Christina’s Coffee Talk: Stephanie Smirnov (Part 2)

[Editor’s Note: The below post is Part 2 of Christina’s interview with PR Mama Stephanie Smirnov. Part 1 ran on the Blog on Monday.]

  1. You are not only a successful PR woman, but also well rounded in non-profit work, you write your own blog, and much more.

    1. Where do you find the time? I function on little sleep and have an amazing husband who holds down the fort when I need to work or write. I am never without my blackberry and steal every possible moment to crank through work that way—in line, waiting in stopped traffic, in elevators. . . .
    2. Tell me about your work with CEW? Cosmetic Executive Women is a leading trade organization in the beauty industry, and the only one to focus exclusively on nurturing professional development of its female professionals. CEW provides networking opportunities and a host of events throughout the year offering exposure to the most accomplished leaders in the industry. CEW also created the annual “Best In Beauty” Awards—or the “Beauty Oscars,” as they’ve come to be known. The CEW Foundation also funds a crucial non-profit entity called Cancer and Careers, an incredible resource for working women dealing with cancer. I’ve been a member for about 12 years, and a Board Member for two.
  2. What was it like transitioning from Donna Karan Company to DeVries?
      Fortunately, I went to DeVries to work in the beauty division, so I knew the business and had great media contacts from Donna Karan Beauty. Where I had the biggest learning curve was in client service, and being able to juggle program implementation with client counsel. I learned with the best, though: my first brand assignment was Olay, which (then as now) is a brilliant brand led by some of P&G’s most talented marketers and external relations pros. Olay also happens to be the longest single brand relationship at DeVries: 21 years, which is really special in our business.

    1. What did you like about in-house and vice versa? There’s something very special about working on the client side for a company you love. I experienced this both at Donna Karan and L’Oreal, where I felt truly at home in the culture. The downside of in-house is that very often, PR plays stepchild to the other marketing disciplines. You are required to operate on lean budgets, often without agency support, and are regarded as a “support service” to the marketing team. And if you do have agency support, you find yourself in the role of gatekeeper while your agency team is off in the trenches doing the work and producing the results. So while agency life can be incredibly demanding, there’s nothing quite like going to an office every day where every single one of your co-workers is as passionate about PR as you are, where clients seek your counsel, where you can hone your craft on the front line with editors and producers and bloggers and reporters. Then, as you get more senior, you take on increasing responsibility as a business leader. Now, in addition to delivering program results for clients, you are tasked with managing profitability and driving revenue growth. Depending on your temperament, this can be really exciting and challenging work.
  3. What advice would you give to a young PR professional that wants to enter the world of consumer PR but is in a job where she can’t get the experience she needs because her clients don’t dabble into that realm? The good news is, we are all consumers. You know more about consumer PR than you probably realize. It’s much easier to move from a specialty like tech or IR into consumer than the other way ‘round. If you have the basic skill set (writing ability, communication skills, an understanding of media rules of engagement) you are halfway there. If you’re smart, you can learn any product category and any media sub-set, then apply the communications skills you hopefully already possess.

As always, feel free to join our coffee talk and add to the questions/comments. If you have any additional questions for Stephanie Smirnov please post them below and we’ll see if she can spare a few more minutes for some answers.

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