PRofile: @AllisonPDuncan

allie duncanMeet Allie Duncan, a Chicago PR girl that’s had a dream career thus far – an internship at Vogue, Tory Burch and a current job at a national retailer – to say the least. Allie’s story is both insightful and inspiring. Take notes while reading Allie’s story and reach out to her on both Twitter and Instagram.

How did you get started in public relations?

When applying to college, I focused on schools that were known for their journalism departments. I had chosen the major in high school when, forced to think about my interests, realized how much I loved magazines, fashion, shopping and writing. It sounds like such a trivial way to decide my future now, but I definitely made the right decision for me! I spent my first semester of college at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications but was ultimately unhappy and transferred to the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism in the spring of 2010, where I spent the rest of my college career.

I applied for numerous internships during my freshman year and did not receive any offers, so I spent my first summer home from school editing my resume and applying for positions with small, local companies near my school and started as a marketing intern for Word Marketing in the fall. I immediately requested a letter of recommendation from them to add to my ‘portfolio,’ which they were gracious enough to provide, and then perfected a pitch letter about myself that I sent to nearly every contact at most of the major women’s fashion magazines in NYC that I could find. This was in October, and I couldn’t start interning until May/June!

I had a great response, and I think that can be attributed to applying early and to including a letter of recommendation with my resume. I was also fortunate enough to be able to travel to NYC from my hometown of Chicago over winter break to interview in-person, which really does make a difference so if you’re able to , I recommend it!

VOGUE

In February, I accepted an internship in the fashion editorial department at VOGUE Magazine, where I spent the summer trafficking samples, creating lookbooks and mood boards, assisting on photo shoots, working on the CFDA presentations, etc. I spent three days a week at VOGUE and the other two at a small fashion PR firm, Michele Marie PR, which I chose to do so I could further develop my interests in the industry for an internship the next summer. It’s really important to always be thinking about where you want to be and how you’re going to get there, even though it seems far off!

I asked for letters of recommendation from each of my employers – don’t be embarrassed or nervous to do so! – and created an admittedly large PDF file including them and my resume, along with some samples of my work, if applicable. I knew I wanted to spend my last ‘intern summer’ doing in-house PR for a designer since it was the one area of fashion that I was interested in but hadn’t yet worked. I spent the 2012 summer as a public relations intern at Tory Burch and couldn’t have loved it more! I was able to pull looks for editorial, assist on editor press previews, compile press reports and editorial calendars, and more. The internship really solidified that I wanted to work in public relations, rather than on the editorial side of fashion.

tory burch

I’d always thought I’d end up in NYC but eventually decided I wanted to move back home to Chicago. I was diligent about finding the ‘New York fashion job’ in my city but wasn’t able so I accepted an internship in April to have a back-up plan for post-graduation while I continued to look for full-time opportunities. I had been freelancing for a small public relations agency, YL Communications, when the founder mentioned she was getting ready to hire a full-time account executive. I became her first hire!

I accepted the job with YL Communications, although it was a risk to work in a small start-up environment, because I really wanted to be in a place where I could hit the ground running – working on real projects, contributing to the bottom line, and making professional contacts. We had approximately eight clients in the food, hospitality and beauty industries, and I was involved in most aspects of their public relations initiatives, including media relations, celebrity outreach, event planning and production, etc.

It was a great experience, but I continued to keep my eyes and ears open for ‘fashion jobs.’ I had actually reached out to my current employer (a nationwide retailer) months earlier, at which time they politely informed me that they weren’t hiring but would keep my resume on file. A few weeks after turning down the project manager position, I received an email from my current employer that they’d had a recent opening for an assistant PR manager and after a long application process, I was offered the job – my dream position! Again, waiting for the right fit and not settling made the difference in my current happiness in my career.

What is your average day like?

In every interview I’ve ever read with a public relations professional, he/she says that there is no typical day for them. While that’s somewhat true, there are some things that are generally pretty standard in my days, like reaching out to potential partners for upcoming events, pulling clothing for editorial requests, monitoring media impressions and archiving press, etc.

What’s your favorite part of working in public relations? 

What makes public relations so fun and exciting are the days that are different! Whether it’s working on a major event with a local blogger or celebrity or meeting with our extended team to discuss upcoming trends or developing creative campaigns to pitch to the media, it’s hard to be bored and easy to be inspired. That’s especially true when you work with great people and for a fun company like I do!

What’s the best PR advice you ever received?

The best PR advice I’ve ever received relates to the job search, and it’s to always evaluate the company you’re interviewing with as much as they’re evaluating you. There’s nothing more important than finding the right fit, and it’s worth it to wait if you’re not excited about the offers you’re receiving. That’s not to say you shouldn’t work at all – do some freelance work, start a blog, whatever sparks your interest – but think about the things that are important to you in a company. Do you want lots of coworkers so you can meet new people? Do you want a small agency with plenty of creative flexibility, or a large company with more established practices? Is a flexible schedule important to you, or do you care more about your title? Whatever it is, it matters!

Any advice for those looking to get into PR?

While back at school, I was a national contributing writer to Her Campus magazine and also served as the publicity director for the campus branch, Her Campus Mizzou. I definitely recommend writing as much as possible if you’re looking for a career in public relations. Most employers will ask for writing samples, and I was so relieved to have some on hand from my days writing for Her Campus.

Also, although untraditional, I’ve only written a cover letter once or twice in the hundreds of applications I’ve sent out in my lifetime, and I rarely apply through online forms. Find a contact – it doesn’t matter who. Anyone in the company, if intrigued by your email and resume, can refer you to the right person. Reach out to anyone and everyone, and let the body of your email be your ‘cover letter.’ In PR especially, it’s important to be tenacious and know when no isn’t an acceptable answer. If it’s really important to you, find a way in, whether it’s pushing for a five-minute phone call, asking to take them to coffee, sending ideas you have for a client they have on their roster, etc.

Be sure to connect with Allie on Twitter and Instagram.

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Valentine’s Day in the City

It’s the end of January, which means two things to me – one, we’re one month closer to spring. Two, the sugary-est, sweetest, most-rose filled day ever is approaching – Valentine’s Day.

As a girl, I obviously have a love-hate feeling towards Valentine’s Day. When I was single, the parade of flowers through the office from girls’ beaus was always a little much, and there was always that awkward “um, how do you celebrate Valentine’s Day if you just started dating the guy??” (I once had a second date ON Valentine’s Day. That was bold).  As part of a couple, I’m still not sure I totally support the teddy bears, chocolates, expensive lingerie and the fist fight for dinner reservations that the holiday can represent.

Now that this year the holiday falls on a FRIDAY, it promises to be even crazier no matter what your dating status. Here are a few tips on how to take advantage of the city on the most love-dove day of the year.

I hate PDAs but on a taxi, in times square, with leather pants and THAT guy... exceptions can be made

Love yourself first – I like taking this day as a reminder to treat myself right. Maybe spend the week gathering flowers for your apartment, booking a massage, and get a blowout on V-day night from Blo or Dream Dry. Buy a new dress or outfit that you’ve been staring at on Pinterest for ages.

Enjoy other people’s love – No, I’m not talking about going googly-eyed over the couple making out on the park bench (I’m sorry, that’s too much). But I always like to take note of the little signs of love I find around the city this day. The kids walking home from school with a bag of Valentines, men on the subway carrying flowers, girls walking home from work with balloons and bouquets from fun deliveries. It’s nice to see your hometown in love once in a while.

Make it a girl’s only Galentine’s Day – Whether you’re single or in a couple, you can make this holiday all about you and loving your girlfriends. Avoid the bars where you may seem like a hoard of lonely hearts just one shot away from making a mistake. Stash a few of your favorite movies, stock up on donuts from Doughnut Plant and whiskey, cupcakes from Magnolia’s and wine, or classic NYC pizza and beer, and spend the night giving each other good gossip and glittery manis.

Or, jump right in – If you’re single and V-day is approaching, consider this your prod and poke from me to get your butt on Tinder, OKCupid, Match.com… whatever suits your fancy. Around the holiday people might be getting crazy on these sites, but you have a couple weeks to get your feet wet and set up some dates. Also, the Super Bowl celebrations in the city this weekend are a great ice breaker and chance to meet guys out and about.

Make it about the two of you – Try not to think of Valentine’s as a MUST DO to prove your love. It’s all about celebrations! If you haven’t made a reservation yet, check OpenTable for a new place you guys haven’t tried. If you’d rather not get mixed up in the madness, why not try your hand at making Mac & Cheese or pizza at home? Open a nice bottle of wine and start up season two of House of Cards which is set to premiere that day.

How do you celebrate V-day in your city?

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When to Join the Internship Rush

My company is currently interviewing many ladies for internships and entry level position. We have a whole host of interviews lined up, and we know that comes with the good, the bad, and the hopefully hired. We refer to this time in the office as “the internship rush.”

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While you may be tempted to join in on the race, not everyone is ready to jump in with both feet. Here are a few hints to find out if you’re ready… set… good to go.

What’s your timeline – If you interview for a position and they ask if you can start next week, can you? Are you too busy in your studies? Are you really looking for an internship for the summer, not necessarily this semester or next few months? Unless a job position clearly states they are looking to hire someone months down the road, do not apply for a position your timing does not work for. The hard truth is that employers do not often change job descriptions to fit your needs, they simply change job applicants.

If it isn’t your time, go for the informational interview – We love this one. If you want to be remembered by a company but don’t have the time to take an internship or job right now, go in for an informational interview. You’ll get a feel for the company, they’ll get to know you, and when you ARE ready, you’ll be at the top of their pile for job applications.

Clean up your act – Before joining the race, be sure your resume is perfect, your social media is cleaned up and photos are hidden.

Do your research – I can’t stress this one enough. Cannot tell you guys how many times we get emails asking where to apply for jobs in the city or where to start the job hunt. The answer is always, do your research. PR is not a one-size-fits-all job. Start with google, and look for clients you’d like to have in any space – consumer, healthcare, beauty, fashion, digital, tech… you name it. Either go straight to the company for a PR position, or look for an agency that reps these kinds of companies. You can find more info and advice in our guide.

Good luck in the race!

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From the Inbox: Worried & Confused

Hi nyc PR girls,

I’ve been following your blog for so long now and I love it! It keeps my dreams alive and gives me the extra boost of motivation that I need.

I’m currently a junior in college and I am majoring in Finance and minoring in Public Relations. I know that’s a weird combination, but I’m looking to focus on PR. I’ve been sending out tons of cover letters and resumes and am waiting to hear back, but I still haven’t found a PR internship. I currently have my own blog and have been working on that to get a head start in the industry and strengthen my writing skills. I know having experience is a major key in the PR industry so should I be worried?

Thank you!
Worried & Confused

Worried and Confused

As of right now, you shouldn’t be too worried. Since you’re still a junior in college, you have plenty of time to find an internship. In terms of applying for internships, it might be time to rethink your cover letter and revise your resume. Make sure you’re consulting with an advisor – preferably one that has helped you with your PR minor. Ask around to students in your PR classes to see if any of them know of any internship opportunities.

Blogging is a great way to get your foot in the door – and something to add to your resume as a boost. Particularly since your major is finance, anything you can add that shows your passion for PR will be well received. If I were you, I wouldn’t be panicking unless I still haven’t found an internship before graduation. Interning is the one sure way to get your foot in the door and make finding a job after college is simpler.

Wishing you best of luck,

Xo A

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