It can be incredibly daunting during your four years of undergrad to think about the steps between walking across the stage at graduation and sitting at the desk of your dream career. Some paths might be more intimidating than others, and this certainly holds true for those who are interested in pursuing the elusive dream of Public Relations or Fashion in the city where it all happens: New York.
That intimidation factor didn’t have a role in the life of Dakota Isaacs, who took the PR industry by storm throughout her four years at College of Charleston and is now dominating her career, one tube of lipstick at a time. She currently finds herself in a role as a Senior Account Executive at KFD Public Relations, an incredible startup agency in New York that just last week won Startup Agency of the Year!
I know a lot of girls who find themselves in the position of daydreaming about exciting and glamorous careers in these industries, but having no clue how to get from Point A to Point B, which inspired me to start a new series on the blog where I interview girls who have made it happen to help show you what it takes and how to do it! Who better to start with than one of my very best friends?!
Dakota took a break from her busy schedule to chat with me about the killer internships she landed through college, the ins and outs of New York Fashion Week, and the ‘big break’ moments that got her to where she is today.
Name | Dakota Kate Isaacs
Age | 24
Location | New York City
Current Title/Company | Senior Account Executive, KFD Public Relations
Education | College of Charleston, Strategic Communication
Let’s start from the beginning. Did you always plan on entering the PR Industry? How did you come to that decision, and what steps did you initially take in college to make that happen?
I’m one of those by-definition Virgos who knew what they wanted to do since pretty early on. I’ve always been enamored by the industry and the glamour surrounding it. I can remember being 8 or so and spilling over a bag of my aunt’s rejected Chanel compacts as if I was digging for gold, so when deciding where in PR to focus on, I naturally gravitated towards beauty.
Where fashion is aspirational, beauty is attainable – and I love that. You may never be able to afford the Boy Bag, but you can spend $36 on a tube of Lips & Boys and still feel like you own a luxury item. The beauty industry is fiercely interconnected, and when it comes to telling the stories, elevating the brands and controlling the message – PR is the one at the helm.
During college, I had over a dozen internships within the communications field, from digital marketing to non-profits and more. With each one I kept a running excel document of pros and cons, contacts, details about the company, etc. From time to time I’ll go back and look at that document and am amazed by how many contacts I still use to this day.
What is the one piece of advice you’d give to girls still in college or in their early 20s looking to break into the PR Industry?
Say yes to everything.
So much of what makes this transition period in your life so fabulous is that you aren’t hardened by rejection or fear, which enables you to take risks. Stay out late, get up early, meet everyone you can and say yes to every opportunity that comes your way.
Your resume would make even executives in their 30s look lazy at times. What would you say was the biggest key to your success in landing so many different roles and opportunities with such notable brands and companies?
You don’t get what you want in life if you don’t ask for it, so I ask. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have grown up in an environment where I was told I could do and be just about anything I wanted. Fear of the unknown can be incredibly debilitating and when you learn to let it go you open up the door for some pretty magical things. Whether that’s going up to complete strangers backstage at Fashion Week or joining a two-person startup, you have to remember you’ve only got one shot at this whole thing, so ask.
What would you say was the single opportunity that really launched your career above all others, and what made it stand out so much from the rest?
Interning at NYFW. You’re exposed to so much in such a short period of time – editors, influencers, brands, publicists, celebrities. It’s super buzzy and crazy but if you do it right you can really elevate your network quickly.
What kind of projects are you working on currently? Tell us about your process of creating and executing new ideas at work.
I work across five brands within the beauty + wellness space so there’s always something going on. Currently, it’s planning a press trip to one of my luxury brand’s laboratories outside of Paris where they develop their products.Our targets for this are the luxury books where we can secure 1-2 glossy pages really deep diving into the brand.
It’s no secret that marketing and PR require long hours. Do you ever find yourself feeling burnt out, and if so, how do you move past it?
Absolutely. I love what I do, and I’m in a career that really meshes well with my personality and skill set, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still work. I live in the city of workaholics. For me, it’s honestly a quick call to my Mom, a super hot bath and an evening spent on top of my roof. The effect of a good New York city sunset can do wonders for the soul – it reminds me why I’m here and what I want out of all of this.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Read voraciously – the glossies, the blogs, the trade pubs. Learn to be scrappy if you aren’t naturally. Trust you gut, don’t take any shit, remember who you are and if nothing else, be kind. Forgive yourself when you fail, as you inevitably will, but do it fast. Forget boys, keep your eyes on the prize. Learn to let go of the things not meant for you, they have a funny way of manifesting themselves naturally. Remember that you are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. And finally, never under any circumstance drink cheap tequila.
What qualities and skills would you say are most important to being successful in PR?
You’ve got to be able to think and act fast under pressure without giving away the fact that you are actually freaking-the-f-out inside. Secondly, you must must must be able to talk to a brick wall – if you’ve been through sorority recruitment you know exactly what I’m talking about.
What was your most exciting job moment so far?
So tough. There are three that stick out the most:
- My first print placement – landing 3 fragrances from Diana Vreeland Parfums within the holiday issue of ‘Shape’ magazine.
- The moment my phone started blowing up with images surrounding a dreamy event I planned for our Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Collection launch in L.A. with GP.
- Winning Start-Up PR Agency of The Year last week.
What is your best networking tip?
Use your weak ties. That’s where the magic happens. It’s rarely going to be your best friend that knows the VP of that uber fabulous company you’ve been following for months on Instagram. It’s a lot more plausible that your best friend’s mom’s dermatologist might be her college roommate, and so on. Use LinkedIn to find where these weak ties are.
Favorite Drink Order?
For the daytime, it’s been a matcha latte with soy since before they were a thing. Post-5pm it’s a glass of Prosecco or the dirtiest Grey Goose martini the bartender can make.
What Is Your Go-To Power Outfit?
Favorite Spot in NYC?
It’s a tie between the Mermaid Inn on MacDougal in the West Village and my rooftop in FiDi.
Where do you see yourself personally and professionally in five years?
I’ll preface this by saying that my current job is my dream job and as a publicist, my personal + professional life is completely intertwined. Let’s be honest though, a corner office working in-house for a brand I adore is the next dream. Oh, and a one-bedroom.
Recommended read: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.
Favorite way to unwind/spend your free time?
Exploring the greatest city in the world.
Know someone who has been #KillingIt in their life and career lately? Feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org to submit them for a part of this interview series (or even submit yourself!) with a short summary of why you think they’d be the perfect fit! I’d love to hear from you!