Crosby Noricks transformed an academic thesis into an entrepreneurial vision, and dared to create an online resource for the fashion PR industry, years before our behind-the-scenes obsession started.
This 32-year-old Golden Hills resident is the Director of Social Media for Red Door Interactive by day, and operates her blog PR Couture by night. Although ‘blog’ doesn’t seem a strong enough word for what the globally recognized brand has become, I bet Noricks would argue otherwise. Noricks launched PR Couture when major design houses resisted social media integration, and in the past few years, the switch has revolutionized the industry. Strategic social media campaigns, from blogs to Facebook and Twitter, are now a fashion publicist’s most powerful accessory.
Noricks’ personal style is a mirror into her passion for fashion PR. In a dream world, she’d live in carnival-esque petticoats and tutus a la Vivienne Westwood and Betsey Johnson. And in reality, her playful ensemble isn’t without imagination and meaning. For Noricks, style is an artistic form of self-expression, and fashion PR is a creative outlet for helping designers share their stories with the world. And her reason for launching PR Couture was just that simple and authentic -- to create an online space in which people interested in fashion PR can come together to network, learn and share their stories.
Noricks’ debut book, Ready to Launch: The PR Couture Guide to Breaking Into Fashion PR, is an insightful how-to manual for aspiring fashion publicists, available now on prcouture.com.
Preview PR Couture’s new look in this week’s Style Profile with Crosby Noricks.
DiscoverSD: What was your original vision for PR Couture? How did you bring the brand to life?
Crosby: PR Couture launched in 2006 and it was really born out of my master’s thesis at San Diego State, in which I explored fashion PR from an academic perspective. I went to New York and L.A. and I interviewed practitioners and that was sort of the impetus for thinking -- well, I’ve got this really great thesis that nobody is ever going to read, and I met all these really amazing people who I think have really interesting stories to tell. How could I create a space online for people who are also interested in fashion PR to come together?
DSD: So it was always intended to be an online resource?
C: It was always intended to be more of a resource community and I really wanted to elevate the fashion PR profession and tell the stories of the people who are working behind the scenes. I always thought -- we see the glamorous side of advertising, the runway shows -- but who are the people actually making that happen? Aside from the designer, obviously.
I had spent two years doing fashion PR for a fashion jewelry company. They focus on a lot of the “get the celebrity look for less” thing. They had some good relationships with Life & Style, US Weekly, Glamour, and so when they were working on a story -- how to get Charlize Theron’s earrings for $29 instead of $29 million -- they would call us and say what do you have that looks similar, and I would pull all of it together, send to them, and work through the process of getting it photographed and included in the magazine.
So I had done the in-house thing for two years, and I wanted to try the agency thing. When I graduated from grad school, I had this thesis and was sitting around thinking -- what should I do -- how can I have a platform that can allow me to connect with fashion publicists out there, partially as a networking and professional development tool. But also because I thought they had really interesting stories to tell. Fashion PR is an interesting place where you can be both creative but also business minded at the same time. And as a creative entrepreneurial person, I was interested in careers where I could sort of do both. So I wanted to talk to people who were already doing that, and doing it successfully. And it just so happened that it opened up a place online that hadn’t existed before.
There wasn’t anything online about fashion PR back then, and so by setting up a space, I sort of stumbled into the fact that there were hundreds of other girls out there who were also interested in fashion PR and how it all worked. And there were also practitioners out there who never had a place to go to read tips and articles and to see their peers recognized, and so it all started to grow from there.
DSD: From where you started, did you ever imagine the brand would grow into what it is today?
No -- I was like, hey, I have some basic Web skills and I’ve been reaching out to fashion bloggers through my work. A Website seems really overwhelming, but a blog seems something manageable, and it seemed like a good decision. So one weekend, I was just like okay, I guess I’m going to make a blog this weekend! I taught myself the basics, and chose the name. The name actually came pretty fast, which is surprising because I actually obsess over names. I got the domain, installed WordPress, got a theme, and a friend of mine did the logo for me. In the beginning, I just did simple Google Alerts, looking for fashion PR and public relations of difference brands. And everyone who was mentioned, going to them and saying, hey would you be willing to be interviewed? So in the beginning it was a lot of Q&A’s with fashion publicists where I would ask them all of the questions that I wanted to know.
So, no -- it was a weekend whim. Looking back, sure I can apply a lot of -- oh that was a really strategic move -- but at the time, I had been in school for so long, writing so much, and I wanted to continue to write and tell stories and share stories. I think those aspects are really what drove me to fashion PR in the beginning. I wanted to tell the stores of the amazing fashion artists out there and help them be more successful.
And I think the reason it’s been able to have the longevity that it’s had is that I came in at a time when blogging was still sort of under the radar. Today, I think a lot of people start blogs with the intention of it becoming something. They start a fashion blog with the intention that they’ll be able to go to Fashion Week or that they’re going to get free products, or they have all of these ideas. And I started PR Couture from a really authentic place of wanting to develop a platform that wasn’t even me -- it wasn’t about me or my expertise -- it was just developing a place online where people could come and learn about this particular area. And I’ve been faithful to that over five years. Every week we create content and write content.
DSD: So, while maintaining your “regular” job, how do you find the time to do all of this?
C: Part of the great thing about being Director of Social Media for Red Door is that I spend a lot of my day entrenched in the very same tools that I use and that have benefit to PR Couture. So, for example, the Twitter account is really successful. We have about 27,000 followers, which is fun. And for Red Door, to have someone on their team who’s directing the social space who has successfully established her own brand identity -- they really see value in that. I’m allowed to tweet at work, and I’m on email all the time. Lunch breaks are often dedicated to getting a post out. And I also work with guest writers and I have an intern who does the publishing. But ya, it’s a lot. But it’s never not been that. After grad school, really from 26 on, I’ve always worked full time and had the blog. So I don’t really know what it would be like to just sort of go home and be done with work for the day. I think I would probably get bored. Well, once I watched all of the bad television -- then I might get a little bored.
DSD: Over the years, what has surprised you about the growth of PR Couture?
C: I think that every time I reach out to somebody who I think has a really cool life and say -- hey, would you be willing to contribute a guest post or would you be willing to be interviewed? -- and they say yes, I’m still really excited. I really love being able to tell people’s stories, even if they’re not ‘successful’ -- so probably that part of me that has always been interested in the behind-the-scenes is also interested in -- what is a 23-year-old Prada intern’s experience? What is a recent graduate’s experience? What is the experience of a woman who has started her own successful agency and ended up having it acquired by a large PR firm -- what was that like?
I think a part of being in San Diego means that I’m not part of the fashion 2.0 media blogging scene in New York, so I just write my stuff with really no concept of how it’s being received until I get a random email from somebody, or somebody gets in touch with me through a recommendation. And I’ll find out -- oh, I’m required reading in your college course? Oh, I was included in a text book? Like, I had no idea! So I hear about these things often after the fact. But I will say that every time DKNY tweets me back or sends me a direct message, I get really excited. But I think that just has more to do with her amazing work ethic and how accessible she’s made herself.
DSD: How has social media changed the fashion industry?
C: I think that what I ended up falling into in 2006 was the precipice of a completely different way and requirement on behalf of consumers on how they want brands to engage with them and the expectations for brand engagement. When I started, there were no fashion brands with blogs. There were fashion bloggers, but there were no fashion PR agencies who were blogging. I remember when I joined Twitter in 2008 -- it was slim pickings. And it’s fun now to see -- even in the last year, year and a half -- every single fashion brand has a Twitter and a Facebook page. I used to have to fight with brands to explain the value of having a Facebook fan page and a Twitter page. My job was that education and that hand-holding to get people’s comfort level up.
DSD: What was your pitch then, to convince fashion brands the value of social media?
C: A lot of it is about fear of negative conversation. So it’s always helpful when you say -- people are going to talk about you online, whether you’re listening or not. People are going to complain about you, and they’re going to talk about great experiences. They’re going to ask for information about products and services. And if you’re not there, that’s a huge missed opportunity to either convert that customer, extend the relationship or build loyalty. Having social media profiles doesn’t open you up to negative commentary. The negative commentary exists. Having social media profiles opens you up to the opportunity to turn that negative experience into a positive.
Luckily that isn’t a conversation that I’m having nearly as often as I used to. Now it’s like people feel that they have to -- it’s a box that they check off. But they doesn’t necessarily think about what they want to do with it. When you look at brands that are really successful with social, there’s an obvious strategy there. They’re not doing it just to do it; setting up a Twitter account and not responding to anyone, or tweeting for two weeks, and then disappearing for two years. It’s the consistency and commitment in your communication that really makes a difference.
DSD: What are the most common misconceptions about fashion publicists?
C: I think any time you’re talking about the fashion industry there is a desire to just sort of throw it all into the vapid, superficial basket. And one of the things I found, about public relations as a whole, is they like to put the idea of fashion PR and entertainment PR into a soft PR bucket. It’s not serious, it’s not strategic, it’s the blonde party girl whose parents own some fashion label who said -- hey honey, hold this and check off the people who are on the list when they come into our launch party.
So, partially what my thesis was about was investigating that and seeing if that was true. Is fashion PR really less strategic than other kinds of PR and how is it different from other kinds of PR? And also, who are those fashion PR girls? There was a Power Girls show on MTV, but besides that, back when I started, there wasn’t a lot of insight. This was before Project Runway -- this was before America became interested in the behind-the-scenes and the industry of fashion.
And so, I think the main thing with fashion is just dismissing it as being superficial and that the people who are interested in it are therefore superficial, because it’s theoretically on the body and not of the mind, or something? Which is interesting, because if you’ve actually studied dress studies or fashion theory, fashion is a fascinating lens from which to examine socio-political structure, cultural affinity, the way that we indicate our affiliation with different sub cultures as a result of how we dress. We all have to get dressed every day, and every time that we get dressed, people are reading information about you based on what you’re wearing.
That’s why I’ve always really loved clothing. It’s a place of play and imagination and art and communication about who I am and how I’m feeling. And we all have little tricks; like whenever I’m having a day where I don’t really want to go to work and just want to stay in bed, those are the days when I dress up because I find that if you can dress for the part that you maybe don’t feel like playing that day, it can really help. So there’s a lot going on under the surface of fashion.
DSD: Tell us all about your debut book! What motivated you to start this new project?
C: Well, I get emails all the time from girls who basically want me to tell them what to do with their lives.'
DSD: Haha -- help me Crosby!
C: Right? And you’re like -- I don’t know? I don’t know what I’m doing?
DSD: No one knows! That’s the big secret.
C: Over the years I’ve talked to them on the phone. If they’re in town, I’ll take them out for lunch or coffee or wine, and I was spending a lot of time giving advice. So I got to the point where I needed to be smarter about the way I balance my own time. I created these one-on-one consulting sessions where I said -- that’s fine, you can have my brain for an hour, but you know, you’re going to have to pay me for that. I started to work with brands as well as college students, entry level people, people looking to transition into PR from another profession. But I really wanted to create something that was going to be accessible and affordable for everyone.
I’ve been speaking on panels for years and years, and I have had no digital or physical product, which is not something I would ever recommend to anybody. So I got to the point where I said, if I’m going to keep doing this with PR Couture, there needs to be something for people to buy. Because I am spending a lot of time managing a site that provides me with a lot of cool opportunities, but I haven’t properly monetized it. A book -- I really came to the realization in August of last year. I had been thinking about it every few months, but was always distracted. In September or October I finally sat down to knock it out. It took me about three months, mostly working on it over the weekends. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. The fact that I was making progress, actually writing stuff, was really motivating.
I originally was like, oh I’ll do a 20 page e-book, and then it was like 80 pages -- okay, I’ll do an 80 page e-book. And then it was 100 pages. A friend of mine had self published a book called Blogging from the Front Row, that was all about taking fashion blogging seriously, and she had self published it on this tool via Amazon called CreateSpace. So I reached out to her to see how complicated the process was. She told me, well you might as well put it in both formats. And so at that point I was like -- oh, I’m writing a physical book! And for me, that really changed everything. I had to go back to the beginning. I’m really comfortable writing online, and the idea of an e-book was fine. But there is still something that is different about the printed word.
DSD: What subjects do you cover in the book? Who is your reader?
C: The book is really designed for students and entry level practitioners who are looking to break into the industry. Sort of a how-to; it’s everything that I wish I would have known when I started my career life. It is also the experiences and advice of more than two dozen more fashion publicists. It’s a lot of original content, a lot of stuff that hasn’t been in the blog before. So for example, there is a section in the book that is 20 or 25 interview questions. I actually went to the people that most of these girls will be interviewing with, and I said -- what are your favorite questions to ask? And to me that’s amazing. If I know the questions I’m going to be asked, I can be prepared and I feel really competent.
The book really takes you from, what is the difference between PR and marketing and advertising, and what is specific to fashion PR within that, and then from the interview through the first job and how to really navigate that space. And my goal is that anyone who is in a PR program and is desperate to learn about fashion PR and there’s nothing about it in any of their text books, they now have a guide. Anyone who just wants to get excited about where their career is headed, and hear from the people who are living and breathing fashion PR right now, all over the world. This is a resource for them.
DSD: So how can we get our hands on this book?
The print version is available now for $17.99 on prcouture.com. I am donating a dollar from each book sale to this non-profit in the Dominican Republic that my family has been involved in, that provides supplementary education and life tools to students in the D.R. It’s called The Dream Project.
DSD: Where do you shop in San Diego?
I probably shop the most online -- on Etsy, as well as Nordstrom Rack and The Buffalo Exchange. I worked there in Hollywood after college, and I have a really soft spot in my heart for The Buffalo Exchange. I routinely go through my closet and drop stuff off there and then get trade that I never use. I seriously have like five cards of trade. I need to go to The Buffalo Exchange.
I like to find either things that are pre-worn or recycled, or things that are an incredibly good deal. I like to support creative, crafty, artistic people. This dress is actually from my stint at The Buffalo Exchange -- that’s how long I’ve had this dress.
DSD: What do you look for on Etsy?
C: Sometimes I’ll just type in a color, or a word and just see what comes up. I like to look at things based on era. So I’ll type in like 1920s or 1930s. I like ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s fashion, so you can find some vintage stuff. Or I’ll type in a big designer I like, so sometimes they’ll tag things as being similar, or I’ll find a vintage piece from that designer. Lately I’ve been finding some pretty great things on Pinterest, so that’s a new horrible place to spend hours and hours on end.
DSD: Favorite high-fashion designers?
C: If I lived in a magical carnival universe, where I could wear anything I want, I would probably wear a lot of Vivienne Westwood and Betsy Johnson. Pretty much anything that includes a petticoat or a tutu, or a big red heart -- I basically want to dress like a storybook character. But in my real life, I really like Hayden Harnett -- these are their boots, I have a lot of their bags. I like them because it’s really great quality stuff and also it’s all locally made in Brooklyn.
DSD: Favorite local San Diego designers?
C: Zandra Rhodes -- I’d like for her to be my fairy godmother. Also Love Tatum and Liz Larios for local jewelry, and FM908 for comfy yet fashion-forward basics.
DSD: What in San Diego inspires your fashion sense?
C: Well I live in Golden Hill, so going to Influx on a Sunday morning is sometimes like going into a fashion show. I have friends who don’t live on the hill who are like, we’ll just come here and stare at each other -- you know, we’re just checking out each other’s weird Sunday brunch outfits, it’s fine. So ya, certainly in Golden Hill I feel pretty open being adventurous.
What inspires my fashion sense, I would say all of the little neighborhoods, and all of the little quirks of those neighborhoods are really fun. I like to just go to South Park and look at Bad Madge and see if there are any kind of cool discoveries -- I just got some perfume from Junk. Just walking around and getting an ice cream with a friend and really experiencing a little neighborhood. Or, going to Little Italy and going to the farmer’s market and getting some weird green juice and some flowers. So I think it’s really about the adventures that me and my friends go on, and figuring out how I want to be or experience that.
I got really into silk and into kaftans, and one of the things I do a lot is go up to my best friend’s house in Newport -- it’s been in the family for generations and it’s this amazing falling-apart gorgeous thing right on the beach, amidst all the millionaires and remodels. So one of my favorite things to do is just wear something really silly, like a silk kaftan and a tiara and drink a cocktail -- it’s very Grey Gardens. There’s always a thought behind it. I don’t have a lot of time off, so when I do, it’s all about -- who are the people I want to spend time with, and what can we do to make this trip to the beach different or more interesting than it was the last 3,000 times.
DSD: When you’re not working, where can we find you in San Diego?
C: Well, I’m an Irish dancer, so I go to dance class a lot in Kensington. Kensington is another really fun little neighborhood. We’ve performed at December Nights in Balboa Park. I love visiting San Francisco, I have a lot of friends and family still up there, so I love taking little weekend jaunts. I love the experience too of flying back into San Diego, when you’re on the plane and you see the harbor and the palm trees. It’s just so pretty here -- you’re in the cab on the way home and it’s just so warm and sparkly here. I like those moments -- I realize why I still live here when I leave and I come back. As much as I love big cities, I also just love my little neighborhood.
Want more fashion PR tips from our local expert? Get Crosby Noricks’ debut book, Ready to Launch: The PR Couture Guide to Breaking Into Fashion PR on prcouture.com
Did you Know: U-T San Diego launched a new Style & Society page. Do you want to be featured in the newspaper? Email all requests to Michelle Guerin via firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by James Law