I own Ruby Press, a boutique fashion/lifestyle PR agency based in Berkeley, CA. Prior to founding the agency, I was a fashion editor, with 12 years of experience (8 years in New York City at Harper’s Bazaar and Mademoiselle, and 4 years in California with Lucky Magazine and 7×7, a San Francisco city magazine). In 2003, my husband Sam joined Ruby Press as my business partner, we opened our Event Division in 2006, and in 2007 started our popular blog, the Ruby Press Blog.
I started my career as a fashion editor in New York City in September 1992. My first job was at Harper’s Bazaar, and Liz Tilberis’ first issue had just hit the stands, which sent shock waves through the fashion industry and editorial community. Hearst had brought her from British Vogue to turn Harper’s Bazaar around, and she very quickly made it THE fashion magazine to watch. She hired top talent: the very best editors were there and many of the top fashion photographers were on exclusive contract with the magazine. I learned from the very best, and loved the team I worked with. It was quite a thrill to live out my dream job. In 1995, I was hired as a fashion market editor at Mademoiselle Magazine. I spent 5 great years at Mademoiselle, and was quickly promoted to a senior editor position, but as my 30th birthday approached, I felt like I needed a new challenge and a new life.
As much as I loved being a fashion editor for those 8 years in NYC, the downside is that it’s the kind of job that envelopes your life and I wanted a little more balance. In 2000, I was recruited as the fashion director for a new fashion dotcom in San Francisco – which I took. I was very excited about the move to the West Coast and the opportunity to work in the field that I love … Unfortunately, two weeks after I made the cross-country move, the company dissolved and I was left jobless.
I soon found myself working as the fashion editor at a San Francisco city magazine called 7×7, which had just launched and when Lucky magazine launched, I became a contributing editor for them as well. Through those two jobs, I started to meet a lot of designers and creative people who were starting their own businesses and I thought, “Wow, I’d love to tell everyone (my editor friends in New York) about what’s happening here in Northern California!” At that moment, I started Ruby Press. I had honestly never considered working in PR. PR for PR’s sake isn’t particularly interesting to me, but spreading the word about brands I really believed in WAS and continues to be very exciting to me.
Ruby Press is a boutique agency and our clients hire us for our product placement services, marketing initiatives, event production, and design consulting. I think we stand out from the pack for several reasons. Perhaps most importantly, because of my background in editorial I understand the world of fashion and lifestyle media inside and out. I am very selective about the companies we take on as clients, meaning we only take on brands that we believe in and that we think we can do great things with. We are friends with the editors, producers and bloggers. We understand how they work and respect their deadlines and requirements. And of course, our results. We’ve been told by our clients that the type (and the amount) of press that we’ve secured for them has really changed their businesses.
I work approximately 60-65 hours per week. I work for about an hour before I get into the office in the mornings, and often a few hours at home in the evenings. When you own your own business and you love what you do, it’s hard to turn it off. I do, however, make a concerted effort to refrain from working on the weekends. I think it’s so important to recharge!
There’s really so much, but typically (and most often) we are focusing on getting coverage for our clients in various media outlets, from print to online to broadcast. We are often producing events or orchestrating marketing initiatives for clients as well. And of course, as the co-owner of the agency, I am often meeting with new potential clients.
Every day is truly different, and even if we are working with the same client for 8 years, they still have new collections each season, which helps keep it fresh for us and, most importantly, fresh for the media. I still feel a little thrill each time we get a fabulous placement for a client, or put on a successful event. It’s an exciting industry.
Especially in this changing world of media, it’s imperative to stay current with social media. Those who don’t will quickly fall behind. A great agency should know how to work with the blogging community, which often operates very differently than print media. We have had a blog for almost two years now, and a great by-product of that is that we are insiders with the blogging community and we truly understand how they work, as we are also one of them.
I think it’s imperative that you’re an excellent communicator and that you genuinely like people. You need to have strong relationships in place with the appropriate media outlets and fully understand and utilize the new social media outlets. A great publicist should be able to juggle many things at once and keep a cool, calm head.
I think it’s extremely important to find an agency that has proven to deliver results, but it’s just as important to find an agency that you feel truly understands your brand and listens to you. And you should choose an agency that has the right relationships in place- without relationships, an agency is nothing.
We are lucky enough to have our clients come to us through word of mouth. They’ve either heard about us from a client (or an acquaintance of a client) or have seen what we’ve done for our current clients and went on their website to see who was behind it. I first speak to anyone who asks about our services on the phone or via email. If I feel like it’s a potential fit for our agency I schedule a phone call to discuss their business and needs in depth. If they’re based locally, we would meet in person. Otherwise, Skype or a phone call does the trick. Many of our clients are based in Northern California, but many are not- we currently have clients in New York City, Portland, and Los Angeles. And we’ve had clients as far away as Australia.
Well, not only have we embraced the new social media here in our office, but we are teaching our clients to do the same. Keeping up with these new mediums is certainly adding a little extra time and effort to our days, but I think it’s certainly worth it.
We genuinely like the editors we work with, and we develop relationships with them. Having been an editor for so many years, I understand how to work with them, and what they need. We know questions to ask that other publicists might not think about. We’ve been told by so many editors that we make their job easy, and that’s the biggest compliment.
I always think they might be a quiet period and then there never really seems to be! We always seem to be busy, which I suppose in this economy, I can’t complain about.
Having trained as an editor, I think that when I look at a potential new client, I see it as an editor would. I look for lines that are “editorial”, which means they are fresh and new, current (without being a knock off or one-note), high quality, and have enough range to be appealing to a good percentage of the media. It’s a bit difficult to put into words- it’s almost a “je ne sais quoi” type of thing, but those are the lines that stand out to me and to the editorial community.
Yes, I think it makes so much more sense to befriend other publicists, as opposed to only seeing them as competition. In fact, when I started Ruby Press, I had good friends of mine in mind who started their own agencies in NYC- I think I really learned from their examples.
First of all, I would definitely suggest interning. Even if your school doesn’t require it, and even if you have to do it after you graduate. It gives you some experience on your resume, shows your dedication and (hopefully!) provides a great industry reference. When we hire employees right out of school, we look for great communication skills and personal presentation, knowledge of fashion/lifestyle media outlets and of our clients, and an obvious interest in style and design. I’m always amazing by candidates who claim to love fashion in their cover letters but then have no experience in their resume to back it up.
For anyone considering a career in fashion PR:
The world of fashion PR has become very sexy in the eyes of many, thanks to exposure in movies, books, and reality TV, but it’s not all glamour. It’s often a high-stress job, and one which requires a thick skin. And it’s extremely competitive. My suggestion to anyone considering working in this field is to make sure you love it before committing to a career in fashion PR.
For anyone looking to hire a PR agency:
Take your time finding the agency that’s right for you. You should trust your agency and feel confident in their abilities. Most agencies require you sign a one year contract, and a good agency does not come cheaply, so it’s a big commitment, but one that can truly change your business. Educate yourself not only on how PR works, but what to do with it once you have great placements in hand. We have a page on our website which includes some important quotes from top marketing books about PR and what to expect from it.