Account Manager / Bespoke Public Relations
There’s a laundry list of myths about public relations jobs, one of which is that PR jobs are glamorous. With this misconception of glamour comes a general misunderstanding about the actual role that a publicist plays within the marketing mix, and the best ways to make it in the industry. That is why we love this interview with the beautiful Jamie-Lee Rowley, as she has done it all.
From working inhouse at brands such as Silk Laundry, to a stint as the PA to Australian Influencer Sally Mustang, Jamie-Lee has honed her PR skills and travelled all over the world. Currently in her role as an Account Manager Jamie-Lee manages event launches, client calls, press recaps, meetings, event planning, potential site visits and strategy sessions, plus so much more, see… not so glamorous.
In this interview Jamie-Lee explains how she kick started her career, why she is still studying, and what her must have tips are for anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps.
Let’s dive in…
Where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I grew up in a lot of different places – I was born in Sydney but spent a lot of time in the country too. We rode horses. We went kayaking, searched for buried treasure, and visited a family farm in Tamworth. My parents decided to move further north for high school, settling around Byron and Mount Tamborine. Moving a lot meant I connected with very different people and became adaptable to different social circles, easily finding cues to relate. It’s a skill I carry today. I knew I wanted to work in fashion from a young age but I was put into the wrong places. At almost 6-feet, my mum wanted to see me modelling but, as a quiet girl, I didn’t fit. For a long time, I wanted to return to Sydney – the opportunities are greater and the industry more connected. I finally moved back at the beginning of the year and it felt like a return home.
When you were a young girl what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was an only child until I was seven, so I spent a lot of time growing up with just my mum and I. We would drink caffeine-free coffees and she would talk to me about society and politics. She always treated me like an equal. Every week I wanted to grow up to be something different, but mostly I just wanted to grow up faster.
I went to high school around Mount Tamborine. There was an organic nature to it compared to school in Sydney. Everything was less structured, which fostered creativity, but I still feel this slowed my career. There was no clear plan for people that wanted to work in fashion. I knew I wanted to work in a creative field but had no idea where to start. Everyone close to me told me to study Journalism, so I went with that.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
I studied a Bachelor of Journalism with majors in event management and creative writing. I’ve always considered my greatest professional strengths to be organisation and innovation, so this struck a balance between the two. Continuous development is very important to me and I think everyone should seek specialisation in the form of mentors and further study. Following my Bachelor, I studied Fashion Business & Merchandising, then an advanced degree in Jewellery Design, and I’m currently studying Fashion as Design.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?
I’ve worked across a number of departments, which I believe is the best way to discover exactly where you fit. Sometimes what you think you will like isn’t right at all and the way a position appears from the outside is never an accurate representation of the work you will do. In fashion, it’s important to gain experience in retail and get those first-hand experiences with the customer. This is your end point, with every function feeding back here.
I worked for a number of Australian brands and in department stores including David Jones before moving into back-of-house roles across digital, media, and a stint working as the PA for Australian Influencer Sally Mustang. Then I went on to work for Silk Laundry, managing the global PR, marketing and e-commerce departments and rolling out the expansion strategy across the US and Canadian markets. During this time, I travelled between the head office in Australia and the brand’s second office in Montréal for shoots, summits and a press lunch at Chateau Marmont in LA.
How did you get into the job that you are in now?
I moved agency-side in January, as I had worked in-house for a number of years and wanted to develop a 360-degree view of PR. I met with my Directors Lee and Yan in December last year and was offered a position as Senior Publicist shortly after. I had four weeks to move down and didn’t look back.
What is the hardest part of your current job?
The hardest part of my role is entirely circumstantial – 2020 hasn’t been easy for business and the fashion industry isn’t immune. When you shut down international travel and social events, you cut entire categories like resort and evening wear. Add an uncertain print industry and subtract a number of digital positions and what you’re left with is a really volatile environment. Publications are operating on skeleton staff, brands need more visibility than ever and everyone is screaming so loudly that messaging becomes blurred. A number of brands still approach me with sustainability as a selling point and, in such a greenwashed industry, editors are deaf to this news. It’s 2020 and brands that lack clear intention or a sustainability plan are behind the curve. Social movements such as Black Lives Matter also changed the PR landscape completely. As a white female, I’m not a mouthpiece for the movement, and pitching new collections suddenly felt futile when protests began to stir. All you can do is listen. I placed all brand news on hold, prepared communications plans and listened to similar accounts from friends who had experienced prejudice growing up in Australia.
What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?
One of the things I love about my job is that I can structure every day differently. I try to begin each morning with something energising, which could be pilates or spin, or sitting for coffee and reading a magazine before I head into the office. Some mornings begin with a breakfast meeting with editors to discuss the pieces they are working on and upcoming print issues. Everything is so digital now, so the opportunity to sit and connect is invaluable.
Once I get to my desk, I’ll respond to any overnight emails and catch up on the latest news. I always familiarise myself with current stories before drafting pitches to press – in our current environment, tone can change daily. From there, my day involves client calls, press recaps, meetings, event planning, potential site visits and strategy sessions to work through upcoming collaborations and projects. I think it’s important to have as many active voices involved as possible when brainstorming new concepts, as everyone views it from a different angle.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
My grandmother was always my greatest inspiration. She moved from overseas in her early-twenties and built a really rich life for herself. She ran a business and invested in real estate on the side, and was one of the most hard working people I have ever known. Between this, she designed her home, took us for summer holidays, taught me piano, played sudoku with me by the pool and always helped me study, even when I didn’t want to. She encouraged me to be a smart woman above all else.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
Fashion isn’t for the faint of heart. It looks glamorous but this is never the case. I just hosted a resort preview at La Porte and it looked beautiful. The reality was dismantling rails into the back of my car, carrying collections up flights of stairs and steaming garments. It’s all worth it, but never expect to keep your hands clean. I think a lot of young people underestimate what is required of them. I’ve had interns turn up and lay sheets of A4 paper on the floor to sit on while they count stock. My advice is to just tackle any task wholeheartedly. Stay back late and work harder than anyone in the room. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Websites: RUSSH, Cereal, SIDE-NOTE, INPRINT, Net-A-Porter, The Row
- Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: I’m obsessed with Danish influencers, including Josefine HJ, Freja Wewer and Thora Valdimars
- Favourite Podcast: Business of Fashion
- Favourite all time book/s: For fashion, Maticevski: The Elegant Rebel. Otherwise, The Alchemist, 1984, The Pearl and Gone Girl.
- Favourite App that you use every day: Instagram @jamieleerowley