For glamour and paramount public relations services, many top-tier clients are turning to Skirt PR, one of Chicago’s most elite agencies. Adrienne Eckert Petersen founded the esteemed firm when she was just 25 years old.
After jetting off to the Big Apple for her first post-grad job at Siren PR, Adrienne took her next step, or, shall we say, leap: She launched Skirt PR, the product of a very specific vision and a strong dedication to service. Her full-service agency caters to the world of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. She brought on an amazing team of women (and one lucky man!) that share her passion for networking, innovative ideas, and, of course, style. Now, the office is bustling with personality, not to mention pink hues and a wall adorned with purses.
Today’s feature is all about Adrienne and some of Skirt PR’s leading ladies: Lauren Berg, Caryn Schoenbeck, and Claire Perkins. Read on and discover how Adrienne turned her dreams into Skirt PR, as well as how she and her team use polite persistence to succeed in one of the toughest industries out there.
Name: Adrienne Eckert Petersen
Hometown: Fairfield, CT
Educational background (school, degree, majors, additional training, etc.): Purdue University, B.A. with Communication Major: Public Relations Focus and a Double Minor in English and Marketing.
Tell us about your job and daily responsibilities: Between being a mother, wife and President of a PR firm, I can honestly say I’m a “Jane-of-all-trades” and every day brings different responsibilities (and surprises!)
What was your first job out of college and how did you land that position? Public Relations Assistant at Siren PR in New York. I had already arranged a job with Neiman Marcus (in Chicago) upon graduation that didn’t begin until September, so, essentially, I had the summer off. Anyone who knows me understands that I can’t sit still for too long. I spent that summer looking for other opportunities and stumbled upon Siren’s website. I sent my resume and called the boss constantly to follow up. After a month, she called me and asked if I could come out for an interview, so I flew to New York. The day after the meeting, she called and offered me a job but told me I’d need to start in 2 weeks. I informed Neiman Marcus that I had found another opportunity and would be moving to New York. Without any place to live or any friends in New York, I packed up and moved to start my first job. I guess you could say that I have always been a risk taker, because I’ve learned quickly that big risks usually give big rewards.
Tell us how you went about starting Skirt PR at the young age of 25. (How did you find clients? Manage the business/legal side of things? A lesson my parents taught me is that everyone deserves the same respect, no matter what. I have always treated a 27-year-old editor with the same respect I would give a 72-year-old editor. It’s the same with starting Skirt PR. I never let my age stop me from talking to anyone and always treated everyone with the same respect. That, and, I’ve always been able to understand my audience and speak to them appropriately. Once I launched Skirt PR, clients always found me (and, for the most part, still do to this day). Word spread about the results I was able to produce, my professionalism and my creativity, and before long, I had enough clients to get an “official” office space and hire employees.
Why start your own brand instead of working for a larger, more established PR company? I always had a very specific vision for what I wanted and the only way to craft something that is 100% my own was to build it from the ground up! Skirt PR has always been focused on the fashion, beauty and lifestyle sectors and has had amazing success with the consumer press, connecting tastemakers with brands, and securing product placement. My vision is all about servicing clients the right way—a more personal way. My philosophy is to think like that business owner and examine their brand and how we can help. We’re an extension of their team. It’s about getting a client, becoming part of their company and diving in and understanding their brand. It’s not just about getting a boutique press, but what would we need to do if we owned or worked at that boutique and how is what we’re doing going to affect their business and bottom line. We don’t look at them as clients, we look at them as partners.
How long before you began building your staff? I have always been very conservative with my hiring practices. I won’t bring anyone on unless I know they will be a permanent member of my team. It was close to a year before I hired anyone. I’m always flattered at the amount of resumes I receive, but I truly look for hardworking individuals who are willing to “do it all” (see “Jane-of-all-trades” reference above). Many of the most promising hires I’ve ever made have been from our intern program. And, some of my best employees over the years started as interns: Natalie (Sturgis) Marquez, Lauren Berg, and Christine Bosnjak, to name a few. It’s important to see that people are willing to get their hands dirty, because most people have a misconception that PR is all glitz and glamour.
What did you learn from your previous work experience that has helped you with running your own business? I actually learned most about what I wanted in my own agency from my other positions.
What do you love about the PR and Fashion worlds? Are there elements you don’t care for? I can honestly say that I love everything about what I do and the sector that I work in. I have to pinch myself constantly for having the ability to work with the clients that Skirt PR represents.
Take us through an average day at work. What does your typical schedule look like? I’m sure everyone you’re interviewing from Skirt will tell you there’s no “average day,” but it’s really true. Some days there are meetings, some days there are events, some days we’re flying across the country, some days I’m fixing the purses on the wall. In the 8+ years of owning Skirt PR, I can say there has never been a “Groundhog Day” moment!
You’ve worked with some amazing brands like Bliss, Louis Vuitton, and Scoop NYC. How did you balance such large clients when you were first starting out? I’m not big on fear. I never let anything intimidate me. I know my staff gets sick of me saying, “we can figure out how to do it,” but I really believe that. In the beginning, and still today, if a client proposed something that was bigger than me, I would always find a way to get it done. It’s in my nature to exceed expectations.
What are the best and most challenging parts of running your own business? The best part of running my own business is being able to choose who we work with and who we represent. I don’t know if I’ve made it to the “most challenging” part yet. Can I let you know when I get there?
Do you prefer working with smaller brands or larger companies? C. All of the above
What characteristics would you say are essential to work in fashion PR? Patience, attention to detail, discretion and good cheer! OR, just don’t miss deadlines.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get their foot in the door? Never take “no” for an answer.
What qualities do you look for when hiring? Patience, attention to detail, discretion and good cheer! OR, just don’t miss deadlines.
How have you grown since you opened? Our capabilities have grown in so many ways, and the services we’re now able to offer didn’t even exist when I first started. Everyone on my team has had the opportunity to manage everything from full-service, corporate accounts who want national press, to small brands who are just getting launched on a small budget. It’s incredible when I take a step back to compare where I was when I first opened my doors.
In what ways do you still want to see the company evolve? We have lots of tricks up our sleeves and are about to unveil some amazing new things. I’m happy to say that we’re ever-changing and constantly staying ahead of the industry and trends.
Best moment of your career so far? Finding the core group of amazing people who have also wanted to see Skirt PR succeed and take it to the next level. Many of them are interviewed for this article!
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self? Never take “no” for an answer.
Favorite budget-friendly brand? BooHoo.com
Click to page 2 to read an interview with managing director, Lauren Berg!