We all know that a career in Public Relations comes along with a very busy lifestyle, so much so, that you’re constantly learning new techniques to achieve a work/life balance, and garnering more information on a daily-basis. Public Relations thrives hugely off self-motivation, and when you feel as if you have acquired crucial knowledge of the industry, it is easier to become a more focused and more motivated go-getter. In this digital age, career advice sites and blogs have sky-rocketed in popularity, and The PR Closet is one particular website that has a huge following.
Founded by Alexis Rodriguez, The PR Closet is a medium through which Alexis gives very well-considered and helpful advice to aspiring Public Relations professionals. The PR Closet includes brimming interviews with PR pros, answers to frequently-asked industry questions, and even a section that advertises current PR positions.
With over 16 years of PR experience, Alexis Rodriguez is more than just a pretty-face, and packs a powerful PR punch. This stunning New Yorker holds a fabulous position as the Executive Director of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and rightfully so, we’d say! After 3 years of PR internships (in her sophomore, junior and senior years) and work with various PR agencies and huge brand names; by 2003, Alexis was the in-house PR Manager for Diane Von Furstenberg Beauty, cinching the position of Director of Public Relations only 2 years later. Following a successful, five year career with DVF, Alexis then moved on to the luxury Louis Vuitton Moёt Hennessey Group, overseeing the North America area of Parfums Givenchy and Pucci Fragrance, a position which led her to direct the largest PR campaign in the history of the men’s section of the brand. For this, she got to work with the spokesperson of the ‘Play’ fragrance, Justin Timberlake! We’re very impressed!
Sitting down for a tea (chamomile with honey on the side – just like Alexis likes it) with this PR guru, we find that there are many reasons to love Alexis. She’d rather read a real novel than a Kindle, and she’s honest, sometimes to a fault – admitting that she checks her BlackBerry first thing in the morning “sadly before I brush my teeth!”. Alexis is a healthy eater, but hates to work out, and her idea of a good time is a great dinner with friends, or going out to dance. This beautiful brunette lives in New York with her husband James and their dog Hendrix, “the cutest black Cavapoo you’ll ever meet”, Alexis says. Yes, our impression of Alexis Rodriguez is spot-on: she is lovely!
Alexis is without a doubt, a city girl, and describes herself as having a “love-affair” with Paris, yet New York is most certainly her favourite city-location. Whilst she was born in the bustling city that never sleeps, she spent most of her childhood in sunny Florida, returning to New York for college. Alexis owes a lot to New York for her successful career, especially considering the career path that she chose to take: “I knew I wanted a career in journalism or something related, so I felt like I had to be in New York. Going to school in NYC, interning in NYC and building a network made it so clear to me that NYC is where I needed to stay. It was always home to me, but now it is without a doubt so much a part of who I am and why I have the career I have. And it really is true—if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere!”
And that’s exactly what Alexis Rodriguez has done – she has truly made it. We are humbled to be given advice, first-hand, from such an inspiring career-woman, and what’s more, she loves to pass on her words of wisdom to others! A “beauty publicist by day and a blogger by night,” who would have thought that such a busy person would have time to pass on her invaluable advice to others, as well! “The best part of my job is when young aspiring publicists ask me how to break into the industry, and I get to put on my mentor-hat.” So what does it take to be a successful publicist? Alexis gave Your Coffee Break an exclusive PR101 on what it takes to make it.
Your Coffee Break’s one-to-one PR101 with Alexis Rodriguez:
What personal skills and qualities are important for Public Relations?
“Thick skin. This is a tough job. You put yourself out there to get rejected often, and so you need to be able to move on from that rejection, think quickly, get back on your feet, and find another way. Creativity, excellent writing skills, and a passion for your brand are crucial as well. You need to be a people person, first and foremost, because this industry is all about making and maintaining relationships.” As someone who describes herself as “tenacious, passionate and a true go-getter,” we’re certain that these character-attributes have been to thank for Rodriguez’s amazing career-history.
Do you think that University/College is necessary for a PR career? Can one begin a successful PR career with merely internship experience and a PR-personality, instead?
“The workforce is increasingly competitive so I always recommend a college education for any job, and most agencies and big companies will not consider you without one. That said, I know some people who did not get a formal degree, but instead got certificates or started interning early on and worked their way up. That is possible as well, but not widely accepted yet. If you do go to college, I don’t think that you necessarily need to major in PR, but it is important to take PR courses to understand the fundamentals. English, Creative Writing and Speech courses are also helpful.”
Can you tell us the importance of having internships on your resumé? How many should one have by the time they’ve graduated?
“Internships are the best way to test the waters of a job or an industry, to see if it is right for you. You should try to secure as many internships as possible, starting as early as possible (your freshman or sophomore years are a great time to start). Out of all of my internships: one expanded my network of press; another strengthened my writing skills, while another challenged my creativity. And that is why you intern – to be a sponge and learn from the many who have done it before you. Not only will this beef up your resumé, but it will help provide clearer direction as you decide what your major should be.
My internships solidified my passion for beauty and helped me identify my strengths. Internships are crucial, as the best way to learn the ins and outs of any job is on the job. I suggest that students start interning in high school, but you definitely need internships in college.”
What advice do you have for aspiring PR professionals?
“I think that you need to be a people person, first and foremost, because this industry is all about making and maintaining relationships. You also need to be willing to work hard.
Networking is also very important. When you are not working, you should be networking by joining PR-related clubs/organizations, attending PR related events, and setting up exploratory interviews/meetings with people in the industry.”
What makes you a successful PR professional?
“Success means a lot of different things to different people. For me, it means delivering results, mentoring my team and keeping them engaged, and also finding a nice balance between work and my personal life. Having been in this industry for a while now, I think that factors that help with my personal success include my own self-motivation and work ethic, the great managers I had along the way who taught me how to be a good manager, and having a supportive family and a great group of friends who encourage me, but also keep me grounded.”
In PR, how do you establish good relationships with key Editors?
“You meet them in person. There is nothing like being with someone one-on-one that helps you get to know them better. You can chat and email all you want, but seeing someone in the flesh is different and creates a stronger relationship if there is in fact a connection. I believe in seeing the media as often as possible at industry events, over lunch, at desksides, etc., and creating genuine relationships where you really get to know personal things about them. As long as you are sincere and not fake, it cannot hurt.”
How do you get your client’s design on celebrities? What’s your PR strategy?
“That’s about relationships with the stylist, makeup artist, publicist, or celeb themselves. So much goes into developing that relationship—that could be a class in and of itself!”
Working in the PR industry, do you agree with the saying: ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’?
“Yes and no. I would say that 50% is who you know, especially when you are breaking in, as there are specific people to might be able to get you that great interview, internship, or even a job. The other 50% is definitely what you know. You could be referred to me by someone I know and trust, but if I meet with you and you are unprepared, you don’t know anything about my brand or the work we have done, on top of lacking basic PR skills; I will not hire you. So, it is a bit of both.”
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received in your career so far?
“Look out for you, because nobody else will. I have learned this the hard way! I also learned that it is okay to fail. Just fail fast and cheap, and learn from it.”
How important do you think that social media platforms such as Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are in today’s market?
“Social media has completely changed the traditional landscape of PR as we knew it. As a publicist, I used to speak only to press who then translated my key messages into a story for the consumer. Social media has removed the middleman and made it possible for me (and publicists in general) to now speak directly to our customers. We are now responsible for driving conversations and interactions online via social platforms like Facebook and Twitter or a corporate blog.
It is an incredible opportunity to be able to listen and speak with your fans, but it has also added a whole new level of responsibility that most teams were not trained or equipped to take on. Not to mention that publicists have become marketers now; the line between PR and Marketing is becoming blurry. Some brands have full on digital marketing teams that handle these non-traditional social and digital media platforms, but I find that many of my PR friends are the voices behind their brands’ Facebook posts and tweets.
Publicists are switching gears multiple times a day, every day. It is amazing though because we can reach more brand loyalists AND measure engagement and traffic, ultimately determining much easier now how much PR affects sales.”
Tell us about a typical day working as the Executive Director of PR at Bobbi Brown Cosmetics…
“I don’t think a publicist can sum up quickly what a day is like because no day is ever the same and we juggle so many responsibilities. My team and I work on so many things daily, but a typical day can look like the following:
I wake up and check my BlackBerry. I read MediaBistro.com, SocialTimes.com and my Google Alerts on my way to work and answer urgent emails.
Once at work, I media monitor for first 30 minutes (WWD, Huffington Post, Page Six, Cision, and my brand’s Facebook and Twitter accounts). Then I can do any one or more of the following…
- Meet with my team
- Pitch editors
- Draft a press release
- Prep for a shoot or TV/radio segment
- Coordinate an interview with our spokesperson
- Attend an event
- Meet with editors
- Site check for an upcoming event
- Have multiple conference calls
- Attend corporate meetings
No day is ever the same, which is what I personally love about the job.”