Susset Cabrera, President and Founder of Peacock Public Relations
Two weeks was all it took for public relations professional Susset Cabrera to land her first client and incorporate her business, Peacock Public Relations. During that timeframe, she went from searching for a full-time corporate job to creating a business plan for her full-service public relations (PR), marketing, events and social media company in 2010.
Fast forward to 2015 and the Miami, Fla. native has made a name for herself in the community as a go-to publicist and social scene fixture. The University of Miami alumna has handled press coverage for clients showing in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim, landed media coverage on Good Morning America and somehow finds time to volunteer on the Executive Committee for Friends of St. Jude Miami.
College Living exclusively sits down with Cabrera to learn how she establishes relationships with media professionals, her savvy career advice for PR students and the importance of giving back.
How has your previous work experiences helped you with running your own business?
While working at the student newspaper my freshman year, I was dealing with clients back and forth and trying to sell ads for the newspaper. Just that interaction between the client and yourself, and having to be professional and explaining to them how the ads could benefit them, are all skills that I still have with me today. In fact, every day that I run my company, I always think back to the newspaper and realize this is exactly what I used to do when I was in college and now, it’s in a real world setting.
As an undergraduate, you were in the business school. What made you want to join the campus newspaper?
I figured I was going to be a full-time student not working, but it just so happens that my sister was friends with the incoming business manager who was looking for someone to sell ads for him. It seemed like a good way make money so I could travel abroad for the summer and save money. Then I really just soaked everything in, and I became so passionate about the newspaper that I stuck around. One summer, I went to the office just to solely call clients that hadn’t paid their bills during the year, and I collected around $30,000.
So I became really good at talking to people, client relations, making sure that people were happy with their relationship with the newspaper and that they were getting the most out of their investment. This (ad sales) became something that I was so passionate about, and I would always get so excited to go to work. Sometimes I would fall asleep but I remember thinking how and who I was going sell ads to the next day. It became like my addiction.
You're the sole employee at your agency, are you planning to hire coworkers later on?
Yeah, I have hired PR assistants. For example, in 2013 my client was putting a show together for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week so I had to hire about ten PR assistants. And I’m also working with the same client this summer and I’m going have to hire around five PR assistants because we’re doing something on a smaller scale. Depending on the project, I will take on interns or assistants, but for the most part I’ve been able to manage the accounts that I have on my own. Eventually, I would love to have a team because working with a team is something that I’m used to. When I was a business manager at the paper, I used to be in charge of a staff. So, I love having that team atmosphere and making sure that everybody is working toward the same goal.
Do you think you have a work-life balance?
I think so. I try to keep a regular schedule for myself, but I know how hard it is to control that social aspect going in your life as well, so I make it a point to go to networking events, local fashion events, or a charity event – anything that’s going to put me out there in the social scene because PR is all about who you know. It’s important to create those relationships outside of the work environment. It’s great to send an email, but when you meet that person in the flesh that’s when you really create a long lasting relationship.
How do you find a work-life balance?
I try to keep a regular schedule for myself, but it can be difficult to control that social aspect going in your life as well. I make it a point to go to networking events, local fashion events, or a charity event – anything that’s going to put me out there in the social scene because PR is all about who you know. Creating those relationships outside of the work environment is important. It’s great to send an email, but when you meet that person in the flesh that’s when you really create a long lasting relationship.
"Your ability to make connections between professionals, I think is very important because if you help one person today, that person can help you tomorrow."
What are some essential skills you think that have helped you succeed in PR?
Well, I think honesty is key because you have to become a reliable source, a trusted resource for writers, for producers. Even today, a writer contacted me to see if I can provide them with the contact person at a particular hotel. So that’s what you kind of want to create among your network of people and contacts. You want them to reach out to you and ask you for advice, ask you for people that you know, and I love connecting with people, so I think that’s important too. Your ability to make connections between professionals, I think is critical because if you help one person today, that same person can help you tomorrow.
Tell us about your typical work day or work week.
Well I do try to stick to a schedule, so I’ll work on my different accounts during the day, but I always make time to meet with writers or editors for lunch. Lunch is very important to me. It’s a time when I can further develop my relationships with media professionals, so I always try to schedule two to three lunch appointments on a weekly basis. And not even, not only with writers or producers. I also try to meet with other publicists because even though we work in the same industry, we can always help each other, so I always try to maintain a good relationship with other publicists in Miami as well.
Where did the idea for your blog, Miami Beats and Sazon come from?
So before I started my company, I worked for a local PR firm, and my boss at the time, worked with a non-profit here in Miami and they would do a lot of celebrity events. So because of the events, it clicked one day in my head, and I thought “ hey, there’s so many different charities in Miami and so many different celebrities that are involved with them. What if I were to create a blog that kind of highlights different charity events in Miami, and share upcoming events with people.”
It was mostly a charity event-driven blog, where I would share either events that I had pending or events that people could attend and become involved with. But then as time went on, I started writing about other things like fashion shows and just local parties. I was actually looking at an old blog post today of just a random day that I went to a nightclub with Kelly Rowland, she showed up and started performing. So today, I would just say that my blog is all about things to do in Miami or things that I’ve done in Miami.
Do you showcase your clients on your blog?
I do try to keep my blog separate from my company, so I usually stay away from writing about my clients, but if I were to write about my clients, I’m all about being transparent. I just disclose it if that ever happens, but I try not to because they are two different entities. My blog is a great way for me to meet people in Miami and it’s definitely opened a lot of doors for me. I do understand that my blog is my hobby and then my company is what I really try to focus on and grow on a daily basis.
What advice do you have for someone looking to get their foot in the door?
I would definitely intern and volunteer as much as possible. I got started in the real world by interning at CBS 4 my senior year of grad school. And so my boss there recommended me to my first employer. My second recommended me to my third. So I’m a big believer in word of mouth and personal recommendations, so the way you do it is to start networking while you’re still in college. And even if you’re still in college, I would recommend for you to go to local events. If you’re interested in fashion, go to local fashion events. Any industry that you’re interested in, you should try to attend events, and start building your Rolodex while you’re still in school because, trust me, they’ll come in handy once you graduate.
So what about for people who didn’t get to do that already. Say they are recent graduates and haven’t attended networking events. What advice would you have for them?
I would advise for them to start going to events and start introducing themselves to local professionals in the community. For example, I just recommended somebody for a job which we recently met at an event about a month ago. And it just so happens that she’s a perfect fit for the position. You have to be at the right place at the right time. You can’t stay home. You literally have to put yourself out there and you have to try to meet as many people as possible.
In what ways do you still want to see your company evolve?
I would love to have more clients, I would love to have employees, and I would also want to give back to the community in a bigger way than I currently do now because I think that’s important. I am involved at an individual level with different charities, but I would love to get my company involved on a greater scale to be able to support different charities.
You're involved with St. Jude Miami and Tracy Mourning's organization, Honey Shine. How did you build your connection with those two charities?
With Honey Shine, I started because I had heard about one of their upcoming events to recruit members and I attended the event, and I fell in love with it. I also love seeing the girls how much they enjoy all the different things the organization does for them, they give them different classes about things they should just know and don’t (necessarily) learn in a regular classroom, so empowerment and the importance of education. And then with St. Jude, my friend told me about it, and I recently just became a member last year. Ever since she introduced me to the cause, I loved it. I even went to visit the St. Jude hospital last year in Tennessee and it completely just changed my life. It’s not the same thing to kind of donate money here and there, but when you see what the money is used for and the impact that it has physically on these children it's amazing. So you just want to do as much as possible to give back and help them.
What would you say is the best moment of your career so far?
Working with NICOLITA Swimwear. In 2013, when she had a runway show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim, I was in charge of putting together all of the media for the runway show and overseeing that everything went smoothly backstage, coordinating all of her backstage interviews, post-show interviews, pre-sow interviews. I mean, it was the experience of a lifetime. I was so young at the time, and my company was new, so it felt like such a big accomplishment. I never thought that I would be even working with a designer for a runway show. It had never even occurred to me, so that has been the biggest highlight of my career for sure. And this summer I’m working with her again, but she just had a baby about three months ago, so that’s why we’re not doing a full runway show, we’re doing a smaller scale event. But I love working with her, and she is an amazing entrepreneur herself so I’ve learned a lot from her as well.
What kind of things did you learn from her?
Well, you know she’s been designing her swimwear for different swimsuits for ten years, and sometimes I tell her that it’s not that easy to kind of get all that success that you envisioned for yourself, you know, it’s a process. She always tells me the same thing. Even now, ten years down the line is when she’s getting amazing opportunities so she always tells me that I have to be patient and that my moment will come, so I admire her for that too. And sometimes I look at her as a mentor, and she doesn’t even know it.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
I would tell myself “don’t limit your dreams.” I mean sometimes you think that you’re only going to get to a certain level in your career, right? But it's amazing how things just happen, and you end up doing things that you would have never even imagined, so it's something that I always tell myself nowadays, but I wish I would have kind of known this earlier. Because I think sometimes, a lot of times you always have like self-doubt and you question a lot of the decisions you make instead of just being firmer and making the decision that intuitively you feel like they’re the right ones to make. Just learn to think without limits. And even if it seems like a crazy thought, it might happen one day.