What if Beyonce tweets about your brand? What if Bradley Cooper gets photographed wearing your t-shirt? Or may be Leandra Medine talks about your denim on her style blog. That’s a lot of brand exposure that has the power to sky rocket your brand to fame and fortune.
Sadly, it seldom happens by chance. You can’t keep waiting for that golden moment when one fine day your brand gets noticed by a celebrity, famous magazine editor or a famous style blogger.
In real life, a lot of work, creativity and persistence goes into getting your products in the hands of influencers (editors, bloggers, celebs etc).
There are many people out there sending tons of free stuff to these influencers every day hoping to get a promotional favour in return; and here we are not even talking about the gifts and mails from the genuine fans who don’t expect any promotional favour. That’s a lot of noise to be dealt with.
So, many Fashion retailers like to leave it to the professionals – they hire public relation firms, consultants or freelance professionals.
However, a typical PR agency charges anything from $2000 to $10,000 per month. That’s a lot of money to spend on marketing; especially if you’re small start-up because these PR agencies do not guarantee that they will get your brand featured on so and so magazine or your product tweeted by a celebrity. Even though good PR agencies will eventually get you featured but it can take months and months of time.
On the other hand, an experienced freelance PR consultant might charge you on an hourly basis anything more than $50 per man hour. Since PR is extremely time consuming, again it can be a very costly affair.
You can also hire a less experienced PR consultant or may be even an intern at a man hour rate of $20 to $40 per man hour. Again, since they’re relatively inexperienced and do not have those links in the industry that bigger PR consultants have, they will also take their own sweet time and will eventually eat a big pie of your marketing budget every month. However, this is more viable solution for small start-ups that operate on a tight marketing budget.
But, what if you could do it in-house. PR is not a rocket science. You don’t need a degree in Mass Communication to do it.
In this article, we will tell you how to break through the noise and influence the influencers without hiring an external PR agency. We will tell you how Fashion start-ups can effectively execute and manage their brand’s PR.
Influencing the Publishers
1) Build Media Contacts
As a business owner, it’s one of your responsibilities to build media contacts. You just can’t solely rely on a PR agency for this. If your PR agency builds a new contact, it’s their contact. Start today and make a spreadsheet of influencers (publications, their editors, bloggers, celebrities etc) that are relevant to your brand.
2) Do your research before you contact them
Go through each one individually, get to know them, know their style of writing, their interests, places they have been, follow them on twitter. This will help you in writing personalized pitches. Even the influencers will appreciate the fact that you know them and have done your home work before contacting them.
3) Make yourself relevant
Once you know who your target influencers are, you must ensure that you and your brand are actually relevant to them. Find angles of your brand that would be relevant to each influencer you’re about to pitch. Make sure you have something interesting to say to each one of these.
4) What’s your story?
Story builds excitement. If you do not have a story, all your pitches to these influencers will look like boring promotional letters. Think about what makes your products and brand so interesting. They want to hear interesting stories – give them that.
5) Realistic expectations
PR is a time consuming job. Don’t expect a home run on your first attempt. It’s exactly how it happens in sales. You meet prospects, pitch them and move to next. You try to build a pipeline of leads by pitching to as many prospects as you can for months. After 3 months of pitching, you might get a call from the influencer you pitched 1 month after you started. It’s all about wanting it badly and building a pipeline of leads.
6) There is a time lag in print
If you’re pitching to an editor of a print magazine, remember that there will be a time lag. These publishers have an editorial calendar. Even if the editor has accepted your story, expect it to be printed not before 2 months. So, don’t be disappointed if you don’t see your story in a magazine sooner, this is how print works.
7) Pitch for print and web
While pitching to a print magazine, remember that almost all print magazines have an online presence. If they are not already doing it, request editor to give you coverage on both – their print magazine and website.
8) Maintain a pitch report
Weekly, Fortnightly or monthly, sit down with your team with a pitch report. Look at all the people whom you pitched and how did they respond. Ask questions – are we targeting the right influencers? how can we get their attention?
9) Don’t look desperate
As desperate as you may be from inside to get a media coverage, don’t let it show to the person you’re pitching to. Instead, just make sure you have an authentic and unique voice.
10) Online is better than print
No one likes to read old newspapers and magazines. People read their current issues and throw them in trash next day or next month. On the other hand a mention on the magazine’s website will stay there for ever and will continue to send you referral traffic and sales for a long time. Other than that, you get a huge SEO benefit when these media publications link to your website. So, the choice is very simple. Don’t worry too much about getting a mention on print, focus more on online media publications.
11) Don’t send generic pitches
Like we said earlier, these influencers receive tons and tons of emails and letters everyday. Most of them look the same. Make an extra effort to stand out from this noise. Send them a small pitch that explains in as fewer words as possible – why is your story good for the editor’s magazine? Why should a publicist recommend your dress to his/her client?
12) Do something unexpected
No one pays attention to the obvious. Sending them one t-shirt when you’re in t-shirt business is obvious. Think hard about what you can send that can catch their attention. It has to be an amazing and extremely personalized gift that makes them smile.
13) If it’s really good, put it on the Internet
If you’re confident that you have done something really outstanding, make it hard for them to ignore it. Put it out on the internet and let everyone know what you have done for them.
Influencing the Celebrities
14) Don’t contact celebrities directly
All these celebrities have publicists who manage all their public relations. Don’t try to bypass them as celebrities pay them for this work. Moreover, it would be easier for you to contact their publicist.
15) Get a Pro Account on IMDB
You can go on searching the Internet to find the publicists of your target celebs or you can save time with an IMDB pro account. It’s the easiest way to not only know the celebrity publicists but also get their business phone, email, address etc. It makes your job a lot easier as you can directly ask them – how can you submit your cloth to their client? What’s the procedure?
16) Don’t send directly to someone’s house
Influencers and their publicists would appreciate it if you respect their privacy. If you don’t, they will not appreciate you contacting them and thus it defeats the whole purpose of the gift. They have a business address and its sufficiently accessible. Direct all your communication to their business address only.
17) Be respectful to handlers
Show respect for celebrity assistant, publicist, manager, associates etc. Don’t try to pressurize them with rigorous follow-ups. Once you confirm that your packet has been received, the ball is in their court. Allow them to get back to you. If they don’t respond, it means you were not able to impress them, you did not do a good job.
18) Don’t stalk
You can call them once in advance and then again once to get the confirmation that they’ve received the packet. Good way to confirm receipt is sending the gift with a certified receipt so that you know who signed for it, and when. But don’t keep calling again and again to follow-up. That’s stalking.
19) Don’t spam them
Good that you were able to find even their personal email address with your ninja research skills, but prefer emailing on their business email. Worse thing you can do is email them on both their personal and business email address. If you want to make it even more worse, you can send recurrent follow-ups on these emails. That’s spamming and it won’t work. Just send one email and a follow-up email to their business email. If they don’t reply, it doesn’t mean they didn’t receive your email; they’re not interested.
20) Make an impact at the first point of contact
You can pretty much assume that your box will not make its way directly to the target person. It will go through a channel and will be inspected at each touch point. So, if you’re trying to promote a handbag, send them multiple pieces. Your objective should to spread-out the product from the first point of contact when you reach out these influencers.
21) Bespoke has higher chances of winning
To make an impact, you have to design the experience. Customize it to give a personalized gift experience – it should be an amazing gift that makes them smile.
22) It’s a gift – feel the joy
At the end of the day, it’s only a gift. Feel the joy of giving. Many people will not even acknowledge the receipt but that’s fine. What’s more important is that you’re giving away things to build genuine relations. If you keep sending gifts, eventually you will build few connections to compensate for the ones who did not reply.
23) Don’t make it a fan email
Do not make generic statements like “I Love you”, “I am a big fan” etc until you want to get lost in the noise. Everyone says that. You’re not sending a fan mail. You mean business, right? Let your actions speak rather – what you have sent, how much effort and creativity you have put in it. Showing empathy, respect and admiration for their work will be more helpful in standing out and forging a great relationship.
24) Use high quality packaging
Presentation is everything. It shows how serious you’re about building a new relationship. Use second hand material to package your gifts and you will ensure that no one will even bother opening the packet. The packaging of your gift speaks volumes about you – the sender. It’s your first impression. Make it big. Your packet needs to stand out.
25) Don’t forget to drop your business card in the box
Make sure you include a nicely designed business card in your gift box, with your name, brand name, logo, phone number and email. Sending a business card is a gesture which suggests that you’re also looking for a business relation.
26) Don’t shoot for the top
Go against the conventional wisdom. Forget top celebs, top social influencers, top Youtube channels, top bloggers, anyone at the top. If you shoot for the top, you will have to deal with lots and lots of noise in order to grab the attention of the influencers. You have to be lucky to make it happen sooner rather than later. However, if you target the ones who’re not at the top right now but still quite popular and have a decent following, it’s much easier to grab their attention and start a relationship.
27) There is no guarantee
The thing about sending gifts to celebs is that there is no guarantee. There is no guarantee that they will wear what you have sent them, or they will share it with the world when they wear it or they will get photographed wearing your gift.
28) Celebs are great and Style bloggers are greater
Bloggers are the new celebrities and are much more approachable than celebrities.
You can offer them your clothes, they will listen to you. If they like what you say, they will share your clothes with everyone through their blog and also tell their audience from where to buy your clothes. It means massive referral traffic to your website, huge brand exposure and most importantly instant sales.
Celebs won’t do that for you because that’s endorsement and that involves their publicist, money and other things – way too complicated for small businesses. They will wear it but then you have to lucky that they get photographed wearing your dress or tweet about you.
As a Fashion start-up, it’s your responsibility to build links with influencers. It can give you unmatched brand exposure and may be even show you few short-cuts.
However, it takes a lot of innovation, hard work, management and persistence to make it happen.
And admittedly it’s expensive too as it requires a lot of time and energy to think about the ideas and to go through all the way. If you can’t do all this then may be you don’t want it bad enough.
You will realize that it’s a small investment when you look at it spread over time
So, do not worry about rejections. Just keep pitching influencers and eventually you will find someone who will like you and your work and will be happy to share your brand with their audience.