Erin Fors is the Co-Founder and President of Cutline PR, San Francisco, California. Along with her business partner, Megan Lamb, Erin succeeds in the tech world of PR and loves what she does. With offices in New York and Washington as well as San Fran, Cutline have worked with some major brands including Google, Yahoo and YouTube!
The reason I conduct these interviews is to inspire you, my readers, and fellow PR students to be successful in your careers and business leaders of the future. I have asked the important questions to gain an insight of how these #GirlBosses made it to where they are today, and how we can emulate their successes.
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
OC: Hey Erin! An easy question to start us off (I hope) – What is your full job title?
EF: Co-Founder, President of Cutline PR.
Can you give me a background of your career and education? How did this lead you to be in your current PR position today?
I always knew I wanted to work with people in some way and I’ve always loved the power of words, so communications seemed like a natural fit when I was deciding what course of study to pursue in college. Prior to college, and while I put myself through school, I also worked in retail which I loved because it was so people-focused.
I have a degree in communications with an emphasis on public relations. That was the easy part. Translating what you learn in school to real world application is always tough but with public relations – which I like to call more art than science – it’s even more challenging because no two situations are truly alike.
My career started on the agency side and I’ve worked at agencies of all sizes – from boutique to global – and also worked in-house for a year. The majority of my career has been focused on technology, largely because of where I lived after college (Silicon Valley in California) but I am also very passionate about technology so it worked out beautifully.
It makes it easy to love what you do when it includes all the things you love!
How and why did you start your business?
Megan Lamb and I started Cutline in late 2005 / early 2006 as a sister agency to Merritt Group, where we both worked. While Merritt Group focused on business software, we wanted to expand the business overall to focus on consumer technology, something we were both really passionate about. In order to do so, we decided to create a totally separate brand, culture and team. And that’s when Cutline was born.
How did you go about securing your first client?
Our very first client was Google and it was a three month project to help with mobile PR. This was back in late 2005, early 2006… before smartphones!
We were introduced to the team at Google through a previous client who recently joined the PR team (proof that great work, a relentless focus on results, and strong client relationships are key to building a successful career in PR).
We ended up working with Google for seven years and were fortunate enough to work on some of the largest industry-changing launches like Android and Google Chrome, among others.
Where are you based? Does your job involve a lot of travelling?
Cutline is headquartered in San Francisco, California and we have offices in New York City and Washington D.C. I started in San Francisco and now work in our New York City office. I travel at least once a month to our other offices or for conferences.
What does your morning routine look like?
My mornings generally start with a phone-free walk through my neighbourhood with my dogs. This is a good time to set my expectations for the day and think through what I want to accomplish.
After that, I catch up on email, social media and the news. I also review my calendar for the day/week. I like to exercise in the mornings so try to either walk, do yoga or ride my Peloton. No matter what, I always have a good breakfast – it’s really critical to start your day with a well-nourished brain!
Then I’ll head to the office listening to a podcast for inspiration (I really love HBR, TEDTalks, The Tim Ferriss Show and NPR Fresh Air).
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your role in PR?
So many things! I’m personally really passionate about people development so I try to spend as much time as possible coaching and mentoring our team and also others who are starting out in the industry.
I absolutely love it when someone on my team celebrates a big new win or tackles something they’ve never done before. Kudos and praise from clients are also extremely rewarding. We celebrate all of them – big and small! – at Cutline.
As far as challenging moments, my biggest challenge every day is just finding the time to do everything I want to do – for our team and for our clients.
How do you find the right work/life balance?
Boundaries. It’s all about setting your own boundaries and communicating those to your team. When you work with an incredibly supportive team, as I do, it’s definitely a lot easier to strike that balance.
What do you wish more people understood about PR?
That no amount of PR can ultimately fix bad business decisions. PR isn’t the be-all, end-all. It’s meant to complement other disciplines.
I’d also like the expression “all press is good press” to go away forever. It’s simply not true.
If you were to hire someone for a PR role, what skills and qualities would your ideal candidate have?
At Cutline, we look for people who can contribute in some way to our agency’s culture – you spend so much time at work so it’s important that the atmosphere is one that’s supportive and puts equal emphasis on strong work ethic and collaboration, as well as fun!
The skills that are essential to PR practitioners (writing, pitching, etc.) can be taught, so we tend to look for people with stand-out soft skills. People who are intellectually curious, ambitious, driven, motivated, and love challenges tend to do really well in agencies from my experience.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the PR industry today?
The speed at which information (including misinformation!) travels.
Who has been your biggest role model in your career so far?
There are two people. One, Judy Herman. She hired me as a nanny when I was 18 and she’s the reason I am where I am today. Over the years she became more like a mother figure and mentor to me than a former boss. She’s incredibly successful, strong, and supportive. She’s tough but nurturing. And her advice and guidance is always spot-on. I lost my own mom late last year, and have realised even more how important it is to have other role models in your life, for all parts of your life, and Judy is definitely that person to me.
Two, Megan Lamb; my co-founder. We’ve worked together for almost 12 years and even though we don’t always agree on everything, she’s taught me to be a better version of myself. She’s compassionate and strong and, above all else, extremely supportive. It doesn’t matter if I’m facing a challenge in my personal life or at work, I know that I can go to Megan. It didn’t happen overnight but I knew the day I met her that I wanted to work with her. And today, 12 years later, I cannot imagine not working with her.
Can you give three tips for someone wanting to start their own PR agency?
- Find your Megan. Starting an agency is not easy. There are a lot of sleepless nights. It’s critical that you have a strong partner you can rely on at all times.
- Embrace failure. It will happen. It’s what you do with it that will determine your success.
- Stay true to who you are at your core. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. Do not sacrifice quality to get ahead. Don’t take shortcuts. This is definitely a marathon and not a sprint.
What advice would you give to a student like myself that wants to emulate your success and make it in the PR industry?
Figure out what you’re passionate about. Find an industry you love and learn everything you can about it – read everything you can find on the industry, the reporters covering it, the companies making the most impact. And start building meaningful relationships with people in the industry. Ask a lot of questions. And then read some more.
Thank you, Erin ♥
You can visit Cutline’s website at www.cutline.com
Follow Erin Fors on Twitter : @forsie
Follow Cutline on Twitter : @Cutline
Like Cutline on Facebook : @cutlinecommunications
Follow Cutline on Instagram : @cutlinecrew