February 27, 2015 / by Stone Hansard

When fashion’s on the mind, Chicago isn’t the first place one imagines. The harsh winters favor utility over daring, with crowded trains of dark, thick polyester and salt-stained boots, streets of downturned scarf-covered faces. In this historically working class city, effortless chic is hard work indeed.

Photo Credit: Richard Swift | Glimpse in Time Photography

It follows, then, that fashion and beauty PR in Chicago wouldn’t be a walk in the park. And yet a brave few niche agencies operate here, bringing East and West Coast sensibilities to the Third Coast.

Antoinette Arnold, owner of Authentic Noise LLC, is one of these audacious Chicagoans. She set the gears in motion while studying integrated marketing communications at Roosevelt University, strategically tailoring her study toward fashion and beauty.

“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do until I entered graduate school,” she said.

Arnold started a full time job after completing her master’s degree, but also took on unpaid work with a few local boutique agencies to build connections with brands and media. After testing the waters for a year and establishing relationships with brands she wanted to work with, she decided to set out on her own in 2009.

“A year is probably too long but I wanted to make sure that I enjoyed the work while not getting paid,” she quipped.

Outside the fashion epicenters in New York and Los Angeles, Arnold confronts her fair share of concern from potential clients, but the ability of today’s communication technologies to bridge the physical divide and the added value of reaching regional markets wins over skeptics.

Utilizing Michael Smart’s Read and React tactic to develop new business relationships with bloggers, influencers and the media, Arnold notes that “staying aware of content dissemination and knowing who the key influencers are throughout media and social media platforms is imperative for us.”

Want pitching advice from Michael Smart, too? Check out his on-demand webinar!

As a small agency, Authentic Noise prides itself on being “nimble and experimental,” cutting through the layers of approval seen at larger firms, though Arnold prefers to guard her specific campaign tactics. With a smaller roster of clients, Arnold and her staff are able to integrate into their clients’ team to provide seamless collaboration—an invaluable capability given that client retention is crucial for boutique agencies.

Echoing sentiments in Brian Solis’s What if PR Stood for People and Relationships?, Arnold is a firm believer in a “back to basics” approach to the pitch, focusing on few key relationships rather than mass emails. She even suggests providing meaningful information to media contacts that doesn’t pertain to clients, just to be helpful and maintain the relationship.

Going forward, Arnold anticipates that “audience connection will be determined by uniqueness instead of how quick we push things out,” and that visual storytelling and shareable experiences will be of increasing importance.

“Cutting through the noise is tough, but being timely, impactful to the outlet’s audience and personalizing the pitch has aided in wins for us.”

Want tips, techniques and best practices from other industry influencers? Click here!

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About Stone Hansard

Hansard is an associate features editor and features writer for Cision Blog, covering trends in journalism and content marketing, innovative new editorial platforms and more. He is also the supervisor of Internet Media Research at Cision, and occasionally covers jazz for ChicagoMusic.org. Prior to joining Cision in 2010, he was the music director at WVFS-FM, the alternative radio station at his alma-mater, Florida State University. Give him a bowl of fancy ramen and a Bulls game, and he’s a happy camper.