Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Correy Law: PR Director at Catbird

Catbird —*the* destination for classic and cool jewelry-- has stuck to its own rules since its inception 10 years ago. Never stuffy, this brand has simplified the jewelry game one Threadbare at a time, having a lot to do with their PR guru Correy Law. A Michigan native, Correy has made a career out of staying true to what she loves and using that to carve out her own formula for making press in the digital age. Read on for her advice on making it in PR and how she has created Catbird's unique PR personality.

So first off, can you take me through a typical day as the PR it-girl at Catbird?

There are really no two days that are the same. Some mornings have meetings or interviews at the storefront, other mornings will start at the office or if we have new product we have to shoot it. It's a lot of seeing what is needed that day, because there’s really no mute button. You wake up and your email kind of guides you into what your day is going to look like.Sometimes we invite editors in to take a look at the line either at the store or in the office. Staying active all day on social, that’s a big part of my job as well. I do all of the social and all of the PR, so creating that content daily and responding to anyone that is talking to us. It’s a mild customer service role to be there for our customers or our fans that don’t really know us yet. Yesterday WhoWhatWear picked up a stacking story that we did with Racked. They picked it up and we re-tweeted them and we had someone asking “how do I wear a first knuckle ring?” and I lead them to our site because we have a sizing guide.

People need a little bit of hand holding when it comes to jewelry. Jewelry is a really intimate and it can be intimidating. We try to make it non-intimidating and playful. We’re big but we’re small so we can be there for our customers. Engaging and listening to our audience is key, while showcasing new products and what we’re up to-- giving the behind the curtain of our brand. Across the board engaging is a big part of my job.

Let’s go back a bit, what did you study in college?

I actually studied PR and Advertising. I was fortunate enough to go to DePaul University in Chicago. I knew that I liked people and I liked talking. At first it was a general communication degree and then I started taking some PR classes. At the time it was a PR Advertising BA. I graduated from High School in 2006 and I was in college from 2007 until 2011. My beginning classes were all super writing heavy. Like “you have to write this huge lengthy story and bring it back and make it way more concise.” It was intense, but in a very positive way. It helped my writing skills a lot cause it helped me learn the writing structure for PR.

While I was there, there was this huge digital switch and all of my professors started talking about social [media] and the importance of it in PR. I saw a huge digital switch in my education where all of my professors were like “This is why you need to learn more concise writing, you’re going to be in this digital space.” They told us that’s where the buzz was going to happen, and that’s where PR and brand-building is going. That really struck an interest in me.

What was your first job in the industry?

After college I lived in Chicago for a little bit longer, bounced around and then I moved to New York. I interned for Nylon in their Marketing/PR department, and that was a lot more events driven. They do a cover event every month for whoever is on the cover, so it was a lot of planning for that and research. I did that and then I also interned at Bumble & Bumble in their PR department, and then in the creative department. Then I was the assistant to the Creative Director, who was the coolest lady ever. At the same time I started working at Catbird, which was so small. When I started, there were 5 of us including the owner. There was an opportunity, they were outsourcing their PR and I spoke with the owner about bringing it in-house and about me doing that and what it meant. We came up with a strategy and as we grew I adapted.

So you approached the owner yourself?

Well I was working there and we both saw an opportunity and decided that it made sense. I kind of just stepped in fully, I feel like that’s how everyone I know in New York was-- they just stepped in and it was the right place and right time. I feel very fortunate that it was the right time. When I moved here I wanted to do boutique PR, but I didn’t really know what it meant to work so closely with a brand. Now I look back on it and I’m like “Oh, I’m doing what I wanted to do.” I feel very fortunate to be able to work so intimately with a brand, and that this is the brand that I get to do everything for.

If ‘kid you’ could see you today, do you think she’d be surprised at your job?

I feel like every day when I was little I told my mom a new thing that I wanted to do. I was really fascinated with people’s roles and what they did. Everyone I knew when I was a kid was so important, and their roles were so exciting. I was always fascinated by what people did. You know when you’re a little kid you have to do that report where you interview someone about their career? I did mine with my doctor at the time. I grew up in Michigan and we went to a holistic doctor, so it wasn’t the normal doctor experience. I was absolutely fascinated by him. I said that’s what I want to be, and then he told me all of things you have to do to become a doctor and I was like “I have to go to more school?!” He held my interest for a year, and then I moved on to other things I saw or read about. I have two older sisters as well so all of their friends inspired me.

Kid me would be surprised maybe, but super proud as well. A little kid in this environment would have stars in her eyes, it’s like a living treasure chest. My kid self, who did frequently break into my grandmother’s jewelry case, would be very taken with this place. We do the stacking trend at Catbird and my grandmother used to always say “why hide any of your jewels, wear them all at once.” I think it was just innate in me to work with jewelry.

Catbird is so young and hip. How do you keep the PR for the brand professional while still staying true to Catbird’s brand personality?

Our brand is forever evolving and a big part of it is listening to the people that are talking to us, or about us. I keep up with what people want and what they’re talking about, while trying to develop our voice. Figuring out what people want is a huge part of my job, while also showing them what we’re about and staying true to the brand. If a story or a product placement doesn’t make sense, then we’re not going to do that. For so long we did our own thing and everything was about creating our own buzz from the ground up. We are young so it’s always stemmed from internal chatter, staying relevant through our social outlets and finding people in that way, whether it be a celebrity or an editor. We’ve created this voice that is very playful, exciting and young, and we try to stay true to that while creating a balance between creativity and commerce. We don’t do a hard-push ever, it’s all about fun and being in the right people’s mouths.

At the end of the day we are a retail business, but we’re also trying to build a brand. Nothing is ever inventory driven, it’s more excitement driven. Even with +Eva Chen wearing our Cashmere Beanie, we’ve had them now for two or three winters. Our staff wears them, we’re genuinely excited about them. They came in and I don’t even know how Eva came up, but she’s like our fairy godmother, she’s so incredible and speaks so highly of the brand. We were just like oh my god, this would be so cute on Eva because she’s always taking her hat pictures. It was mutually beneficial, we’re obviously such a fan of her and it made sense, to be excited about something and to send it to someone who we know will be excited about that product.

Nowadays interning is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door in the industry. If you could create your perfect intern, what would he/she be like?

He/she would probably have 7000 hands and 30 phones. We actually don’t have interns at Catbird, but I think it would be a beneficial learning experience from a small business perspective. There’s so much to learn, I myself have learned so much. My ideal intern would be very digitally and socially involved with some tech knowledge. We’re not fashion driven, but being aware of what’s going on in the fashion industry is key. We’re a small business, so knowing the industry and knowing what other small companies are doing or coming up with. I’d say just being informed and knowing new publications that might make sense for us. An aware mindful person who has to be in love with our brand.

Romy, the owner always says if you’re not happy here at the end of the day, you shouldn’t be here if you’re not excited to come into work everyday to learn and create. My dream candidate if anyone’s listening, would be super excited about the brand and have something to bring to the table. A huge part of interning is a young mind, someone who can bring something new or fresh to the table and not be afraid to give those ideas. Be hands on, don’t just take a backseat. If you have an idea, run for it. I did a lot of weird internships, well not fashion focused. I interned at small theaters in Chicago, small shops, stuff like that. Things still pop into my head from those learning experiences. Find an internship that works for you, at a brand or company that makes sense.

What Catbird stacking look would you suggest for an important interview or meeting?

I feel that our jewelry is very much a conversation piece, I can’t tell you how many times people grab my hands and ask what’s going on. I also think that the sweater you wear or the shoes you wear speak volumes to who you are. In an interview you want your personality to shine and you want to have something to bring to the table that maybe the person before you or after you doesn’t have.

I definitely think a Ballerina Collar because it's elegant and a little sophisticated, but it’s also playful and exciting. I’d do that layered under a button-down blouse or a sweater. Definitely a Knuckle Ring, a Tomboy to make it a little thicker-- you want someone to notice it. And then I would do a classic stack with a couple of gold Threadbares. Oh, and Chained To My Heart earrings, which I wear everyday-- they're just a classic diamond with a little chain. You want the look to be underplayed, with nothing too overwhelming. You want to be exciting and enhancing and refined and sophisticated, but also show your personality. So basically just wear all Catbird to your interview! If you were going to an interview at a fashion house or a publication, maybe like a hand bracelet, that’s a little more engaging.

What plans do you and Team Catbird have for the future?

We always have exciting secrets, so I will say we have some things that we haven’t done before coming up in the future, that will hopefully allow us to continue to expand the line. As far as non Catbird, we’re always on the lookout for new designers, new exciting pieces. Like I said, at the end of the day it is a retail business so we need to stay moving and be relevant and exciting. With that, new designers, new pieces for our line, and just staying with the times. Staying appropriate for a jewelry company but also our brand, and keeping the chatter happening from the internal to the external side through press and our brand relationships. We’ve got a couple of exciting collaborations coming up, I wish I could already say it, but I can’t. You’ll see us in new places, because of our growing manpower we’re able to say yes to new things. Everything is always changing, we might have a plan, but then it derails. I promise I will keep you in the loop when it’s happening!

Any advice for PR mavens in the making?

You have to be everywhere. Honestly, know your industry but also stay well versed in other industries. Know what’s going on across the board. If you want to work for a brand, know what other brands are doing as well as publications. Knowing what’s happening in all areas is how you make press happen. You have to be great at keeping up with relationships and staying in the ears of people you want to work with. It’s not a 7 day a week job, you have to want to be involved in the industry that you’re working in. Having an interest in the industry is helpful because you’ll want to know what’s going on and what everyone is talking about, and you’ll be able to spin it into conversation about the brand or client that you’re working for. Stay on the move, and understand the company for which you either are working for, or trying to work for. You have to understand that brand culture and that brand voice because that is what you’re building your press on. PR is constantly changing, people don’t want to see the normal PR pitch anymore. They want to know why you’re relevant and what you have that someone else doesn’t have. It’s so creative and you’re always on the move. If you can go to blogger talk sessions or interviews like Lucky Fabb you should do it. Just always stay aware and keep up with what’s changing and stay honest. Knowing who you’re talking to and what voice to use is key. Do your research, when you’re approaching someone you want to have all the answers for them ready.

**Image credit**