On Tuesday, April 24, three successful workers in the public relation field came to the Kean University Miron Student Center to give a panel on their experience working in PR as it pertained to beauty, fashion and lifestyle.
The Beauty, Fashion & Lifestyle PR Panel was a great opportunity offered by the School of Communication, Media, and Journalism and Kean PRSSA, to give public relations majors and anyone interested working in the fashion, beauty or lifestyle businesses inside experiences and advice. The panelists all represented a different or combined form of the different lifestyle PR businesses.
The School of Communication, Media and Journalism is an academic department at Kean University that offers four specialized degrees: communication studies, media/film, journalism and public relations. The school offers minor programs for communications and social media as well as a masters in communications studies.
Kean PRSSA stands for Public Relations Student Society of America. It is the college level of the PRSA that helps students gain skills in the PR field. The goal of the organization is to prepare students to work professionally.
Illana Zalika is CEO and founder of Resound Marketing. With over 20 years of experience, Zalika spoke to the students who attended about starting from scratch with her own company and adapting with the times with technology and the internet. Zalika is president-elect and communications chair of the NJ chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and also serves on the National Advisory Board as communications chair for Family Reach Foundation, a non-profit organization that financially helps families struck by cancer.
Zalika spoke about how her education in English helped her incredibly when she transitioned to business and public relations. Stating that English gave her strong writing and communication skills. Her biggest struggle, however, was adapting to not only what she wants to write, but to align with her clients' messages.
Stephanie Bustamante is an account manager at First and Last PR. Scott works predominantly with beauty and lifestyle PR and has a lot of experience working with social media influencers and natural hair clients.
Amanda Saphire Billingham is an account manager at M Studio and has worked with clients from Dr. Martens, Converse and Stella McCartney. She works locally in Asbury Park, New Jersey with all kinds of clients expanding beyond lifestyle. Coming from a fashion background, Billingham uses her experience in fashion to move into public relations and gave advice about taking what you love to do and making a career of it to make one more successful and enjoy their job.
"If you're going to be dedicated to doing something and you have the choice. Put your time to something you have an interest for and a passion for because it's going to result in a better work performance and going to make you happier," said Billingham.
What all of the panelists agreed on and touched upon was the importance of certain traits you need when working in PR. Of the list, the ones that stood out the most for them was versatility, confidence and listening.
Balance was the key word that was brought up throughout the panel and correlated with the trait of versatility. Each panelist agreed that balancing is the most important skill needed for working in the field. Balancing passion, personal life, professional life, balancing one's priorities and managing one's tasks.
In response to a question about being a successful woman in the public relations and business world, the panelists discussed the importance of a thick skin and having overall confidence. It is because of their persistence and tenacity that they were able to create and maintain this confidence, and it helped them be successful.
"People are going to hang up on you, but you can't take it personally! There will be some good moments and some bad ones, and you need to be able to take constructive criticism and move on," said Zalika.
An attendee of the event asked the panel what they thought about internships and what the best way of approaching them was. Zalika and Bustamante spoke about how the most important thing for being an intern was listening. Zalika as a CEO advises that as an intern, it is important to take everything in and try to figure things out on your own, and then ask questions. Do the research before asking, but know that it is always welcomed to asked questions.
Each of the panelists also gave advise on which internships are best. The advise was unanimous in saying that finding the right internship is critical because they are real depictions of the work. If an intern is unhappy with a certain type of company, they will not like it when they work there. They recommend multiple internships of different varieties like interning at both a large PR agency and a small in-house firm. No matter which internship a student chooses, Billingham and Zalika added that one is never stuck in a career and one can always change where they work.
The final major topic that was discussed at the panel was the rise of social media influencers. The three panelists described their experience with the changing of the public relations world. Bustamante spoke about how her work with natural hair and using social media influencers is a big part of her job. She added how people take in media and products so differently. Billingham added that less than 10 years ago, an advertisement was one of the only sources for product information, whereas now consumers need a full view on YouTube from people they can relate to. Zalika discussed how working with social media influencers is very tricky in that as a PR agency it is important to balance the traditional methods while setting aside a budget for these rising forms of PR.
Because of the constant evolution of the industry, Billingham brought up the point that she was no longer just a publicist. Taking into account all she does in public relations, she identifies as a communicator and the rest of the panel agreed.
The most memorable quote to many of the students who attended the panel was "Own it". The quote was used by all of the panelists who urged the students to own their work and everything they do. Whether they messed something up or did a great job, it is important to own the work and that will get them far in the industry.
The event closed with the announcement of the PRSA NJ Future PR Pro of the Year Scholarship Application. The deadline for this scholarship is May 4 and the requirements are the following:
- Must be a PRSSA member
- Must be of junior or senior level
- Must attend a New Jersey college
- 1,500 word essay
- Recommendation letter from mentor or advisor
The scholarship will award $3,000 cash and more information on the scholarship can be found at prsanj.org/events/pyramid-awards.