The fashion industry has been shaped by celebrity influence, a growing number of designers, and a more complex media environment. To reflect these changes, fashion PR professionals are rethinking their overall media relations strategy.
Winnie Beattie, founder and president of Siren Public Relations, explains that the marketplace has become more crowded, especially in contemporary and denim. To make a brand stand out, she says, pitches must have more “meat” and be more strategic.
“Sending a look book doesn't cut it anymore,” Beattie says. “There needs to be almost a guarantee of a celebrity affiliation or red carpet or runway in a brand for it to have credibility these days.” As a result, she adds, a general pitch must often communicate who wore the item and how it was styled on the runway.
Also, when pitching luxury products to mainstream outlets in an unstable economy, the products' quality must be communicated.
“We can't just pitch outrageous price points because [a product] is pretty,” she notes. “Now there needs to be some level of practicality.”
Giorgiana Magnolfi, PR director at IT Holding US, which owns such high-end lines as Malo and Costume National, agrees that the pitch must provide more detailed information about a brand.
“[In fashion,] people are curious to see what's happening next. Give the story line. A perfect example is talking about generational change,” she says. Magnolfi cites a recent story she pitched about Gianfranco Ferre, the designer behind the self-named IT Holding brand who recently passed away and was replaced by two young, established designers.
She adds that pitching to online outlets is a necessity in an age of gossip weeklies and blogs. To reach this audience, she'll try to match the gossip tone. For example, when pitching a social event to reporters, she will include information on which celebrities will be in attendance.
Ultimately, fashion PR is about maintaining and controlling relationships in a more complex media environment. Beattie explains that this mandates stronger face-to-face relationships with editors who are busier than ever.
Janna Meyrowitz, founder and president of Style House PR, spends a lot of time reaching out to bloggers on behalf of various up-and-coming design clients, as well as clients with e-commerce sites, such as National Jean Company. She'll often send a casual e-mail to bloggers to mirror the casual tone of the content.
She adds that it's difficult to monitor the blogosphere, where tone and content is less predictable than with print outlets.
“Let's say you missed a post a while back when a blogger goes off on how they hate a certain print,” says Meyrowitz. “Before you know it, you're on their bad list.”
To sort through the clutter, she uses an internal media list with color-coded tabs based on what the online outlets are working on. She also asks bloggers what kind of information they would like to receive.
While PR pros typically do desk-side briefings with long-lead editors and designers, it's more difficult to build that kind of relationship with a blogger. So for bloggers, she's looking into potentially using a video format for a brief, visual pitch.
Editors also find the relationship challenging. Julie Fredrickson, the founder and editor of online fashion network Coutorture – recently acquired by Sugar Publishing – finds that many fashion PR agencies have a “gatekeeper mentality.” Thus, she needs to educate her contacts and repitch the skeptics about “the metrics” of her site.
“We're a different beast,” says Fredrickson. “You might not understand our analytics... why our traffic is a good thing for your client.”
She says that 90% of the pitches she gets are not tailored. “We don't cover celebrity at all.” Her advice for fashion PR pros is simple: “Read the damn outlet. Do the homework.”
Carefully research a blog's content
Pitch the story behind a brand
Embrace a casual outreach tone
Underestimate face-to-face relationships
Be afraid of blogs
Send press releases via fax