I am thrilled to introduce this week’s guest, Holly Chapman. Holly has had an impressive career across the globe and is currently the Head of PR & Communications at the most beloved stationary start up, Papier.
Here, Holly shares her personal journey into the PR world, her top tips for people wanting to enter the industry and how influencers can build relationships with brands.
After studying History & Politics at University, why/how did you decide to get into PR? Did you know what you wanted to do when you went to University?
Getting into PR was very accidental although I like to think that the universe had it planned for me!
All through university I thought I would go join the civil service never spending very much time thinking about if that suited my ambitions, when I finished I realised it wasn’t the world for me I realised I was visualising a more creative role but I didn’t know what it was and I was pretty lost for a couple of months.
Out of the blue I got a call from an old manager, I worked with him when I had a Saturday job at a luxury bedroom brand whilst I was at university – he said that their head office were advertising for a PR assistant so I typed “What is PR?” into google and went from there.
From the initial descriptions online I thought it was the perfect mix of creative, sociable and indulged my love of trend forecasting. I’ll admit that I imagined myself hosting chic dinner parties and making endless editor friends – it can be like that but it certainly isn’t always like that and definitely never like that at the beginning.
Currently, you’re Head of PR and Community (UK, US, AU) at Papier! What is it like to work at the beloved start up?
Papier is such an inspiring place to work. I love the variety of my role and being creative everyday.
I’ve worked in start-ups before and I love the challenges and opportunities that come with this environment, it’s fast paced and exciting and it feels like we’re all building something together. Creating and designing the brand launch in New York was a highlight.
What advice would you give anyone trying to get a job in PR?
PR is really competitive but I would advise those starting out to be open minded and look for roles which aren’t with the top, big fashion brands. You can get experience in interiors or other lifestyle brands and move across to fashion if that’s where you want to be once you’ve got started.
PR agencies are also a great first job and entry into the PR world – you work hard usually on several clients at once but you absorb so much information being in a dedicated press team and build your relationships with journalists, tastemakers and influencers that much quicker.
Finally – consume media and magazines, all the time – know what is trending, where people are eating, what people are talking about, and the brands that are being coveted – as a PR you need to be understanding of the zeitgeist and be able to reference trends in your interviews – the weekend papers are the perfect place to get this information.
Why do you think that social and email media marketing is so important? Do you think we’ll see a further shift to online, digital marketing in the future?
Social and digital media is so important because it’s instant, people are exposed to brands/products/people on their phones all the time without always being aware of it. Having a structured digital strategy and creating a community that supports and talks about your brand is so essential.
I’m sure you receive tons of pitches from influencers, what makes a pitch stand out in your inbox?
With an overflowing inbox I will always open and take the time to reply to someone I already have a relationship with – that could be a contact or friend I’ve met at an event or someone who’s connected via Instagram or emailed in the past. Never be afraid to go back and reply to an old email chain to reconnect even if it’s been months.
Overall keep emails concise, include links to your relevant channels plus background information, things like “I featured your product on my stories and had XX many views last year” or my audience is mainly Australia etc is also super helpful. If you’ve tagged a brand in posts before we love to see them so send images or links in your email.
And take the time to build a relationship with the contact, be chatty and friendly open to invitations and start a friendship!
How do you find influencers that align with your brand ethos?
It’s a lot of scrolling on Instagram but we always take notice of anyone who tags us or uses tracked links to our site from blogs. Depending on the campaign we work with different communities – so a fashion collaboration for us might mean that we work with different tastemakers to when we launch a wellness journal. The designs and products have to really fit with the person and the story we are telling!
You’ve worked on some amazing projects for incredible companies, what do you aspire to do next?
I would love to get some experience in other international markets and make a move to a different country to experience the start-up space in the US or Europe and I’m also hoping to do more writing and start pitching some editorial stories – we’ll see!
Do you have a favourite project or collaboration that you’ve worked on? It might be hard to narrow this down as they are so many!
So many – it’s my favourite part of the job and I love to spend time researching new partners, discovering up and coming artists, designers and fashion brands that we might want to work with in the future.
If I had to pick a favourite it would be the supper we hosted on a canal boat called The Prince Regent where dinner was served amongst golden marigolds, candles and layed place settings featuring clashing prints from the Papier x Matilda Goad collection – the weather was perfect and it was a magical evening.
Lastly, is there a charity that you’d like to mention that’s close to your heart.
At Papier we work with a lot of different charities throughout the year but in my personal life I love to raise money and awareness for Women for Women International, the charity that supports women survivors of War.
I’m on the planning committee for their #SheInspiresMe Carboot sale which is the chic-est carboot to rummage with brands and fashion favourites sell clothes, shoes, accessories and interiors to raise funds for Women for Women.
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