After graduating from the University of Western Ontario with an honours’ degree in Media, Information and Technoculture, Emily moved to New York to pursue her dreams of studying and ultimately working in the fashion industry. There, she attended Parsons School of Design in the Fashion Marketing, Merchandising and Public Relations program. She interned at Marchesa, worked in show production at fashion week, and soon found herself interning, then working, as an editorial assistant to Glenda Bailey, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar.
In 2007, Emily moved back to Toronto and took on a position with H&M in the marketing and public relations department. In a little less than a year, she made the transition to public relations manager and spokesperson for the company. Most recently, Emily got the opportunity to travel to France and work as the PR manager for H&M France and Canada, to help open France’s flagship store on the Champs-Elysées.
How long have you been in your current position?
Just over two years.
How does your company leverage PR?
H&M is a fast-paced company where no two days are ever the same. We are an old brand globally (established in 1947), but a new brand locally here in Canada (only six years). So, we have a lot of work to do with letting Canadians know who we are and what we have to offer – fashion and quality at the best price.
We use all of the traditional PR tools, but really pride ourselves in our great designer collaborations, corporate social responsibility efforts, and our great events. We are really starting to work a lot with new media like iPhone apps, Twitter and Facebook, which is a whole new way of interacting with customers. It really opens up the dialogue between customer and retailer, and is changing the face of public relations and how we get the word out there.
What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
For me, it is really about knowledge, confidence, motivation and experience. The world is changing so quickly, and in our line of work, it is crucial to immerse yourself with as much information as possible. I think that being open to information, self-confidence and motivation can get you so far, not only in this industry, but in life. Practical experience is another great asset. Volunteer, intern, see, do – just get out there and get some experience; you never know who you will meet and where it might lead.
Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
That is a tough question! There are so many people that I admire in the industry. Most recently though, I got the chance to meet Karla Otto, who is a PR guru and owner of her own agencies. She was so incredible, because she has so much going on in so many different countries, but was so cool, calm and collected. She has a great understanding of the industry, fashion and events, and I really admire her drive and confidence.
What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?
Working in PR, watching these shows is like a fun vacation from what the real job is actually like. I think that these shows glamourize a business that is a lot harder than they make it look. I love my job and it is a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of work. That part of it doesn’t really come across on the screen and through the fabulous plot lines of sipping champagne and going to parties. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t love watching them!
What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Stay up to date! It is so crucial to stay on the pulse of what is new, fresh and relevant.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that no two days are ever the same. I love working in a fast-paced and challenging environment where I am exposed to many areas of the retail business and get to learn so much. And of course the opportunities that exist to go work in other countries. It is amazing to be a part of the great global community that H&M has built.
A little more from the fourth floor:
Store: H&M of course! For fun things that make me feel like a kid again – Magic Pony on Queen West; for the home, Crate and Barrel.
Snack: Anything sweet – I live for sugar.
Season: Summer all the way! I am a cottage girl to the core.
Sexy: White T-shirt and jeans. So simple, yet so cool.
Inspiration: My mother.
Drink: Morning = caffeine anything, all day = water with lemon, evening = a good white wine or, if I am feeling fancy, a gin and tonic.
Motto in two words: No Regrets.
Idea of perfect happiness: A great summer day on the dock at the cottage with family, friends and unlimited lemonade.
Indulgence: TV shows for teenagers, designer shoes and bags.
Celebrity crush: Hello, Brad Pitt – I have been faithful since I was 12.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @hmcanada (obviously), @shinangovani (great for staying in the know), @lisatant (great fashion insights), @conanobrien (so funny).