Episode 23: Cate Charney, Publicist at Base Beauty Creative Agency

Meet the Base Beauty Team! This special mini series highlights members of our Base Beauty team. Listen as they discuss their career paths, and how they handle working remotely.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzToday we're joined by Cate Charney, she's a publicist on the Base Beauty team. Thanks for being here Cate.
Cate CharneyHi, thank you for having me.
Jodi KatzSo Cate, where are you calling in from right now?
Cate CharneyI am calling from the upper East side of Manhattan in my apartment where I am avoiding the 95 degree heat outside.
Jodi KatzThe reason why I ask is 'cause you are a woman of the world and you're always traveling about and I like to start with this because, the way that we work in a very flexible manner, it doesn't really matter where you are, and I was just kind of hoping you were in some exotic place, like Charlotte.
Cate CharneyI wish, I wish.
Jodi KatzOh no, you don't go to Charlotte, you go to Charleston.
Cate CharneyI go to Charleston all the time but I actually just got back from Austin yesterday so I have been away, but I'm currently back to the week.
Jodi KatzSo I'm sure a lot of our listeners are young people either graduating college or earlier in their career and they're thinking, oh my god, I totally want to be a publicist, and I want to be a publicist in beauty. Can you talk a little bit about what that means, like what a day in your life is all about?
Cate CharneySure. I mean, it's changed drastically from where and what it used to be a year ago. I've been in the beauty industry for almost ten years now, in the beauty genre. And I was for a very long time, working at different agencies, two primarily over the span of my career, and working in an agency setting is a great experience and it's a complete PR bootcamp environment and I got to work on some really great brands and with some really great people, but I lacked the ability to make some of my own decisions when it comes to even my personal life as well as what I would do with a client or in a professional environment and I felt that, I had reached a point in my career, I had gotten pretty far along that I wanted to go off on my own.
Now my day-to-day is very different, I have the flexibility to go to the gym in the morning, walk my dog, and then I can start work at 11:00 a.m., and the beauty of it is that I don't have distractions. I'm able to start, say at 11:00 and then work consistently and fluidly till about 4:00 p.m., and what's so different is when you are in an office, which there are pros of course you get to make really good friends and you get to have a lot of fun while in the office, but there are a lot of distractions. You're constantly being pulled in different directions, and sometimes it's hard to just sit down and focus on your actual work. Working for myself from home or from Connecticut, wherever I am at the time, it's great because I can truly focus into what I'm doing at that time.
Jodi KatzSo, what are some of the personal reasons why someone would leave probably a really great agency full-time to go out on their own as a freelancer and kind of go to a world where it's really about risk right? You don't know who your clients are gonna be, you don't know what your work is gonna be. At that time, what were the real motivations for you to say, "You know what, I'm done with this, I'm moving on."
Cate CharneyI hear you 100% and I hate to bash an agency 'cause again, and this isn't bashing, but you know, it is a really great experience but to be brutal honest, a lot of times, girls or boys who are working in the industry, you're stretched very, very thin. I at one point went from working on one to two brands to being stretched across five to six. It's all you know, the influx of clients coming in, the demand of the environment at the time and then also, fellow employees leaving and then not being able to hire someone new or maybe there's a hiring freeze so, there's a time when you can be really stretched thin and sometimes you might not feel as appreciated as you are and deserving in that time.
So, I really think that for me, it was a matter of feeling underappreciated and knowing that I could, quite frankly, go off on my own and make more money and that was important to me. I like the flexibility, at the end of the day, I like that I don't have to wait for a yearly review and receive a small percentage of a raise, and a promotion that I don't feel I deserve ... it really is, I'm building my own career at the moment is what I'm trying to say. I don't know if that's coming off right.
Jodi KatzYeah, it totally is. I think it takes like a really brave person to walk away from a steady job and a steady paycheck into a world of freelance where basically you're your own business person, you're your own business development person, you're also doing all the work yourself, so it takes a lot of courage. And I do think there's probably plenty people listening to this podcast today who are trying to figure out if they have that courage, and sometimes there's circumstances where they just can't do it right? Like, maybe they're the only member of the family who has a steady job and it's just not gonna happen for them to go out on their own, but certainly it's something that people talk to me about quite a bit, when I-
Cate CharneyAnd that's not to say that you know, you need to have experience, because you can't just graduate college and say, "Oh, I'm gonna work for myself." You of course need years of experience, you need to work on brands, you need to work in an agency setting, these sorts of things come with time but if you want to go off on your own or you want to be able to work for say, a virtual agency, get a few years under your belt and make that decision when the time is right, but everyone needs to pay their dues. And I feel like in the beginning and throughout my time working at agencies, I did pay my dues.
I worked very hard and I didn't complain. I worked very late nights and you know, I was appreciative, because I'm sure we might get into it, but when I graduated was financial downfall of the US at the time so I was happy to get a job, and I was really grateful. And I was working very late, stretched very thin, but you need to pay your dues. I think that's also really, really important for people who are emerging into this industry at this time, is you know, you have be humble and graceful and work very hard. Its just not gonna fall into your lap where you can decide to work from home you know, straight out of college, unless in a different industry, perhaps. But you know, you need to get that workplace experience for sure.
Jodi KatzGreat, so will you talk a little bit about what you do for Base Beauty, because it's so different than what you would do for when your product brands certain clients. Walk our listeners through how you approach publicity for an agency like ours.
Cate CharneyYeah, so this has been a really, really new experience for me, and I feel like if it's not something that is being done, that it's not very common place for other agencies and I've actually heard from a lot of agencies in the past it's like, who's doing the PR for us? So I think it's really important and congrats Jodi for thinking of it because it does make perfect sense that an agency should have the PR support behind them as well so this is complete different than doing PR for a brand or for product because, I'm trying to look at who Jodi is as the Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency, and positioning you know, you as someone in the industry that should be heard from and you should be in the know. People should know your name.
So it's very different because brands obviously have a larger presence and they are in the consumer lifestyles. There's advertising, there's tons of editorial opportunity promoting a smaller company and an individual, it's definitely different so you have to be a little more creative, and we have done some exciting things in the past, collaboratively of course, such as the War Paint musical. We did the small PR event in conjunction with that, which was a really great experience because I'm so used to doing brand events, where this was not a brand event, but more as an agency collaboration, where we were able to bring industry leaders and media as well to an almost exclusive viewing of War Paint, and then have a small mini panel following, where we were able to listen to some really great industry leaders talk about their own past and their own experience within the beauty industry.
You really do need to think outside the box when it comes to doing PR for an individual in conjunction with an agency. It's very, very different than doing a brand, and it's definitely been a learning curve and it's really about, that brainstorming and really thinking outside the box.
Jodi KatzSometimes I kind of like smile while we're like talking because we work together, because in many ways, your experience and background is like perfect for this, and in many ways, it makes almost no sense. 'Cause like in the beauty PR space it's about products, getting products exposed, brands exposed, so this so different, and I laugh about it because it's in those times when it almost makes no sense that like the genius happens. It's those moments where you and I are both struggling to get to a place on something and then you come at it in such a different way than I do, 'cause I'm not a publicist and then I'm like, there it is. It's like this moment of magic where my goal might be, I just want the executives in the room to know who I am, your goal is like, exposure.
It's taking that story even farther and I laugh and giggle inside about it, because it happens time after time, where I have this experience and I feel like I almost wish I had the though to do this earlier 'cause we've been so quite and so introverted about our work and our work is amazing, to toot our own horn, it's really awesome. Our clients get ROY out of it and for ten years we've been so mouse quiet, not putting it out there, not showing anybody, not talking about it. And that was a missed opportunity to create some news around our work, so it's I guess, a little late to the game but this is the time we're doing it.
Cate CharneyAbsolutely, and you know, it's definitely a different process.
Jodi KatzSo I'd like to push [crosstalk 00:12:15]
Cate CharneyI said, it's definitely a different process and I think it's funny because we do, a lot of times, we look at each other blank face and then it's like, "Okay." I have to think back, I'm like, how do I make this translate because I'm so trained in a different way but it works, it really does.
Jodi KatzLet's switch gears a little bit. Our podcast series is Where Brains Meet Beauty, it's also our agency slogan. I'm curious to know how you interpret that phrase. What does that phrase mean to you?
Cate CharneyI love the tag line. I think it's so, not to use the word again, smart, but it is. And I think that it makes a ton of sense where we are currently, not only in the beauty industry but in pop culture and the feminism movement and everything that's happening, and it really just makes perfect sense and I think there's this common misconception that comes with beauty. If a woman's beautiful, they can't be smart and I think that does in a way translate to the beauty industry, it just doesn't sound like to maybe a man or some outsider looking in like a very smart industry, but it is. I mean, it's a multi, multi-billion dollar industry with tons of intelligence, super smart people leading it. I like to think a majority of them being women and I think that it makes sense. It translates and it transcends into the current climate, into our industry. And I think that as an agency it's perfect because you know, we're honing this combination of just super, intelligent, and beauty.
Jodi KatzWhen I was at the Women's Retail Beauty Summit last week, there were a lot of people presenting, many of them were the heads of the strategics, like the Cody and the Shiseido, someone from Unilever, Lauder, all those big guys presented, and then there were also tons of more entrepreneurial companies that presented. And I think almost across the board, everyone from the strategics in their own way, talked about how they need to operate more like the entrepreneurial companies.
And it made me have this moment of clarity, because I think that, your attitude around your work, Aleni, Lisa, Robin, me, Julie, everyone on the team, we're always nimble, we're always moving fast, we're always thinking like how to be impactful, how to be impactful and efficient, how to be impactful and effective and it's just so normal for us, but it's so not normal in the rest of the business for other companies and it made me wonder like, what kind of learning can we give the strategics around our own experience and our own business and working with a lot of entrepreneurial companies as clients. What kind of advice can we give those big strategics on how to be more nimble, how to move their giant, slow, ancient organizations into working like us. Off the top of your head, what do you think we could offer from an advice point of view.
Cate CharneyGosh, well I think it makes sense, and you did kind of just mention it yourself that, we do work with these smaller industries, I mean these smaller companies where we're working directly with the founder herself or himself even. And the messaging is so clear, and their thought process is so organic and they're so passionate about the brand that they built, that sometimes gets lost when you're working with the Proctor and Gamble or Unilever, and it's really, really important to keep this high, almost passion level alive to the brands and keep it translating well to consumers. I think consumers are getting more and more excited about these indie niche brands that are coming out right now, and it's because there is a different level of communication around them and I think that's something that we're tapping into ourselves and that we're trying to bring to these larger brands, that they need to translate to the consumers in an exciting and new way.
Just because a brand has been around for say, 30 years now, and it's been a long time favorite, they still need to take their messaging and kind of alter it because it's just highly saturated now and it's really hard to find your place and I feel like these smaller niche brands are really doing a really great job of coming out in a new and different way. And I think we need to just train our clients and have the conversation with them that the messaging always has to be very tactful, and exciting, and fresh, and new, because to be quite honest, the consumers are smarter than they ever were in the past, let's just say that. Everyone is definitely more knowledgeable that what they're putting on their bodies and their faces and in their hair, and there's no pulling the wool over the eyes anymore with consumers, and I think that's something that a lot of brands have had to catch up with.
We have to grow alongside the consumers knowledge of beauty and it's becoming bigger and greater, I think. Definitely lately, as long as I've been in the industry, and you've been in it longer so I'm sure you can tell me otherwise if not.
Jodi KatzYeah, you know, I think about naturals, like we have a lot of clients in the natural space, and it's not because I'm obsessed with naturals, I'm actually the opposite, I'm that customer that you're really going to have to convince. You're going to have to work really hard to get me to care, and in that way, I think we're a perfect agency for a brand who really wants to go to the next level. For sure, true naturals, I don't mean green washing. I mean like, real, clean, and green brands are absolutely, positively, the future of beauty.
And I know that the strategics plays by the big businesses and acquires big businesses, but I really think that they're missing the mark by not just acquiring this passion and know-how now at an early stage and really, truly like owning and incubating the brand to a high level of growth, because just talking to the founders that we work with, these people know every in and out, every supplier, every point of contact in the supply chain. They're obsessive about these details, they're obsessive about communicating it to their fans, and I feel like these strategics like really, really need to start thinking about how do we be part of that company that's doing this, even though they're so much tinier than any brand that we would typically acquire, so that they can be part of that, 'cause they can't learn that themselves. These little guys who've done all that hard work, all that proprietary hard work and I feel like the smart ones are going to really start to own some of these brands.
Cate CharneyAbsolutely, I agree.
Jodi KatzSo let's just hear it for our last question. If you weren't in the beauty business, let's pretend, what would you be doing?
Cate CharneyOh my gosh. Ahh! I have no idea. I don't know if I've already mentioned this but I did fall into the beauty industry, I really did, and I know that real true beauty people will probably resent me for saying it, but I didn't even know what foundation was honestly until after I graduated college, which sounds crazy now but it's true. I wasn't a big makeup person, I didn't really look into skincare, I was a sun worshiper.
So, I was not a beauty girl. But, I have always been a writer and I've always been creative and I love art and I love photography and those were the things I was focusing on in college and I really wanted to pursue photography when I graduated, and also in conjunction with writing so I was hiking photo journalism, I was hiking completely different line than PR, even, although I was communications PR major. I wasn't a 100% sold. Then it was the crash in 2008 is when I came out into looking for a job and I realized that it's always great to have the dream and an idea, but you need to be able to support yourself and make money. And I liked that my parents were very clear about that as well.
So, I fell into, I didn't fall into PR, I definitely earned it, but I fell into the beauty niche because I landed at an agency that focused primarily on beauty. I could not be happier that I did because now I'm a full qualified beauty girl and I can't believe I went as long as I did without wearing foundation, but let alone, not wearing sunscreen, so I love the beauty industry and I think that I'm able to use all of those skillsets that I honed and I loved and explored in college, such as photography, such as writing, such as creativity, and I'm able to use that in my industry every sing day, and that is a dream come true. And I'm able to work for myself so I couldn't be happier where I am at now at this moment.
Jodi KatzThank you so much Cate for your honesty and sharing your story with our listeners.
Cate CharneyThank you. It's done!
AnnouncerThanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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