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Coffee Chat With Nathalie Kourie, Freelance Publicist
January 20th, 2022
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When you start to explore securing media coverage, there can be a significant learning curve. In addition to the resources offered at Press Hook, publicists can also be an excellent investment to help you land features and mentions in publications. That’s why we take time to gain their insight and share their tips through our monthly Coffee Chat column. 

This month, we are chatting with Nathalie Kourie, a freelance publicist with a strong background in media relations, social media, events, content creation, influencer marketing, and creative strategy, specifically in the beauty, wellness, and fashion space. She’s worked with both indie brands and large, established brands, including Sephora, Maybelline, Olaplex, Oribe, R+Co, and Cosabella. Her experience spans start-up, boutique and large-scale agencies, and in-house consulting and representation. While she began her career at a boutique beauty PR agency, amid COVID, she decided to pursue freelancing full-time. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Walk us through your daily routine. When does it start and end?

I set my alarm for 7:30 a.m. every morning, so I have some time to get up, ready, and get through emails before everyone gets "online." I work from home at a desk right by my window (because I need all the sunlight) and really try to curate a space where I'm relaxed and in a good headspace—this means candles or my aromatherapy diffuser, tea or coffee, my giant Brita water bottle, and some comfy but cute loungewear. 

I have running to-do lists for all my clients, so I typically review those once my inboxes are back to a manageable amount and plan out the day's schedule from there based on priority. I like to get any pitches or editor-facing correspondence out before the afternoon, as I feel editors are more responsive then and aren't winding down for the day yet. 

Once everything timely is done, I try to get to any "creative" work, since I work best with a clean slate and nothing "pending" on my mind. This includes creative strategy such as partnership planning, event ideas, drafting pitch angles, and creating launch plans. Around 1 p.m., I try to get some movement in—whether it's a walk outside for fresh air or a 45-minute workout—because it's definitely needed for mental health. 

One of my favorite parts about going freelance is the better work/life balance and prioritizing my mental health and self-care more. My client calls usually fall later in the afternoon, so those take up an hour or two of my day. Following calls, I reassess my to-do's for the rest of the week and pivot depending on what came up on the calls. I try to wrap every day around 5 p.m., but, of course, that doesn't always happen, and that's okay. 

How do you invest in your relationships with clients?

I really try to go above and beyond for my clients and provide as much value as possible. If I've learned anything, it's that going the extra step makes a huge difference and is oftentimes what sets you apart. Really taking the time to learn about the brand, the founders, the industry, and all that comes with it is crucial because it's the knowledge you need to create a successful PR strategy and plan. 

My weekly screen time report is pretty insane, but it's because I'm spending "free time" researching editor stories, social media trends, industry trends, and brand competitors. In such a fast-moving industry, you really have to stay ahead of the curve. 

I also really take the time to create non-cookie cutter PR plans that truly understand the brand's goals and trajectory. This goes back to taking the time to really familiarize myself with all the ins and outs of the brand and industry. Every brand is different, so every PR strategy/plan should be as well. 

I've also learned the importance of pivoting when something isn't working and adapting. During COVID, successfully adjusting from how PR had once been (from in-person events going virtual, to the beauty landscape and retail changing) was crucial. You really had to get creative, but I think that was a huge moment of growth in my career. 

What about your relationship with journalists? 

Relationships with journalists/editors are everything in PR. Editors are the ones who generate brand awareness and convey the brand's story through their pieces, so it's so important to build those relationships. Investing time in really getting to know editors in more than just a "hey, please write about my client" way is a must. 

Pre-COVID (and slowly now that things are getting more "normal"), I loved taking editors for breakfasts/lunches just to chat in person and get to know them. There are amazing people in both the editorial and PR world, and it's great to build those relationships and friendships. 

A "thank you" also always goes a long way—any time an editor writes about a client, I always make sure to write a thank you email and encourage my clients to share the placement on social and tag both the editor and the publication. Everyone deserves some love! 

Being able to see editors again IRL has been amazing and such a mood booster. Any time I'm involved in planning events, I take the editor's time into account and try to curate something experiential and special. With most still working from home, I know in-person events are logistically more challenging for editors to attend, so I try to make it something worthwhile. 

I also focus on not just pitching my clients the entire time and taking time to chat and get to know the editors. Any time I'm working with an editor on a piece, I'm always conscientious of their time and get interview responses, hi-res images, and any press materials to them promptly. 

What advice would you give to a publicist just starting out? 

I have three pieces of advice that I wish I would've been told starting out, and that's: don't be afraid to share your ideas/feedback, build genuine relationships, and don't forget to have a work/life balance. 

Expanding on those, I think starting off at an agency, it's so easy to get intimidated or be hesitant to share ideas or feedback (especially if they go against the grain), but it's so important to do just that. You must remember that you were hired for a reason and are a valuable part of the team, so your ideas should be heard. If you think a pitch should go in a different direction or have an idea for a unique partnership, say it (respectfully, of course). Worst case, your idea isn't used, but at least you got it out on the table. 

Building genuine relationships—both with other publicists, creatives and editors—is what it is all about. PR is supposed to be collaborative, and we all need each other to make things happen. Bounce off ideas with other publicists, ask questions, get to know creatives (i.e., stylists, MUA, photographers, vendors), and invest in relationships with editors. People remember when you actually care and take time to get to know them. Go the extra mile—not everything needs to be transactional! 

What are three things brands should keep in mind when pitching media? 

  • Know who you are pitching. Make sure to stay up-to-date on what publications and editors are writing about and tailor your pitches accordingly. Whether it's looking up recent stories on MuckRack, signing up for editor's newsletters or substacks, or reviewing editorial calendars—do your research. 
  • Provide an angle. Of course, an editor may already be working on a story your product or brand is a seamless fit for, but it's helpful to provide some direction or an angle for your product. Evergreen angles work, but also get creative! Try and put yourself in the editor's shoes—or even their readers’—and think about what would make an interesting story. 
  • Read the room. There's no denying the past two years have been quite tumultuous. It's so important to be mindful when pitching—timing, audience, recipient, verbiage, etc. While publicists do need to do their job, being aware is crucial. Don't be that person that sends a makeup how-to in the midst of a political or social disaster. 

Echoing that sentiment, also try to be aware of what is triggering or sensitive for editors. Yes, it's difficult to know every detail of every editor's life, but if you know someone who has lost a mother, don't send a Mother's Day pitch. Like I said, take time to get to know editors. I actually heard of an agency that transmits a "what's sensitive to you" email to editors so they were aware of triggers, and I thought that was such a great idea.

What’s the biggest no-no in earned media?

Don't BS clients with unrealistic outcomes. Goals are important, yes, but overselling and overpromising isn't okay. I've had clients ask me if I can guarantee X number of placements or placement in XYZ, and I never say yes. 

While I'm confident in my pitching and relationships, nothing is ever a guarantee and doing that would just be unethical. Unlike paid media, you aren't "buying" the feature or an ad, so you can never 1000% guarantee it. I know several editors who also make that disclaimer too, and clients need to know that. 

Of course, I do my absolute best and make sure every card is lined up as perfectly as possible, but things happen—quotes and products get cut, the product may not have a preferred retailer. Be honest!

What do you like the most about your job? What’s the hardest part?

I love bringing awareness and a platform to the incredible brands and founders that I work with. When you see how much love, care, and work goes into a brand and believe in it as much as the founders do, you want it to succeed. 

Additionally, I truly love the people I get to work with—from fellow publicists to editors; there are so many great people in this space. Getting the opportunity to learn from the incredible agency owners I've freelanced for has been amazing and has given me a well-rounded insight into PR. 

The hardest part is establishing boundaries and a work/life balance. It's so easy to answer that 10 p.m. text and hop back on the computer because you want to go above and beyond, but it's also important to set boundaries, which I'm still working on. Nobody can do their job well if they are exhausted and burnt out. 

I think this new generation does a really great job at prioritizing their mental health and creating boundaries. That's not to say that the importance of hustling and being hungry isn't there anymore. But being able to acknowledge when you need a moment (i.e. a 30-minute walk outside) or need to leave the office or sign off at a reasonable hour is so necessary for long-term success. 

Anything else to add?

I think it's also so important to remember that we are all humans, as sappy as that sounds. This industry can be incredible and cut-throat at times, and taking a second to remember that we are all just people, working our hardest and wanting to do well for ourselves and our clients, bosses, coworkers etc. is something that is often missing. Be kind and respectful to one another.