My today’s story is dedicated to PR professionals and their relationship with us, fashion writers and bloggers. With some of the PR people that I keep in touch with, especially if they are located in Toronto where I also live, I have built a strong professional relationship over the years, which has been mutually beneficial. I attended their fashion events, I provided media coverage for their clients, I published their press releases, I enjoyed receiving beautiful gifts from them, I hosted giveaways, I got to interview celebrities from Toronto and from other cities, both from Canada and US. Unfortunately I’m not able to attend every single fashion event in Toronto that I get invited to, due to my family obligations, and when that happens, I actually feel like I’ve missed out. But, such is life. At least, I try to honour as many invitations as I can and I try to RSVP to as many events as it’s possible for me.
But in our relationship with PR it’s not all fun and games, it’s not all roses and lilies, just like in any other kind of relationship, be it friendship, love or business. From my writing experience, I can tell you that there are PRs and PRs. As much as I enjoy keeping in touch with PR people, and through them being closely connected to the fashion industry, I couldn’t help but notice quite a few faux-pas that some of them constantly make, which, to be honest, can be easily avoided, provided you try hard enough. In other words, I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes PR people need to put a little effort in the way they build their relationship with fashion writers and bloggers, because when they don’t, I have to tell you, it’s quite obvious.
But before getting any further, I would like to point the fact that this article is not a generalization in regards with the way all PR people do their jobs, of course not. And that’s why I’m trying to carefully choose my words by saying, for instance, “some PR people”, instead of simply “PR”, or “all PR”, and so on.
With that disclaimer said, I thought I could give a few tips to Public Relations professionals from my standpoint as a fashion writer, a.k.a. the party from the other side of the table; and if someone can benefit and learn from what I’m going to write furthermore in this article, and more importantly, if someone can improve their professional relationship with media with the help of with these tips, then by all means use them, and I won’t charge you a penny.
A few faux-pas that a PR professional should avoid in their relationship with media, in whichever order you prefer:
1. When you contact a fashion writer/blogger for the first time, introduce yourself and your PR boutique properly.
Just like in real life when you meet someone, let’s say at a party or at a social event, you first say your name and then start a conversation, the same should be valid when you contact a writer for the first time by email in order to promote your client. You have an interest, you want media coverage for your client, so the least you can do is introduce yourself, don’t just send a mailchimp without as little as a hello added to it. I can’t tell you how many mailchimps with press releases without a single word of greeting I’ve received, including from first time contacts. It’s impolite, to say at least.
2. Don’t send off-topic press releases.
When you send a press release to a blogger, make sure you first check the topic of interest of that blogger and check out her writing, whether it’s about fashion, or beauty and makeup, or lifestyle, or travel, or recipes. If I write about fashion, don’t send me a press release about cheese, only because you’re trying to promote your client who is a cheese maker; I won’t publish it. It would be a better idea to contact a food blogger.
3. When you send an invitation for an event to a writer or a blogger, check out the blogger’s location.
You’re in Florida, I’m in Toronto. Have you noticed from my blog that I’m in Toronto? Have you made any effort to check that out? Probably not, because I still have that invite to your event in my inbox. Does it make any sense to send me an invitation to an event you’re hosting in Miami? Sounds like a waste of time, both for you (to send out the email) and for me (to have to go through the new emails in my inbox and read it). I absolutely would love to attend, but unfortunately I can’t. Yes I have received invitations to events hosted in Los Angeles, New York and other cities South of border, while I’m in Toronto. I even received invitations from Romanian PR people, for fashion events hosted in Bucharest. Thank you very much, very nice of you to think of me, but I can’t fly half way around the world just to attend your event in Bucharest.
How about you create a little spreadsheet with your contacts, and include their names, contact info, field of interest and location? I promise, it will help you a lot, not only in regards with the location issue, but also in regards with all the other issues addressed in this story. The spreadsheet could look like this:
Feel free to use such a template, and don’t hesitate to check it every time you send out an email… I won’t charge you for the idea! And when you open this, you’ll know who you should send the invitation to and who you shouldn’t.
4. Send personalized emails to each of your contacts.
Many PR people, I’ve noticed, send their press releases to their entire contact list at once, with all the email addresses in the BCC field, and they start their email with “Hi!”, and no name, of course, since the email is addressed to 50 people. Yes I understand that time is a matter of essence and you choose this way to communicate with your media contacts to save a whole bunch of time and effort, and you prefer to send one email to everyone rather than 50 individual emails, I totally get that. But there is so much wrong about this type of communication as well. Do you know how it sounds to me when I open an email from a PR with “Hi” instead of “Hi Victoria”? It sounds like you have no idea who I am. Then how exactly do you expect me to publish your press release, if you don’t know who you send it to? I receive dozens of emails and press releases from PR people on a weekly basis, and there are so many of them, that my email address literally feels suffocated. I currently have about 1,150 emails in my inbox, and about 145 of them are unread emails, because I receive more emails than I have time to open and read them, let alone reply to them. Not all of these 145 new emails are from PR, of course not, some of them are newsletters (both subscribed to and unsolicited) which I haven’t had a chance to file or delete yet; some of them are confirmations for online purchases, etc. But in the light of the big number of emails I receive every week, you really need to catch my attention if you want me to publish your press release, and if you want me to choose yours out of the dozens that come to my inbox. I cannot possibly publish all them, so I have to filter them. And you won’t catch my attention if you send me an email with a “Hi” lacking any personality, instead of actually addressing that email to me.
5. When a blogger publishes your press release, make sure you thank her.
I admit I have published my share of press releases coming from my PR contacts. But every now and again I notice I don’t get a simple thank you for my effort to support them. And you know what? It bothers me. It’s an absolute NO-NO not to thank the blogger for publishing your press release. Since you were so eager to email her your press release to promote your client, then you should be just as eager to thank her once she’s published that content on her blog. It’s common sense after all. More than once I sent a link with the press release published on my blog to the PR rep, and I didn’t get back as much as a thank you, which is unacceptable. I don’t expect a whole thanking tirade, of course not, but make sure you reply back with those two magical words, “thank you”, which is enough for me, if you want me to publish your next press release as well.
6. Don’t send the same press release over and over and over again.
Yes, some of the PR do that, they send out the same press release again and again and again. I have received enough of these multiple press releases, with identical text, only with a different title and a few words changed here and there. Once the blogger has published that press release and sent you the link, don’t send it again, it’s redundant. Yes I know you’re trying to promote your client, but still, how many times do you think a blogger is going to publish the same content on her blog? Exactly, ONCE.
7. When you send beauty products, items of clothing, accessories or samples to a blogger, state clearly what you expect in return.
It’s no secret fashion and beauty bloggers are showered with gifts from brands and their PR. But I get the sense that sometimes PR people are not entirely happy with the outcome of such gifting, they don’t get what they expected to get in return. Well, in order to avoid any confusion and disappointment, I really think PR should be transparent about what they would like in return, and not to expect writers and bloggers to read their minds. You send a new foundation or a new lipstick to a blogger, but what if that blogger doesn’t write beauty product reviews? You send her a dress or a skirt, but what if she doesn’t do OOTD posts? So I think it’s very simple – be honest and open, tell the writer exactly what you would like, let’s talk, it’s ok to discuss, there is nothing wrong in discussing it upfront. Maybe I don’t usually write beauty product reviews, but if you are clear about what you expect from me once you send me a new lipstick or a new nail polish, I may make an exception and actually write that review, or I may come up with another idea to promote your product, if this is what you want. Just tell me, and then I’ll say yes or no, but I don’t have the time, nor do I have the ability to read your mind or guess what you want.
8. When you want to send products to a blogger, make sure where exactly you’re sending them and who is the addressee.
Once I received an email from a Romanian PR, stating something like this: “I just sent you by mail a few products from my client’s new line, hope you like them”. Guess what my reply was. “I’m sorry, but where exactly did you send them, because I don’t recall to have ever given you any mail address, and I live in Toronto, not in Bucharest”. Turns out, she sent those products to the office of a Romanian magazine where I also write a blog. Well, at least I’m glad my colleagues from the magazine had the opportunity to enjoy those products, and they didn’t get lost by Romanian Post Services.
9. Send your material in usable format if you want it to be promoted.
I refer here to good quality JPG/JPEG photos of appropriate size (not too small, not too large), press releases in Word documents, and other software resources a blogger can use to help promote your clients. I have received superlarge photos from some of my PR contacts, 47 M large – sorry, I can’t upload that on my blog, my computer will crash. I have received press releases in paper format, with no soft copy, no Word document, no memory stick, nothing but that paper – sorry, I don’t have time to type it manually from your paper to my computer. You want me to publish your press release and help promote your client, then help me help you and send me usable software material.
In conclusion, my dear friends from the PR industry, I think we all have something to learn from one another which can be useful to both camps. And I hope you will find these tips useful, don’t hesitate to apply them, as I’m sure these ideas will help improve the relationship between PR professionals and media.
And now I return to my side of the table, to my fellow writers and bloggers – do you agree with any or all of these points? Do you think it’s fair to expect all of these from our PR contacts? Is there anything you would add to this list of tips? Would you like to share any of your experiences in building your relationship with PR professionals? I really would like to hear that, so don’t hesitate to share it in the Comment section below.
***A useful source for writers: Technical Writing Tools: The Ultimate Choice of 83 Experts (2018 UPDATE)