Anna Meacham ’07 moved to New York City with two internships and dual degrees in political science and communication under her belt. After working on the agency side of public relations with J.McLaughlin as a client, Meacham was a natural choice to lead the company’s new PR department when it decided to take PR efforts in-house.
Now, between attending photo shoots and planning national store openings, Meacham is building a department, working with fashion editors and running J.McLaughlin’s social media platforms.
Q: What is your position title and what are your responsibilities?
A: I’m the public relations director at J.McLaughlin. Because we’ve never had a PR department in-house, I’m essentially building the team. I’m working on the department’s infrastructure right now and mapping out our strategy for PR moving forward. When building a department there are a lot of little things you have to do, we’ve got to have good contacts in the markets where we have retail locations, that we have a system for replying to fashion editors and can accommodate their requests quickly.
I also direct all of our social media, so everything we post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and I am helping to work on our website. Working on social media and e-commerce sites has been a new thing for me being in house. At an agency you’re not as heavily involved in those aspects of the marketing. It’ been fun to brainstorm and develop new content for our younger customer on social.
Q: When did you start in this position?
A: I started here in July. It feels like I’ve been here a lot longer because I know the brand so well from when J.McLaughlin was a client at an agency I worked at.
Q: How do you think your position will change after you establish the PR department?
A: We have an aggressive store-opening plan for the next few years. I’m more accustomed to working with national editors and pitching collections, but because of the markets we plan to open in, I expect to spend more time getting to know those smaller markets and the editors there. We’re opening in California, which will be interesting because we’re known so well on the east coast but we have to build our brand awareness on the west coast.
Being in New York working in PR, you develop really good contacts with national editors and you’re always talking to those editors so it’s almost easier to get a story placed in big fashion magazines than in, say, Columbus, Ohio where you don’t know anyone. I think after the department is established, that will be my next challenge.
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
A: Crazy! I try to get to work very early because I work better in the morning. So I respond to emails and requests in the morning, then I work with our store team to plan store openings. I also help prepare for our spring presentations – the new clothes we’re introducing for spring – and pull out items that I’m confident will get editorial attention.
I go to a lot of photo shoots and sometimes I’ll set up small-scale shoots for social media. We’re based in Greenpoint in Brooklyn and our office has an attic of store props, vintage furniture and archival materials that are fun to post on social media. So I end up digging through the attic in a skirt and high heels a lot!
Q: What is your favorite thing about your job?
A: I like being in house because it’s such a nice pace compared to being at an agency. I get a much bigger picture of the business because it’s my only focus, whereas at an agency I could be working with eight clients at a time. J.McLaughlin is a larger company than the agency I worked for but it doesn’t feel too corporate, which is really nice.
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Q: What are some other ways being in-house is different than being at an agency?
A: It’s tough in the sense that when you’re in-house you have to be a little more aggressive on the media outreach side. Often when you’re at an agency, editors are coming to you because they know what clients you represent and they know you’ll have a story. When you’re in-house, you have to track editors down and reach out to them with stories that will be relevant to them.
Q: How did the College help you prepare for your position?
A: My professors always stressed how important internships are, so I interned in Washington, D.C. for a summer and I interned for Leapfrog in Charleston for a summer. The owners of Leapfrog were very helpful to me during and after the internship. That experience showed me that PR is for me – I knew that I liked it and that I would be good at it.
When I was in college, I actually thought I wanted to move to Washington, D.C. and work on capital hill, but after I had my internship there I realized it’s not what I wanted to do. That’s another crucial thing internships can offer you.
Additionally, while I use what I learned in communication more in my day-to-day work, my political science background helps me to look at challenges in a more abstract and analytical way, which can be very useful.
Q: What advice would you offer current students interested in public relations careers?
A: I would say never lose touch with people you’ve worked with. I kept in touch with people at J.McLaughlin – just checked in every now and then – so they thought of me when they decided to take their PR department in-house. I didn’t have a motive when I would reach out, but keeping in touch definitely kept me on their minds when they were hiring for this position.
I would also advise for people to be open to change. The job market and media landscape have shifted dramatically since I moved to New York, so that really forces you to be open to new opportunities. And finally, always be nice. Being nice really goes a long way.