Industry Spotlight: Emily Marcus
By Rebecca Pujo
At the age of 22, Los Angeles native Emily Marcus is the founder of her own boutique public relations firm, Emily Blair Media, a freelance reporter for Us Weekly Magazine, a co-host of podcast Two Blondes Don’t Make a Right and an incoming graduate student at the University of Southern California.
Marcus fell into the industry when she was still in high school after a reporter at Us Weekly responded to her tweet about spotting Cameron Diaz at the Chateau Marmont. Marcus jumped at the chance to use her connection with a reporter for a big entertainment magazine and has been creating opportunities for herself in the industry ever since.
“I realized I was DMing this reporter from Us Weekly like this is kind of my foot-in-the-door moment,” Marcus said. “So I just told her, like if you ever need help with anything, I would love to help out in whatever way I can.”
Since then, Marcus has not stopped hustling, opening doors for herself in the industry in any way she can. She worked full time for Us Weekly while majoring in strategic and corporate communications at Chapman University, and has now moved into the realm of public relations while still staying at Us Weekly as a freelance reporter.
But Marcus did not start out attending awards shows and mingling with celebrities as she does now. She started off working for free, carrying an iPad around with her so she could transcribe interviews the second they were sent to her.
“All throughout my freshman year at college, I would literally have an iPad with me on the go, and every time she would say ‘can you transcribe this?’ the answer was always yes,” Marcus said. “I would literally have it in my friend’s dorm rooms when I was hanging out. I would whip out my iPad and transcribe something.”
She eventually worked her way up to intern status, and then a full-time reporter before transitioning back to freelance to focus on her boutique PR firm, where she represents up-and-coming professionals, especially in the health and wellness industry.
RP: How did you transition from Us Weekly to more of the PR side of the industry?
EM: I was at Us Weekly for 2-3 years, between freelance and full time. I had really gotten a thorough understanding of the journalism side of the industry. Through doing that I really didn’t even anticipate discovering a passion for public relations, but I just realized that as a journalist you really have an edge and an inside understanding to what pitches work, what kind of angles work, how you could best put your client forward to stand out when reporters receive 50-100 emails a day. So, I realized I had more of an understanding of how to do that based on my experience, and that kind of led me to wanna pursue that.
RP: How did you manage working at Us Weekly while being a college student?
EM: When I was in high school, I was determined to have the college experience that you think you’re supposed to have…but I learned really early on that I was trying to force myself into a mold that didn’t fit for me. Even when I did have those things, they did not bring me happiness and internal satisfaction. I never even anticipated myself to have a business or anything, I think I just realized that I like staying very busy and I’m very goal-driven and passionate. I didn’t really want to wait. I’m so used to people telling me there’s a certain age when you can do everything, like ‘you can’t start a business when you’re 20,’ - why can’t I? I’ve always been the kind of person who needs a purpose and needs to be busy and have something. It was hard, balancing it in college. I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I was driving to LA 3 times a week. I had to schedule my classes either early in the morning or late at night. I made it work because that’s what I wanted.
RP: So I know you got a lot of clients just through word of mouth and networking. What advice would you give to people who are looking to start out in the industry and build a network?
EM: I would start by looking at, and this is actually something I’m working on now, what you could do is look even in your school. I’m sure there’s one girl who has a jewelry line, or maybe there’s a girl in your sorority who’s starting a bathing suit company. There are always people who are starting little companies here and there and you can see what they’re doing and reach out and say, "hey I love what you’re doing, I’d love to see if maybe we can work together." Offer your skills. It’s a trial and error process...you can kind of learn together. I would look inwards. Start small, see what’s around you and what you’re interested in and who you could reach out to.
RP: Do you feel like working for yourself works better for you than working for a larger firm or corporation?
EM: I always thought I would sell my clients somewhere or merge with a firm, but as I’ve been expanding and being comfortable charging more and knowing what I’m worth and what my services are, it’s been really nice to work alone because no one’s telling you what you can and can’t do and it gives you creative flexibility. You’re not limited. When you’re working at a bigger firm you have to answer to a lot of people...for boutique PR, I am literally my client’s babysitter. They hear from me all hours of the day. It’s really cool because you also build a more trustworthy relationship with your client.
RP: What advice would you give to college students who are looking to get internships in this industry?
EM: You really can’t apply to these jobs that you want, you kind of have to create opportunities for yourself, and I learned that early on. Everybody wants the same internships...and it’s like, yeah that’s great, apply to those, but I have the same outlook as I do pitching: I will not pitch like 50 magazines, I’ll pitch 500 for the same angle, and if I get 7 responses that’s a win. There are all sorts of processes behind that, and I think the same goes for internships. Be creative. People on Instagram or online that you think are interesting, reach out to them. Be willing to start on the bottom of the totem pole, anything they want you to do. You’ve gotta start somewhere, so I would just say create those opportunities for yourself.
RP: What advice do you have for college students looking to succeed in the industry?
EM: Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. I know that’s so cliche, but prove people wrong. Create your own opportunities, never be afraid to ask for help. People love talking about themselves, and especially now, with quarantine going into summer, people have time on their hands. Use this opportunity to make a list of people that you think are super cool...and just learn. Learn as much as you can. There’s a lot of talk about how everything is so competitive, but the truth is, as cliche as it sounds, we really all can win, you just have to be willing to ask for that help and put yourself out there.