As an experienced publicist (6 years!) and a longtime blogger (eye4style celebrates its 3rd anniversary in March), I'm in a pretty unique position to speak on the topic of fashion PR/fashion blogger relations. By day, I create online media strategy and conduct blogger outreach for some of the biggest and most well-known beauty and fashion brands around. Meanwhile, I'm regularly pitched by fashion and beauty brands hoping to get coverage on my site. In short, I see it all. Good pitches and bad from public relations firms that are trying desperately to engage successfully with online media. I have also experienced professional and unprofessional behavior from fashion and beauty bloggers, even those I count as friends.
In the last few years, public relations has had to adjust its traditional media relations plans to include bloggers and other online media. This has not always been a smooth transition. Accordingly, fashion bloggers' quest for legitimacy has led to more than one public bashing and frustration all around. In the last few weeks, this drama has yet again manifested during New York Fashion Week (I won't go into details!) and the discussion has come to light again.
So, What constitutes appropriate blogger behavior and what is simply expecting too much? On the other hand, what key mistakes PR firms continuing to make with bloggers that perpetuate this love-hate relationship? In my experience , a lot of the problems come from the evolution of traditional media relations online; the old PR/Journalist rules and unwritten codes of conduct/expectations don't always apply. As a fashion PR pro, how do you effectively work with top fashion bloggers to secure powerful online media coverage for clients, and how do bloggers get on the lists of coveted fashion PR firms and showrooms? Here are my tips for both fashion PR agencies and bloggers to help support this potentially lucrative relationship, looking at it from both sides of the coin.
As a Fashion PR Pro:
Don't assume or expect bloggers to give you their traffic numbers (not all want to share, and this may not even be your best metric for evaluating influence); do your homework in advance and be aware of the public and private social media measurement tools available. While the public tools are flawed (Compete, Quantcast, I'm looking at you, kids), they'll still give you an idea of a blog's traffic, authority and influence.
Treat bloggers with respect, as you do (hopefully) every other journalist. You would NEVER email Meredith Melling-Burke at Vogue and say Hey editor, can you write about this? Don't approach communications with an air of "do this for me." It leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth and may lead to public outings! (just follow some of your favorite bloggers on Twitter, you'll see!)
Access goes a long way. Consider inviting bloggers to press events, store openings or launch parties. Offer an exclusive interview or a showroom visit to a blogger. You're more likely to build a great relationship and see beneficial coverage if you loop them in before an event or give them the kind of access that the traditional media take for granted.
Don't be afraid to set boundaries. It's not the wild, wild west out on the interwebz anymore. Most bloggers are more than willing to communicate openly and work with you. For example, if you're sharing embargoed material, email the blogger in advance and ask if they're okay with signing an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement, for those not in the biz.) Most will agree, and appreciate the advance access you're offering.
As a Fashion Blogger:
Have a handful of talking points prepared about your blog to share with PR agencies. These could include background information, main content categories as well as metrics - monthly unique visitors, Technorati authority, Google PageRank, Alexa ranking or the general engagement level of your readers (for example, do all of your posts get 25+ comments? That's pretty darn impressive and shows me that your readers really feel like part of your community). Even if a PR pro is totally sold on the value of blogs, sometimes they need good, old fashioned data to share with clients. Plus, treating your blog like a professional media source can go along way toward getting those coveted fashion week invites!
PR contacts rarely determine where their clients spend ad dollars. Don't reply to a pitch solely with advertising opportunities. Later in the game, you may ask your PR contact if she would consider passing along your rates to her client contact.
Samples, by definition, are produced in advance of a collection, in a limited run (often just one or two sets) and are VERY expensive for companies to produce – especially smaller brands. This is why the majority of samples (beauty is the notable exception) must be returned (It's a huge misconception that editors keep everything that's featured in their magazines.) If you require samples or free product to secure a post, know that you are limiting the amount of engagement you can have with many PR firms.
Similarly, if you're not genuinely interested in a product and are not consider reviewing, don't request a sample. If a PR agency requests that a sample be returned, feel free to ask them to spring for return postage. Most are more than happy to accommodate.
The beauty of being a blogger is that you decide what content runs on your site. So, if a PR representative is pitching a product or a designer that's totally not your style, don't be afraid to say no. But be polite about it and don't burn bridges. You never know, the same contact might rep a different designer that you would be interested in or may handle an event you'd love to attend. PR is all about relationship building and relationships create access. This access to the inside track can offer you opportunities to review new products, attend exclusive events, interview top designers and other fashion experts. And it is this access that will benefit your site in terms of content, traffic and ultimately ad revenue.
If you're a blogger or a PR pro with a question or feedback about this post, leave a comment below and I'll do my best to reply ASAP!
[Photo by Sarah Conley]