All PR practitioners work hard and can relate to those “top 10 ways you know you work in PR” jokes. We all have goals that focus on getting clients and brands recognized and establishing relationships with the media and client audiences. However, unless you work in fashion PR, most PR agencies won’t have a style closet, interns busily stuff gift bags or be focused on how to get product X onto Y celebrity. As a result, there can be some misconceptions about just what a fashion publicist does (or should do). Also, this can mean that fashion PR can often fly under the radar of mass scrutiny, getting away with being less strategic in its approach. Doing fashion PR well is difficult, but doing it poorly is really easy.
While there can be an element of smoke and mirrors (true in all PR) the objective of any fashion publicist should be to communicate with authenticity and honesty. Of course we want to showcase our clients in the best light possible. But just like lying on a first date, embellishing a resume, or saying you are fine when your boyfriend asks what’s wrong, it’s in your best interest to simply tell the truth. Why? Because people (read: target audiences) need to like your clients in order to pay attention, tell someone else or purchase. Because today’s customer is smart and will see through to the inevitable inconsistencies that will water down the brand if your story is grounded in anything but the truth. Because when acting as the mouthpiece for someone’s dream and business, it’s pretty important that you (the publicist) are able to communicate effectively, honestly and passionately about your clients. The good news is that consumers and the media will consider your clients if you allow them to connect to clients and brands through real authentic exchanges and stories.
However, let’s face it: sometimes client stories aren’t easy to tell. Sometimes they just aren’t that interesting.
Sometimes the photography is terrible or your client is a brilliant genius as well as a high-maintenance mess. No matter. Instead of crafting a larger-than-life take on a not-so-interesting product, brand or story – DIG. Dig for another angle. Be creative.
It’s easy to build up a mirage, drum up hype, embellish a little here and there but don’t. It’s not authentic, it’s not particularly ethical and it won’t help your client in the long term.
Here’s what you can do instead:
Probe for new stories
Relationships are built on sharing…sharing stories, ideas, experiences, wine and dessert! Think about all the stories your client has to share with their customers. The hours spent on a particular collection has a story. The inspiration for the collection has a story and could lead to a new pitching angle. (e.g. After a mission trip to Cuba, [insert name] was inspired by the people in the village. Her collection reflects the energy of the people. “When I was there I met [insert name], who told me [insert something inspiring].”) Stay in front of your clients and enough in their business to be able to extract a new story idea from an offhand comment.
Create stories by taking action
If there isn’t an exciting angle about a client collection or brand, time to create one. Read carefully: “Create,” do not make something up. No, really create something. Whether it’s an event, cause marketing initiative, a trip to Caracas, make it happen. Then talk about it.
One brand that often creates a visual story is the Norwegian jewelry line, Bjørg from designer, Bjorg Nordli-Mathisen. Watch their latest video collaboration Heresy. This advertisement, like others, garners varied PR reviews from fans and anti-fans due to its “disturbing” nature. Fans are encouraged to dig deeper to understand the meaning and create additional dialogue around her jewelry collection. Plus, it’s strategically launched with the introduction of her 2012 collection: Not All Who Wander Are Lost…which she refers to as a “story.”
When you find or develop a client story to share, you are closer to creating dialogue with the customer and media. Do not be afraid to be unique in your efforts. Whether it’s creating a funny, behind-the-scenes video spoof (e.g. A Day in the Life of [insert client], Why I need two cups of coffee before 10am…., etc.) or partnering with a local non-profit to craft an original story to share.
Tell the right story at the right time
Ever notice how you just “know” of famous people but you don’t see them “all the time”. Why? It gets old. Why do you think Fashion Week isn’t every month? Aside from the obvious fact that it’d be a pita (pain-in-the-ass) to put together every month, it’s set up to give people something to look forward to. That’s how it works with campaigns as well.
Keep your client’s voice active on social media platforms, but take advantage of the downtime to plan for the future and release stories when they will make the most impact.
If it’s not working, change your story
It may not always be an option to pick and choose which clients you work with, but it’s your job as a publicist to find the silver lining. If it simply cannot be done, pass along the client to another publicist who may be a fit. Find clients with whom you have a real, authentic rapport. Your passion for their stories will drive PR success.
Remember, there’s no reason to fabricate a story or tell a boring story. The whole truth and nothing but the truth will be good enough, when communicated in the right way.