The digital media landscape is continuing to evolve, and the job of managing public relations for fashion and lifestyle publications is transforming just as rapidly.
For the modern media publicist, navigating announcements surrounding layoffs and consolidations, while at the same time clamoring for the attention of readers who are increasingly consuming their news on social media, is all part of the game. Not only does the job involve traditional PR strategies, like the standard press release and pitch, but it also includes jumping in to craft social media strategies that communicate brand messages — all while building relationships with reporters, stifling rumors and trying to secure placements in a crowded news environment.
In our latest installment of Confessions, in which we grant anonymity for honesty, we talk to a PR professional who has worked for more than 10 years at fashion and lifestyle publications, including one that recently faced a round of severe print layoffs.
How has your experience working in media publicity for fashion and lifestyle publications evolved over the years?
When I started out at a magazine with a small online presence (now a large one), press releases were king, morning show segments were our bread and butter, and mags were just dipping a toe into the social media waters. [As time went on], running the brand’s Facebook and Twitter pages were part of my PR responsibilities, and I updated each several times a day. Today, as we all know, brands have entire teams devoted to these platforms; Instagram, Snapchat— all these guys have changed the PR game and become not only a megaphone for brand announcements, but for building and maintaining loyal communities.
There have been a series of layoffs at several publications in an effort to streamline resources to digital. How have you handled fielding questions regarding job cuts and scaling back print offerings?
By being as honest and succinct as I can. Usually, that means working with the team at my brand to craft a statement that explains what happened and why. You can’t stop details from leaking (they somehow always do) or the media from speculating, but I think a short and sweet statement is always better than saying nothing at all. When it’s big, it’s a little bit of making it up as you go along and following the lead of the corporate PR team and looking to them for how they want it handled. It’s about putting your own personal feelings asides and swallowing that pride, and maintaining professionalism.
What was the climate like at the office after they announced the most recent round of layoffs?
Bittersweet. But this also happened to me at other brands I worked at. It’s sort of expected when these things happened — there are these rumors and things that have been percolating and finally come to fruition. There’s an air of being proud of everything that happened, and yes, there is sadness. There are some people who are really upset, but also excited to go on to new things. There’s a ton of mixed emotions. If you want to work in this industry in 2017 you have to understand that these things would happen and take it in stride.
How do you personally handle the transitions?
You have to enjoy it — not having job uncertainty, but being interested in how everything is changing. In order to not let it affect you emotionally, you do have to have a thickened skin. It’s par for the course, and this is certainly going to keep happening.
What was the most difficult part of representing a publication experiencing significant transformations?
The most challenging part is trying to control the narrative and secure coverage for your brand’s wins despite all of the changes. It’s hard to pitch exciting new hires or traffic success when some reporters just want to discuss rumors. One source of comfort is that since there are so few publishers that aren’t experiencing transformations, even if you’re the focus on Monday, the media will most likely have moved on to another story by Wednesday.
What is the craziest demand you ever got?
I don’t know if I’ve had anything truly crazy, but what I do find interesting is when editors or executives look to their PR teams to make them famous when they haven’t necessarily done something press-worthy. Obviously, I will work to help them achieve as much recognition as I can, but press does have to be earned. We can only work so much magic.
So I take it you’re constantly on the clock?
I’ve been lucky in terms of work-life balance. I’ve definitely had weeks at a time where I’ve had to stay late working on a big launch or event, but those times were typically followed by a return to a normal 9-to-7. That being said, I am never too far from my phone in case something does come up. I once had a boss who lovingly said, “Hey, it’s a career, not a job,” when a co-worker mentioned always being on-call. And I think that is very true in any industry, especially in New York.