Chelsea Leibow, Creative Communications Consultant
1. First of all, why are you "cool"?
Oh man, I've never had to answer "why I'm cool" before! Professionally, it's probably because I have my own communications consulting business working in women's sexual health & wellness. People tend to think working in taboo, women-led spaces is pretty cool. I think I have a reputation as being gutsy and bold, but also compassionate and kind. Personally, I think it's probably because I'm honest, loyal, and always have weed.
2. Can you talk a little bit about how you got to where you are today in PR?
My first ever PR job was a massive disaster. It was my first "real job" out of college, and I worked at a huge agency where I was pretty much the lowest on the totem pole. While I was good at writing pitches and press releases, I truly sucked at all the assistant stuff. After that job, I "vowed I'd never do PR again." I worked in other marketing spaces for awhile, but then THINX saw that I had PR experience on my resume, and the rest was history. After departing that company, I was shocked at how many brands in similar spaces reached out to work with me almost immediately. I had no intention of starting my own freelance business, but three months into being on my own I had a full roster, and there was no looking back.
3. What is the biggest misconception that you think people have about individuals who work in PR? And what is the biggest misconception that you think people have about YOU before they meet you?
Well, I think the trope of the "PR Girl" is certainly reductive. The fact that the word "girl" is even something that we eagerly call professional women is inherently belittling and patriarchal. The impression that media gives of women working in PR is basically limited to like, The Hills and PubLIZity, which paint PR in crude, broad, ditzy strokes. PR is extremely hard work. Out of all the services I offer, it's definitely the most challenging. Yes, networking and relationship building is a big part of the job, but it's emotionally taxing to be that "on" all the time. People that work in this industry don't like to say this, but it's just such a crapshoot. So much of the success of our work relies on things we can't control — like the rest of the news cycle, the journalists we're working with, and the relevancy of a particular product or brand in relation to everything else the outlet is considering. I can pitch until I'm blue in the face, but sometimes angles just don't land, and then you're back to the drawing board.
Because of my reputation working in taboo spaces, I think people equate my willingness to delve into taboo subjects with a willingness to talk about my personal experiences in a work environment. Working in spaces where I talk about vaginas and sex all day of course means a certain amount of comfort and openness to discuss those issues, however, I don't think it's appropriate to hear about my coworker's sex proclivities in the office, and vice versa. I've been in situations where I've felt pressured to share that information, and it all stems from a lack of boundaries in the workplace. In my own business, I try to establish those boundaries clearly.
4. Do you feel like you can totally be yourself with your PR job? Have you ever had to fake a certain personality or certain interests?
Because I'm so passionate about the work that I do, and because my reputation usually precedes me to a certain extent, I think most of my clients know exactly what they're getting when they hire me. In that sense, being myself at work is pretty easy. On the other hand, it's still a job. There are still days where I feel "off," and I have to put it on a bit, just like everyone else. Over the last couple years I've realized that I'm actually not an inherently outgoing person like I always thought I was, I'm just really good at faking it. I can charm you silly at a party, but in reality I wish I was at home on the couch with my dog and my boyfriend.
5. You deal with a lot of women/femme-focused health companies - what do you think is the best part about working in this space?
The best part about working in this space is that I feel like I'm affecting and changing culture. I get to work with brands who are normalizing things like female pleasure and periods. I feel like the younger me needed these resources and brands, and now I get to give that to other people.
What do you think is the worst part about working in this space?
The realization that just because a company is female founded and run, doesn't mean it's anymore fair/equal/just than a more traditional, male-dominated company. You want to believe that women will right those wrongs, but I don't always find that's the case. Power is power, regardless of gender.
6. PR can be really hard, because you tend to have to spend a lot of time with journalists, but 1. journalists aren't inclined to like PR people (for predominately valid reasons), 2. and even when they do, there can often be this sort of...residual feeling that you're just friends w/ them to get something out of them. What are your thoughts on this, and HOW do you deal with this?
This is like, the story of my life. I can feel my first PR Director rolling in her Stuart Weitzman boots as I say this, but if I'm being honest — a lot of journalists are assholes. They treat us like we're a nuisance, and they don't like to admit we're also helping them by being an access point to brands they want to cover, or helping them craft specific stories to create content. We exist to make their lives easier, but we always have to act indebted to journalists. This is hard for me to do! I hate feeling like I have to be on my best behavior with someone who treats me like garbage, or doesn't value my time or my work. Thank god this isn't the case with everyone. There are lots of journalists I've met through work who are lovely, and many whom I have become close friends with. It's safe to say that if I'm asking you out for a drink or to get a manicure or something, it's because I truly like you and want to get to know your more. I don't bullshit people. Maybe I'd be farther along in my career if I did!
7. How would you describe yourself in 2 sentences?
Loyal, honest, and stubbornly sure of myself. Destined to fail a bunch but would rather fail than wonder, "what if?"
8. How would you describe the person that others (who don't know you well but maybe see you on social media or in an article) think you are in 2 sentences?
Loyal, honest, and stubbornly sure of herself. Brave.
9. What is your biggest career-related fear?
Losing sight of what's important, and turning into the kind of leader I'm morally opposed to. I don't ever want to look at employees (or anyone, for that matter) and see dollar signs instead of their humanity.
10. What is one insecurity that you used to have, but don’t anymore?
I finally feel like I really understand my strengths, which is super empowering. I can hold my own in a room when it comes to the areas I know I thrive in. I used to second-guess my own authority, but now I stand firmly in it.
11. If you could tell someone who wanted your life but thought they weren't "cool enough" just ONE THING, what would you tell them?
My life is a result of constantly trying to balance my work, my relationship, my family, my friends, my mental health, my physical health, my finances, and my dreams. There is no possible way I could feasibly juggle all of these with ease, and I don't. I fail at most of it often. I'm really not that cool, I just buy trendy earrings and expensive skincare and hope for the best.
FIND CHELSEA at @chelsealeibow