Perhaps the only thing more exciting about starting a fashion line is seeing your designs on the glossy pages of a magazine. There’s nothing quite as gratifying for an entrepreneur as receiving national media attention about something you spent a tremendous amount of time, energy, money and passion on in bringing to life. But many fashion startups make the mistake of hiring a PR agency too soon, which ends up causing frustration among both parties (not to mention barreling through valuable budget).
If you are a newer brand or startup thinking about hiring PR support, it's important to first make a distinction between PR and publicity. Public relations expertise can be valuable at every step of the game, after all, a clear understanding of communication trends and building a strong brand foundation resonate with your audience is crucial, and very much in the wheel-house of a full-service PR agency. However, if you are primarily seeking press coverage, you are looking to hire for one aspect of PR.
If you are only looking for media coverage, publicity is the last step of your process.
Starting a successful fashion brand is a business. And just like any business, you need to have a well-laid out and strategic business plan in place before you ever spend one dollar. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case when it comes to new designers.
Several months ago, an enthusiastic and talented fashion designer with a beautiful clothing collection approached me for PR. I was assured that she had everything in place and once she signed my contract, she sent me her collection and even paid the first month of my retainer. However, once I started presenting her with media opportunities and celebrity red carpet opportunities with A—listers, she wasn’t able to come through. Not long after she sent me her samples, she needed them back for market. When stylists called our office to do pulls, we had nothing to offer. And when magazine editors asked for samples to be sent, we couldn’t because she didn’t have any extras. I did encourage my client to cut a couple more samples of her popular pieces, but I quickly learned she was working on a shoestring budget and did not, in fact, have the infrastructure of a good business plan to back up my outreach.
As a former fashion entrepreneur myself, I wouldn’t have dreamt of working with a publicist if I wasn't able to make good on the opportunities presented to me. These days, when any fashion startup reaches out so me for media outreach, I always make sure they at least have the following list of items in place:
A PR Roadmap
- PR Goals
- Brand story (or at least has a general idea that I can help elaborate on)
- Knowledge of their target audience
- Press and/or showroom samples
- A functioning, attractive and user-friendly website
- Social media in place (unless they are asking for that on top of PR)
Finally, as a prospective business partner, my clients need to have a clear understanding of their cash flow. While this can be uncomfortable to discuss, it’s important to make sure you can financially compensate your PR team. There’s nothing that will ruin a relationship and rough-up your reputation than not being able to sign those paychecks.
In short, enthusiasm in business is awesome. It’s why we do this. Your passion is what got you here and it will oftentimes be the element that drives your success. But when it comes to public relations, misplaced enthusiasm can work against you. Before you bring on a public relations firm, make sure you have the infrastructure behind it to support the campaign you’re about to embark upon. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
Imagie via: Fashion Market SF