As the founder of the award-winning PR agency LFA, as well as the innovative member’s platform PR Dispatch, that specialises in supporting independent brands in getting the coverage they deserve, Rosie Davies-Smith has seen all sides of the PR industry. In this article, Rosie will help shed some light on the realities of PR and take you through why it’s not as hard to crack as you might think.
PR is what we do. However, when I say that, most people don’t really understand what it entails and what actually happens on a day to day basis in PR.
The glitz? The glamour? Endless events and always rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous? Now I can’t lie, we do get to attend some great events for our brands but it is a pretty rare treat for us to simply attend. Most of the time we get involved in the nitty-gritty of planning and organising events; we’re usually part of the mad dash of finishing touches just before doors open. You’ll likely find us climbing ladders to hang the lights or, on one occasion, I was cleaning toilets 10 minutes before the guests came in.
Well if that was not quite as glamorous as what you had in mind, the mundane day to day of what a PR agency does is going to be a bit of a shock too. Below I am going to break down some of the key jobs that an agency, like LFA, have to do every day to make sure that we get the best coverage possible.
The foundation of most of our work is research. Instead of blindly sending out product suggestions to everyone in our contact lists, we need to make sure that we are highlighting products that the press actually want to see to maximise our chances of being featured.
What we research usually depends on the lead times of the publications we want to target; if you want a bit more insight into media lead times be sure to read our ‘Understanding the Different types of Magazine Feature’ blog post from a little while ago. Usually when we are targeting online and short-lead press, we’re focusing on the current trends, what everyone is talking about and wearing right now. But when we want to pitch products to long-lead publications we have to look at least a season ahead.
Once we know what we want to research, there are then a number of ways we conduct our research. Firstly, we keep a spreadsheet for each season that breaks down key trends, colours and styles as it means we can always go back and have a quick refresher. Just after fashion week in February and September is usually a good time to have a look at the trends for the season ahead; if you update your research as soon as the information is out it means that you are always prepared for targeting the long-lead press and the short-lead spaces when you need to. Also, don’t be deterred by the mention of fashion week if you don’t have a fashion-focused business, these are still usually the times that interiors or lifestyle focused spaces start writing about their upcoming trends too.
Another way we research is by doing regular call rounds. Instead of sending emails on what we think publications might be looking for, picking up the phone once a week and asking what stories publications are working on and what products they are looking for can be the most efficient method of research. You can always call up the publication’s reception (telephone numbers are usually easy to find online) and ask to be put through to an editor you know writes a feature you want to be in; but if that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to ask for the fashion or interiors cupboard, they may not be writing the features but they will know exactly what products are being pulled and by whom.
A similar avenue for those addicted to social media can be to use Twitter to see what editors are looking for. By following key editors, editorial assistants and checking out relevant ‘journo requests’ hashtags, you can often find out what the press are working on straight away and get any relevant product suggestions over to them asap.
For more short-lead outreach, we need to make sure that no micro trends have come up since we put together our trend’s spreadsheet, so reading magazines and weekly supplements is key for staying up-to-date and spotting anything new or surprising themes that people are writing about.
Doing research into the current trends that are taking your sector by storm is obviously key but when researching different press spaces and the different audiences you want to expose your brand to, don’t forget about researching profiling or interview spaces for yourself. You are the founder, so if people feel an emotional connection to you and your story, they are more likely to financially buy into you and your product.
Building, and maintaining, relationships is another key task that we have to do every day. The truth of PR is that no matter how amazing your product is if an editor feels a personal connection to you, they are more likely to feature your product; in much the same way as when your customers feel a stronger connection to you, they are more likely to part with their money.
The key way we do this is through social media. I’m sure we’ve all had the moment when we meet a friend face-to-face for the first time in a while but feel as if we’re completely up-to-date as we’ve been following and commenting on their life on Instagram or Twitter. The point is people can build strong relationships through social media even without ever actually meeting, so why not use the tools you have available to you?
Whilst it may not seem like work if you’re following an editor’s personal Instagram account and commenting how cute their new cat is, the information about an editor’s personal style preferences can be very useful. Knowing whether they prefer lots of embellishments or are more into Scandinavian simplicity can help you with tailoring what products to suggest. Or mentioning that your product would have looked great on their most recent holiday to Spain shows that you are paying attention to them and they will hopefully feel obliged to invest the same interest in you and your product.
A little side benefit of this can also be a little added exposure. Editors tend to have a high percentage of influential followers and so by regularly commenting on their feed, their other followers will hopefully be intrigued to look into your brand a little more too.
I know that all sounds a little contrived but honestly, you don’t have to think about it too much. Once you’re following some key people on your social media accounts, identifying their likes and dislikes will become second nature. One of the key factors is making sure that the relationship you are building is genuine! Following every possible editor that may feature you is fine but focusing your relationship building on the handful of editors that you have things in common with and you think would be a laugh to hang out with, is a better way to spend your time in the long run when you want to build genuine relationships.
EMAILS. ALL OF THE EMAILS.
Truly the task no one can escape; emails.
Whether we’re sending out emails to let the press know about new products, following up on past outreach or responding to any call-ins that may have come directly to us, we are always on emails and our inbox is rarely ever close to zero.
Most of our email time is spent typing up and sending out emails to key press spaces. The most time-consuming part of outreach emails and a key thing that I think a lot of people forget about in a bid to just contact as many people as possible, is tailoring each outgoing email. Making sure you name the publication they write for as well as any regular feature they edit is a must. Plus, don’t be afraid to reference something from their social media if you follow them and its relevant information; if you’re pitching the perfect beach bag and they’ve just come back from holiday, say how great it would have looked on their trip.
Similarly, another time-consuming email task comes after reading magazines, supplements and online spaces for our trends research, where we often come across articles that would have been perfect for our brands. In those cases, we always drop the editor a little email saying how much we loved their feature and think that our piece would have looked great in their too, in case they are working on anything similar for the future. This is a really useful method for online spaces as they will often update any round-up style articles, so you could be featured during the next update.
Not quite the glamorous existence you had in mind, right? Well, that is the reality of PR; relationships and research galore. It can be daunting but if you read through our post on ‘How To Find Time To PR Your Small Business’ finding the time to fit PR into your current schedule is easy and if you break it down to research, relationships and emails, it’s definitely not as complicated as some people seem to assume.
We’d love to know your thoughts on today’s blog post. Connect with Rosie on Instagram @PRDispatch or join in the conversation over in the Facebook Community. If you want to pitch your product to both online and print press, you can become a member of PR Dispatch from just £7 p/m. Use code “sam2019” for one month free when you enrol in full membership.
Rosie is the founder of PR Dispatch, the first PR member’s platform dedicated to supporting independent brands to pitch their products to print and online publications. Rosie created PR Dispatch wanting to give brands with great products that couldn’t justify thousands with a PR agency a chance to be featured by the press. PR Dispatch gives members press contacts, workshops, a community of like-minded brands and support from PR experts for just £59 p/m.