In case you haven’t noticed, PR Couture has a new contributor! Kristin Ann Janishefski has signed on as our DIY PR Diva and International Correspondent! As part-owner of The Vanguard PR, a fashion.beauty.lifestyle collective, as well as our resident ex-patriot (she resides in Montreal), Kristin Ann Janishefski highlights PR strategies, tactics and industry news geared toward the independent fashion designer, while keeping an eye on international Fashion PR news.
Kristin and her partner Jennifer head up The Vanguard, a Fashion PR agency located in Chicago and Montreal.
The Vanguard is a full-service public relations and branding agency representing cutting edge fashion, beauty, and lifestyle accounts. The firm specializes in brand building campaigns and product launches to create excitement among the media, buyers and industry professionals. The Vanguard PR breaks the mold of the traditional PR firm by creating customized services tailored to the varied and specific needs of their clients. The Vanguard works to create innovative news angles that capture the attention of high-profile print and online publications, television and radio and New Media. This ensures exposure via the proper vehicles including reaching noteworthy celebrities that support and embody the same uniqueness, style and trend-setting attitude that the firm represents.
The Vanguard has created a unique division designed to mentor emerging designers. The Vanguard Bright Eyes Designer Outreach Program (BEDOP takes emerging designers on a one month intensive crash course on all aspects of PR: from how to write a press release to picking the perfect brand name to compiling a database of industry professionals to pitch. By commencement, this workshop will give individual designers and new companies the tools necessary to expand their brand vision and launch their label. The Vanguard hand-picks all applicants to ensure they share the same philosophy, style, and vision the firm embodies. Founder Kristin Janishefski says, “We created this division to “pay it forward” to all those out there that are just as passionate about fashion and design as we are, but don’t have the huge budgets to fork out to an agency that just wants to take their money. We work with our chosen few on a rate for the program that is well under the norm. We want to mentor these designers and really teach them how the pr world works. I really want to take care of them, because the best part about my job is seeing the smile on their face and appreciation about how we believe in them, when they didn’t even believe in themselves.”
Lucky for us, Kristin and her partner Jennifer recently took the time to answer some additional questions about what makes The Vanguard such a forward-thinking agency.
PR: What is The Vanguard PR all about? Can you share a quick case study that illustrates the Vanguard’s approach?
TV: The Vanguard is a creative collaboration of two minds; one press princess, other fashion obsessed journalist. We wanted to create a firm that not only provides the obvious, standard pr services but one that listens to our clients to combine their goals and visions and our expertise to tailor make a campaign that will be truly effective in getting their brand exposure. The Vanguard also brings in different industry professionals who act as contributors. They bring a fresh new outlook and vast knowledge to our clients from their respected fields. Our ideas are constantly evolving and improving to stay fresh and innovative. You never know what new ideas will be buzzing through our brain next.
Our firm is, at its core, about connecting new and cutting-edge designers and brands to high-profile media outlets. With media expanding, tt is getting harder for young designer’s to figure out how to market themselves. We think that it shouldn’t just be the more-established labels that capture the attention of top-level editors. The Vanguard helps designers get their vision in front of the right people by making sure that they implement the proper strategies to keep their brand moving forward.
Example: Kid Kustoms was referred to us from a former BEDOP graduate. They presented us with a prototype of the product they were prepared to launch and wanted to know how to garner the most attention amongst a high profile, affluent audience. We assessed the product characteristics, considered the timeline, and detailed the best outlets to expose their product properly. Despite working under a tight budget with limited resources, we understood the vision and potential for this product and felt that it fulfilled a unique niche in the market. Subsequently, we offered them access to our in-house photographer to present their product in the best light, we also put them in touch with our contributing brand specialist to streamline all aspects of their presentation.
The Vanguard formulated a tiered plan of action. The first step in the process was to discuss their vision and incorporate these cues into sculpting their brand image. The second was formulating a unique, attention grabbing news angle and creating targeted press releases to attract different areas of the media. The third step entailed leveraging our contacts and exploiting the product through various channels. We also worked with them to facilitate entry into the major trade shows.
Check out the results yourself, I’m sure you will be impressed; www.kidkustoms.com
PR: Honesty and integrity are cornerstones of the Vanguard mission – do you find there to be perception within Fashion PR (or PR in general) that practitioners are less than ethical?
KJ: From my experiences, I feel that there are a lot of unethical people in the fashion business. It is a very unfortunate reality to face. I have come across situations where clients enlist the help of what they think is a reputable firm that paints a pretty picture, but in the end all they deliver are empty promises and a hole in your checkbook. My mentor in school once told me that when facing a situation that is a question of honesty or integrity ask yourself, “Would you do or say that in front of your family.” I always keep that in the back of my mind. How we act and conduct business really translates into building trust with our community and clients. I know that when people understand that I have their best interests in mind and in helping them succeed, they will take my guidance.
JST: Coming from an editorial background, I never had any sort of negative experiences with PR firms. It was easy to tell, however, which firms really understood their client’s work and aesthetic and which ones didn’t. The firms who didn’t only cared about carving out a space in the magazine for their clients. At The Vanguard, we make it a point to fully comprehend our potential client’s collection or product before moving forward. We can’t do our best work for them if we don’t “get” them and their work.
PR: The Bright Eyes Designer Outreach Program (BEDOP) is a great way for designers to get a crash course in the world of PR. What was your inspiration for creating this program?
KJ: I think that a lot of people wonder how they can help their community or others after they have the budget and time and have established themselves as a company. I look at it in the reverse. I knew that I was armed with valuable knowledge about the PR world that would help designers get a grasp on: what exactly PR is, how it works, and what it can do to expose your brand. We make ourselves available every step of the way, encouraging, mentoring, and answering any questions our BEDOP clients may have. Our hope is that when they become well known and successful, they turn back to us as an agency they trust – a place that helped them when their company was just a vision. Building trust is what keeps clients coming back and what enables us to grow as a company.
Who is the perfect BEDOP client?
KJ: Someone who is driven, focused, committed, and organized. The BEDOP requires a commitment to see things through and ensure you have all your ducks in a row. In the end, our graduates come out of the program armed with the confidence and knowledge that they can take over the world.
JST: The ideal client for BEDOP has a definite point of view with their collection and has something unique to offer the marketplace. We find that this type of designer also has a deep understanding of the history of fashion, which is crucial to the success of every designer, new or established. They already have the talent, the drive and the vision. All they need is help learning how to get their work in front of the right people.
PR: Bloggers and journalists alike are constantly clarifying and making divisions between online and print media. What are your thoughts on the emergence of new media and its affect (if any) on traditional print media?
JST: I think that the most important development with New Media, especially with regards to fashion, is the way that it has democratized the entire process of reporting and criticism. The fact that there are easily accessible (and free) places for solid fashion journalism outside of the traditional magazine world might be the best thing to happen to fashion since Topshop and H&M. Traditional media will be forced expand the scope of their lens and look at fashion from an “everyday” person’s point of view if they expect to remain relevant going forward.
KJ: New Media has an incredible impact – on my daily life as well as for the firm. It has given us different avenues to explore and a plethora of new outlets tell about our brands. Increasing ability and profitability in the market is a wonderful feat. New media has made it more convenient to go online and read your favorite magazine, see what your favorite star is wearing, and catch up on the latest trends. It has also enabled “everyday” people to have a say in fashion and give advice on what they think is hot right now through the creation of blogs. Online media has widened the scope and given the traditional viewer a forum to speak out and have opinions on fashion. For smaller brands, it gives them the ability to gain exposure as well versus competing with major brands for the pages of the big book glossies.
PR: What new media tools are most exciting to you?
KJ: Streaming video is really so exciting to me. The fact that you can be half way around the globe and still be able to view the latest designer collections straight from the runway is incredible. You never miss a beat on the fashion scene with the advent of new media. I keep videos on my ipod when I am traveling, so I keep up on any news I may have missed. Blogs are also wonderful way to gain exposure. We will actually be launching our own blog soon, which will have information on fashion, style, trends, pr, and the editorial world.
JST: I think that podcasting is the most exciting, both because fashion is an intensely visual medium and because the immediacy of podcasting is hard to ignore. It’s become an important tool for fashion events and spreading the word quickly.
PR: How do you measure results for clients?
Results are a measure of success, and we measure success when clients tell us e that I helped them achieve what they thought was the impossible and helped them to be better then they thought they could be. When you believe in a client and their brand, you can achieve anything. It’s amazing when you see your client on the pages of a top magazine, but having your product in a magazine is only productive is it translates into increased sales and the ability to grow your company. We think that ultimately, the result that matters the most is whether the media exposure and placements have resulted in an increase in the bottom line for the designer.
PR: What 3 websites are daily must-reads for you?
KJ: Just three? PR Couture, for obvious reasons. Fashionista, for all the latest runway gossip. Sheunlimited, the journalists just crack me up, and Thesartorialist, for on the street trend spying, but I’m on the computer working 18 hours a day so the list could go on forever! I love fashion trend sites that help me to relate that information into new pitch angles or ways to improve my client’s campaigns.
JST: fashionista.com, the business of fashion blog and of course, thesartorialist.com.
PR: What are the main issues you think all Fashion PR’s should be concerned about?
JST: It is critical to take the time to understand clients and listen to them when they tell us what they want from our firm. Keeping up with the expanding and changing media landscape is something that requires just as much time as the work that we do for our clients. Also, finding creative and effective ways to serve new designers is also a challenge, but working with clients whose work you believe in makes it much easier.
KJ: I think that the ability to constantly improve your business and evolve with technology and the demands of the market is always a concern. You have to always keep it fresh and new and create excitement with what you are doing. If you aren’t excited about your product, then you can guarantee the editor on the other line won’t be excited either. This is why at The Vanguard we enlist the help of top industry professionals to act as our eyes and ears to give advice on what’s in, what’s out, and how we can incorporate these things into our business.