This morning I had the unusual pleasure of sitting down across coasts, coffee in hand, to check in with Jennine Jacob, aka The Coveted, aka founder of Independent Fashion Bloggers (IFB) aka the beauty and the brains behind the most impactful community ever created to support, advise and nurture fashion bloggers who are serious about blogging for business.
On February 8, IFB will host the second of their bi-annual fashion blogger conference during fashion week. The conference lineup includes social media and PR maven Aliza Licht (DKNY PR GIRL), Glamour Magazine's Suze Schwartz, Fashionista.com's Executive Editor Leah Chernikoff, Refinery29's Connie Wang and fashion's favorite bloggers like BryanBoy, Wendy Nguyen from Wendy's Lookbook, Emily Schuman from Cupcakes & Cashmere, Andy Torres from Style Scrapbook, Erica Domesek from PS I Made This, Jenni Radosevich from I Spy DIY and more.
Jennine has done it all - from trips around the world to experience fashion on behalf of brands, to creating a top denim blog on behalf of ShopBop, to most recently, starting influencer marketing agency Coveted Media, consulting directly with top fashion brands around their blogger outreach strategy. This year at IFB she's interested in exploring how fashion bloggers can emulate the brand-building antics of fashion PR and fashion media leaders to drive community, audience, and opportunity, as well as how mobile increasingly affects the way we create and collect content, as well as blog and share online.
Especially valuable to fashion PR's are Jennine's thoughts about how brands can best nurture relationships with bloggers.
PR Couture & The Coveted (aka Crosby & Jennine)
IFB/ The Coveted's Jennine Jacob on Fashion Brands, Bloggers & PR
Independent Fashion Bloggers, @_IFB
Crosby: Hi, this is PR Couture, I’m really excited to be here with Jennine. This is a very early San Diego morning as she enters her lunch time over an hour in New York and we’re going to be talking about the amazing IFB conference planned that she has for everyone coming up in February. So hi, Jennine. Thank you so much for taking the time this morning.
Jennine: Hi Crosby!
Crosby: So, just to start us back, perhaps there are some PR folks who’ve been living under the most unfashionable rocks and have no idea what IFB is or what the conference is. Can you just the basic run down of what it is, how you started and what’s up for this year.
Jennine: Yes, of course. I started blogging in 2007 with my blog called, The Coveted, and pretty soon after I started blogging I wanted to become a professional. But the resources that are out there for bloggers didn’t really cater to the fashion niche so I didn’t know what to do and how to do it. And I started IFB as a way to... as a place to talk about how... what are the best business practices for bloggers. How do you succeed, how do you build the media kit, how do you grow your blog and that’s really where I started and that was in September 2007 on blogspot and over a period of evolution. We’ve developed into a network where we have about 45,000 members. We have a network of bloggers to connect, learn how to build our blogs and grow traffic become their own business people along with connecting with other bloggers and driving traffics to blogs ultimately. So it’s really a very successful tool for new bloggers to learn the ropes and to get into the community which will inevitably help them succeed.
Crosby: Wonderful, yeah, I absolutely remember back in 2007, those first badges and it was really the only place making any sort of concerted effort towards establishing community for fashion bloggers that was not just about our content but really supporting our goals.
Jennine: Yes and in making and creating an industry really and helping keep that industry together.
Crosby: Yes, absolutely.
Jennine: Because you know…we really can’t survive on our own, like we really rely on our blog friends, linking, talking sharing each topic and really creating something like that is best and more successful if it’s done in a more organic way. And we really need to kind of keep that together and IFB has been [that] over the last five years.
Crosby: Absolutely, so, how did the idea for the conference come about?
Jennine: I was living in Germany at the time and I was coming up to New York Fashion week for the first time in February 2009, three years ago, and Vicky from fashion guru said oh hey, we should have an IFB meet up! And I was like, what? Oh sure, and so I got like a small amount of money to because I was really poor then I got a small amount of money from a network. We were able to get the bloggers together and we had about like seventy bloggers show up and it was really fun night, it was like a cocktail party and...
Crosby: I remember there was a line out...
Jennine: That was the second one. The next time I wanted to have a party but at the same time really kind of bring an IFB spirit to real life and bring the educational component that we have on our website and that was the time wherein you attended and we are the panel and we had two panels. We filled out the venue and there was line around the block and everybody was so excited. The energy in that room... it actually made me cry.
Crosby: It was a special night.
Jennine: It was a special night, so now we’ve been doing it ever since September 2009. This will be... I don’t know... How many seasons? Several, it’s really kind of grown and really how the conference functions is like a real life opportunity to meet your favourite bloggers, to learn from them, to connect and I think that meeting bloggers in real life has been really instrumental and developing my blog career and I believe that’s true for other bloggers as well. So that’s what the IFB conference is on and it’s really been great. I’m really excited to see it grow and see it evolve.
Crosby: Absolutely, who are some of the people that we should all be excited to hear speak and what are some of the things coming up at this particular conference that’s new or different from previous years?
Jennine: Wendy from Wendy’s Lookbook. She’s actually a California blogger and is in L.A. she’s coming out and she has in one year grown her blog out to be like over 1.5 million visits a month. She has this video that she released last year which got, in a period of six months, nine million views which is really impressive.
Crosby: That’s really significant.
Jennine: She’s really interesting because she produces really high quality work but she also has a like a really great philosophy behind what she does and content she creates. Like for instance, before anytime she puts anything out or publishes anything, she says, what is the point of this? Or what are my viewers getting out of this. It is so important for the blogging community and will really kind of help drive it, it will really help the quality and content for all bloggers, myself included.
Crosby: Absolutely, absolutely, let’s segue into a little bit because IFB is also starting to house some of the most interesting conversations between bloggers and PR folks. Can you talk a little bit about sort of why it’s important or why you’ve felt it’s been important to have a sort of PR marketing brand folks at least at the conference? And sort of what are the conversations that happen between bloggers and brands or what are some of the current conversations happening in that space?
Jennine: Well, we are looking more at PR as a tactic for creating presence. Like DKNY PR GIrl has a really interesting job of bringing DKNY in the digital space - just like the way that they really engage with the people on twitter and how they’ve really kind of changed the perception of what brands can achieve by taking digital space seriously and having fun with it. So, I kind of wanted to look more at that and things are really different now particularly because a lot of bloggers are working with agents. I think that the whole conference can be based around that but this time I really want to focus on that. One of the panels that I put together I really think is important that the blogger should really be looking at is the mobile panel, just because the mobile space is becoming more and more important to bloggers and in terms of how they connect with their readers and different technologies like instagram and videolicious and other types of things out really kind of changed like it really changes the conversation like now can you imagine talking about a new ring without posting it at instagram about it?
Crosby: Absolutely not.
Jennine: I know right? Can you imagine as a blogger, can you imagine not engaging on twitter and engaging on instagram and delving and posts as another app that’s great in connecting... they have a really strong community. There’s a lot to explore there and I really kind of want to look at, you know, talk to the bloggers that we are using the most. See and what kind of effect they have as for them and how they utilize that working with brands.
Crosby: Yes, absolutely, I can’t even imagine. I instagram everything, instagram on the way from the door to my car on my way to work.
Jennine: You’ve got a great instagram, I love it.
Crosby: So that sounds really amazing, so how many people were you expecting this year?
Jennine: Three hundred. And we're going to do a live streaming, talking with them, as we speak about getting that all set up. We’ll have that for sure and we’ll promote it as of February 1st. So stay tuned.
Crosby: Excellent, excellent. And I just have a couple of questions you know because I do hear from PR agencies all the time that there’s something we really struggle with and you’re really on the front lines here. I know that IFB has really taken a stand around this idea of fair compensation for work and I just wanted to hear your thoughts really on what do you feel are the sort of appropriate ways for programs to work with bloggers and just a couple of things that you wish that more PR folks understood about the sort of PR brand-blogger relationship are, the sort of practitioners, maybe young practitioners who read PR Couture.
Jennine: I think that’s really interesting, I’ve actually put together a media company. We started back in December. So, we’re really new and I’m just talking a lot with brands and how they want to work with bloggers and with the fair compensation, I think that brands would have to realize that with products. To realize the value of what bloggers are doing and how much things take and what impact that they can possibly have for the brands. I know the brands see a lot of... it’s complicated... they see a lot of value in working with bloggers but they don’t want to make the investment in that. I think they put more into banner ads or put more money into media vice rather than investing in doing content work. Consumers are continually looking towards expert opinions and deciding what types of purchases they make and bloggers is that expert voice that people are looking for. It’s one of them, I think there are a lot of different channels but it’s certainly a big part of that. And in terms of working with bloggers, I don’t think enough brands are looking at the long term projects it ‘just kind of like, “Oh! Here we’re going to do a giveaway and here’s like a one off. If you’re not very much to work with.” For us, it can be great but it can also be a negative, depending on the budget not understanding that bloggers really take that space very seriously and it’s not editorial, it’s definitely emotional. They should get some kind of reward for it.
Crosby: Not very. It does not necessarily always need to be monetary but there should be at least some sort of effort made to develop some sort of partnership that works for both.
Jennine: Yes, it does and I get all the time like of request for in ways that don’t allow me to review the product in person or there’s no compensation, there’s no anything, it’s just an opportunity for me to get some way to my readers that I don’t think have for bloggers. It’s kind of short sighted in terms of developing relationship. So I really struggle to try to make brands aware that it’s an investment and it’s not just an investment for that one particular product, it’s an investment for building that relationship and for their long term strategy. I’d like to see brands thinking more... big picture about long term and just treating like an investment.
Crosby: Yes, thank you for that. Okay, I think that’s enough to give a lot of us some stuff to think about. Thank you so much for taking the time to give us the latest update that’s really exciting to watch it grow and evolve and you have a amazing line-up this year I’m sure it will be an amazing conference.