Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’re checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt glean shareable tips and tricks for doing business—and living as well as possible—during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today we hear from Yael Fraynd, president of 10-year-old public relations firm YaYa Publicity, which represents jewelry collections including Fewer Finer, Jennifer Zeuner, Lauren Addison, Edward Avedis, Aaryah, Kassandra Nicholson, and White/Space.
JCK: Where are you based, and how has quarantine been for you? Are you still in quarantine? If so, who are you living with?
I’m based in New York City and stayed here through all of quarantine—even in March and April when things seemed bleak here. I have a husband and three young children, so we were our own little quarantine pod. It was hectic with schedules and working from home, but we made it work. Like most New Yorkers, we’re no longer in full lockdown but are still being cautious and adjusting to the new normal.
Describe your work life in quarantine.
Working from home during quarantine was challenging with my three little kids—especially, while they were still in school. However, 10 years ago, at the start of YaYa Publicity, I didn’t have my own office, so I knew how to make it work.
I make it a point to get dressed every single day as if I had client meetings for a sense of normalcy. I do the same with my kids, keeping all of our routines as if we were still heading out for work and school. I ordered a desk for myself in March, which did not arrive until May, so there were about two months of me working from my laptop on top of my bedroom dresser and kitchen table. Pre-COVID, I was out most of the day every day during the week, so having me home every day made my kids feel like I was there to play.
It definitely was an adjustment for everyone to understand that “mommy had to work.” There would be jewelry pulls happening on my kitchen table, and my kids wanted to “help” all the time. I had to explain that all the sparkly and fun jewelry was part of my work and not for dress-up. As a PR agency owner, with clients both domestic and international, I pride myself on always being accessible no matter the time of day. PR never sleeps!
How has the pandemic changed your business plans for 2020 and beyond?
Each year kicks off with awards season in Los Angeles, and 2020 was a particularly banner year for us. We had our first Oscars placement, on Molly Sims, wearing a pair of earrings by Edward Avedis, among other big celebrity hits. And we were traveling back and forth between coasts weekly. Our plan was to continue going at least monthly or more, which obviously had to pause once COVID-19 hit. We adjusted our focus back to digital and print editorial placements, which gave us a reason to be creative and think outside the box.
Also, I’m very social, and on a daily basis we would entertain editors, stylists, influencers, etc., and we were not about to give that up because of COVID! Instead of meeting face-to-face for lunch or happy hour, we started sending lunches, breakfasts, or even fun snacks to our work friends from coast to coast. It became our way of brightening their week and letting them know we were wishing them well since we can’t physically be together.
How has the pandemic—and then the Black Lives Matter movement and the upcoming election—changed the jewelry PR game this year?
A positive change that has resulted from the BLM movement, from a PR perspective, is the opportunity for Black designers and talent to be recognized [in the] mainstream. I feel that many doors have opened for minorities to have a voice and a greater presence in media. Personally, I’ve seen this change firsthand with my fine jewelry brand White/Space.
What are your clients saying they want from you and your services right now?
At the start of quarantine, it seemed scary and uncertain for everyone, especially jewelry clients. But as the months went on, I think they all realized that business was not going to stop—instead, we would just have to adjust to a new normal.
Interestingly, since the beginning of quarantine, clients started to see an uptick in web traffic because of digital stories they were featured in. With everyone staying home and having more time on their hands, they were clicking through to their sites, browsing, and shopping more. That being said, digital outreach will continue to be a focus even as celebrity opportunities begin to open up.
On a larger level, clients and brands saw how important PR was to them throughout the pandemic. Seeing their name in the press became essential to their marketing efforts, so, as a whole, we are seeing more interest in PR in general.
What do you think are the main challenges fine jewelry brands will face in the second half of 2020 and holiday?
Things still seem a little uncertain with the economy, a remote school year, the election, and brick-and-mortar stores closing. We are hearing from clients that that is their biggest challenge, since customers are more hesitant and cautious to spend money on jewelry right now. There seems to be a lot of unknown in the second half, which has customers being more conservative than in other years.
How have you been relaxing or mentally escaping during quarantine?
I’m always on the go, and not really the type of person who relaxes. Luckily, I live near the Hudson River, so I took a daily escape from my apartment to go for a walk and get my morning coffee at a local coffee shop. Not only did it give me a 20-minute break, but I was happy to support a small business.
Do you have any good book/TV/movie/podcast recommendations?
I love crime dramas. I will always recommend Law & Order: SVU!
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