Image courtesy Erika Doria
Interview

Crosby Noricks

05.17.16

Crosby Noricks is the experience and brains behind the public relations how- to bible, PR Couture. As the founder and editorial director she is involved in all of the content produced that public relations executives, students, and brand owners have come to rely on to apply to current and future PR strategies. Last year Noricks launched PRISM, a 6-week course aimed at an entry-level audience to enhance their on-the-job learning with specific industry information, branding, positioning, and mentorship – which is surprisingly not as available real time as one would expect – Noricks has closed that gap with this program as her “students” gain unique insight and a wealth of knowledge and support from the PR Couture network. PRISM is in addition to other workshops offered through PR Couture all targeted to a similar audience. As the PR industry shifts alongside the fashion industry, Noricks remains at the top of the game, understanding and implementing new techniques and strategies in order to engage with brands and their audiences – truly an expert in the field.

Interview

What first attracted you to the world of public relations and marketing?

My first introduction to PR occurred during my study abroad program at the London College of Fashion my junior year of college. I really enjoyed how creative our assignments were and I enjoyed the mix of idea creation, event planning and writing. One of our assignments was to write a magazine-feature style article about ourselves, 10 years in the future, and I had a lot of fun with that one.

I discovered PR and marketing again a few years later, while studying for my MA in Communication. At the same time, I was running the PR and marketing department for a “get the look for less”-style jewelry brand – doing everything from email marketing to copywriting to editorial pulls. I was in a place where I was learning the theory and learning the real-world applications, and having a lot of fun working with editors and learning how to drive customers to action through copy and design.

What’s your background?

I’ve lived in California my whole life (except for a few months in London and a later stint in Barcelona), and have been in San Diego for about a decade. My grandmother did estate sales in Santa Barbara (where I was born), so I have early memories of going through heaps of clothes and getting to keep pieces for my dress up box. In elementary school, I went to the Rose Bowl swap meet with my mom searching for treasure, and later spent a lot of time thrift store shopping, dying vintage slips – and my hair – and generally having a lot of fun with fashion. I graduated from Pitzer College with a combined degree in media studies and gender & feminist studies, and a master’s from San Diego State in mass communication. I’ve always been interested in clothing as a form of visual communication, and writing is one of my key strengths (I was Editor-in-Chief of my middle school magazine, ha!). After nearly 8 years working in fashion & consumer PR/marketing, I’ve since learned that in addition to being a writer at heart, I’m an entrepreneur who finds business-building endlessly inspiring, challenging and creative.

After spending many years working in the field, you launched PR Couture – a B2B, how-to-PR-guide – is there anything you miss about working more directly with clients?

I think what I miss most is the camaraderie and teamwork that happens in a fast-paced agency setting. Sometimes I even get nostalgic for a conference call or weekly meeting! I still work with clients – I do business strategy sessions with freelance publicists and agency owners – as well as brand intensives with emerging designers, startup companies, and occasionally take on larger projects for my former agency as a consultant.

Tell us about the courses you offer? Who are they targeted to?

One of the reasons I started PR Couture was because the fashion & lifestyle industries get very little attention in college, including academic and trade journals. This has shifted – at least in terms of fashion news sites that have since launched – but for those who are interested in a career in this field, there’s precious little to explore in textbooks, case studies, etc. I started by writing a book, a career guide to breaking into fashion PR, because I wanted to leverage the network I had built through PR Couture to answer the questions I had when I was just starting out – and so I shared information and also relied on others working in the field to share their perspective and suggestions. Last year I launched a virtual 6-week course called PRISM, which is aimed at that same entry-level audience and seeks to empower new talent with industry specific information, mentorship and ongoing support, as well as some of my best strategies for career planning and general life. We cover things like personal branding, positioning and pitching, but I’m most proud of our Alumni Network, where graduates of the course are consistently reaching out to one another for ideas and support. It’s also inspiring to see them go from having a lack of confidence about their strengths and abilities to landing jobs at top magazines, agencies and brands. Through PRISM I want to elevate the quality of entry-level talent while promoting a ‘a collaboration over competition’ mentality that I believe this industry truly needs to thrive.

I also teach a course in partnership with Fashion PR Girl, called Instappable, which is aimed at fashion marketers and brands who are looking to run successful Instagram Collaborations with influencers. We provide in-depth materials – from creative briefs to contracts – that make it turnkey to execute these types of engagements.

Finally, Fashion PR Confidential is a 2-day workshop (and online course), that I teach twice a year in partnership with Danika Daly. We offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity for participants (who range from college students to brand managers) the chance to learn the ins and outs of fashion PR, connect with editors and PR agency owners, and of course, make some great memories with our photo wall and gift bags!

PR has changed tremendously in the last fifteen years – what are the most significant changes in your opinion?

To me the biggest shift has been to move away from the media as gatekeeper model – wherein brand stories were told through the filter of the media. The ability to go direct to the consumer through digital tools and owned media channels is a fundamental shift. Secondly, social media offers everyone a mouthpiece – and the positive or negative endorsement of a single individual can have powerful consequences for brands. Both of these influences have blurred the lines between public relations, marketing, advertising and customer service. Finally, for the fashion industry, consumers have an increased expectation of being able to engage directly with brands, which has required a shift in access – we can no longer hide behind an aspirational, velvet rope and expect brand loyalty.

Why do you think so many agencies have had a tough time adapting to the impact of digital?

I think agencies followed the standard diffusion of innovation theory, which explains the process by which new technologies are adopted. Certain agencies were quick to explore digital, they saw the value – both as a financial opportunity and differentiator – as well as new opportunities for PR and connection among customers. For others, it felt threatening, or like a passing fad, and so they downplayed its growing importance and tried to focus on stressing the value of traditional media outreach, often at the expense of digital.

What are your thoughts on the current fashion industry? Do you think the industry needs some restructuring?

Industries must keep up with changing attitudes, behaviors and expectations. These big growth periods are often painful and a bit messy as new technologies are adopted, new values are introduced and structures become more sophisticated.  There are certainly ways in which the fashion industry is being called to evolve – from issues of ethical production, to the role of fashion week, to the increase in sponsored content and the decrease of editorial. I think we’re in the midst of significant restructuring – the true impact of which we probably won’t be able to see for several years yet.

The fashion news cycle is crazy fast, how long is a story relevant?

There is this expression, “to PR the PR,” and this has become an increasingly important way to extend the shelf-life of a story. I get frustrated as a media consumer to see a single story get picked up across multiple sites (I often dig for the original source) but from a PR perspective, it’s so valuable. It depends on the story of course, but our limited attention spans and the sheer amount of content being produced means that you’ve probably got a week, tops, before we’ve all moved onto something else.

For a small brand what is the most impactful PR strategy on a limited budget?

This might be sacrilegious to say, but for a small brand the most impactful strategy isn’t PR, it’s Search and direct-to-consumer marketing, primarily through email.

What is the biggest misconception about PR or publicists?

I think there’s a general lack of understanding about what public relations is. For example, landing media coverage or publicity, is a tool within the PR wheelhouse – it isn’t the end all be all. PR professionals guide brand and media strategies, own and extend the brand story to build awareness, interest and inspire action. We help to drive business growth by identifying and executing strategies that connect brands and audiences together for mutual benefit. It’s a strategic function that requires a capacity for big picture thinking as well as a knack for subtlety; it is not about air kisses and champagne.

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