Embrace what makes you different — For example, I am from a different cultural background than my colleagues and that sometimes gives me the advantage of looking at things from a different perspective. Especially in a field like PR different perspectives are so important and, therefore, our differences should be embraced at all times.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Rohde. Nicole is the International PR Manager for luxury fashion company Maxwell-Scott. Within this role, Nicole oversees PR activities worldwide and has recently established an exciting new NFL partnership for the international brand. This global approach is in line with Maxwell-Scott’s ethos as an international luxury leather company with seven websites worldwide. Quality is also at the heart of the brand’s ethos, ensuring that each briefcase, handbag, luggage bag, and accessory is handcrafted in Italy by skilled artisans.
Thank you so much for joining us Nicole. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from a university in Germany I worked for a local radio station. However, after surviving my first few press conferences and media stories, I quickly realized that I actually wanted to be on the other side of the news cycle and that I was more interested in Public Relations rather than journalism. So, I decided to pursue a Masters degree in that field. I have never been one to take the easy way so I figured, why not challenge myself and move to a different country to do that? Consequently, I moved to England and did a Masters in International Public Relations. Thankfully, after taking such a big step, I landed an entry-level PR position at a marketing and PR agency in England the day after I handed in my thesis. For the first time, I learned that no PR idea is too out there — on one occasion I had to dress up as Daenerys Targaryen with plush-toy dragons on my shoulder for a filmed PR stunt. Two years ago, though, I switched to an in-house position as PR Manager for the international luxury leather brand Maxwell-Scott where I have since been responsible for our worldwide PR activities online and offline.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Working in PR, it is really important to expect the unexpected — at some point, you don’t even question it anymore. Once I walked into the office and all of our walls were plastered in post-its that actually formed giant Star Wars murals. There is nothing quite like working normally whilst a giant Yoda stares at you the whole time. Although, the time I had to decorate three giant Christmas trees with baubles that cost more than my car in July does come close as one of the weirdest parts of being in PR. Apart from being terrified to break anything, I was also really over Christmas by the time it actually rolled around.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is actually from my journalism days but the lesson still sticks with me today: I was sent to one of my very first press events with the brief to interview to a local politician. I was sure that I would recognize him when I got there, though this was most certainly misplaced youthful confidence. Long story short, I had no idea what he looked like and ended up asking lots of people if they had seen him. That is already embarrassing enough, however, it got worse when I asked the actual politician that I was looking for if he had seen himself. That is the absolute last time I showed up to a press event or meeting without knowing exactly who I was looking for. Lesson learned.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We are really excited for the upcoming 100th season of the NFL as Maxwell-Scott has recently partnered up with Dallas Cowboys’ Xavier Woods and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Kentrell Brice. We’ve got several PR stories and activities planned in collaboration with them and I’m really looking forward to seeing how this ongoing story will be received in the US media. It’s the first time we tried a collaboration like that in the US and the possibilities for our PR team are endless. Plus we are all kind of secretly hoping to get an invite to the next Super Bowl!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1) Trust your gut feeling — You know that funny feeling in your stomach you get when you hear an incredible idea for the first time? Trust it. It knows better than your mind at that point.
2) Nothing ever gets done in your comfort zone — Challenge yourself, think bigger, crazier, louder. That’s the only way to move forward and truly succeed in PR.
3) You always meet twice in life — It sounds weird but this German saying has been my motto for years. Don’t leave a situation with a negative feeling. Thank people that helped you and stay in touch with them as there is always the chance that you will run into each other again in the future.
4) Follow-ups are key — Sometimes your incredible story gets no response because your email or phone call is simply forgotten about. It happens. Therefore, it is imperative to always follow up with your contact as that creates amazing results.
5) Embrace what makes you different — For example, I am from a different cultural background than my colleagues and that sometimes gives me the advantage of looking at things from a different perspective. Especially in a field like PR different perspectives are so important and, therefore, our differences should be embraced at all times.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
First of all one size does not fit all when it comes to networking in PR. More specifically, know the person that you are trying to network with. This means that you cannot just send out mass emails to journalists with no relevance to them at all. Learn about their previous articles or output first instead of shooting off blindly. Because if you do that too many times you might just find yourself blacklisted — and it is hard to come back out from the Spam folder.
Also, don’t see other PR colleagues as ‘the enemy’. The times of hiding contacts or strategies are over. Learn from other people. I love attending marketing and PR conferences to hear more about other people’s successes with PR stories because there is always that small nugget of information that will help you to achieve even more with your next project. However, if I heard something that I find helpful I always make sure to message the person that told me about it and thank them for it. A simple ‘Thank you’ still goes a long way nowadays and should be used freely and openly. That is how people remember you and will share knowledge with you in the future.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Of course, there are PR bread and butter strategies such as using ResponseSource in the UK or HARO in the US. It’s a quick and easy way to get some leads on new story ideas or building out a personal contact list. However the big leads — the ones that get you television coverage or work with the NFL for instance — have always come through putting myself out there and polishing door handles (as a German saying goes).
It sounds like old-school advice but, even in this digital age, nothing works better than a face to face meeting. Invite somebody that you might want to work with on a campaign out for a coffee. Grab a journalist and have a meal with them. Getting to know people on a personal level works a treat when it comes to working with them on a professional basis. People love to namedrop and all of a sudden you realize that the nice women you are chatting to about her dog right now can actually introduce you to some heavy-hitters in the industry. Also, we all know that we don’t simply delete emails from people we have had a nice chat with in real life.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I’ve recently finished reading ‘Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean’ by Kim Scott who shares her experience as a leader at Google and Apple. I found her approach to communication with a team really interesting. Coming up with new campaign ideas can be hard and sometimes you have to tell somebody that their idea or approach is simply not working out. I found Scott’s book a good starting point to get more effective communication within a team going.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Sustainability is a big discussion in the fashion industry at the moment and it has made me rethink my own way of approaching the topic. I have started with small changes in my personal behaviour, such as going back to a milk delivery in a glass bottle that can be refilled instead of using a plastic milk bottle. It’s such a small change but if everybody could just try to change those small things it would amount to quite a bit and we might just have a chance at a more sustainable future.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.