Published on April 14, 2022, at 8:00 p.m.
by Schuyler Rosson.
Events are undoubtedly a vital asset to public relations and a division that has undergone extensive changes as a result of COVID-19. The University of Alabama alumna Kelly Presperin has created a unique career for herself in event planning, revealing the intersections of events and public relations.
Presperin currently serves as the project manager for KCD Worldwide, a leading fashion-services agency with divisions ranging from communication services to fashion show production. KCD’s clients account for many of fashion’s most notable names, including Alexander Wang, Vogue, Michael Kors, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and more. Elyse Goldberg, a junior publicist at KCD, explains the overarching goal of KCD Worldwide saying, “Our job is to make sure that [our clients] have every opportunity to be seen, sold and bought.”
According to hospitality consulting company Eventforte, events have a direct effect on improving brand success. Eventige reports that 87% of attendees will likely purchase a brand’s products or services after attending a show or event. Events create an opportunity for brands to forge relationships with consumers and potential partners, and curate brand image and reputation. Public relations professionals must be aware of tactics that can increase client success while growing brand visibility.
As an undergraduate, Presperin attended The University of Alabama to obtain a degree in journalism. However, she quickly realized that public relations aligned with her interests. “If you are ever unsure of how to incorporate your passions into your curriculum or even career, tell a teacher; they will tell you what to do,” advises Presperin. To pair with her degree in public relations, Presperin created her own minor in event planning, selecting a variety of event-oriented classes, including catering, entertainment and even theater.
Upon graduation, Presperin kicked off her career within the sports and entertainment industry, eventually landing a role in Los Angeles hosting award shows at the famed Staples Center. Presperin was hired by IMG to produce New York Fashion Week, the first season with fans since COVID-19. She was faced with the odd reality, “What do you do when you have already landed your dream job?”
As talent such as Virgil Abloh rose to prominence, Presperin took note of his knack for planning events that incorporated culture into the fashion industry. “If you have a foundation of creativity and culture you can insert yourself into anything,” she concludes. She attended night school at the University of California Los Angeles, adding an extension in interior architecture to her growing repertoire. The extension equipped her with an in-depth understanding of design and structure, allowing her to present full-scale renderings to clients and vendors.
What led you to working at KCD Worldwide?
Presperin: My sister connected me with KCD. They were working on the Louis Vuitton show and needed a second-in-command. So, I quit my job and went to Miami as a contractor to help with the Louis Vuitton men’s show, and I got a full-time job out of it! Life is better knowing than wondering. When you are working towards your career, you must take risks and jump into anything that you can get.
Can you share what a typical day looks like? What current projects are you focusing on?
Presperin: Like many public relations professionals, no two days are the same. Currently, I’m working on spearheading the next Louis Vuitton Cruise show. One day I could be hosting a client lunch or working on an after-party. By the time I wake up, I usually have a to-do list, since we work with international clients. I respond to emails from whatever client is getting off for the day. I will go to site visits, talk to vendors, work on sourcing and create pitch decks. Pitch decks are something UA helped me with; they bring a marketing/advertising experience to life with creatives, getting people excited. PR’s role is then to determine who we need to invite to events and how we are going to curate/market it.
How do you adjust to COVID-19 protocol guidelines?
Presperin: While planning an after-party, I was faced with the question, “What is my moral obligation? Is it my business to tell everyone and is it the law?” The pandemic was something that PR professionals both on the agency and brand side had to handle with care. It was KCD’s job to communicate the brand’s guidelines per event and ensure every guest understands check-in protocol prior to arriving. It is crucial to be efficient during events, especially during fashion week when shows run back to back.
What has been the most rewarding project that you have worked on?
Presperin: Without hesitation the Louis Vuitton Miami Mens Show show.
(It is important to note that the event signifies Virgil Abloh’s last Louis Vuitton show. I-D Vice explained that the show was “planned ahead of the designer’s sudden death.”)
What are the hot topics and trends that PR professionals should be paying attention to when planning events and client activations?
Presperin: In the luxury fashion world, look at vehicles for luxury that are over-the-top and creative. It is not enough just to have people show up; the event must be all encompassing. From the second guests open your invitation to when they get home, you must create touch points that paint an entire event identity. People want to be amazed, they want to escape reality.
For those looking to get into event planning and public relations, what would be your biggest piece of advice?
Presperin: Differentiate yourself — find what you love then specialize. Try it all when you are young and ask yourself questions. Do not accept roles just because everyone thinks they are cool, think about the experiential benefits. It can be hard to walk away from flashy opportunities, but think about the things that are fulfilling to you. Be strategic about what can help you get to the next step. Creative people find opportunities to play off each other and bridge ideas together that may not have existed yet. You must be creative with how you sell yourself, it is your job to pitch yourself by painting a picture to future employers. Your experience might not always be a direct or obvious match for a role; perfect the art of aligning your background with their needs.
Presperin highlighted her impressive journey to KCD Worldwide, sharing insight on the skills, mentorships and experiences that prepared her for her career in event planning. Public relations professionals can appreciate the creative-driven strategy Presperin implements to further client success and achieve desired outcomes