Public Relations Director at Nitehawk Cinema, New York
Alexa lives in New York, and is originally from Columbia, South Carolina.
Twitter: @alexa_harrison / @NitehawkCinema
Instagram: @alexaiam / @nitehawkcinema
She occasionally writes for Variety magazine.
- How did you get started in PR and how did you find yourself where you are now?
Becoming a publicist was never part of the plan but rather a happy accident. Up until about seven years ago, I was still very much on the journalism track. I applied to Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and matriculated. Afterwards, I took an amazing internship in Los Angeles with Variety Magazine in 2010, which at the time, was still very much a daily format with only a weekly long-form magazine. It was the best internship I’ve ever had, invaluable. I think it was in week two I was already reporting on a red carpet. So surreal. Once my internship was over, I decided to move back East and consider public relations. I honestly knew nothing except that journalism and PR are two sides of the same coin. Finally in 2011 I moved to New York to work with The Brandman Agency’s subsidiary Blackbird PR. I was as green as they come, but learned so much and worked with some incredible women. It was an invaluable experience working on amazing clients, learning PR basics and the travel industry.
I’m now the first Public Relations Director for Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg Brooklyn. After almost four years with my last agency, Quinn, it felt time for the next phase and when the position opened up, I knew I had to go for it. I had always loved going to Nitehawk as a customer. It also combines two things I am really interested in: film and hospitality. It felt like kismet.
- What is your role within the company?
My role is essentially to work with the cinema department, and food & beverage teams to ensure that all of Nitehawk Cinema’s programming and new endeavors are shared with the media and community, and streamline the communication. Sometimes that’s looking for creative ways to do so, but most times it’s straightforward media relations. Things can move pretty quickly and it’s nice to be on the ground in-house to immediately organize and disseminate the messaging as it happens.
- What are you currently working on?
Halloween is just about all of our favorite time of year at the cinema. We are opening a second location early next year in Park Slope, which is very family-friendly, so I came up with this idea to do a Haunted House set-up onsite in front entryway of the new location. Very exciting. We have lots of RSVPs for attendance, but I always feel like I’m planning a birthday party no one will show up to when I plan events. I think most people feel that way, but it always turns out great. Now I just need to figure out a costume…I’m open to suggestions.
We are also coming up to our 5th annual Nitehawk Shorts Festival, which will only be my second one, but I love the community it fosters and all the great films we get to screen. This year, I’m organizing a press preview. That’s one of the hardest parts of my position: our events typically sell out very quickly, and once the public isn’t able to access the event, it sort of loses its news angle. So now I try to organize previews or first-looks whenever possible.
- What is a recent success you're particularly proud of?
In a world where print is fading, The New York Times is still a very big deal, and dare I say, especially for a publicist to organize a client interview in. There has been a lot of curiosity around the progression of the new location and I recently organized an exclusive tour and interview with the founder and The New York Times to quell the questions and concerns, but increase the excitement factor. It turned out really well all around.
- What is most important in your work?
For me, it’s integrity and relationships. Especially coming from a journalism background, I was a little hesitant to become a publicist because the field is not always painted in the best light by media and entertainment. I think that’s changed over time, but for instance, I still don’t like the phrase “spin it.” Maybe it’s because I’m not in a cutthroat industry, but I fully believe in giving journalists a full picture and transparency. In turn, I believe I’ve built some strong relationships within the community and have so much fun working with all these brilliant minds.
- How would you say the media landscape in your field has changed since you started in PR?
It’s so important to stay on top of all the advancements or at least know what’s going on if your position doesn’t require you to implement some of the technology. But one example is how integral social media is now. I think when I first started, it was sort of this “nice to have” vertical and if a company had it, it was likely Facebook and only a few posts a week were fine. Now, it’s how we digest news and is a whole area of focus that cannot be ignored. Our attention spans have also shortened, so especially for online, just understanding that most people these days will be reading their content on the go and on a device is an important to remember.
- Where are your favorite places for business meetings or drinks with writers/clients?
If I stay in Williamsburg, either our downstairs bar Lo-Res for a drink, but if it’s more of a coffee meeting, I love Gotan on Wythe Avenue (the food is fresh and delicious) and this awesome Colombian coffee shop called Devoción. There’s one here and in Bogotá. The space is full of light and they introduced me to oat milk lattes. So good.
- PR/Communications can be fast-paced and stressful, what is your favorite way of relaxing?
I have to be honest: TV. Catching up on a favorite show usually does the trick. I’m trying to be better about bringing my analog camera with me more, so that I can take pictures to develop in the darkroom. Processing film and developing is a peaceful process.
- What are you reading these days?
I read The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin this summer and am currently reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. I have a stack of books I’m going to read next, but the two I’m most eager about are Commonwealth by Ann Patchett and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. I also make time for New York Magazine and I’m obsessed with Refinery29’s Money Diaries column.
- What are you listening to these days?
As far as new music goes, I love Shakira’s new singles from this year. No album announcement yet, but I’d love to see her live. Gorillaz long-awaited album Humanz is also really great. For podcasts, I like to just listen to the minisodes of My Favorite Murder and picked up Snap Judgment’s Spooked. It’s real people sending in recordings of their ghost stories and narrow escapes from death.
- What is the next event you're the most looking forward to in the next months?
I think A Haunted Hawks Nite Out is going to be loads of fun. I forgot to mention there will be free beer and lots of sweets, so I highly encourage anyone in the neighborhood to come by on Halloween proper. More info at @nitehawkcinema on Instagram and Twitter, and Eventbrite link here.