It has always seemed to me that fashion editors turned PR professionals have a decided advantage, and an envious resume to boot! Samantha Slaven not only has access to some of the best boots around (she works with many footwear brands), but used her experience as a magazine editor to catapult her to CEO. These days Samantha Slaven Publicity is a thriving west coast agency working with celebrities, bloggers and stylists who help create credibility - and visibility - for her fashion clients.
Tell us a little bit about Samantha Slaven Publicity. What makes it different from other agencies?
I think one main differentiator is that the entire staff works together as a team on every account - we don't segment our fashion, beauty, fitness, etc., accounts. This way we're all in the loop of all projects, opportunities, pitch ideas, events and more for each client, and when a call or question comes in, everyone's in the loop as to how to answer it. While I'm still the lead on every account, this approach enables stronger brainstorming, idea generation and strategic planning, and ensures everyone has both client- and press-facing work. It also fosters a strong sense of teamwork.
Additionally, my background as a consumer magazine editor, freelance writer, marketing copywriter and in-house marketing exec at brands including Gap Inc., Procter & Gamble and Yahoo! gave me a unique and invaluable perspective into PR. I can relate to my clients in-house marketing teams, communication/launch strategies and goals, as I've been on similar teams and know how they operate, and understand the role and needs of editors.
How has Samantha Slaven Publicity evolved over the past several years? How does your approach differ today compared to when you started?
When I launched the agency in 2002, there were no blogs (can you imagine?!), and our main focus was on print and tv product placement and celeb outreach.
I remember getting one of our early clients, Chinese Laundry handbags, in 17 magazines in one month!
Also, celebrities were much more accessible, as they would readily accept gifts and attend the top-tier gifting suites, and very few had their own fashion brands.
We've evolved over the years to include a much stronger short-lead outreach strategy, working with scores of blogs and personal style bloggers, and use social media to further our clients' exposure, reach and influence. We also work much more extensively with stylists, as their influence and reach has exploded over the last decade.
How does your experience as a magazine editor influence how you develop PR campaigns for clients?
I remember having to fill all those pages each month, so I really understand what the editors are facing with each issue. We come from a "how can we help?" approach vs being more solicitous, and try to anticipate and develop pitches around top trends/celebrity sightings to not only react to what they need, but proactively suggest ideas that may resonate internally.
Do you incorporate social media into client PR strategies? Do you believe social media belongs in the PR wheelhouse? If not, how should it be
We do generate content for clients' social media pages - posting new styles, great press hits, interacting with bloggers and influencers, hosting contests, asking trend questions, etc. But if a client wants a full-on social media strategy, we outsource it. It's too time consuming for us to manage 100% of this internally, and I think pulls our attention away from what we do best.
Why do you believe you have been so successful at building relationships with media? What is one piece of advice you can offer to an emerging publicist struggling to grow her media connections?
When you have great clients, are responsive, reliable and fun to work with, you'll develop great relationships with the media. I travel to NYC several times a year for face-to-face press appts, and have developed genuine friendships with several editors and stylists. That being said, there's been a lot of turnover in the last few years, so striking out and developing those new relationships is always key.
I'd advise emerging publicists to get out there and meet as many people as you can, follow up and keep in touch regularly, and respond immediately and reliably to any requests they throw your way. And gifting your key contacts with great products from your clients never hurts!
What are 3 newer publications of blogs on your radar? What impressed you about each of them?
We recently worked with Seen Heard Known and DITLO (day in the life of), both of which are new and which have been positive experiences. We work often with Refinery29, and also love WhoWhat Wear.
What was your proudest professional moment in 2012?
It's a tie! 1) Our launch event for Foundry LA. We secured Alexa Chung as our host, which was somewhat of a coup as she's not often in LA, and got a tremendous amount of press, both US and internationally, for the launch. 2) We secured a 4-page editorial for celebrity makeup artist Scott Barnes in the Sept. issue of Allure.
What role does product placement play in the work Samantha Slaven Publicity does for clients? What about celebrity outreach?
Product placement is probably what keeps us busiest day-to-day, but celebrity seeding, hiring celebrities for events and photo shoots, etc., is a close second.
Did you have any PR mentors or are you primarily self-taught?
I'm entirely self taught. In fact, when I first launched my agency, I'd never even worked in pr! But I'd been peripheral to it my entire career, and it felt like the right fit. I also got lucky - one of my first clients was a trendy boutique on Robertson Blvd in LA that had an extensive celebrity clientele, so that endeared me quickly to the celebrity media. And then I helped launch Nelly's Apple Bottom jeans brand, and signed Chinese Laundry shoes, which helped me quickly gain traction with both fashion and accessories editors.
What are 3 tips you can offer a fashion brand looking for secure TV/morning show coverage?
- Don't just blindly pitch you client(s), tie the pitch into something timely or relevant. For example, pitch a selection of great gifts for Valentine's Day, focus on great handbags under $50, must-have beauty products for summer, etc.
- Find out which stylists/freelancers often host these types of segments, and get to know them and familiarize them with your clients. Sometimes there are fees associated with placements, so find out if your clients have a budget for these types of things.
- Another way in is to develop an audience giveaway. That will give your client air-time, and potentially help them pick up scores of new fans!
Featured image: Foundry LA launch party in Oct. 2012