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Fashion PR in Crisis: The Relationship Between Fashion PR and Fashion Blogs

Fashion PR rarely deals in crisis communication, but if there is one sore spot that continually emerges, it is negotiating the relationships and expectations between Fashion PR's and Fashion Bloggers. Although many PR agencies have begun to value the voice of the fashion blogosphere, many still don't give out the kind of respect that fashion bloggers often feel is their due. Additionally, lingering bad blood from initial experiences, often due to poor decisions on the part of Fashion PR agencies, continues to impede any positive steps that are made.

Blogs are appealing to Fashion PR's for several reasons. Unlike traditional monthly fashion magazines, most fashion bloggers update daily, giving readers more immediate access to fresh news and content. Savvy consumers appreciate the insider tone and expert knowledge fashion bloggers share - as well as their independent affiliation. I think fashion blogs are gaining in importance within PR because they provide a highly targeted audience, read by people who like to shop! Through comments given by readers about posts, it also gives insight into how people are reacting to a trend or product.

There are fashion blogs that focus on everything, from general fashion news, to very specific niches like celebrity fashion, lingerie, handbags, and shoes. Fashion bloggers have a real passion for fashion, and their promotion, or dismissal of a particular product, trend, or service carries real weight with readers.

It's a great platform for pitching client products because bloggers update more often. We don't have to deal with the traditional press deadline. Also, the online format means that there aren't any space issues - no concerns that a fashion editor might pull the article at the last minute to make room for something else. The influence and importance of fashion bloggers is becoming a crucial factor for fashion public relations, with issues of transparency and legitimacy at the forefront.

The importance of fashion blogs for PR is part of a larger shift from traditional to new media tactics. New media impacts PR greatly - there is talk of the death of the traditional press release, and the growing need to not only understand social networking and social media, but to participate. Getting up to speed with all the emerging technologies out there is a challenge for a lot of agencies - the old tools and tricks are becoming less effective and less comprehensive. Knowledge, familiarity, and competence online, blogs included, is crucial for staying competitive and continuing to bring value to PR clients. Increasingly, these skills are very attractive to employers.

I wrote something similar to the above for a Eliza, a journalism student at Concordia University in Montreal who blogs at My Empty Closet, as part of her final piece. It seemed particularly important to share these thoughts today, given the current controvery regarding the leaked photos of Sarah Jessica Parker's new Bitten line that surfaced on Fashion Blogs.

via WWD

...last week, Gawker founding editor Elizabeth Spiers' new blog site, Fashionista, published photographs from a password-protected area of a preliminary Bitten Web site intended only for long-lead-time monthly magazines. When attorneys from Steve & Barry's requested Fashionista remove the photos, it did, but by then dozens of other blogs had already posted images, giving plenty of potential customers the chance to put in their two cents.

Many of the reviews from readers were less than kind.

The next day, Fashionista blogger Faran Krentcil received an anonymous e-mail from a tipster who claimed to work with the Bitten team and said they are trying to redesign the pieces. The e-mailer speculated the change-up had perhaps been prompted by the online storm of criticism. A few hours after Fashionista published the photographs, the password-protected area of the Bitten Web site disappeared, so the images are no longer available to the press.

Steve & Barry deny that the influence from the blogosphere is leading to the redesign of the Bitten line.

One of the bloggers to pick up the images when they were up on the Fashionista site is Kathryn Finney at The Budget Fashionista, a well-loved fashion blog. She explains in great detail why she thinks she is being asked to take down the images, citing her critical review and the desire of Steve & Barry to control the message. As of now, Finney has put the decision to either take down the images or leave them up to her readers.

In support of Finney, Lesley Scott at FashionTribes, one of the top fashion blogs, re-published the cease & desist letter Steve & Barry sent to TBF and is encouraging readers to share their opinions at TBF.

The letter reads:

To Whom It May Concern:

Good Morning, I am the Assistant General Counsel for Steve & Barry's asking you to please remove the images of the Bitten collection from the above captioned website and any other site or link in your control that may lead to these images. These were wrongfully obtained from a password protected website, and are not authorized for public distribution. I hope you understand, we're a company that as a mission looks out for our shoppers and the public at large. To keep our prices as low as they are for merchandise of such high quality requires that we don't advertise. We rely on mass publicity as our leading awareness builder. 4 We absolutely want to work with you to provide information and/or images that are unique and special to you and your audience as a thank you for your cooperation. As a first step, we will grant permission to you to use the black/white image of Sarah Jessica Parker in a tshirt and jean jacket. But for now we are hoping you will cooperate with us and remove all the other images.

In her post, Scott also criticizes PR Firms for the hard-sell pitches they send to fashion bloggers, but then fail to give any of us a decent seat at one of their fashion shows, or even invite any of us to fancy product launches or events, limiting the invite list to dinosaur print editors only. These companies fail to realize the reason blogs are popular is because unlike traditional magazines with a specific "voice" and a faceless masthead, bloggers are real people - with real opinions (which companies could probably benefit from). Unlike the blogs, long-line media is beholden to their roster of advertisers; it's specious (on their part) to talk about their "editorial" content, when in truth, it should probably come with an "advertorial" warning label.

Second-City-Style, a blog that focuses on fashion in Chicago, has since reposted Scott's post, agreeing with her critique of Fashion PR, stating PR firms love us when they needs us, but God Forbid, we don't sing their clients praises even though they don't always deserve them.

So basically, it's a huge mess. It's fascinating to see the power of fashion bloggers to rally together and virally mass-communicate about the situation. You'll notice as well that each blogger post reposts the leaked images. I love the activism of it all.

That said, as a PR practitioner, I find it hard to believe that the real issue is the negative reviews. More likely, I see the larger issue for the company as the fact that "Having any images appear on the web prior to the launch of this collection June seriously jeopardizes agreements we have in place with global media outlets that have been promised first rights to show the merchandise." PR's work hard to secure these exclusives, and seeing all that go to pot is pretty wretched. Despite the incorrect assumption that Finney herself used the passwords, I think that the letter does a pretty good job of trying to salvage their relationship with the traditional media outlets, as well as with the fashion bloggers. It seems that the crux of the issue is about the misguided ethics of taking a password meant for somebody else and using it for personal gain. However, this has been largely ignored by the blogging community (however, in the 5 hours it has taken me to finally complete this post, The Fashionable Kiffen seems to agree. She says if anything, Steve and Barry's should go after whoever leaked the images).

I encourage public relations pracitioners from all industries to get involved in this discussion. It really speaks to the influence of new media and technology and how it is changing our profession. The internet does pose an increased security risk for similar launch information to be leaked, however, there is a need for both bloggers and pr's to take responsibility for their pieces in the somewhat gray area of public domain.

At any rate, this issue has revealed some valuable insight into the relationship between Fashion PR companies and Fashion Bloggers, and Fashion PR would do well to learn from this experience and to begin to address those criticisms and concerns elocuted by the fashion blogosphere.

About the author: Crosby Noricks

Known as the "fashion publicist's most powerful accessory," (SD-UT) and the "West Coast 'It' girl of fashion PR," (YFS Magazine) Crosby Noricks is a brand strategist, author and founder of PR Couture. Crosby was included in the iMedia 25 Class of 2012 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, and enjoys helping fashion and lifestyle brands connect with their audiences in meaningful and creative ways.


  • Posted March 28, 2007 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    There’s definitely two ways to it–jeopordizing prior agreements they have with the client and other media profesionals, this should definitely be taken seriously…but also the thing that stood out to me from the cease and desist letter: “We rely on mass publicity as our leading awareness builder.” Isn’t that what they are getting from all of this viral marketing just from that one picture?

  • Posted March 28, 2007 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    The real problem isn’t with me or TBF, but with the person(s) who had access to the photo site and leaked the photos. That is who Steve and Barry’s should be very angry with. If they promised an exclusive to a media outlet and then that media outlet leaked the photos to other forms of media, to me it’s a bit ridiculous to then blame the recipient of the leak for the leak.

    I do think it has to do with the less than stellar reaction re: the line and that the message regarding the line is now being framed by “fashion bloggers” rather than “fashion editors”.

    I don’t think S&B is evil, I’ve actually shopped in their stores. However, I do think that their pr folks could use a little training on working with new media. Perhaps S&B can use this as an opportunity to develop a strong relationship with the fashion blogging community.

  • Posted March 28, 2007 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I agree Kathryn (TBF). I haven’t heard any news on what they are doing about the original person who leaked the picture, have you?

  • pr couture
    Posted March 28, 2007 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I think I must have misundertood the WWD article. My original understanding was that the Fashionista bloggers were involved with the initial leak – but perhaps they were given the go-ahead to post.

  • pr couture
    Posted March 28, 2007 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    TBF – I think that is a really interesting point. Are fashion bloggers really fashion editors who just happen to communicate via blog rather than traditional media? When does a fashion blogger become a fashion editor? Is it self-appointed, or does the blogger need a certain fashion background to be considered a fashion editor. Many questions…Is the prior division between blogger/new media – fashion editor/trad. media becoming less clear – should PR’s stop making this disctinction? What about fashion editors that work in the online magazine format. Is the problem in perception, in semantics…?

  • Posted March 28, 2007 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    This whole discussion/”crisis” has been a fascinating exercise in trying to draw some lines in the the media sand.

    PR Couture brings up some excellent points about the role of fashion bloggers. I think that we do have a responsibility to provide accurate information. We are using a mass medium, often bigger than traditional media, to communicate. There is repsonsibility with that.

    If we are ever to be taken seriously-by readers, PR folk, traditional editors, etc-we have to take our roles as bloggers seriously.

    and I don’t think that this means we have to go about the old way of doing things. Blogging is all about community, building a network, nich marketing. We can’t control how our readers feel. Community is real, opinionated, and passionate. If you are afraid of losing control of your planned message, stay off the web!

    As long as our info is obtained in a legal matter, we have the same right to publish, just as a print journalist would.

    If designers, manufacturers, publicists were smart, the would study up on the power of the web and include us in their arsenal of marketing. But since they have no idea how to use us, I have a feeling we should expect a few more bombs.

  • Posted March 28, 2007 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I love this conversation, and I think about it all the time. I recently decided I want to get into Fashion PR. I love feeling like I have an influence on something, and that is also why I started blogging. I can share my feelings with the world and not have to worry about an editor tearing what I say apart. I think the relationship between publicists and bloggers is a rocky one because you never know how a blogger will react to a certain product. When marketing with a magazine or in print format, there is less of a risk of bad press. I also think many people are relying on blogs and the internet in general for fashion news and advice rather than fashion magazines because of its potential for up to the minute reports. Being only 18 and knowing how much I rely on the internet for almost everything, I feel PR will gradually change with each generation of publicists. We are constantly finding new was to market people and products and for now blogging is definitely very effective.

  • Posted March 28, 2007 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    This discussion is very interesting and it couldn’t come at a better time. I’ve been thinking about the issue a lot lately; therefore,I must disagree with Sandra. I think that Fashion PR DO know how to use us because lately I’ve been getting a LOT of e-mails from very known, hi-end retail stores, and cosmetic lines asking for a post or a review of a line or product. They are becoming more aware of the power of instant communication media such as the internet. Thus, it is a mystery to my as why they still regards us a second, even third class media.

  • Posted April 2, 2007 at 9:46 am | Permalink


    I checked out your blog. Great read!
    I think that some retailers/companies get it. They understand how powerful bloggers can be. Bloggers are the quickest way to create buzz, but I think that these savvy companies are light years ahead of most fashion and beauty companies.

  • Posted April 4, 2007 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Daniella, you are right. More and more PR companies have begun to understand how to incorporate bloggers into their mix. I’m still unsure why many still treat Bloggers with little respect despite that.

    It’s most likely what Crosby said, a fashion editor can show her credentials, but a Blogger (now matter how good) may not have the background to show and is therefore seen on a different level.

  • Posted April 5, 2007 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Hi All!! This is a great conversation and I totally agree with Daniella & Chelsea Rae. I started blogging because I started out wanting to be a fashion publicist. I didn’t know where to start so I started blogging and doing freelance fashion pr/marketing work in my area. As I began blogging, I became better and better at it and now I am taking it more seriously. It has become my passion. In the past few months, I have been contacted by retailers and beauty product companies to review their products. I have also received an enormous amount of contact from sellers on eBay to promote their stores/websites. So I agree that people are slowly recognizing the importance of blogging/new media. As an aspiring/new publicist – I recognize the importance myself and really – since the web is growing and so popular – I would probably try really hard to pitch products to bloggers probably before mass medium. Here’s why: As someone who loves fashion – I only have subscriptions to about 3 magazines. However -I probably read 30-40 blogs daily for free. So if I can find out what the newest trends and products are without buying a magazine – why would I buy a magazine. In addition to that – I am getting reviews of products from the source – meaning actual consumers. I would rather buy a product based off a consumer review than something that’s in a magazine. Of course – this is not intended to minimize mass mediums – but I believe that in the next few years, fashion blogging is going to gain more recognition as a mass medium. Hopefully my blog will be one of those!!!!

    Carlita Pitts

  • Posted July 3, 2007 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    As a designer, I’m threatened by PR companies approaching me simply because I can see that their first worry and target is (How much they can get from me). As a start-up brand, there’s so much dilemma in:

    Investing in my brand to get it better (vs) throwing all that I make on PR.

    I feel like the PR can be a blood sucker where, in my opinion, it should very much become a loyal/ long term relationship that (builds) a brand. If I were initially very successful and full of cash, I don’t see the necessity for going through a PR.

    Off topic, but since its a site full of Fashion PR fans, I thought I might share my concerns.


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  • Posted February 19, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Are you aware of the most recent fashion blogger cat fight?

    Daniel’s comments on the observer post are …well, proof enough of the statements made against him.

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5 Trackbacks

  • […] Fashion PR in Crisis: The Relationship Between Fashion PR and Fashion Blogs […]

  • […] Fashion PR in Crisis: The Relationship Between Fashion PR and Fashion Blogs […]

  • […] PR Couture has actively monitored the relationship between Fashion PR and fashion bloggers since our start back in December, 2006, and have continued to ask practitioners and bloggers about their experiences and perspectives. However, we have yet to broach the idea of developing a fashion blogger pitching strategy. What follows is just a general game-plan, reader suggestions are welcome, either via comment or email. […]

  • By She Unlimited » PR Couture on July 25, 2007 at 6:29 am

    […] The freedom of blogs can be a double-edged sword if the campaign isn’t a good one, as discovered in the Bitten scandal of this past spring. Early photos of the Sarah Jessica Parker-designed, Steve & Barry produced line leaked online via Fashionista. At the request of Steve & Barry’s attorneys, the photos were removed from that site but had, by then, spread on to others. The reviews of the products on the blogs were not positive. The next day a blogger at Fashionista received an anonymous tip from a Steve & Barry insider that the Bitten line was being retooled. The original photos began to vanish online as more legal letters were issued demanding their removal. By not handling the matter upfront, or encouraging interaction between the company and the blogs, the redesigns seemed like a lack of confidence in the product. […]

  • […] been wrong to presume that even valid bloggers understand. Consider this situation described in The Relationship Between Fashion PR and Fashion Blogs, the latter cited WWD by way of explanation: …last week, Gawker founding editor Elizabeth […]

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Meet Crosby Noricks

Hi. I'm Crosby, Founder of PR Couture, Fashion Brand Strategist and PR Girl Mentor. I care about supporting and celebrating fashion publicists as well as helping companies connect with their audiences in more meaningful ways. Recently, iMedia included me in their annual list of 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, along with people from Starbucks, Twitter and Volkswagon, which I think is pretty neat. Like Elle Woods, I am a Gemini-vegetarian (that's about where the similarities end). Let's connect: Check out my full bio, Brand Elixir sessions for brands or shoot me a note at