The stars portend a major shift in fashion PR

Fashion PR is feeling the force of celebrity influence and its impact on agency recruitment.

Fashion PR is feeling the force of celebrity influence and its impact on agency recruitment.

Alison Brod, founder and president of Alison Brod PR, explains that the agency has had to expand its staff due to celebrity and socialite influence, which is now an integral part of fashion PR.

Brod recently added a celebrity division as an investment. She says with added responsibilities, including short-lead outreach and new media, on top of long-lead and traditional fashion PR functions, "it was a lot to expect."

She also recently hired someone to handle buzz press - now essential to fashion PR - and someone to handle business press.

"Everyone wants more... stories to get the word out about a client," Brod says, "[including] profiles in Forbes [and] Fortune."

Erin Haggerty, an AE in Pierce Mattie's fashion practice, attributes this trend in fashion PR to reality TV and the high circulation of celebrity weeklies. She says clients are requesting tie-ins with shows like Project Runway and America's Next Top Model.

Haggerty says that the popularity of such shows means agency candidates must be more aware of [emerging] designers.

"It's no longer only mainstream brands featured [in media]," she says. "[Candidates should] know reality shows with up-and-coming designers and their personalities because they impact the industry."

The increased popularity of celebrity weeklies, which increase the necessity of short-lead pitches, is also a challenge for firms. Now, the agency's recruitment outreach focuses on candidates who can do "everything," says Brod.

Clients want their products in prestigious titles like Vogue, she adds, but those outlets don't want to follow placement or news by increasingly popular celebrity weeklies and their branded Web sites.

"We just need more good people overall," says Brod. "Here, everyone does strategy, everyone talks to the press."

Brod notes that the rise of online influencers requires the agency to find young, entry-level hires that are comfortable in the space and will take on a variety of responsibilities. "We work hard to fast-track and train," she says, "so the [young hires] can move up and [make room for others] with online [experience]."

Cece Feinberg, founder and president of Cece Feinberg PR, says that social networks and viral marketing firms have become more important in fashion PR. Like Brod, she likes to hire people in their early 20s that have a "logistical mindset to figure things out."

However, the interview is still key. "Fashion PR is all about personality and the way we communicate with other people," says Feinberg. "You must have a certain look because you're [socializing and] promoting your client's product."

Celebrity seeding remains very important to clients. As such, the firm has been hiring freelance stylists for their contacts, she explains. However, the agency plans to hire people with stronger celebrity contacts to ease the process.

Lately, Feinberg has gotten a lot of resumes from freelance stylists who may "no longer want to freelance, but still want to work within the fashion industry."

"[Junior] candidates don't have to be best friends with a celebrity," Haggerty adds, "but they should know the process of [leveraging the] celebrity. It's where the consumers are going right now."

Key points:
Fashion PR, now celebrity- and event-driven, places more emphasis on candidates' social skills during the interview

Junior candidates should grasp the process of celebrity seeding and short lead outreach to weekly outlets

Client demand for reality show tie-ins requires candidates have a grasp on new designers and influencers

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