Posted on March 6, 2017
More often than not I receive the question “So you’re in public relations. What do you do?” and part of what brought Al + I together is our different backgrounds in PR – she has her own biz and I work in a public relations agency (hello corporate America!). Let me start off by saying: PR is fun. I think across all PR agencies, it’s the mindset of “work hard, play hard” that gets you through the day and everyone’s combined hard work really pays off.
So again, what is it that I do? Anyone looking to get into PR but not sure what it entails? I broke down a few crucial parts to what makes up being a public relations professional along with a few tips I’ve learned so far in my career.
Who is a PR professional and what do they do?
A PR person is a people person: Media Relations
Ever wonder why your local FOX news covered the grand opening of the new grocery store down the street and interviewed by standers and C suite execs of the grocery store chain? Chances are they are working with a public relations agency with the goal of spreading the word about their grocery store on a local and national level. Now why is the grand opening of a new grocery store interesting you ask? That is where us PR wizards enter the scene. Our goal is to think not only creatively, but strategically. Does the Chief Marketing Officer of the grocery store brand have any local ties to the community? Does the company support a foundation that would entice more customers to shop there over it’s competitors? PR people take all of these angles into consideration when we are calling the producer of FOX news, ABC, NBC etc. because they want to know “Why is this story interesting?” and “Why does this story matter?” If we only have 30 seconds to speak with the producer: we better be ready to give a five star elevator pitch and make it the most exciting story to date.
Since the world is turning into a digital, always plugged in society, we are also finding the perfect online news outlets that both you and I read. If the grand opening of the grocery store was happening in Orange County (southern California), our target consumer probably reads The Orange County Register online and in print. It’s our job as experts to find the editor who is writing about similar events, get in contact with them, and again explain to them why this story is important and why it’s something they should share with their audience.
You might be wondering: do we pay the OC register to post about the grocery store grand opening? The answer is no. PR is free publicity. (*Note this is different than an advertisement.) The grocery store brand is paying my agency to hustle and get the word out about the grand opening. This means having write ups in well known outlets that have millions of monthly readers. If I had a friend post on her Facebook about the event, it would only reach the number of friends she has on FB. We want to earn the most impressions for this story so we go for the heavy hitters that make the most sense. In other words I am not going to pitch the San Francisco Examiner for an event happening in Orange County– it doesn’t make sense and unfortunately no one really cares in SF.
A PR person is all about social media: Digital
I am in such a cool position at my job. I am the hybrid child at work being half consumer and half digital focused. In the PR landscape of things, digital experience is quickly evolving into something everyone needs to be an expert in. That being said, I work on different influencer programs with my consumer clients. I help find the right bloggers with the right audience that is the best fit for the brand. I help draft content briefs so our bloggers feel well equipped with relevant information about the brand when they go to write and really am the day to day liaison between our blogger friends and the brand to make sure they feel good about their post and are producing engaging, relevant content.
Happy client + happy blogger + happy team = winning.
One of my clients for example, sells baking products. Through lots of research, I help find the perfect food blogger that 1) fits well with the brand and likes to bake 2) has strong photography skills 3) her audience is engaged with her content on both her blog and social channels and 4) is affordable for our brand to sponsor. Once all of these boxes are checked, I work with the blogger on selecting a recipe that most likely centers around a holiday (for example, cinnamon rolls for a Christmas brunch) and will resonate best with their audience. I am also the one reviewing their content to make sure it fits the brand’s voice, and when the post goes live, we later report on her metrics! (Views, engagements, likes, shares etc.)
It has been really neat so far on my blogging journey to incorporate what I am learning at my PR job into my blog posts on Al + Lex and working with brands that best fit into my lifestyle. Of course I want to share information about products that I use in my daily routine, whether it be relating to fashion, fitness, beauty, travel or PR.
For example, one product I came across is Felix Gray. Think of Felix Gray as the go to eye wear for people who work (and stare) at a computer all day. I am quickly raising my hand volunteering as tribute as I am always staring at a screen whether it be at work or for blogging. I wear my “Nash” style Felix Grays at work and when I am elsewhere typing up my blog posts. Before I started wearing my FG’s, I would ask myself “am i slowly going blind?” due to blurry vision throughout the day even when I was wearing my contacts! My Felix Gray eye wear has helped me alleviate eye strain by eliminating glares and filtering blue light.
FG sources their acetate (fiber used to make textiles) from Varese, Italy – a region with a 100+ year reputation for producing the world’s nicest acetates (think along the lines of Oliver Peoples). They did a ton of research and started working with a firm to create the perfect lens, which does not use a coating to deflect blue light like other brands might, but filters the high-energy light by using a synthesized pigment naturally produced by the human body and adds it directly into the lens material. What I also love about this brand is that it is so affordable. The lens itself would typically cost $300+ from an eye doctor, and we all know that frames can be so expensive these days! Felix Gray is its own efficient tech company and with that, keeps the prices low and affordable while selling a quality product.
A PR Person is a story teller: Strategy
My favorite part about PR is we get to brainstorm and think of creative ideas for brands in hopes to tell a story, make an impact, and engage with consumers. We want our brands to resonate in the minds of consumers and create a campaign that lasts instead of being a one and done moment. The mind of a PR person is always churning with thoughts: How can we get through the clutter for our client? What is the next big thing in social media? How can we make a statement? What does the brand need the most? What can we do that no one else is doing?
When we are planning for the next year for our clients or have a new business pitch we are going after, we have numerous brainstorms to hear the ideas of our fellow coworkers. Ten heads is better than one and I personally love hearing everyone’s ideas because everyone comes from a different background, bringing fresh ideas to the room.
In short, I love my job and the work I get to be involved in. If you are looking to get into PR, I recommend joining your local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter, grab coffee with someone who works in an agency who’s clients intrigue you, and most importantly be open to anything when it comes to PR. You will learn so much that goes beyond a job description that will help you both in the workspace and in your everyday life.
Smiling big as I wrap up this post because I love what I get to do and I hope with whatever you do as a career or hobby, you love it too.
Complimentary product was included in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Photography by Brittany Benson.
Posted on March 3, 2017
I love my city. One of the things I love most is you never feel too consumed from living in Chicago. You can always go to different places throughout the city to get fresh air and clear your mind. One way Bill and I decided to get some savvy R&R was to take a little stay-cation. Our stay was made extra special thanks to the hospitality from the Waldorf Astoria Chicago. We are familiar with the Gold Coast neighborhood and have many memories there but being a guest in your own city for once is pretty fun and something different. Bill and I relaxed, did some shopping, and had delicious dinners during our stay. I think my favorite thing about our short and sweet vacation was the fireplace in our hotel room.. it’s the little things that matter right?
I encourage you to take a stay-cation in your city, whether it be by yourself, with a friend, or lover.
A few tips I have when you are thinking about taking a stay-cation:
- Plan ahead: Think of where you ideally want to stay, and a few new dinner spots you have been wanting to try.
- Bring an outfit you normally wouldn’t wear out: I don’t mean bring something outrageous. Just bring a dress you never have a chance to wear but always receive compliments on. Dress up because it makes you feel fabulous.
- Do something tourist-y: Yep. You read that correctly. Bill and I went to the Lincoln Park Conservatory on an off day when it wasn’t busy. It reminded both of us what a beautiful city we live in and how nice our local attractions are.
I shared a few photos from our stay-cation below: Fireplace, Balcony, Outfits and more.
If it’s not going away from your home for a weekend, find a great movie, make your favorite snack and splurge on that fancy candle you have been dying to try.
Dinner at Merlo Maple
A Day as a Tourist at the Lincoln Park Conservatory
Posted on March 2, 2017
Sticking with the theme of breakfast this week, I discovered that I am behind on a delicious, healthy breakfast trend: chia pudding. This past Tuesday I had breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien and was shocked at how many allergy sensitive breakfast options they have to offer. I settled on a bowl of fresh fruit with coconut and raspberry chia pudding and went home and immediately started searching the internet for what measurements to use to make my own.
This chia pudding recipe is dairy, gluten and soy free but you do not miss those flavor profiles. If you love almond and raspberry, please try to make this and let me know how it goes!
Almond Chia Pudding
1 cup vanilla almond milk ( I prefer the taste of Califia Farms!)
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine your almond milk and chia seeds in a bowl to make sure seeds are evenly coated. Add in vanilla and cinnamon and whisk with a fork. Take a medium size mason jar and pack soft raspberries at the bottom, pour chia mixture on top. Let sit in the fridge for a minimum two hours or overnight.
I love these fun bowls from William Sonoma. They are plastic, easy to clean and add a nice pop of color to any meal. You can shop the whole collection, here.
Posted on March 1, 2017
This past Friday evening, hundreds of Chicagoans came together to generate awareness about breast cancer and celebrate with the brave survivors through Chicago based charity Tickled Pink. For those of you who don’t know, Tickled Pink is an annual fundraising event that has partnered with Bright Pink since 2013 Bright Pink is the only national non-profit organization focusing on prevention and early detection for breast cancer in women.
One of the many issues with detecting breast cancer at an early enough to stage to be able to aggressively treat it is that women are not often educated on how to self-check and what signs to look for in their body. Tickled Pink helps to educate women on what to look for and supports survivors. If you want to check out an easy to digest symptom and sign article, check this out.
From dancing to the live band (who rocked!) the event was nothing short of dazzling. Tables were lined with amazing little bites from Chicago’s hottest restaurants- not to mention the donuts from Stan’s. The event location, Morgan Manufacturing, is such a beautiful space in Chicago, and the best part was it never felt too crowded or spacious – it was just right.
We really enjoyed being able to attend such a beautiful event and support a great cause. See below for more fun photos from the event and the looks we went with!
Al + Lex
Dress: Missoni (Similar: here)
Posted on February 28, 2017
I was always a kid that loved to eat my vegetables. I was vegetarian for almost 8 years through middle school and high school and eventually began eating meat again. While I still eat meat to this day, I do not HAVE to have it with every meal. I have never been someone that was into diets or limiting what I ate, and still am not, although recently I had to make a very vast change to my daily diet and cut out gluten, soy, corn and dairy for health reasons.
Originally, I thought cutting four things out of my diet would be extremely difficult. While it is challenging for certain food categories like breads , I learned that there are still tons of options out there for me. I recently found a cookbook that I love, One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane (if you have not checked out her podcast, you NEED to here!) that incorporates a lot of “good for you” veggies (ex. not just lettuce which has 0% nutritional value) in yummy ways.
I recently made Murnane’s “Breakfast Potato Bowl” and it really knocked my socks off (and my meat eater fiance who stated that it was “actually very good!”) While it may not sound like much, the flavor is great and it will leave you feeling satisfied. I was not originally planning on sharing the OPP cookbook, but thought it was a great resource for those that are veg based or have dietary restrictions. All of Murnane’s recipes are 100% gluten + dairy free and can easily be modified if you have other dietary restrictions.
I decided to make this on a whim this past Saturday morning and did not have potatoes so I substituted white yams. I also did not have some of the veg listed below in the official recipe, but threw in zucchini, tomatoes and whatever was in my fridge. This dish can also easily transform into a Mexican food style bowl with the addition of a blob of salsa on top + whatever your favorite toppings are.
Here is the recipe if you want to try it for yourself:
2 medium large potatoes (cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 orange or red bell pepper (seeded and diced)
1/2 onion (diced)
1 garlic clove (minced)
sea salt and pepper
dash of paprika
1 cup of cooked black beans (drained and rinsed- I used cannellini beans!)
2 cups spinach
Optional toppings such as avocado, sprouts, salsa, hot sauce, etc!
Heat a generous pour of oil in a large pan. When the pan is hot, add potatoes and cover for 10 minutes until the potatoes begin to soften. Stir every few minutes. Add veggies, onion, garlic, paprika + salt and pepper and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the veg is soft and potatoes are cooked through. Add beans and spinach until the spinach begins to wilt.
Put a generous scoop in a bowl and top with avocado, sprouts + whatever your heart desires!
To share a little bit about the OPP mission, One Part Plant encourages those interested to incorporate one plant based meal a day into their daily routine. Jessica Murnane does not tell you what you can and cannot eat, she just makes it fun to cook in a healthy way.
You can pick up One Part Plant for yourself, here!
*This book was not gifted to me + this post was not sponsored, just something I genuinely love and wanted to share!
Posted on February 27, 2017
As I mentioned in my earlier post, there is something about New York that appeals to me in a way that I find too hard to explain sometimes. I wanted to share a few of my New York go-tos, which I would highly recommend for you to try too!
Our first stop after a lovely tapas style dinner at Beauty and Essex was Hotel Chantelle. Downstairs you will find nightly burlesque shows and upstairs is a rooftop that reminds you of an adorable park with cute benches as seats, white fences, and light and refreshing cocktails.
Cha Cha Matcha & Cafe Henrie
Cha Cha Matcha is all the rave in NYC, and I can see why. Buried away in little Italy neighborhood is a pink awning and a few spots to sit down and enjoy a matcha drink. I had the coconut matcha latte and it was a great jump to my day. We also had brunch at Cafe Henrie, keeping it retro but classic with eggs, toast, and mint tea. From there, we walked to the Flat Iron building, strolled through the nearby park, and walked to the highline! Needless to say, it was a heavy walking day!
Ludlow Hotel & Street Art Adventures
You may have noticed I skipped a day because day 3, Tina and I headed over to Brooklyn, which you can check out my travel guide here! Tina and I stayed in a cute AIRBNB the first three nights in NYC and fell in love with the SOHO neighborhood. Not to mention frolicking on the fire escape was a cool experience and added bonus. On our last day in the city, we stayed at the Ludlow Hotel in East Village. This area reminds me of west loop, Chicago, with it’s industrial appeal, hidden shops, and different cuisines making the streets come to life with city goers. They have an incredible rooftop (with a gym!) that is calling my name in the summer. You can overlook the city with some cool views while you get a good sweat in.
We stopped for coffee at Ludlow Coffee Supply and I tried the Bourbon Vanilla Latte (SO good) and then walked around the neighborhood until we decided to check out Grand Central Station, Milk Bar, and ended at Central Park. Since we had a very early flight the next morning, we stayed nice and cozy back at the back at Ludlow Hotel where we reminisced on our trip in the garden patio over a glass of wine. NYC was truly one for the books and I can’t wait to go back soon!
Thanks for joining me on my adventures!
Posted on February 23, 2017
I am so excited to share my travel guide while I was in New York City. One of the many hot spots I checked out was Brooklyn and I was pleasantly surprised during my time there. I always thought of Brooklyn as a beaten up part of New York City- almost a place where people don’t want to be associated with. I was very much so wrong as it is a youthful and vibrant place where I think many people enjoy the fact that they can get away from the rush of Manhattan. Brooklyn reminded me of a cross between Balboa island in Newport Beach, CA and the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago. It has a bunch of both mom and pop shops and trendy stores that attract millennial New Yorkers.
The Unicorn Latte
Tina, Brian and I took the subway over to Brooklyn (we went through a underwater tunnel.. woah!) and ventured around Williamsburg neighborhood. We started off by going to The End where I found the beautifully crafted Unicorn Latte. It is noted as a vegan wellness latte with a bunch of different ingredients that are all natural (think beetroot and blue algae). And yes, even the sprinkles are vegan. Their drinks are aesthetically pleasing and taste as good as they look. If I could have tried every drink I would have, but I guess it just means I will have to go back soon.
Street art and style
On our walk to East River State Park, there were the cutest streets and wall art I had to snap a few pictures.. Tina joined in on the fun too.
Afterwards, we ventured to East River State Park where some of the best views of the city are. If you want to feel how it is to be “on the outside looking in,” this is the place to go. It was a perfect day to be outside and take in the breath taking views of the city. I had fun dressing up for the day, as a New Yorker does, and wore a simple neck scarf with a sweater and my black ripped jeans. I bought my shoes from DSW and they helped me get through all my walking while I was in NYC. Tina and I averaged walking about 6.5 miles a day.. compare that to my average of 1.5-2 miles (without exercise) in Chicago. I was so excited to be adventuring the streets of Brooklyn with my friends. We ended the day going for cocktails at Wythe Hotel and grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant we randomly came across with the best crispy chicken burger at Allswell. Hanging out in Brooklyn is on my top 5 things to do when it comes to traveling to NYC. Also a part of my travel guide is to learn a little more about the NYC neighborhoods and find all its hidden gems.
Photos taken by Brian De Los Santos
Posted on February 21, 2017
Everyone has their go-to cocktail. Up until two years ago, my go-to “cocktail” was a great glass of red wine. That all changed when I had my first Eastern Standard at Soho House in Chicago. It is the perfect blend of freshness from the cucumber and mint with a little bite from the gin.
The Eastern Standard is not often found on drink menus in the United States- mainly because it was invented in London by Tom Kerr for Soho House Group. An Eastern Standard can be made with vodka or gin and while you can’t go wrong with either- the gin element allows the cucumber and mint flavor profile to shine through in a more enjoyable way.
This is a classic cocktail meant to be sipped on while sitting outside during the Chicago Spring. If you want to make this into a more party friendly cocktail, simply make your drink in a pitcher, add ice and top with chilled club soda. Below is the classic Eastern Standard recipe as told to Refinery 29, although I included a second recipe below that I have altered to taste.
When I first started to attempt to recreate the Eastern Standard at home, there was always something a little off about my version vs. the Soho House version. I found that if I infused my gin with cucumbers (fill a mason jar with cucumber, fill with gin and pop it in the fridge) it matched the exact taste of the Soho House version. Highly recommend!
Soho House Eastern Standard:
50ml Bombay Sapphire gin
1 large lime, juiced
20ml sugar syrup
3 thin slices of cucumber
3 mint leaves
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and double-strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a floating cucumber slice.
Ali’s Eastern Standard:
3oz Hendrick’s Gin
1 large lime, juiced
20ml sugar syrup
6thin slices of cucumber, muddled
6mint leaves, muddled
Muddle cucumber and mint in a cocktail glass. Add lime, simple syrup and gin. Top with ice and stir. Double-strain into a coupe cocktail glass.
Garnish with a floating cucumber slice.
Posted on February 16, 2017
In honor of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills starting up again, I chatted with fan-favorite Erika Jayne about her music and what she loves about Chicago. If you don’t watch the RHOBH, Jayne is the most real of the cast and isn’t afraid to tell it how it is.
Plus, who doesn’t love a woman that brings her hair and make-up team everywhere she goes?
Alex: How would you describe your personal style?
Erika: I always wear body conscious clothes and I’m always thinking of curvy, curvy and sexy, sexy and woman, woman, woman. That’s just what I’m drawn to and what I’ve been known to wear.
Alex: If you could only wear one brand or designer for the rest of your life, who would it be?
Erika: Definitely Alexander McQueen.
Alex: What are your favorite places to shop, eat, and play in Chicago?
Erika: Let me tell ya! We stay at the Waldorf, which is like, the best hotel in the world! Right out front that door, is amazing shopping. Hermes, Barney’s…there’s the Adidas store. Everything is within walking distance, it’s fabulous. I love Chicago, I’ve never had a bad trip to Chicago. It’s just awesome…awesome people, awesome food. It’s an awesome city.
Alex: Where do you find your inspiration when creating a new song?
Erika: My album that’s coming out, the things that were happening to me at the time were a great influence on this album. Experiences, people, things that I’ve seen, places I’ve been. I take everything and put it into what I write about. If I get stuck, I walk away and take a break and then look at it.
Alex: Who are some of your favorite artists that you look up to?
Erika: I am a Madonna fan, I’m a Prince fan, I’m a Michael Jackson fan! Beyonce! All of the people that put on shows. I love the showman.
Alex: I read that you went to a performing arts high school?
Erika: Performing arts high schools was an amazing experience, and I wish that all young performers could go to a place where they could hone their skills and really figure out what they like, and do something they enjoy. That experience is incredible.
Alex: You collaborated with Flo Rida on “Get It Tonight.” What was it like working with him?
Erika: He was a cool guy. He’s a very big star, and was kind to me. I think “Get it Tonight” turned out great.
Alex: What’s the best experience you’ve had thus far in your career?
Erika: I don’t know if I’ve had one single moment sticks out, but I know some of the best experiences are when you’re on stage looking out at the audience and they’re singing the song. Or you get messages afterwards like ‘hey, you really brought a smile to my face, I loved the show.’ That’s really what it’s all about. It’s taking people on a journey. We all live in a reality where things possibly aren’t the best. But if you can go to a show and escape for an hour, hour and a half. That’s what it’s all about.
Alex: A lot of my readers are college age and trying to break into fashion, music, or some form of the arts. What would be your greatest piece of advice for them?
Erika: Two things: study your craft, and get a great mentor. Great mentors make careers, and they shape who you are as a young artist or a young professional. Be incredibly good at your technique, craft, whatever it may be. Make sure you know your craft, have your technique down, be flawless, and get a great mentor. Those two things are what I think are the most important. You have to know what you’re doing. You need a mentor to show you how things are done properly. Let me tell ya, nobody got to where they are without someone helping them in some way.
Posted on February 15, 2017
New York has had a special place in my heart from the moment I started performing in musicals in 5th grade. At the time when my dream was to be a Broadway star, I knew New York was the city I needed to be in. Fast forward 14 years later and while I still have no shame in bringing out my inner thespian, I developed new interests: fashion, beauty, fitness, a lovely cocktail and public relations. Even today, I still have that same flame in my heart for New York. And whenever I have the chance to go, you can guarantee I am there.
I am going to NYC this week to meet my best friend Tina for a girls weekend and boy do we have some fun things planned. Tina and I are both coffee addicts, so you might see one or two (or three or four..) insta posts in a coffee shop. No shame in our coffee game. Along with bougie dinners, shopping, and really just adventuring and seeing what mischief we find ourselves in. We are going to have so many memories!
I wanted to share a few places cafes, coffee shops and dessert spots where we will for sure be going , and I can’t wait to write future posts reminiscing on my trip! If you have any Insta-worthy NYC recommendations, please please please share! I am so excited to go on a little getaway! Thanks for joining me on my adventures <3.
This matcha/ coffee shop is too cute for words. I have my pink outfit planned for this occasion!
White aesthetic, bright and casual. Perfect for a cold snowy day, no?
Food & Cafes
Pink. Healthy. And all the yummies.
Golden Unicorn Restaurant
The little pigs. Need I say more?
Hidden behind the doors of a pawn shop lies the most fabulous, bougie gem of NYC. Cocktails please?
Chelsea neighborhood’s sweet little treat!