Episode 24: Andrea Halpern, 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 KatzI am so excited to introduce our listeners to Andrea Halpern, who's a publicist on our team.
Hello, there.
Andrea HalpernHi.
Jodi KatzWelcome to your first podcast recording ever!
Andrea HalpernYes it totally is, I'm so nervous but I'm so excited!
Jodi KatzSo right before our call I was eating nachos, watching Bravo, makes me want to know of all the shows on Bravo, which one's your favorite?
Andrea HalpernSouthern Charm, no Southern Hospitality, what is it? No, Southern Charm.
Jodi KatzNo, Southern Charm.
Andrea HalpernSouthern Charm.
Jodi KatzSouthern Charm. Yeah, I was just watching that.
Andrea HalpernYes.
Jodi KatzYeah, that's what I was doing when I was eating nachos.
Andrea HalpernOh my god, that's my favorite! I love them!
Jodi KatzWhy do you love it?
Andrea HalpernBut I always call it Southern Hospitality. I don't know why. I find it just very entertaining and I just think that the characters are so fun. And members of my family are moving to Charleston, so I'm so excited.
Jodi KatzOh my god, you're going to see those people when you go visit!
Andrea HalpernI know, I'm very excited! And my dermatologist is from there so I always ask her about it.
Jodi KatzI've been really loving Below Deck. Have you watched that?
Andrea HalpernYes, I used to watch that and then for some reason I then stopped, and maybe I should go back. I did like it, I thought it was very entertaining, too.
Jodi KatzYeah I think it is totally worth it. And when I watch these shows, I'm not like watching it while I do laundry, I'm like totally invested. Do you feel like you're totally invested in these people?
Andrea HalpernYes, I like to know them, I'm curious. I do go online and research them and a few people I will even follow on Instagram.
Jodi KatzYeah, Bravo's genius.
Andrea HalpernYes I've seen Andy Cohen twice.
Jodi KatzOh you have, that's cool.
Andrea HalpernI've gone, and I've read both of his books.
Jodi KatzMaybe he'll come on our podcast.
Andrea HalpernOh my God, you should totally email him and ask.
Jodi Katz[inaudible 00:02:03], yeah, lets do that. Add it to the list. So let's switch gears a little bit, a lot-
Andrea HalpernOkay.
Jodi KatzAnd talk about beauty cause you've been a publicist in beauty for a really long time. I won't out you and tell how long, you can if you want.
Andrea HalpernNo.
Jodi KatzBut, why-
Andrea HalpernWe can say ten plus, ten years plus.
Jodi KatzOkay, lets try it. Okay, why beauty for you?
Andrea HalpernI always loved beauty, I loved beauty and fashion. In college I was a business major for 30 seconds until I looked at the accounting book, and said, "Absolutely not! There's no way I'm carrying this around in my backpack." So I segwayed into communications, and did advertising, and PR.
One summer in college I interned for Vera Wang, and stayed in touch with one of the girls there. Graduated and she had left Vera Wang and she was working at a PR firm, called Behrman Communications. I called her, she's like, "You have to come here," she's like, "its like working at the first floor of Bloomingdale's." She's like, "It's product everywhere." So I was like, "Okay."
Sent my resume that basically had Vera Wang on it and a camp counselor position and took the training, interviewed, was like, "Oh my god, this looks like so fun." Got the job like the next day, and it was just like fabulous! I just loved it, it was just so fun, it was so interesting to see how products came to be and how the advertising, and media buying, and how it all came together to sell product. I was just like, "Oh my god, I'm totally the target, I fall for everything! This is the place I was meant to be."
So yeah, I've just loved it ever since.
Jodi KatzAre you still in touch with that woman who was at Vera Wang then at Behrman?
Andrea HalpernNo, she moved, we're friends on Facebook and stuff, but she totally got married, had three kids, and became the stay at home mom. You know, every once in a while we'll comment on things.
Jodi KatzHow did you get that internship when you were in college?
Andrea HalpernWell that was before there was any social media. Everything was like you did a type written letter, and I just mailed letters to all these companies that I thought I would want to work at and I heard back from them and literally, I was on a plane three days later from Buffalo to meet with the people from Vera Wang. It was so nerveracking because I needed new clothes, and I was in Buffalo. The only place I could go there was like Banana Republic that had anything normal, and I bought a black pant suit. I remember being like, "Oh my god, this is so not me."
Everyone else was in black, so I got there and was like, "Okay, guess this is what people wear." I was a junior in college and I was wearing a pant suit, and I was just like, "Oh my god, I'm so uncomfortable."
Jodi KatzDid you feel like you were playing dress-up?
Andrea HalpernYes! It totally felt like I was playing dress-up. I was like, "Oh my god, this is like Working Girl," but I was missing the sneakers.
Jodi KatzI remember when I had my internship was like summer before senior year, internship at an advertising agency in the city called BBDO, which is a very giant company.
Andrea HalpernUh-hmm.
Jodi KatzAnd I was like totally playing dress-up. I had like a wardrobe of pantsuits, and they were all ridiculous! Now that I look back on them, they like, one was more ridiculous looking than that - [crosstalk 00:05:40]
Andrea HalpernI know and it had shoulder pads. Did you have shoulder pads? I had shoulder pads.
Jodi KatzYes, I had like weird belts, and funky buttons, and-
Andrea HalpernYes.
Jodi KatzI was living the dream. I loved it so much, but it was totally playing dress-up, taking on another role, which is obviously different than being a college student.
Andrea HalpernOh yeah. In college I was in Buffalo, I was in sweatpants all day long and here I was going with my roommate to buy a pant suit, and it was just so funny. It was hysterical.
Jodi KatzSo you had a lot of jobs through the years in different types of agencies, right?
Andrea HalpernYes, small agencies, big agencies, everything.
Jodi KatzWhy move from one agency to another, what was the advantage? What was the goal there earlier in your career?
Andrea HalpernI stayed at Behrman for five years, which was a long time because I loved the people there, I loved the work, I loved my clients. But friends of mine and family members were like, "Five years, you have to move." They were like, "You have to move and try something else and get new experiences. We don't want you to hit a plateau." Most of the time that was my reasoning, I had felt, "Okay I've learned everything that I'm going to learn here, and I needed to go take a step up."
My second job, I was at Shop PR for about four years. So I was at most of my jobs for five, four, my other job I was at five plus, that takes us to ten plus. So I was at most of my jobs for a really, really long times. Until I had gotten the itch of, "Okay, I need something else." It became almost too comfortable, and I didn't want to get too comfortable.
Jodi KatzWhat was the next step after that?
Andrea HalpernThe next step after that, I'm now freelancing and consulting and doing things on my own which has been amazing because I get to work with tons of new people. I met you, and I might have never met you had I not taken the leap to do something totally out of the box, and it's been amazing. It's been something I never thought I would ever do.
Jodi KatzI would think a lot of our listeners at the ten plus point in their career and they're wondering, "Cannot I not have this job where - a steady paycheck, and I'm going in the same office every day with the same leadership." They're probably curious to know, "Can I do this? Can I do what Andrea did?"
What is the benefit to doing what you've done and what else on the other side? What's been hard about it?
Andrea HalpernOne it think I have, almost like the stamina or I have the ability now to focus better than I did years ago, which is when I needed that structure. I don't think five years out of working I would have been able to focus by myself, working from home, or working in a smaller office. I needed to know that I had to be somewhere at nine o'clock and I worked til six, seven, whatever it was.
Now, I think I'm able to manage better. I'm able to, I have the confidence to outreach to people I might have not know, and introduce myself, or do something that's totally different and figure it out. I think I'm just able to manage myself and my life now, versus years ago.
Jodi KatzRight. So you can be a self starter and motivate yourself-
Andrea HalpernYes.
Jodi KatzWithout other people around you-
Andrea HalpernYeah.
Jodi KatzEncouraging you to do that? [crosstalk 00:09:39]
What's been hard about this? You used to have a steady paycheck, you used to know where you're going every day, you used to know where your desk was. The way you operate now is very differently, so what's been hard about this?
Andrea HalpernI think what's been hard is I've found that there's a lot of competition out there. There's a lot of people who will work for less. Its managing and making yourself, it's almost selling of why you deserve x amount of money for a specific project. So that's been challenging, but its also been rewarding. I think just keeping up to date with what other people are doing. I think when you're outside of an office it could be harder. Because when you're in an office, one say editor can email one person that they're leaving their job and within 30 seconds, 80 people know, "Oh, so and so's leaving and they're going to another job." Whereas now, you constantly have to keep up with everyone so that you're on their radar. Whereas sometimes they just know, "Oh let me email the agency." Whereas freelancers sometimes, people forget about.
Jodi KatzRight.
Andrea HalpernSo that's been a challenge, but it's also been great reminding people of yourself.
Jodi KatzRight. So you have to work harder to stay connected than you used to because-
Andrea HalpernYes.
Jodi KatzThe number of bodies around you were sort of like an automatic-
Andrea HalpernYes or I've gone from like 60 people to myself.
Jodi KatzRight. [crosstalk 00:11:27]
When you service our clients as the publicist for our clients and we have, you know, PR's one of our many services, it's not our only service, like a traditional PR agency would be. How do you navigate the challenge of we don't have 25 other brands that are calling on that editor, right? How do you develop that meaningful relationship through only one or two or three brands? Versus you know the 30 at your previous job?
Andrea HalpernAt my previous job I only had worked on two brands. I didn't work on 30 so in that respect, it's still for me the same in terms of pitching and who I'm pitching. So that for me is the same, I haven't worked- when I started my career I worked on like 12 brands. You know-
Jodi KatzRight.
Andrea HalpernTotally with a boss or something. But as I grew, it was bigger brands but just like one client. So I worked on one very big cosmetic brand and one skin care brand. In that respect it hasn't changed for me in terms of pitching one client. It's like almost the same.
Jodi KatzRight.
Shifting gears a little bit. So our agency's motto is "Where Brains Meet Beauty" what does that slogan mean to you?
Andrea HalpernSometimes I think I know friends of mine always used to be like, "Oh you're a beauty publicist and its all fun and games and you're going to parties and lists and there's no thought behind it." I think that's totally wrong and I always used to be like, "That's not like what I do, I don't just go to parties and make lunch dates and do all that. There's thought behind everything that we do. Everything that you see in the media or advertising, or why you brought a product, there's so much thought behind that. You didn't just go into Sephora and ask for XYZ lip gloss. Someone got you to think, "Oh I want XYZ lip gloss." So everything I do really does have a purpose." I think we're a smart group of people who really think about it.
I just sent you an email and we're have a brainstorm tomorrow, and it's a long email of things to think about and things to look at, not just, "Can we do a delivery like with something fun and cool that's hip today." I think we're a smart group of people and beauty ... there's brains behind everything that comes out of what people see and why they purchase. If that makes sense?
Jodi KatzYeah. Will you tell us what a day in life is like for you? You know for our listeners who are younger, maybe they're in school or just starting their careers and they like the idea of being a publicist but they don't really know what that means. Tell us what you do.
Andrea HalpernWhat I do? So I wake up early in the morning. Now I get a lot of things on email, so I'll get Women's Wear Daily, Beauty and Fashion. I get a whole bunch of different industry trades, or website emails, so I'll read those quickly. I then start figuring out if I've done a delivery last week.
I did a delivery Au Naturale, which is one of our clients. So I'm constantly, this week I've been doing follow-ups. I have a whole group of editors, whether their magazine editors or online bloggers that I need to follow=up with, so I'll either be emailing with them, or I pick up the phone and call some of them.
I also had a video conference with our client today and we were talking about holiday kits. So I had done a whole presentation looking at different celebrity trends and make-up and fashion, and created this whole PowerPoint presentation that we looked over to see what we like, what can we create. Thinking of different product names, pulling some products together to make different kits, so that was about like an hour and a half. I'm doing this. I was preparing for our brainstorm tomorrow, still looking at competitors of what we needed to brainstorm, what they've been doing. Then I'm going to probably go back after this and do some more emails and call it a day. It's a lot of communication, a lot of outreach, some writing, creative stuff like following trends.
Jodi KatzWhat are mailers, we know what mailers are because we make them. Can you tell our listeners what mailers are?
Andrea HalpernSure a mailer is taking a product, whether it's a lipstick or a collection of lipsticks, or eyeshadows, or a summer beauty look that has lip, eye, face, and cheek and packaging it in something that's creative, whether it's a box or a cool gift, or along with a fashion item.
Something that we were talking about is a client of ours has these roller ball shadows, so I've been looking into doing a delivery placing the product on a skateboard and coming up with a really fun, cool slogan. So that when it gets delivered to Allure or Harper's Bizarre, they get this skateboard with eyeshadows on it and a cool slogan. It's like "What is that?"
A fun way to package a gift, so to speak, that highlights something that's new that you want media to be aware of.
Jodi KatzSo for all our listeners who follow the feeds of Beauty editors and writers, they'll see these mailers, usually on their Instagram stories, right?
Andrea HalpernThey're Instagram stories. And it can be anything from - some people have recently done really cool cakes and you cut the cake open and its different layers and all the different layers are different colors that pertain to nail polish or lipsticks. You kind of get to be really creative and really think out of the box when you're doing these, which is fun. I love doing deliveries and mailers. I think they're just a fun way to showcase a product that someone might not realize is a key benefit ... They're just fun. I just like them.
Jodi KatzYou mentioned that during your days and emails that you make phone calls. Do people really pick up that phone anymore?
Andrea HalpernOld school editors will pick up the phone. I know which people to call and which people will respond better on email.
Jodi KatzUh-hmm. Okay, so let's really, really shift gears. If you were not in the beauty industry, if you were not a publicist, what do you think you'd be doing?
Andrea HalpernWhat would i be doing? I love cooking, and had I done it again, I would have gone to culinary school.
Jodi KatzUh-hmm, what do you love about cooking?
Andrea HalpernI just love everything about it. It is my relaxation. I just love it. I love entertaining. I love ... which is kind of similar to PR because I do love event planning so I think it would have, or it could combine something else that I like to do. I just love cooking. I think it's also a creative outlet. I think you can create new things. You can follow a recipe, but you can also take a bunch of ingredients and whip something up that you might have not even thought of. So I probably would have been a chef.
Jodi KatzThat's so nice. That's really cool. I think if I wasn't doing this, I would be working in the recycling industry, which is so weird.
Andrea HalpernWhy?
Jodi KatzSince I was a little girl I was really obsessed with making the world a better place from a garbage perspective. The movie Wall-E really, really resonates with me, it's one of my favorite movies.
Andrea HalpernI know that movie!
Jodi KatzSo I don't want our world to look like Wall-E's world, where there's garbage everywhere. I think we're getting close to that.
Andrea HalpernI recycle.
Jodi KatzHow to innovate the recycling process. We put our recycling in bins and then bins get delivered somewhere, but there's not great innovations from them taking those plastics, and taking those metals and glasses and turning them into new stuff. It's a slow process. So I want to create, I'm not a scientist, so I'd like to I guess hang out with the scientist who are innovating around that.
Andrea HalpernOh, I like it.
Jodi KatzThank you, well maybe one day. One day-
Andrea HalpernYou never know, I believe everything's possible.
Jodi KatzSo the last question I want to talk about, the last topic I want to talk about is this idea of what it's like to work for a virtual business. So you talked about having to be a self starter, but now you have to be a self starter, where today I'm in New Jersey, you're in the city, who knows where everybody else is, they're just doing their work from wherever they are. What works for you around that? What's hard about it? What do you like about it?
Andrea HalpernI like the freedom but again I think it goes back to what I said that I'm older and I'm able to manage myself better, whereas I think if I was 22, I don't think I would have been able to work remotely or virtually. I don't think I would have been able to get my work done.
In that respect I do like the freedom. I like that I'm working in my apartment, but if tomorrow I need to be in Long Island or something, or if I get invited somewhere, I can easily not miss out on opportunities, where over the past years I've missed out on opportunities with friends or family because I had to be in an office. So that's one thing I like.
It's also, it's interesting. I can work from anywhere and I can work in Starbucks and you meet new people, so you're motivated, I'm now motivated by the city and I can just be anywhere. You never know what's going to inspire you or also who you're going to meet. I've met some really interesting people sitting at Starbucks. It amazes me. You never know what they're doing because they're so many writers who are freelance.
I had a meeting a few weeks ago down at Conde Nast at the World Trade Center so I found a Starbucks and there were two other writers there, or there was a stylist who was waiting to go for a meeting at a publication. So I never would have met her had I been in an office in midtown or wherever I was working. Meeting new people is great and it's just different, it's different but I never thought I would enjoy it and I do.
Jodi KatzWell Andrea thank you so much for sharing your story and some of your history with our listeners.
Andrea HalpernYou're welcome.
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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