Top 5 Ways To Generate Good Fashion Press

pr2As well as having good product, in order to get good coverage in top magazines and newspapers, Fashion PRs must come up with hooks, angles and stories about their product or company to sell in to fashion journalists.

For a recent assignment I did for Whistles, as part of my Fashion PR module for my Masters degree, I had to come up with creative ways of generating press for the Spring Summer 13 collection, examples of which I shall use to illustrate my points.

Here are what I feel are some of the top ways of generating quality fashion press:

1. Look at the environment your product exists within, and tailor appropriate stories.

People like to know where their product has come from. Particularly in the wake of the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, there is quite a large emphasis, in this country, on patriotism and being “Proud to be British”. In these financial times, people are also worried about too many markets and products being outsourced from other countries and there is a fear that traditional British industries are dying out. With this in mind, I wanted to see if there was anything unique about how the products in Whistles were made.

From my research I discovered that many of their leather items were made in factories in England, and this made for a nice story that could be sold into the press, as it played on patriotism as well as showing how Whistles was supporting the British economy.

I also found that most of their jewelry is fair trade and made and bought directly from those who make it in Kenya, and this made for good press as it plays on people’s need to be ethical, and for companies to be socially responsible.

2. Piggy back on the back of other big stories

_62044769_ennismedal article-2242350-16552950000005DC-588_317x436

With the expected birth of the hair to the throne and the style icon that is, Kate Middleton, there is no way that any fashion brand can escape this story this summer. For Whistles, they have a lot of statement dress in bright colours which are suitable for events such as bridal showers and christenings. Given that the royal baby is due in July, and July’s birth stone is a Ruby, I created a story with clothing in reds, pinks and oranges, to celebrate the birth of the new heir.

3. Exclusivity

Give journalists the chance of exclusivity to a promotion or line that no one else will have the chance to cover. There will be a 2 day event at the end of July, to promote the legacy of the Olympic games, and with this I decided to take the “Jessica” dress that Whistles already have and commission 10 new ones in different pastel colours in celebration of Jessica Ennis and her achievement. Its a nice story to cover as it gives journalists a new angle to cover such a large story i.e The Olympics.

4. Link with higher-end branding

Given that Whistles sits in the higher end of the middle market, paralleling it with higher-end brands is a nice way of securing press. Whistles’ handbags are made in the same factory as Mulberry, indicating that the quality of Whistles’ handbags is high, but the price is more reasonable.

01501410245_fr01501426522_bk01501426401_fr01501420845_fr

Jigsaw have also engaged in this in their recent Telegraph piece, whereby all of their tweed is produced in the same mill as Chanel.

slide655_2481434a

5. Identify unique selling points

What do people come in for when they walk into your store? With Whistles a lot of people like to buy their leather, silk and statement outfits for weddings and special nights out. A lot of people also like their clothing for work wear, and with this I created stories that centered around those themes i.e. pulled together images of Whistles clothing that I think would look good together, in order to make it easier for the journalist t   o visualise the story. For the work wear piece I also presented a stunt, a catwalk across the zebra crossings in Oxford Circus (symbolic of fashion and independent and high powered business women), that would make for a good photo-call in order that local press could pick up on the story also.

For any fashion story, make sure you are targeting the right sort of press. Give exclusives to long lead titles and invite photographers from daily or weekly press to photo-calls etc. K

Is Social Media Replacing Traditional Media?

With an increasing decline in newspaper readership and with more and more people getting their sources of information online, will this be the end of traditional media, and therefore traditional PR practice?

For decades, traditional PR has focused on building relationships with journalists in order to “sell” their stories into mainstream newspapers. With the rise of online news and informational channels as well as the developing trend of companies producing their own written content online, will we see a change in what public relations practitioners do on a daily basis? Will these relationships that we build with journalists become obsolete?

I would argue that despite the rise of online news, newspapers are still one of the most trusted sources of information, and the majority of people still get their news from print publications. Furthermore, the sources in which most people get their news online is from websites created by newspapers, for example, The Daily Mail Online etc, in which case PR practioners must still focus on relationship building with journalists, as they are the gatekeepers to a lot of news online.

The advantage of using social media and online news channels is the ability for publics to interact with the content and respond to content makers. This is what PR Academic, Grunig, calls Two Way Asymmetrical and Symmetrical PR as the internet allows a dialogue to opened up between companies and their stakeholders, which is revolutionary within the PR industry. Of course in the past, newspapers have opened up dialogue to some extent as readers can send in letters, but online information websites allow other users to see user comments and engage in conversation.

This, however, is not replacing what Grunig labels one-way publicity driven PR. It is merely another dimension to what makes up the daily tasks of a PR practioner. According to Maloney, it is estimated that nearly 80% of PR practitioners are engaged in promotional PR, and in a capitalist society, I personally don’t see how this will diminish.

The importance of print publications also boils down to what we know as  audience segmentation.

Forrester-technogaphics

When we break up or segment how an audience behaves towards a piece of content generated by an organisation, we see how many people do not engage with it at all. Most people find themselves in the spectator category in which case they read the information but do not necessarily respond to it, therefore there is still a large market for newspapers, which practice Grunig’s one way public information  model who are competing with online news channels.

Social media has its advantages in that it gives a voice to those who previously could not afford to have one, however, people are creatures of habit and will trust the sources of information that that have been using for years, i.e. newspapers. What we must appreciate as PR practitioners is that people are now getting their information for multiple sources. Print publications are being accompanied by online sources in terms of how people receive their news, and therefore to add to our tool kits we must learn how to use each platform to the advantage of our client. K

Social Media: Power To The Masses?

power-to-the-people02There has been ongoing debates in the past few years as to how the rise of social media will radicalise how people receive their information, how more people will now have a “voice” within society and ultimately how this will change the practice of PR.

The onset of the internet opened up the ability for anyone with a computer and internet access to publish thoughts, stories, ideas, and comment and potentially it could be seen by millions of people all over the world. Potentially, this could have been seen to pose a threat to the PR industry if more people were seen to be content creators. However, as ever adapting creatures, PR practitioners have managed to add to their bow the ability to use social media effectively.

Part of this debate was the dimension of democratisation; the birth of social media effectively gave license to the democratisation of information dissemination, and I suppose technically it does. However in a vacuum of millions of voices, only those that shout the loudest will be heard. And the loudest are those usually with the most power and money i.e. big companies and organisations.

It is true that anyone can create content and put it out there on the web, but how do you make people aware of that content? How do you tap into the right community or audience in which your content is aimed at? Also, how do you know your content is what people are interested in?

That is where PR comes in. PR is useful in creating content that people want to read and that is relevant to the product or company your are promoting. PR has moved now from story selling to story telling, as people invest in a company or product and build up a trust with it which translates into product sales or service usage etc. PR has adapted itself to utilise social media to its advantage. It knows where to put stories, when to put them and what type of stories should be told. Given that one of the most important skills a PR can possess is the ability to write well and for different audiences, social media shouldn’t render the PR industry obsolete, but if anything it should help it professionalise by offering a service that is unique to PR.

Of course, the companies or organisations with enough money can afford to higher PR practitioners to project manage an online content plan and strategy, and therefore, although everyone technically has a chance to be heard, how likely will a message from a small time blogger be reached by many as oppose to a story published by coca cola?

Everyone has the potential to be a publisher, but not everyone knows how to spread their message. K

“Modern Wars Are Spun Not Won” – What The Warring Parties Say Is More Important Than What They Do

tumblr_m0fd2hyowx1r5j5xeFor my Issues in PR module, we had to take part in a debate. My classmate and I had to argue against the notion, which initially seemed futile give that spin plays such an important part in war.

After doing a bit of research 3 strands to our argument emerged…

The reason for going to war is often coined through spin:

We argued that spin is necessary for conjuring up support for when a nation initially goes to war. Evidence that supports this comes from opinion polls and surveys of people form nations who are currently at war. For example we found that the majority of people in America supported the US invasion of Iraq in the beginning, however this support steadily decreased despite the “War on Terror” still continuing. Even though propaganda seems to be increasing ineffective as persuading people that the war in Iraq is still necessary, the war continues to carry on.

With the increasing power of the internet and social media, it is harder to “spin” wars as these informational  channels force governments to be more transparent in their reasons for waging war:

The way in which people receive their information and reports about war has changed. during the World Wars, peoples’ only means of information was newspapers, in which the government had a strong hold on what was published. Therefore, elements of propaganda were implemented much more effectively through the one source, however nowadays with a decrease in newspaper readership, and the rise of the internet,people are looking to other sources of information, which weakens propagandist’s efforts. Governments now have to compete with conflicting informational channels and messages, take for example the eastern news channel, Al Jazeera, offers an eastern view of the same events covered by western reporters.

Having said that, there is also a debate (that will be discussed in a later post) about power within communication channels. Although social media and the internet is a sign of democratising communication, there is also a strong argument that in spite of this democratisation, those with money and power can still “shout the loudest” and make their message be heard louder an by more people over all the other voices out there on informational channels.

With this in mind, our argument moved towards the idea that persuasion, rather than spin is used by governments during war to conjure up support and morale. People are more sceptical nowadays when it comes to governmental spin, given that most of the Nazi atrocities during ww2 that were used as propaganda by the western allies have now been exposed as over embellished or outright lies. In today’s society, people look for reliability, credibility and trusted sources of information, and thus governments have to be a lot more honest with their publics when discussing the need for war. Also with the rate at which information is disseminated, it is harder for governments to spin information that publics have already been exposed to.

Action and persuasion go hand in hand – ultimately standing armies win wars via combat

Ultimately, our argument was founded on that idea that persuasion is necessary as a tactic for war, but ultimately words do not win wars. soldiers fighting on the front-line do. If spin was as vital as the statement, “Wars are spun not won”, takes it to be, then why do nations all over the world spend billions on armies, navies and air forces?

Wars are won through action; the bringing down of Saddam Hussein and his regime and the symbolic toppling of his statue in 2003 and the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in 2011 illustrate that the end state of wars depends on military strength, rather than the ability to spin events.

The other team also had strong ideas that agreed with the notion and although it was a strong and healthy debate it still leaves food for thought. K

How All Companies Can Benefit From Online Campaigns

I LikeThe good thing about developing an online campaign is the general low cost of doing so. For my PR and New Media module on my Masters course, I had to design an online campaign for solving a particular problem. As mentioned in the previous post on this blog about viral videos, I developed a campaign based on getting more student girls into clinical trials. In my research, it has shown that there is a high interest among girls aged between 18 and 24 in participating in clinical trials, however a high amount of girls do not actually go through with the trial. This is often due to the lack of information out there about the safety of trials, and the invasive techniques that are sometimes necessary in order to assess the effectiveness of a new drugs etc.

The aim of the campaign was to provide girls with as much information as possible and to get people talking about clinical trials so that taking part in one doesn’t seem so scary.

The campaign was called “Girls, Get Real” in which it aimed to get girls realistic about what is involved in clinical trialing  It was fairly quick and easy to set up a twitter, Facebook and blog page however each platform had to be planned in terms of what content would be posted on which site. Each platform was created for education purposes only.

Twitter is good for advertising content on other platforms and therefore I used it as a ‘hub’ of the campaign for directing users to content on other platforms.

Facebook is great for displaying visual content in the form of pictures, videos and news articles. People on average spend more time on Facebook as there are multiple functions within the facebook platform e.g. Chat, video calls, games etc. therefore this is a good platform to link in blogposts and news articles and get people involved in discussion

The campaign’s blog is the source of information to really provide detail and convey the messages of the campaign. I also included a forum function as I felt it necessary for people to have a space to talk to other people n similar situations. The blog also contained a polls and opinion section as with a campaign like this it is useful to collect data along the way and to gain insights into people’s opinions.

Of course there are other platforms online which will be more appropriate for other campaigns, for example Instagram or Pinterest which focuses on the use of photos to drive a campaign but I felt they were not necessary for this campaign just yet. The advantages of all of these platforms is the ability to measure levels of engagement, resonation and sentiment and to see if your audience is responding in the way you hoped it would. It also allows you to change the discourse of a campaign if you feel you are not targeting either the right audience or people are not engaging with the content as you would have liked.

Metrics can be laborious but they are worthwhile. They cost a lot less to track than having to conduct a perception survey but one can still determine what the general feeling or sentiment is towards your organisation or campaign.

You must ensure to plan what kind of content you intend to post on each site, how often, and consider the time of year and social, economical and political influences effect how people interact with what your company posts.

If you carefully map out how each platform will be used, anyone can effectively use social media to boost any company and improve how it communicates with its stakeholders. Essentially, every company has the potential to become a media company. K

How Can Social Media Solve A Problem?

question-markFor my PR and New Media class I was a given a brief where I had to take a problem and solve it by creating a social media campaign.

The problem I chose to solve was the fact that not enough young, health female adults are taking part in clinical trials. There is a high interest from young adult girls (around 45% of applicants are females) but when it comes to actually attending a screening appointment for the trial, there is a high percentage (75) of women who do not attend.

Some reasons for girls not taking part compared with boys is that girls do not typically take as many risks as boys, they also don’t like going into new and strange environments on their own. Finally, from looking at online forums, a lot of people don’t have enough information about the ins and outs of clinical trials and often do not take part because of some of the health worries that surrounds trialing.

For my campaign I targeted student girls. Typically, they have more time and are more flexible in order to take part. The reasons as to why they take part or want to part in trials is also quite clear: financial gains. Students can receive up to £3,500 for any single trial, and as students are often strapped for cash, this could offer a financially viable solution.

My client was PAREXEL. a real organisation, but this was not a “real” brief. The problem exists but PAREXEL did not give me the brief. Therefore any branding used from PAREXEL was used solely for educational reasons.

My campaign, “Girls, Get Real” focused on getting realistic about clinical trials and getting more girls into them. It aimed to provide information to assure that trials were safe, for example, you are more likely to have a car accident than develop a health abnormality resulting from a trial.

My main message was that trials are safe, you wont “grow a 3rd ear” from taking part, and many can benefit from the high financial reward. below is a video that I created for the campaign:

In the changing industry of public relations, I think it is essential that practitioners know how to use viral videos as part of a good comms strategy. This touches on the trend that visual aids are becoming so important now to any online campaign, but what helps us as PRs is that everything online is measurable.  We can determine if we are targeting the right audience and how well that audience is engaging with the content. We can look at video views and number of shares to indicate how popular the video is and if it is resonating with the intended audience.

Ultimately it allows us to understand our stakeholders better and change the discourse of any campaign if necessary. K

Public Relations Ethics: The Role of the Individual. Part 3

Codes of conduct are often too idealistic. The PRSA advise practitioners to leave a position if they are being asked to act unethically whereby the public’s or organisation’s interest is at risk of being harmed. However it could be argued that the practitioner may do more good staying on to argue their case rather than resign and have the agency hire a practitioner who is willing to work unethically.

Additionally the PRSA advises member to,

“Sever relations with any organisation or individual if such relationship requires conduct contrary to the articles of this Code.”

However, in reality, a practitioner will be reluctant to ‘sever relations’ with an organisation that is paying for his or hers services. If a practitioner has financial responsibilities and a family to support etc, they are unlikely to leave a comfortable position in favour of their moral conscience, especially in the current financial climate.

Often the codes of conduct are ambiguous and open to interpretation. They are also not clear as to who should be prioritised first by PR practitioners, the organisations they work for or the publics they speak to. The PRSA promotes ‘mutually beneficial relationships between organisation and publics’ but fails to provide guidance for when obstacles surrounding this situation present themselves. In case of this event, the practitioner is advised to act in the way which causes the least amount of harm. However preventing harm may be achieved by withholding certain pieces of information, which then too can be deemed unethical and subsequently defeats the second principle of ethics, veracity.

Ultimately the triumph of either harm or truth is reduced to a judgement call by the practitioner, which relies on a mature ethical grounding.

Therefore, at the end of the day, the adoption of ethical practice depends on the individual and thus ethics are culturally specific. 2 factors determine how and why ethics are adopted; situational factors i.e. education, religion and personality etc, and secondly individual factors i.e. age, sex and nationality etc.

With these factors in mind, ethical codes are effective as long as the individual allows; if people are willing to lose their jobs or client accounts because of their ethical values then the codes of conduct will govern their work more so than if an individual does not have a mature moral conscience.  To those who do not have a strong moral standing, ethical codes will merely act as a veneer or ‘window dressing’ to persuade those outside of the industry that PR professionals work to a strict moral code.

Additionally it has been proven that a practitioner is more likely to follow a code of conduct if they are positively reinforced or rewarded for their ethical behaviour.

On the flip side of this, determining whether ethics are used or not could matter more dependent upon who is enforcing the behaviour i.e. higher management. Ethical codes are ineffective amongst PR practitioners who view themselves as agents of a higher authority; that is to say that if the matter of ethics lies with an individual of a higher decision making level than the practitioner, the practitioner may subsequently believe that adhering to ethical codes is not their duty, but that they must simply do as their boss tells them to.

There exists an increasingly important link between members of higher management setting a precedent for the application of ethical behaviour among its practitioners. Moral character, ethical attitude and intelligence of top level managers within a firm significantly impact the ethical nature of an agency and its practitioners. Top level managers serve as role models, provide ethics training and enforce appropriate discipline for those who practice unethical behaviour.

In conclusion the effectiveness of ethical codes is dubious as their use depends on practitioners and their environments, and thus there can never be a universal code that is applicable for everyone. Since the code of conduct, as promoted by the PRSA, has now shifted to serve an inspirational function, their effectiveness has increased. This is reflected in the growing number of agencies who require new employees to sign and understand a code of conduct, even if they are not members of a professional organisation. Through education practitioners will clearly identify the governing principles of ethics. Consequently ethics will become more consistent practitioners’ work which allowed them to build more trust with their clients and stakeholders. K