message that Amanda, intentionally or not, conveyed to us during the interview, was the importance of using social media to build your brand, or promote yourself! It makes sense that someone who claims to work in Public Relations – a career which focuses on gaining popularity by creating buzz – should pretty easily be able to do that for their own blogs and social media accounts! I also think the fact that she reiterated the fact that by providing these online portfolio-types, you are showing your skills instead of saying/listing them like you do on a resume. A lot of people claim that they are a hard worker on their resume, but what specific example can you either explain or show that assures your interviewer that you actually are? We need to start focusing on show, rather than just telling; and social media is such an amazing tool that we can use to do that. From the interview, we can agree that while working in Public Relations in 2016, Social Media is the backbone of a campaigns success – and knowing how to use it is how firms make the company message come to life.

 

 

Want To Learn More About Social Media & the Fashion Industry? Check Out the Links Below:

 

How Social Media Has Changed The Fashion Industry

Social Media’s Influence on the Fashion Industry

How Social Media is Transforming the Fashion Industry

Social Media Gives Fashion Industry A Total Makeover

The Strategic Use of Social Media in the Fashion Industry

 

External Sources:

BusinessVibes. (2015, May 7). 30 Shocking Figures and Facts in Global Textile and Apparel Industry. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from http://www.business2community.com/fashion-beauty/30-shocking-figures-facts-global-textile-apparel-industry-01222057#2yxshox07YaFwTZ4.97

Didienne, A. (2015, January 28). How many people work in the fashion industry worldwide? Retrieved March 01, 2016, from https://www.quora.com/How-many-people-work-in-the-fashion-industry-worldwide