Fashion PR Fridays: Top Fashion, Public Relations, Marketing and Social Media News
…for the week of February 6, 2017
- The “Big 4” Fashion Week shows owe a debt to the Ebony Fashion Fair (via NY Daily News)
- Google has announced that web virtual reality is coming to Chrome! Could this be the perfect transition into the world of virtual reality for your company? (via Tech Crunch)
- Guerlain hosted beauty blogger battles with vloggers from across the world who were challenged in competitions using the brands new line, La Petite Robe Noire (via Luxury Daily)
- Targeting the plus size customer might be the best way to fend off bankruptcy for struggling clothing companies (via Racked)
- “Anxiety and politics just loom over this game.” -Mark DiMassimo. This years’ Super Bowl ads couldn’t stay away from politics (via abc news)
- Nordstrom ranks as one of Americas favorite retailers, regardless of any recent Trump drama (via WWD)
- What’s House Party you ask? All you need to know about teens’ favorite new app (via Digiday)
- Tommy Hilfiger’s fashion show Tommyland beat all expectations and was full of Hadid’s, Fergie and fun (via Fashionista)
- Building relationships takes work – even more so if you’re less than extroverted. These networking tips can help you make the process more painless and easy (via Moo)
- Does your workplace reflect the (progressive) values of your employees? Should it? (via Fast Company)
Welcome to February's Self-Love Marketing Series: focusing on Body Positive brands, campaigns and messaging targeting the plus-size market. This is Part 2.
In 2012, Plunkett Research published the finding that 67% of American women are plus size.
Since this revelation, many brands have been scrambling to try and optimize their messaging for this “new” market. Everyone wants to know: what does the plus size woman want to hear? And equally important, what doesn’t she want to hear?
PR and marketing professionals have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how to talk to this customer in a way that will create value for their brands: What does she define as aspirational? How do we appeal to her? What motivates her purchasing decisions?
In the process of testing the validity of the plus size customer and scrambling to optimize sales, there have been a lot of plus size messaging successes, like those scored by plus size mega-brands Torrid and Lane Bryant.
In this same space there have also been many failures. The plus size woman has been assailed by messaging aimed at getting her to pull out her credit card, and frankly, she's a little fatigued. She's tired of being the guinea pig for various marketing experiments, and she's ready for brands to provide authentic, judgement-free messaging.
In particular, there are three things she's tired of hearing. Directly stating any of these messages, or even alluding to them through tone or unintentional messaging as part of a campaign, is sure to turn Her off.
1. Assume her goal is to lose weight or look thinner
She's tired of being the guinea pig for various marketing experiments.
2. "Dress Right for Your Body Type"
What she has to say about this: I am not an apple, a pear, or any flipping piece of fruit for that matter. And I am not an hourglass or a triangle or any other predetermined shape. My body is my body, and I want to wear what reflects my confidence and personal aesthetic. Not what you think makes my body more acceptable to look at through creating optical illusions with fashion silhouettes.
3. "The Plus Size Version"
What she has to say about this: I don't need you to dilute the level of design that goes into a garment for my body. I want to wear the garment no matter how tight-fitting, audacious, fashion forward, or sexy it may be. I just want you to make it large enough to fit my form, and not in a way that apologizes for my form. I want high-end design and beautiful garments with all of the fabulous, plus a little extra fabric.
What is the common denominator between all three of these statements? It’s communicating as though the brand knows better than she does.
No one enjoys being spoked to in this way - what turns you off more in a one-on-one conversation than someone making assumptions or worse, employing a false intimacy.
In general, the key to success with reaching the plus size woman is to speak with her without the assumption that there is anything wrong, or anything to fix.
Appeal to her sense of style, her sense of self, and you'll capture her attention.
About Melinda Parrish
Erika Klein is a veteran of the industry with more than 25 years’ experience, first as a sales rep for Nicole Miller, later as an advertising account manager at Sportswear International. After five years at the magazine, Erika began her public relations career as an Account Manager at Orsi PR, followed by a marketing director position at apparel company, 26 Red. Encouraged by her boss, she created Shout Public Relations in 1997.
The agency has helped well-known brands like OP, Whole Foods, Contiki, Project Juice, Lulus, Modern Amusement and BB Dakota gain exposure, recognition and notoriety. In light of Shout's 20th Anniversary this month, we caught up with Erika to get the scoop.
How did you get started?
I was inspired to start my own agency by a former boss, who I worked for as the in-house marketing director for his clothing brand. He encouraged me to start my own public relations agency and offered his brand as my first client. The thought of starting my own business made me very nervous, but looking back after 20 years, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What are your primary responsibilities?
I oversee and dabble in a little bit of everything. I make myself available to the account executives for meetings with clients, reviewing publicity and social media campaigns and I’m always pitching new business. I feel fortunate to have built a team of reliable, self-motivated individuals – because micro-managing is not my style and I don’t believe it encourages productivity or boosts morale. Instead, we hold informal meetings, where I just touch base with them every now and then. My focus is to make sure all of the clients are happy and my team is able to do this by having continuous open conversation with their accounts, as well as by scheduling routine meetings and compiling editorial reports.
How is agency structured?
Each client has a lead account executive that is supported by a junior account executive, as well as other supportive staff.
Although we have structure, we work as a team and take pride in always being available to any of our clients. Even if one person doesn’t work directly on an account regularly, they are always willing to help with other team member’s clients.
What is the mood like in the office?
We work in an open environment. There are no offices. I had my own office earlier when I first started the company, but then I decided that I wanted to be part of the team and opted for the open office space. The open environment makes the communication easier… even though we tend to email each other instead of chat!
I’m happy to say the mood is always positive. We are a small team and there is never any drama. We all work really well together. Everyone is always available to help when needed.
Shout PR Girls: Ashli Smith, Lana Thomas, Olivia Davis, Erika Klein, Amanda Pennington, Francesca Ressa
PR can be stressful & full of rejection - how do you deal?
I worked in sales at the beginning of my career, so handling rejection from the media is a piece of cake. If the first pitch doesn’t work, we step back, figure out a new approach and try again. We love the challenge and are passionate about the clients that we work with. They all have something unique and interesting to offer.
There was this one particular incident when we were handling media relations for an event, which took place during a music festival. We were fortunate to secure a well-known TV anchor to cover the event for 3 hours the first day. It was an early morning call and unfortunately for one reason or another, our client’s production team fell short of preparing the event for the early morning call time. Our team utilized their resources and pulled activations and people together for the crew to film, which actually made for a rather successful segment in the end! With live TV, you never know what can happen, so it is important to always have a backup plan.
What are three current favorite tools you love and why?
There are always new tools on the market and the trick is to keep up with the changing times.
We love Cision, as it is one of the best tools for media relations. Apps like Hootsuite and Iconoquare are helpful when analyzing social media analytics and best practices. Additionally, we keep our social media feeds looking fresh and aesthetically pleasing with color correction and filtering apps such as VSCO.
What do you wish more people understood about your job?
Even though you can attain placements much faster in the digital world, it still takes time! Also, PR and marketing is really about brand awareness. Although the hope for everyone is that heightened brand awareness will lead to sales, there isn’t always that direct correlation. It’s a difficult concept to explain with a sales-focused team at times, but we pride ourselves on always being upfront with clients about this. In addition, we subscribe to various services that help us to measure ROI on PR placements.
What are you excited about right now in terms of industry trends?
I am excited to see how the digital world will evolve to match the fast paced consumer shopping lifestyle. Our client, Lulus was one of the first brands to utilize the new Instagram shopping platform, which I anticipate will call for a major shift in how we use social media.
What advice would you offer your younger self?
First, set goals for yourself, and secondly, never lose sight of them. Also: network, network and network!
Anything else we should know?
We are always looking for interns to support our team. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming up with fresh ideas isn’t effortless. Especially when your job requires churning them out on a daily basis. It can be easy to hit a wall – hard. That is why brainstorming sessions can be beyond helpful. The most important thing about a brainstorming session are the action items delegated after to help implement the best ideas. The best way to release the creativity beast is not by shouting out ideas to your team at a conference table, but by creating an atmosphere that breaks people out of their mental comfort zone.
How can you create this atmosphere? We’re thrilled you asked. Here are 3 out of the box ways to help liven up your brainstorming sessions to reinvigorate your team’s mindset to produce more engaging, successful campaigns.
1. Kick Around Some Bad Ideas First
It’s always awkward being the first person to chuck out a few ideas while everyone else tries to gather their thoughts, but someone has to do it! One way to loosen your team up is to start by spending 10 minutes coming up with a bunch of horrible ideas at first. Be sure to lead by example. Throw out an initial idea first to warm up the room. This will help you set a much more open and playful atmosphere. An idea that isn’t so great on its own could end up sparking something really ingenious!
Quick tip: don’t follow one train of thought for too long. Once you have spent some time sharing throwaway ideas (and a couple laughs), refocus on the task at hand.
2. Play Word Games – Yes, Games
As goofy as it sounds, word games can be an extremely useful tool to help shake up generic ideas. One great word exercise is creating a “word storm.” A word storm is where you come up with one word, and then your team comes up with a ton of other words that they believe associate with the original word. These words will help you build the connotation of the project, visuals, and other creative assets to move forward with the newly cultivated idea. Word storms are great when you need to rebrand a mundane product or knock out a few strong social media headlines.
One way to loosen your team up is to start by spending 10 minutes coming up with a bunch of horrible ideas at first.
3. Go Somewhere Else
Switching up your environment can bring a change of pace to your team, alleviate the typical restrictions, and reduce any limits experienced by teammates that may stifle their confidence to speak out. Pack up your squad and head out the office for your brainstorming sessions. The location can be anywhere: coffee shop, a co-worker’s backyard, or a walk to a local tourist hot spot. Getting up and about will increase brain flow and produce out of the box ideas through utilizing your environment and experiences as a group together.
Good ideas don’t become great ideas on their own. With a safe space for brainstorming and a hefty dose of play, you’ll be able to more quickly refine your ideas into award-winning campaigns.
Currently Director of Public Relations for Chicago-based SKOOG Productions, Travis Martin is one of the few who has truly conquered the fashion PR world. Formerly Fashion Director at BPCM, Travis graduated from Parsons in Paris and also worked at KCD, where he spent three and a half years working with big name clients like Marc Jacobs and Peter Som and helped run major events like the CFDA Awards and the Met Gala. Travis’ journey is filled with fantastic stories, and when it comes down to the basics of making it in fashion PR, he’s a master. In an industry where time is fleeting, I was able to speak with Travis for a few minutes and gain access to five of his most helpful tips for those just getting started in the industry.
1. Read Everyday
It’s always important to show your curiosity to a current or potential employer. You should be reading everyday to keep yourself informed on clients, designers, competitors, and your own firm. Travis suggests Women’s Wear Daily as one of the most valuable subscriptions. It’s definitely a little pricier than the other alternatives out there, but it keeps you up to date on all the different components of industry news from retail to runway to business. The ability to speak knowledgeably about the industry gives a strong leg to stand on, beyond your passion and dedication.
2. Expect long days
Your first jobs or internships might include 16 hour workdays or working on weekends. If you move to a city like New York, like Travis did, the transition to a full-time PR position can be difficult. Travis says he had to “work retail. At one point I had two jobs. You just sometimes make sacrifices, but understand the priorities and what it takes.” However, once you make those sacrifices, you’re able to be a part of some pretty incredible projects. One that Martin holds particularly dear is the Marc Jacobs fall 2013 show. The show opened onto a circular runway with a giant yellow light suspended from the ceiling that made the models appear in shades of grey. The models were then sent out for the finale with the lights lifted. Martin loves this show so much not only because of its artistry, but also because it is a show he got to experience up close. When you put in the time, you see the rewards.
3. See the bright side in sample trafficking
“For the first three years, so much of my job was what we call sample trafficking,” says Travis. “It’s just handling requests from magazines, stylists, and everyone who wants to shoot or wear the clothes.” Running clothes to and from different offices may not seem like a valuable work skill, but Travis reveals just how important it is. “It’s how I learned everything. It’s how I learned who people were, it’s how I made connections.” Don’t underestimate the value of any job, especially when you’re just starting out. When you’re sample trafficking, you meet the receptionists and the assistants. You’re learning names and learning how things run from the ground up.
4. Don’t Blow Off The Lower Ranks
Don’t underestimate the power of making connections with the people around you, especially interns. Travis explains that “the closet girls at Elle…are now Accessories Directors at other magazines.” Making connections early on can be a huge advantage to you later in your career. You never know who is going to be important as your career continues to evolve.
5. Stand Out When Reaching Out
In an industry with lots of competition, internships and entry-level positions are few. To Travis, “it says so much more to be able to email someone and say ‘I love what you’re doing with this client’ as opposed to ‘Hi I am so and so and I go to this school and I would really like to come intern for you.”
You have to take the time to understand who you are reaching out to, what they do, and find that connection with them that will make you more valuable or interesting.
By keeping these aspects of the business in mind, you’ll be prepared for a successful career in fashion PR.
About Kendall Thompson
Kendall is a senior pursuing her degree in PR and advertising at DePaul University in Chicago. Having spent the last few years building a career in fashion PR, she is now the PR Assistant at C1 Revolution where her focus is on fashion and lifestyle brands.
Fashion PR Fridays: Top Fashion, Public Relations, Marketing and Social Media News
…for the week of January 30, 2017
- Bey has a double bump…social media implodes (via NYT) PS: Shout out to CLD PR client Liviara of the now famous powder blue undies!
(That was pretty much it. Oh, you want more? Ok, then!)
- Professional office attire has changed big time and the workwear space is ripe for disruption. Have you noticed too? (via Edited)
- PR is oh so glamorous…says pretty much no one who actually works in the industry (via Daily Telegraph)
- Launchmetrics releases “The State of Influencer Marketing 2017: A Fashion & Retail Focus” featuring insights from your truly. Grab your copy (via Launchmetrics)
- We all know PR is changing…are these 3 companies on your radar? (via Forbes)
- Teen Vogue now calls itself “Feminist, Rebellious, In Your Face and Outspoken” Might be time for another look, no? (via Teen Vogue)
- What women want from their work environment is oh so very obvious – to other women (via YSF Magazine)
- It the latest news of the fashion elite’s comings and goings, Daniella Vitale is now the CEO of Barneys (via BoF)
- Women in PR USA announces its Advisory Council and official launch event – yup I’m on there! (via Women in PR)
- Have you checked out the Bespoke Communication Awards yet? (via PR Couture)
Welcome to February's Self-Love Marketing Series: focusing on Body Positive brands, campaigns and messaging targeting the plus-size market. This is Part 1.
The value of the plus size market is estimated to exceed $18 Billion.
1. adopt an inclusive, insider tone
2. Make a statement with bold campaigns
About Melinda Parrish
Position: Account Manager
Company: Tribe Dynamics
Location: San Francisco, CA
Position: Account Coordinator
Company: Style House
With a self-proclaimed "Can Do"attitude, Kate Labat heads up west coast agency Be Social's PR division, a position she achieved after starting with the company as an entry-level PR assistant. Now she leads the team in navigating media relationships and strategies across print, digital and broadcast mediums. Kate's proficiency in strategic planning, and fresh messaging has contributed to consistent press wins and a competitive edge for Be Social clients.
How did you get started in the industry?
I started at Be Social over three years ago as an entry-level PR assistant. It was my second job out of college. Being at a boutique agency, you quickly learn how to wear a lot of hats to accomplish all that needs to get done and how to take on a "just do it" attitude. At the time, we were a much smaller team so I was helping with everything from crafting social media posts for clients to pitching media in San Diego and national contacts.
How did you get the job you have now?
As time went on at Be Social, I took on more responsibility within the company and my role with clients, strategy, pitching, and managing other team members. I am now the PR Manager and oversee the entire PR branch of the company and all of our PR clients. It's pretty crazy to look back at where I started and see where the company is now. I feel very honored that I have been a part of Be Social's success - I've grown right alongside the company!
What are your primary responsibilities?
My responsibility first and foremost is to ensure all of our clients are getting placed in top media outlets for continued buzz and exposure. Other responsibilities include crafting quarterly strategy guides for our clients, drafting pitches, building media lists, securing coverage for our clients, and overseeing the PR team as a whole. Managing the PR team entails coming up with methods/strategies to work together smarter not harder, brainstorming new ideas, events or pitch concepts, and ensuring everyone on the team feels they are equipped for success.
How is Be Social structured?
Be Social is structured in four different departments: PR, Social Media, Influencer Relations and Be Social Talent. Each department has a lead team member to be the driving force behind each division to keep things streamlined and successful.
What is the mood like in the office? What are you working on right now?
Being at a boutique agency, you quickly learn how to wear a lot of hats to accomplish all that needs to get done and how to take on a "just do it" attitude.
What is a recent job success story that makes you especially proud?
It always feels great when you get kudos from clients for the work you've done. Recently, our client Bzees told us they saw a significant spike in sales as a result from the recent placements we secured and were super excited for the coverage -- that's the goal!
Most meaningful moment in your career thus far?
I think the most meaningful moment would have to be receiving recognition and validation from Ali Grant (Be Social Founder) for my contribution and work. Be Social is her creation so it means a lot that she trusts my judgement to be a leading member of the team.
Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?
Most glamorous would probably be getting to travel to New York a few times a year. Any chance I get to visit that amazing city -- sign me up. The energy is at a whole other level out there. I always love getting to meet with editors face to face on their turf.
Least glamorous moment in your career thus far?
Easy: showing up for early morning news segments. 6am call times are not pretty.
What do you wish more people understood about your job
PR is not cut and dry. Every day is different and the media landscape is constantly changing. There are so many factors that come into play when coming up with a successful strategy for clients. You have to take into account timely happenings, competitors, marketing budgets, branding, etc. There isn't one black and white solution for everyone. It takes time, creativity and experience to understand what works and what just doesn't.
What are you excited about right now in terms of industry trends?
I'm excited to see the convergence of influencers and media. Influencers have earned a lot more respect (remember when "blogger" was almost a bad word?) and are being utilized as resources. At Be Social, we work with influencers and media on a regular basis so I love being able to learn both sides of the spectrum.
Relax! Student loans will get paid in time, you will find a job in your field. Everything always works out when you work for it.
PR can be stressful and full of rejection - how do you deal?
Never be too proud or afraid to ask for help. If I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, I tell my co-workers! The point of having a team is to be able to lean on one another. I always feel better after I talk it out, and bounce ideas off each other to come up with a solution. Also, you must always keep your sense of humor. Sometimes when things are extra crazy or seem out of control, it always cuts the tension to have a laugh, then get back to it.
What are three on the job essentials for you?
- Boomerang! How did I survive without this before? You can schedule emails to send out at any date/time you want (amazing for pitching East Coast editors) and even return back to your inbox as a reminder if your contact didn't get back to you. Considering how many emails I send a day, Boomerang helps me make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
2. Google Calendar organizes my life (work and personal). I put everything in my calendar - even down to time blocking out tasks I need to get done.
3. Our client EyeBuyDirect's digital protection glasses. I am at my computer or on my phone constantly. These glasses have a protective lens to protect your eyes from the harsh effects of blue light that come off screens. I can honestly say, my eyes are not killing me at the end of the day anymore with these guys (plus, they look really cute on my desk - bonus).
What's the biggest challenge facing fashion/lifestyle communicators right now?
The media landscape is undergoing major changes lately. Publishing houses are trying to figure out how to cut budgets and still produce engaging content. Editors are BUSY and are expected to produce a lot of content quickly, so being able to cut through the noise and grab their attention is getting more difficult. Not to mention video content and podcasts are on the rise, so understanding and staying on top of all areas of multimedia platforms is very important.
What advice do you have for your younger self?
Relax! Student loans will get paid in time, you will find a job in your field of study and everything always works out when you work for it. I spent way too many nights freaking out over money and wondering where I was going to end up.
Anything else we should know?
Our office in San Diego is always looking for interns! If you're a college student wanting to dive in, email email@example.com.
PR AGENCY AND INDUSTRY NEWS
Style House PR is proud to announce their representation of Evolis, the first ever clinically proven topical hair loss/prevention breakthrough to hit the US market in over 30 years, as well as Koolaburra by Ugg, the free-spirited little sister of the Ugg brand.
The International Women’s Media Foundation has welcomed Stephanie Kauffman, Jennifer Reingold, Andrea B. Smith and Marisa Thalberg to their board of directors.
Creative public relations agency Press kitchen has expanded to the East Coast with an office opening in NYC.
michele marie pr celebrates 10 Years in Business this February. Jill Cooper and Sara Andréasson resigned from JOE’s Jeans on the same sheet of paper 10 years ago and built a nationally ranked multi-million dollar bi-coastal fashion pr agency.
Do you have agency or industry news to share?
We would love to feature employee news, new client announcements, awards, partnerships and more!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The world of public relations is always evolving and it is important to have a surplus of resources and tools to help us navigate it all. With so much going on, any resource that makes life easier, while making us look good, is solid gold.
It has become apparent that video is one of the best ways to share news to the masses. From Facebook Live to Instagram Stories, more brands than ever are experimenting with the medium. And rightly so, Buffer released findings in mid-2016 that video, by far, gets the most engagement on Facebook.
However, video isn’t just a tool for brands. Our collective attention spans have shortened tremendously. Video is an appealing way to showcase anything from news to statistics in a fast, fun and creative way, making it an excellent format for professional communicators to utilize for consumers, clients and media.
At Social Sidekick, we rely on Animoto, a cloud-based video creation service (if you can use Powerpoint, you can use this!) to uplevel our video game. Basically the service allows you to upload photos and video clips to create a slideshow.
Below are some we’ve found video to be a powerful agency tool:
Use Video to Create PR Proposals & Presentations
If you’ve been in the PR game for awhile, you’ve probably worked on a number of proposals and presentations when seeking out new business. You’re well aware of how much work really goes into these presentations and how important they are in demonstrating your team’s expertise, approach and creative thinking. However, the traditional bound proposal or presentation deck can become tedious and some what monotonous – for both the agency team and the prospective client!
During your next pitch presentation, use Animoto to showcase your press placements, achievements and accolades with a flashy, fun and vibrate video. Here’s an example:
Go Behind-the-Scenes with Brand Videos
With video and content marketing on the rise, agencies can also utilize Animoto as a value add for client work. Let’s say you have a jewelry client with a beautiful showroom filed with hand-crafted pieces. A video exploring how these one-of-a-kind beauties come to life provides a valuable asset to further express the label’s process, appealing to both media and potential customer alike.
Video is an appealing way to showcase anything from news to statistics in a fast, fun and creative way, making it an excellent format for professional communicators to utilize for consumers, clients and media.
We did something just like the above with a jeweler in New Jersey.
A great benefit with Animoto for client videos is that you can easily adjust your videos at any time to align with a current promotion, holiday or theme. For example, create a new intro to celebrate Valentine’s Day or insert a time-sensitive call to action at the end.
Upgrade Client Reporting with Results via Video
Some clients might prefer excel reports of your monthly activities, but for those who are open to change, send over your reports in the form of a video. Think of how much more exciting it would be to see that New York Times placement or TODAY Show segment you secured in a video where your clients can relive the moment with you again?
For events, a video montage video of celebrity and VIP interviews, plus a few testimonials from event attendees offers a means to qualitatively demonstrate the value of the effort.
In our opinion, Animoto is a must-have for PR professionals. The tool saves our agency money both in terms of outright costs as well as resources (i.e. time spent at the computer). We’ve found that the ability to make videos easily and inexpensively has opened up our capabilities, not only in the pitch process but through to capturing editor attention and social media engagement.
About Cassie Galasetti
Cassie is the co-founder of Social Sidekick Media, Branding & PR. She has over fifteen years of experience in the entertainment, PR and media fields in New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles. Cassie has secured media coverage for her clients on TODAY Show, Good Morning America, New York Times, On-Air with Ryan Seacrest, USA Today, The Weather Channel, Yahoo! Beauty, Prevention, Fox News, Bustle and more. Connect @socialsidekick2 @cass822s
This post is part of our PR Toolbox series. Have a tool, resource or app changing your workday for the better? We’d love to share it! Send an email to email@example.com with “PR Toolbox” in the subject line.
Fashion PR Fridays: Top Fashion, Public Relations, Marketing and Social Media News
…for the week of January 23, 2017
- Ever wonder how to use automated bots on Instagram and still be authentic? Stephanie Gilbert puts forth her opinion (via Small Talk Social)
- New York and Los Angeles have long been the fashion capitals of America but could Nashville be joining the ranks? (via Fashionista)
- You can now buy and manage Facebook ads through Mailchimp (via Fast Company)
- H&M is jumping on the see-now-buy-now fast fashion bandwagon bringing fashion immediately from catwalk to checkout (via WWD)
- Target is partnering with BaubleBar. We are looking forward to the, ‘Sugarfix,’ line, coming out January 31 (via Racked)
- Twitter is making our lives even simpler than 140 characters by showcasing top tweets, hashtags and moments in a single place (via Ad Week)
- Facebook is feeding our video addiction by using new algorithms to give certain videos higher priority in our feeds. (via Tech Crunch)
- You can now book Uber and Lyft rides in Google Maps! Here are other app updates you might have missed this month (via Business Insider)
- FeelUnique just launched a new makeup live app which lets users “try on makeup” virtually with surprising accuracy (via L2 Daily)
- Job hunting? Learn three resume mistakes that could be costing you big time (via Create and Cultivate)
When I first started dabbling in public relations, all I knew about it was what I learned previously as a full-time newspaper journalist, i.e. very little. To learn the ins and outs of PR, I picked up any client that came my way, be it a Texan real estate company, a fine jewelry brand, or an eco product line for kids. I didn’t have a trainer or any friends in PR, so I used those early clients to learn the job on the job.
Eventually, I got enough experience and launched my own agency, I Do PR, with a focus on weddings. Now, looking back on the last 5 years of running my agency full-time, here’s what I’ve learned, and what I wish someone told me when I was starting out.
1. Choose a Niche within a Niche
In the beginning, I didn’t want to pick a niche in PR because I was afraid of limiting myself. What I’ve learned since is that picking a specialty actually has the opposite effect. A niche differentiates you from thousands of other firms and professionals doing general PR, positions you as an expert in your field, and keeps you top of mind of businesses in your chosen industry. For me, deciding to switch from general PR to wedding PR turned out to be the smartest business decision I’ve ever made. Instead of spending a ton of time on hunting for clients, by virtue of specializing, I’ve become one of the go-to people for wedding brands seeking a publicist.
Are you a fashion publicist? Great, that’s a niche. But if you’re still struggling to find clients (or have them find you), I suggest you find a niche within that niche. There are a gazillion fashion publicists out there, so what differentiates you from all of them? Perhaps you can focus only on accessories or on men’s athletic wear or Italian luxury brands. Whatever it is, stick to it and you will see how clients start to seek you out. Just make sure to pick a niche that you truly enjoy because you’ll be reading, writing and thinking a lot about it every single day of your PR life.
2. Charge for your worth, not for your time
When I first started out in PR, I didn’t know how to charge clients. I explored hourly billing, a monthly retainer, a commission structure based on performance (i.e. when clients pay a low retainer plus a commission for every placement), but I didn’t know what was best.
Through trial and error, I determined that a retainer works best and then arrived at this super simple formula to determine how much it should be: the total sum of how much you want to make per month divided by how many clients you can/want to handle. (Try not to go over 5 clients if you want to stay sane!)
Most importantly, do not charge by the hour. Why? Because you’re a publicist, not a plumber. In our job, sometimes one 30-second pitch email can nab a major story. Other times, you’re pitching and pitching for a week and you get nowhere. What you’re charging for isn’t the hours you’re putting in, but the sum of your experience, your finesse, your understanding of the media, your research and, of course, your contacts. So charge for your total value, not your time.
3. Develop a tiered pricing structure
I’ve heard lots of publicists complain that the biggest time suck of running a PR agency is creating proposals for clients that don’t end up signing on. Don’t worry, I did it too. Then, I figured out an easier way: creating a tiered price structure for our services. For example, my firm offers 3 tiers at different price ranges that include different services. They can of course be customized, but that initial 3-tier structure gives clients an immediate idea of what they’re getting and for how much. Once they’re in, I can create a detailed proposal, knowing that they’re already committed.
The tiered structure also gives you a way to work with different sized clients and spreads out your workload. You can tweak the price or the services it includes until you determine what most of your typical clients want and can afford. The general rule of thumb is that if you’re getting a ton of clients, your prices may be too low. If it’s a struggle to sign on any, they may be too high. The good thing about a tier structure is that most clients will find something that works for their budget.
4. Only sign what you can secure
If you want to build a lasting business and not spend your time working with clients that drive you crazy, then you have to establish a positive and mutually trusting rapport with your client from day one. I think we publicists often forget what we ask of our clients – hand over their business’ reputation, pay decent sums of money, and in return not get any guarantee of results. Just think about how much trust that takes from their end.
So how to make sure you and your client enter into a relationship as trusting partners? Here is the system I’ve developed. Before I sign on a new client, I research them to determine if I’m the best person to help them, then I talk to them over the phone (or meet them in person if possible) to see if we like each other, and then I have them fill out a detailed questionnaire. The questionnaire asks about their team, marketing efforts and past experience with press. But most importantly, it asks about their goals and expectations of PR and of their business overall. Their answers help both of us get on the same page.
What you’re charging for isn’t the hours you’re putting in, but the sum of your experience, your finesse, your understanding of the media, your research and, of course, your contacts.
And then, before we sign any contracts, I tell them exactly what is realistic. If a client expects to be on the cover of Vogue tomorrow, in Forbes the next week and hanging out with Oprah the week after that, and I know for a fact that I won’t be able to make that happen, I tell them that upfront. It’s not just because I want to be honest, but because it saves me from dealing with the biggest source of stress in our profession – the guilt and the self-loathing that come with not being able to deliver. While a bit of a challenge is good, overpromising and underdelivering will cause more struggle than it’s worth.
4. Automate business operations
It’s easy to simply say yes to a new client, jump in and start pitching. But I’ve learned that a proper client onboarding procedure helps prevent many disruptions and misunderstandings. So now, when I bring on a new client, I send them an information sheet on how we work, which includes practical information on press requests, timing, procedures, invoices and basically, everything that previous clients have asked me about. This helps me spend less time on client admin work and more on actual work they pay me to do.
In fact, I’ve learned that especially in service business like ours, automating processes is a huge time saver that will help preserve your sanity and keep you in PR for the long haul.
The simplest way start is by creating templates for everything that you find yourself doing over and over. That can include:
- Pricing information sheet to send to potential clients.
- Invoice template, where you can quickly plug in client name, date and amount.
- Email responder text to potential clients, so you don’t have to type it over and over. Make two versions – for clients you’d like to sign and for clients you don’t.
- Bookkeeping template to help keep track of your expenses and have something to hand to your accountant at the end of the year.
- Inbound contact form on your website. Switching from having our email on our website to having a short web form was a huge time-saver. It cut down on spam and helped me get the information I needed on potential clients before we engage further.
- Mailing list and newsletter, which you can easily do with a tool like Mailchimp.
5. Partner Up with like-minded experts
PR is one of those fields that remain a mystery to many clients, so you’ll be often asked to do things that are beyond the scope of what you actually do: branding, social media, newsletter writing, content marketing. The list grows every year. Instead of taking all of it on yourself, find people to outsource these requests, either as contractors or through a simple business referral network. In my own business, finding a content strategist, writer, social media expert, branding, web developer and analytics expert has been essential.
Also, find and befriend other publicists. When I started out, I avoided other publicists, terrified they might steal my ideas or my clients. As a result, I was completely alone. I had no one to ask for advice and no one to talk to about my successes or struggles. Then, one day I joined a local group of independent PR professionals, and now, I wish I did it five years earlier.
It not only gave me a community of people who understood me, but also gave me potential collaborators. When I got a client who needed placement in tech publications, I was able to hire one of the women from the group to help me out. I also started referring business that wasn’t a fit for me and they did the same. And whenever I had a question to ask or wanted to vent about our PR world a little, I felt no longer alone.
Sasha Vasilyuk is the founder and CEO of I DO PR, a public relations agency for wedding and lifestyle brands. She is also an award-winning journalist published in USA Today, Harper’s Bazaar, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle as well as the author of Marry the Media: How to Gain Publicity for Your Wedding Business.