An Interview with Courtney Blackman of Forward PR

Courtney Blackman is the Managing Director of Forward PR, has added another string to her bow as an Ethical Fashion Forum board member. She is at the top of London’s Fashion PR ladder backing fresh, new talent by realizing and supporting their brands. Her modern approach to the industry and open-minded outlook has made valuable contributions to each brand she comes into contact with, such as Fashion Scout designers Prohpetik and Fashion Mode. Last week we stole Courtney away from her busy schedule to ask her a few questions about the PR industry, as she imparts some helpful pointers on how to make it.

What are your three top tips for a budding publicist straight out of university?

Firstly, Network – PR is all about contacts. Start building up your contact base. secondly, Communication – PR is all about communication too, and now there is a whole spectrum of ways to it, but at the core, communication needs to be correct, relevant and engaging.
Practice writing press releases as you need to be able to turn them out quickly and always make sure that your spelling and grammar is in check in emails, Twitter, Facebook, texts, or any other method you’re using to spread information. It is also important to have a good sense of humour, but always maintain a high level of professionalism.

What is the most important thing to consider when attempting to promote a brand successfully?

A deep understanding of the brand. Know who the brand’s customer is, where it sits in the market and what brands it is similar to. If a PR is going to successfully sell a brand to the media, they will need to know everything about it, and may even have to help the brand position itself if it is unclear.

Can you tell me about the brands that you are representing at Forward PR? What media, from your experience, is best for promoting a brand?

We look after an array of brands from designers and initiatives including Prophetik and Fashion Mode, who both show at VFS, Christopher Beales, Beautiful Soul, Magenta 8, Rebecca Cella and S.C. Vizcarra; to magazines. We represent Disorder Magazine and just did a book launch for Amelia’s. We’re again working with WGSN to promote, put together the London launch and build the judging panel for this year’s Global Fashion Awards. We’re looking after AOFM for the first time this Fashion Week. They do all of the backstage makeup for VFS, educate budding artists and have two published books on makeup. We also look after Fashion Stylist, Rebekah Roy and recently did one-off consultations for SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS and the Drapers Fashion Summit. Since we have such a broad range of brands, there is no one recipe. Each brand is it’s own entity and is served best through a combination of various media targeting from long-leads to short-leads to television, digital magazines, partnerships, and all supported with strong social media campaigns.

Do you see celebrities as a key part of promoting your brands?

It is an indisputable fact that celebrities do boost awareness of brands. Regardless of how anyone feels about celebrity culture, they can work wonders for getting an unknown brand known. The key is structuring the right celebrity partnership. There has to be a natural cohesion between the brand and the celebrity, otherwise the partnership will not make sense and will not translate to the consumer.

How should a young brand go about finding a PR company that is right for them?

I think a good starting point for a young brand on the hunt for a PR firm is to start by thinking about what brands they would sit beside, or want to sit beside, finding out who they are represented by and getting in touch. It’s important to go see multiple agencies to see what feels right. The relationship with a PR and a brand is quite intense, so a brand needs to feel confident that a PR will look after their best interest, will guide and advise them appropriately, and propel the brand forward by both simultaneously protecting and promoting it.

Where do you see Forward PR in 2011?

2011 is going to be big for Forward PR. Keep an eye on us!

Interview by Charlotte Summers