It’s not only retailers, manufacturers, and designers whose lives (and livelihoods) have been upended by the COVID-19 crisis in the jewelry industry. Those in jewelry marketing, events, and public relations have also felt the sting of many aspects of the business grinding to a near halt this past month.
Public relations professional Francesca Simons, founder of 4-year-old firm Francesca Simons Public Relations, says the pandemic has changed almost everything about the way she works. A single mom of two young boys (6-year-old Eli and 4-year-old Rafael) who are now home all day with her in their New York City apartment, Simons has added the daunting task of homeschooling to her already overflowing plate of responsibilities.
But Simons, who’s known in jewelry editorial circles for her upbeat personality and tenacious representation of her clients—which include fashion-forward fine jewelers Spinelli Kilcollin, Ashley Zhang, Kimberly McDonald, KatKim, Vram, and Grace Lee—is a self-described “incredible multitasker” and says she’s learned to manage her family’s new daily flow by instituting firm, hour-by-hour routines, both for her kids and herself.
We caught up with Simons on email to see how she’s juggling it all.
JCK: How has quarantine been for you and the boys?
I’ve always worked from home, so I’m used to it. But with educating, entertaining, cooking, and playing with the boys added, it’s been challenging.
I’ve created an educational 9 a.m.–2 p.m. schedule for the boys, which has really helped me keep the structure in the home, which, of course, all kids need and thrive with. This also helps me in terms of scheduling client and potential client calls, Zooms, and virtual meetings.
Can you break down your day hour by hour for us?
I wake at 5:45 a.m. like clockwork, read the news, JCK, Business of Fashion, the Daily Mail [Simons is from London], and then check my emails. My 6-year-old then makes me an iced coffee, which is his favorite thing to do. I then prepare breakfast with the kids, we sit and eat together, get the boys dressed (unless we make it a pajama day), and get ready for the day.
We all usually sit together around the dining room table and I work, and the boys have their necessary iPads, notepads, workbooks to begin homeschooling. At 11:45 a.m. we break for lunch, then play. At 1 p.m. I continue editor and client calls, pitching, and Zoom with my team for strategy and brainstorm meetings.
At 2 p.m. the kids finish studying and they snack and play together while I continue to work. We always cook and bake together, the boys alternate who chooses what we make. And then at 5 p.m. I prepare dinner. Bath time is 6:15 p.m. and then Eli reads to us for 45 minutes until they fall asleep. By 7 p.m. they are fast asleep and I get back to emails and handle most of my West Coast–based work.
Luckily now, the boys are old enough to understand that I work and run a company—as well as the importance of what work is—so they’ve become accustomed to the fact that when I’m on a work call, they do not disturb me and give me that time. I can confidently say, I am an incredible multitasker—it’s my talent, and it’s all I know. I believe in balance, but I also believe in execution.
It’s a challenge, but I know many others are in the same situation as I am, and we all just have to support one another and get through it and make certain sacrifices.
I’ve also seen on Instagram that you’re volunteering—where do you fit that in?
Yes, I do volunteer work in the evenings, including cooking meals for the sick and seniors and making calls to seniors to check they’re well and safe and see if they need any prescriptions. And once a week I send 15 pizzas to the ICU units at local hospitals—which is a five-minute call.
What’s your biggest worry professionally—and as a business owner—in the COVID-19 era?
First and foremost, I worry for my employees and clients—their safety and well-being is of the utmost importance. They are truly like family, and my priority is their health.
I’m also concerned as to when production in Europe and the U.S. will reopen, so my clients will be able to produce pieces again. Many of my clients have a great deal of retailer [partners] in addition to bespoke and custom orders. And all those orders have been put on hold. I predominantly represent emerging designers, so most of my clients are family owned, with no financial backing, and don’t have endless funds or resources.
During this pandemic, the challenges we face are the closing of online distribution, such as Net-a-Porter, and the pause on shoots and celebrity events, including [film and TV] premieres. We continue to push and work on digital press, targeted social media Instagram takeovers, and print-based stories, but shoots and celebrity opportunities [represent] a void…it’s important for us to evolve in this environment, utilizing new formats to reach a wider audience.
In regards to trade shows such as Couture—which announced its closure yesterday—we will pivot, spend that time designing, sketching, and working on new collections. And once new dates become available for trade shows, many of my clients will likely participate.
Why should brands still be thinking about PR when things look and feel so dire? Why is it still important?
PR is more critical now than ever—to execute brand messaging, stay relevant, and keep customers, the press, and fans engaged and connected. Consumers may be spending less on fine jewelry…but with social media and Instagram views at an all-time high, we can [showcase] a brand’s news. The main points in the pitches I’ve been sending are about educating and informing.
PR is a long-term investment, and it’s important to continue to be on the map, gaining exposure to legitimize a brand.
Things look and feel dire, but that doesn’t mean we stop. We must continue on and see this through. Things will pick up again—whether it’s in two or six months.
What can jewelry PR firms and professionals do that’s productive and important at this time?
They can stay home, be safe, keep well and healthy. And in terms of PR, be proactive. For example, I proposed to my clients that they participate in targeted Instagram live videos, Q&As, and takeovers with leading industry contacts and their retailer partners so they can engage their followers and [let them know] what they’re doing during the pandemic. Fans of the brands want to know what the designers are up to and how they’re helping.
Be resourceful, sensitive to the current situation, and think outside the box.
Top: Jewelry PR professional Francesca Simons and her boys Rafael and Eli (photo courtesy of Francesca Simons)
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