As The Devil Wears Prada shamelessly portrays, the fashion industry can be full of tough personalities. Add in the tenacity and resolve of a publicist, and you have a recipe for a group of people that won't take no for an answer, have fabulous taste in shoes and understand if they don't work hard enough, someone is waiting in line to replace them. Welcome to Fashion PR.
Intern, intern, intern
The importance of internships (note the plural) is three fold. First off, it gives you an idea if this is even an arena you want to compete in. Pull aside the veil of glitz and glam, and there is a ton of hard work that goes on behind the scenes. An internship will allow you the opportunity to see if Fashion PR is a good fit for you. Next, an ever-evolving industry has resulted in multiple lanes to explore. Try to gain experience both in-house and with an agency, as well as across different divisions, if possible. Do you want to direct your efforts towards digital influencer partnerships, produce innovative media events or work with stylists for the red carpet? You won't know until you try. Finally, internships give you an edge – the more you can put on your resume, the better. “A million girls would kill for this job" isn't just a DWP quote, it's completely true – and should be the only motivation you need.
Don't burn bridges – or ladders you'll need to climb later
A solid network is of utmost importance in this industry. There are a few ways to build one: Don't make fast enemies, treat people like people, help out when you can, be nice to everyone and go out of your way to do a phenomenal job. Not only will that assistant be Fashion Director at Vogue one day, but she'll be more likely to answer your email if she thinks highly of you. Additionally, connections and relationships are primarily what your worth is weighed upon, and the more people you can count as fans, the more opportunities will come your way.
Don't let anyone ruffle your LBD
The rules of how to play nicely in Fashion PR are sometimes a soft suggestion, and not everyone colors inside the lines. Whether it's a client, brand or co worker, the industry is blessed with a bevy of rich (and sometimes difficult) personalities. Don't let anything or anyone bring you down! Put on your best, and dare I say always black, power publicist outfit, and do your job. Accept that any challenging moment is a tool to learn from, and move on. Appreciate and encourage those that build you up, teach you how to succeed and high five you after a job well done!
The word “no" doesn't exist
Be aggressive! But not too aggressive. Find a nice balance between never taking “no" for an answer, and thinking outside the box to find alternative paths to success. When it comes to pitching, hearing it's a “pass" is less than ideal (and sometimes detrimental), so be prepared to be persistent without earning a restraining order.
Your best bet is to get creative and find a way to get what you want by providing other people with what they want. Think of the other person, not just yourself, and you will be victorious more often than not.
You are your own best publicist
It can take some time to gain the confidence you need to get ahead in this business, but once you do, utilize it. Let your work speak for itself (hopefully, it's consistently A+), but also, stand up for yourself and the recognition you deserve. No one is going to give you anything; you have to fight for it. More importantly, you have to earn it. Ask how you can improve, set goals for yourself, go above and beyond, and constantly prove that you are willing to work harder than everyone else to rise in the ranks.
Enjoy the ride
While I admit this job can be wildly chaotic, it can also be a hell of a lot of fun! The perks are endless: incredible fashion moments, exciting parties, inspiring designers and industry leaders, and the thrill of being at the forefront of it all. Remember that these exhilarating moments are the reason you got into Fashion PR in the first place! Enjoy the wins that make you proud, appreciate the challenges that make you strong, take a second to do a happy dance in those Jimmy Choos, and congratulate yourself for kicking ass! Then get back to work.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.