[the following is a guest post by Kate Sullivan, owner of New York fashion and lifestyle agency Kick PR. To learn more about Kate, check out this interview by Smashing Darling. If you are interested in writing for PR Couture, please contact us at writers[at]prcouture.com]
As a public relations professional, it’s important to understand what the media needs, how they need it and when they need it. And although I am no mind reader, I try and use the most effective tools to get this done for my clients. My company, Kick Public Relations, has been in business for over three years and before that I was a PR Associate for a fashion designer. I have learned many things about the media over the years, but one that stands out clearly is that editors, reporters and new media professionals are just like anyone else. For example, they don’t want to be bcc’d on a text-heavy mass email sent in Outlook, and doing so often leads to one thing – a quick hit on the delete button. I completely understand this because once a week my mom forwards me (and about a hundred other people) emails about the dangers of pumping gas at night. No one likes getting these emails. They feel impersonal and in case of PR, when irrelevant ruin our ability to build relationships and effectively communicate client news to those who may be interested.
We work with emerging fashion designers, and like the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Standard text press releases simply don’t work for our needs here at Kick PR. We rely heavily on getting images into the inbox of editors so they can see what we see; new and fresh talent that they should consider writing about. Isn’t that a PR Professional’s job? I tell all of my clients before we sign a contract that they will need high-quality, hi-res photos that we can present to media. In the beginning of the press push, these photos are the only cues we have to showcase to the collection, as such photos are crucial tools that heavily influence editors to decide if they like it, if they don’t and more importantly, if they want to see more in person.
Out of a desire to better our communication with the media, Kick PR switched over to an email management system called My Emma Email Campaigns a couple of years ago to create a more effective and receiver-friendly pitch. Through My Emma, we create content-rich, html newsletters and use this format to send out client information.
My Emma has become our best friend over here at Kick PR because she allows us to create simple yet fun email campaigns that look professional (we brand the campaigns with our own company logo) and offer receivers the option to click through hyperlinked pictures or individual words to go to either our site or directly to the client’s site in order to get a more thorough idea of what the designer is all about. Ideally, an editor receives this and replies asking for price points or more information about the designer. We consider initial communication with media a little pieces of success in and of itself because PR isn’t just product placement, its helping to spread the word, and if Meredith Melling Burke happens to open my Ann Lansing belt email and browses through the collection, that’s a good thing, even if the collection doesn’t work for any upcoming stories at this time.
Another key benefit of My Emma for media is the option to “Opt Out” of the newsletter We haven’t had many of those and I think our success rate is due to the way we create the campaigns. We tie our client information into broader topics, seasons or trends and most importantly, keep it short. PR professionals have a reputation for over soliciting or overloading people’s mail boxes, and this has even led to certain journalists blacklisting certain PR email addresses. I would much rather give the option to media the choice to be off a client list than to suffer a similar fate! Before My Emma I did experience a few emails from media who didn’t appreciate my pitch, however this has happened only once of twice and was a result of sending out press emails with Outlook with photos attached. I had inadvertently filled her inbox with my photos and she was not happy about it. I apologized, but with media, you often have one shot to start to build a relationship, and this one was lost. All we can do in these situations is learn from our mistakes and stay alert for new tools to stop it from happening again.
We find My Emma an amazing tool and an integral part of our client offerings. My clients love these campaigns and I offer it as part of their fee. We use is twice if not three times a week for all of our clients and each time we send out an email it is different, with new text, new themes and new pictures. However, while we do rely on this service its also important to send out snail mail as well, because Spam is a PR professionals worst enemy. Many people on our lists do get our campaigns, open them and browse (all things you can see within the My Emma interface and a great way to communicate results to clients), but there are some companies with such a high spam filter that we often send out actual letters and media kits to cover all our bases.
Overall, we are working our hardest to find the best way to reach out to the media and share with them some new designs and new names. We are a young company, all female and desperately obsessed with emerging fashion. Its part of our job to see what’s new, what’s fresh, and what might be cool to see in the fall issue of In Style. Our clients are talented and we don’t just take anyone on. If we won’t wear it, we won’t promote it, bottom line. Perhaps an Ann Lansing Eagle buckle on an Italian leather strap works for Teen Vogue’s Back to School issue, or The Today Show happens to be looking for long layering necklaces like Tashka by Beatrice.
There will probably always be a level of contention between media and PR, but our philosophy at Kick PR is that are not trying to make anyone’s life harder, inconvenience them, interrupt their day or steal their children. What we are trying to do is spread the word and help start new story ideas or fit in with a story that might be running. It must be hard for an editor to know about every new designer throughout the country, and that’s what we are trying to help with, the searching process. As a PR professional I think that gets misunderstood. We are all human, we all have jobs that we are trying to succeed at, and we are only trying to be helpful in the best way we know how, and for Kick PR, that absolutely includes My Emma.