An Interview with Olivia Kirsch
We recently chatted with Olivia Kirsch, the former Global Events and Partnerships Manager at Cos about her experience working with the Level 4 Digital Marketing course. She created a 48 hour mini challenge during which for two days the students presented their projects and outcomes from the brief that was set. Keep reading for more about Olivia and her experience working with our students!
Could you tell us a bit about the brief you gave and how the challenge worked?
The basis of the project was a collaboration between Cos and an artist that had a sustainable angle. There were loads of different elements that the students had to consider. The artist had to be brand aligned with Cos, it had to speak to their target audience, it had to be innovative and of course, touch upon sustainability which was a new topic for the teams on this course.
The presentations were split over two days and there were five to six groups each day. I had to choose a winner for each day. On the first day, it was a no brainer for me based on what was presented but on the second day, there were two stand out presentations that were totally different ideas.
What was your impression of the students work? Were there any particular projects that stood out to you?
The way in which they interpreted that brief was brilliant. There is so much talent on that course and I’m sure many will go on to prosper in the industry. I mean these ideas were super creative, innovative and most importantly, feasible. I genuinely think that if these projects were presented by a person working at Cos, they could be undertaken by the brand.
When you worked at Cos, what was your role and what was your day to day responsibilities?
I first started at Cos ten years ago as an intern in the Communications Department, which was essentially an in-house PR team. We managed the global communication and PR strategy for Cos. At that time, Cos didn’t have as many stores as it does now but was prevalent throughout Europe and Asia. As it grew, my role evolved and we started undertaking more large-scale brand partnerships, usually with art institutions or artists. It was my job to bring the physical aspects of those partnerships to life whether that means a launch gala or large-scale installation, off site or in-store. I managed all of the campaigns around those and made sure that any films or interview opportunities were being facilitated. Basically my role was making sure these activities, however they may run and for how long, whether it be one day or one week, in the UK or Shanghai, came to fruition and generated positive results.
It sounds very hands-on, did you travel a lot?
Yes, perhaps too much. I could be in Japan on week and New York the next, which always sounds far more glamourous than it is. Especially working in events where you have to do everything and anything. For example, I was once working in a historical palazzo in Milan and there was moss growing between the paving stones where we were placing the installation. So someone provided me with a power washer and I spent the day power washing the paving stones! In events, you could be doing anything that needs to be done, like sweeping the floors or talking to top tier press in a fancy dress and make-up. It spans the whole range and you really have to be prepared to do anything.
So you didn’t directly go into events, it sort of led that way through a PR route?
When I started at Cos, it was such a small brand that it was all hands-on-deck. And our roles weren’t as finite and spanned a broad spectrum of the communications elements including events. Initially, our events started out as press days and I really enjoyed doing that and then as the brand grew, that responsibility grew and I became known for being able to deliver efficiently to a high quality. Then I created a specialist team within the Communications department that solely focused on events and partnerships. There were four of us making it happen around the world, all days of the year.
What skill set did you look for in a person that was going to work with you? What characteristics did they need to have?
The most important thing that I look for in any candidate is that someone has the ability to think logically and analytically. By that I mean, that you’re able to think through the necessary steps required to achieve something in a practical way. It’s a skill that can be applied to anything in any industry. It’s like common sense but a lot of people get side tracked, or don’t think through problems or maybe aren’t solution oriented. And I think having that attribute and being able to think logically means you are able to foresee many problems that you could potentially have and absolve them before they become an issue. Especially when you are dealing with so many parts like the venue, the partner, catering, whoever it may be, you’ll have to think through processes to achieve the best possible results.
What advice would you give to someone that is looking to get into events/PR or advice that you would give to your younger self?
In regards to the fashion industry as a whole, working in the industry requires a lot of grit and determination. And not just when you are starting out, but even when you’re more established. There are so many different fields that comprise the fashion industry. More than you would even think you knew of. You don’t realise how many facets of the industry there are. My advice is to try and find an area that genuinely interests you and that you love. Working super hard at something you don’t enjoy or you don’t excel at because you don’t love it is a waste of your skill and talent. And if you don’t find that right at the very beginning, don’t be disheartened because a lot of companies will help you find what you want. Especially if you do an internship.
Like for me, would I have started in a more traditional PR role at the beginning if I knew what else was out there? Probably not. It wasn’t my passion and had I known there was a more specific niche that I could have gone into, that probably would have been my focus. But through my internship I was able to find that niche and have the opportunity to pursue it. I did have to prove my worth in order to get into it and It took me a while to get there but now I’m a lot happier and know that this is what I’m meant to pursue.
Thank you to Olivia for participating in the Level 4 Digital Marketing course’s 48 hour challenge and for answering our questions! All our courses offer incredible industry opportunities including industry projects, challenges and master classes. Learn more about all our courses here.