By Dominic Bird
Working a retail job is usually a college student’s first foray into paid employment. Many look at their retail job as something easy that can put extra cash in their pockets. However, you can utilize the skills you learn from your classes and apply them to any job. Public relations has so many functions within a business that you can use these skills within any role. Fashion retail is a great environment to practice as there are many situations in which you can practice these skills. Here are the top three ways I use PR in fashion retail.
1. Crisis Management
If you’ve ever worked in fashion retail (or any customer service job), it is inevitable that you will encounter a difficult customer. Let’s say, for example, a customer comes in looking for a specific jacket. Your store’s online system says that the item is in stock, however, you find out that the item is sold out and the online system was not updated. You let the customer know and they are furious due to the fact that they had to drive over an hour to get to the store. What do you do? Utilize your PR skills in crisis management! In public relations, managing a crisis for your client can make or break their reputation. In this case, mishandling this situation can result in the loss of a customer and could damage your store’s credibility. Instead of dismissing the customer with a “Sorry about that” statement, try assisting them in finding an item that is similar in style. Perhaps even call a nearby store to see if they could potentially have the item in stock. In doing so, you could avert a crisis and save the reputation of your store – all while making the customer happy and (hoepfully) making a sale.
Usually when you hear about public relations, the word “brand” is most likely to be brought up. Proper branding is important for an organization in order to communicate a clear message. A big component of public relations is essentially telling your audience a story about your client’s “brand.” In fashion retail, we can compare this to visual merchandising. In most stores, apparel is merchandised according to a specific customer profile and is presented in a way that tells a story to the customer. Your store is focusing on selling jackets? Cool, let’s add a layering piece next to the jacket. Maybe the customer might want to look at some pants? Add in a piece that enhances the overall look with the pants. Public relations professionals are constantly looking at elements of their clients that they can pull together to make a cohesive story. In relation to fashion retail, you wouldn’t place a leather jacket with some board shorts, would you? Rather, you might want to pair it with some cool black jeans as it communicates a refined look, curates a customer profile, tells a story of potential customer interests and most importantly, helps support the “brand” messaging to the customer.
3. Media Relations
A crucial part in succeeding in the PR industry is the skill of relationship building. Public relations professionals build a working relationship with journalists and vice versa in order for both parties to be successful in their goals. In reference to fashion retail, we could look at this as the interview process for a potential employee. When conducting interviews, you are either the publicist or the media. When interviewing a potential hire, you are essentially talking about the company you work for. You discuss company values, what they stand for and how they stand out compared to their competitors. On the flip side, the interviewee may have some questions regarding job responsibility or how the company enforces certain policies. It is your job to truthfully answer any question that comes up and to always keep your company’s image in mind. In the end, it is important to build on that relationship as you might hire a really good employee and that employee will enjoy working for a company where their values coincide with each other.
The next time you are at work, try to think of ways to implement what you learned about PR and put it into practice. Remember that you don’t have to be in a public relations position to utilize these skills. Start now and by the time you graduate and land that public relations job it will all come easily, thanks to that retail job you had in college.
Head over to your favorite retail store and see if they’re hiring. You can flex your public relations skills while also looking good doing it! It’s a win-win!
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