5 Tips For Networking With Fashion Journalists
Most fashion designers want to meet two people: buyers and journalists. As someone who is the latter, I meet a lot of fashion designers. Some of whom I will end up featuring in the publications I write for, and some of whom I will not.
The best business relationships are built on an understanding of each other’s needs, and what I often see when meeting designers at networking events is an over-excitement at finding the person they need, without thinking about how I work.
This is something that is integral to what every PR professionals needs to know and how they get their clients in the press. However, when you’re a young fashion brand and managing your own press relations, this is something you’ll have to learn and it could be the difference between getting in the media and not.
Here are my top tips, based on real meetings I’ve had with designers, to make the most of the opportunity and score press coverage:
- Realise this is the first step in an ongoing relationship
Designer’s expectations: I will meet this journalist, show them my brand, they will love it and write about it in their next article.
Journalist’s thoughts: I’m looking to meet interesting brands for future articles who can provide me with ongoing stories and beautiful collections.
It is very rare that I’m introduced to a brand for the first time and write about them immediately. Sometimes I want to wait and see how the brand develops; if they pick up interesting stockists or create an interesting marketing campaign. Most of the time it’s because the brand doesn’t fit with anything I’m working on at the moment. That doesn’t mean I won’t write about them eventually.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get press coverage out of one meeting. I have a lot of brands on my radar and it’s often a case of speaking to me about the right thing at the right time to get featured.
The great thing is that if I’ve met you in person, I’m more likely to remember you when I’m looking for brands to feature but you have to keep on reminding me that you’re there!
Keep the conversation going and eventually you’ll be the brand I need to fill a hole in my latest article. PR is a long game, not a quick fix.
2. Don’t offer me freebies unless I ask
Designer’s expectations: Journalists always get given free gifts, this is what I need to do to keep up with other brands.
Journalist’s thoughts: Freebies can be a great perk of the job, but I would never compromise my journalistic integrity for the sake of one.
Firstly, you’re a small brand. If you start gifting every journalist you meet, you’ll end up bankrupt. Secondly, this is the first time we’ve met, I’ve probably not even seen your collection so I don’t know if I like it or not and if I don’t like it, no matter how many free items I’m given, I won’t feature it.
Unlike beauty or food brands where it’s important to test the products before writing about them, and where it’s also much cheaper to send out samples, it isn’t necessary for me to own a piece of your clothing to know if I like it and whether it would be suitable for my readers.
Yes, gifts can be a great way to say thank you for coverage or continue to keep our relationship sweet but this can happen much later down the line than our first introduction.
Not having good quality, high resolution images of your clothing is much more likely to hinder your chances of being featured than not giving me a piece from your brand, so don’t feel pressured into parting with expensive stock.
3. Do more asking than talking
Designer’s expectations: I have ten minutes to convince this journalist to write about my brand.
Journalist’s thoughts: I don’t know how to tell this designer that their brand is not the sort of thing I write about.
The other reason why it’s important not to offer to gift me on our first meeting is that we’re still getting to know each other and we don’t necessarily know if it’s possible for us to work together in some way. This is why you need to ask lots of questions.
I often speak to designers desperate to tell me as much as they possibly can about their brand without finding out about how their brand could fit in with what I do.
Of course, I want to hear about your brand and, as a journalist, I quite naturally ask a lot of questions, but don’t be afraid to ask questions back. The more you know about my work, the easier it will be for you to help me with my work and get featured!
Good questions to ask: What type of fashion brands do you write about?
There’s no use trying to sell me your luxury, £800 dresses if I write about affordable fashion and vice versa!
Are there any regular features in the magazine/newspaper you look after?
If I look after the shopping pages, you know to send me product ideas and images, if I look after a ‘what’s on’ section, tell them about your next pop up event etc.
When is the best time to send you story ideas?
Remember what I said earlier about ‘the right story at the right time’? Here’s how to find out when I’m having editorial meetings/researching story ideas and get in there before anyone else.
What are you working on at the moment?
There may be opportunities for you to involve your brand with a current article I’m writing, and it’s also a good question to gauge the type of things I write about generally.
4. Tell me about your brand and why I need to know about your brand now
Designer’s expectations: Journalists are always looking for new brands to write about
Journalist’s thoughts: I’m always looking for new brands with news-worthy hooks
If you’ve flipped through or clicked around a fashion magazine recently, you’ll notice that most of the articles have a bit more to them than ‘this is a cool brand.’
While it’s important to tell me about your brand in general, try to also throw out something that’s current and newsworthy. I’m looking for stories. Just having a beautiful product isn’t usually enough to inspire me to write about someone.
Some suggestions to help me come up with an article idea that includes your brand:
“I design shoes which are all handmade in the UK and are inspired by watercolour paintings. We’re working on a special collection with an artist right now.”
“My brand is inspired by 80s and 90s club culture. Our best-selling jacket this season is perfect if you’re doing anything on the metallic trend.”
“Our jewellery brand has been worn by Katy Perry and Jessica Biel. Our e-commerce website is launching in April, I’ll be sure to send you the press release about the launch.”
5. Follow up, follow up, and follow up again
Designer’s expectations: If I’m not hearing back from them, it means they don’t want to feature my brand.
Journalist’s thoughts: I don’t have time to reply to every press release that comes into my inbox but I want to keep this brand on my radar for future articles.
It’s generally good networking advice to follow up with an email to the people you met the next day. However, since you now know this is just the beginning of your relationship with the journalist — provided you asked all the right questions and have figured out whether or not this is a journalist who is likely to write about you — you’re also going to be thinking about how you can stay in touch with them in future.
In your first email, let them know it was nice to meet them and say that you’ll keep them up to date with all your brand news. Ask them to keep you in mind for any relevant features they’re working on and you can arrange samples, images and/or interviews if they need.
Next, add them to your press database. If you don’t have one, now is the time to start one. Send an email to everyone in this list whenever you have news; a new collection, a new stockist, an event you’re taking part in, a celebrity wearing one of your pieces etc.
Try and keep contact as regularly as possible but don’t send pointless emails for the sake of it. Always be interesting and informative.
You may get a response saying they’re not interested in this story or you may get no response at all, but keep trying. If your brand is a good fit for the journalist in general, it’s most likely that they’re just not working on anything that they can include you in right now.
It may seem frustrating not to get instant results from meeting journalists but play it right and you’ll have laid the foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship that can help your brand to grow.
Originally published at oliviapinnock.wordpress.com on March 6, 2017.