PR expert Sarah Blenkinsop reveals how to make the most out of a results-driven campaign
So often PR gets mixed up with marketing and sales. It’s understandable because each area feeds into the other. But it’s worth bearing in mind the true definition of PR: a public relations campaign is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. These publics include customers – both existing and potential, employees and management, investors, media, government, suppliers and opinion-formers.
A good PR agency has excellent contacts within the media and can help you business create a strong impact in the press. Ideally you would want to choose one with a track record in your industry. Fashion PRs should have contacts within the trade press, consumer print media, consumer online media and bloggers as well as a strong social media network.
Of course, some of these are easier to spot than others. You can easily see how many followers an agency has on Twitter, for example, but working out whether their contacts list is as good as they claim is harder. No PR agency will reveal their media lists as these are its strongest asset; but you should be able to get a feel for what kind of publications the agency would approach and where they have had previous success. A good agency will be able to give you examples of their previous campaigns and written work.
It’s all very well tasking an agency with raising your profile. But once you have chosen representation that you are happy with, it’s important that they are given the credit of understanding as much of the business as possible. They will need to get a really good feel of how you operate in order to have the maximum impact. They should also be able to spot opportunities for cross promotion with other areas of the business and advise on your overall communication strategy as opposed to just being involved in the media side. The more information a PR is given about you, the business, your ambitions and goals, the more effective they can be. Keep your agency regularly posted of changes within the business, as well as of new products in the pipeline and your thoughts on promotion.
Plan to succeed
Every PR plan will need to consider at least six months ahead, if not longer. It needs to take note of the media requirements. A good rule of thumb is that most monthly publications are working three months in advance while bloggers and online publications can obviously act far more quickly. However the online versions of the glossies will almost always reflect what’s in the publications at the time so alongside any plan it’s a good idea to read the print version of the target publications and be ready to react. Any plan should involve regular updates of your social media and website.
Always read the publications you want to target. Are there areas where you can comment? All bloggers accept comments – can you get yourself a name by making intelligent contributions and therefore raising your profile?
Most PR agencies will subscribe to journalist request services such as Response Source and Fashion 4 Media. These services are where journalists post requests for editorial features and PR representatives are given the opportunity to respond. It is important that you are ready to respond quickly to reactive opportunities when they arise. Journalists are anything but patient, and if they need information, samples or images, they tend to need them immediately. Too often opportunities are missed because companies don’t respond quickly enough. Ensure that there is always a means of communication between you and your PR agency.
If your company receives positive coverage, ensure that you add this to your website, mention it with links on your social media and have printed copies available for your portfolio. The more places coverage is added, the more people will see it. It can’t be assumed that everyone you would like to target will read the same things at the same time.
Monitor your social media regularly for mentions – re-tweet positive messages to your own followers to ensure that you get the most of them.
Have a little patience
We regularly hear from potential clients that they have had a PR agency on board for a couple of months and have seen no results, so are looking around for new representation. In order for any agency to have a positive impact on the business, you need to be prepared to give them at least four to six months to prove themselves. Going back to what I said about publications’ timelines, even if you have immediate success with a monthly publication, this won’t be published for at least three months – and that’s immediate success! It takes time to establish contacts that are suitable for the brand and for you to understand each other. It’s a commitment on both sides, so you really shouldn’t be surprised if agencies ask for a minimum timeframe.
Sarah Blenkinsop is the MD of Golden Frog Public Relations, which specialises in the fashion industry. She has over 15 years’ PR experience and currently works with brands including Kate Fearnley, Tommy Tou, Wonderlifts, Lizzie O Boutique, Love London Fashion and Clean Heels.