In response to How to get publicity, I received one comment from a PR person that is worth an entry itself. This was submitted by Holly Russel of Pilot Publicity because -as she says- that in reading the comments, visitors “seemed a little discouraged about PR in general, and I just wanted to be a word of encouragement”. Without further ado, here some great advice and encouragement from Holly.
Finding publicity firms is fairly easy with a simple internet search, but finding the best company for you takes a little more work. The first thing you should do is visit their website. Do they list their clients, or have some sort of online portfolio? That’s usually a good sign. Google their clients to see who is talking about them. If the search doesn’t turn up any results, you may want to think twice about hiring this firm. Once you are considering hiring a firm, always ask for references – and make sure those references are current. If the firm can’t give you someone to talk to who has worked with them effectively in the last year or two, that’s a major red flag. A lot of people forget to do their research, but it will save you time and money in the end.
A freelance publicist or boutique firm can be a good option for someone just starting out in the industry. The main advantage here is that they are much less expensive than the large firms. An agency with just a few employees on staff, or an individual with a home or virtual office, has much less overhead to compensate for when charging client fees, so they are able to work within smaller budgets.
Another benefit is that smaller firms are much more accessible. At large PR companies, you are usually sold on the firm by a high level executive, but your project will most likely be executed by a junior level employee. The higher-up who was your initial point of contact will probably only be involved again if/when there is a problem. With the smaller firms, what you see is what you get.
Finally, an individual or small firm may be willing to barter – especially with a fashion or accessories designer. Ask if you can get a discount on their services in exchange for furnishing them with clothing or accessories from your collection. Some will jump at the chance. Also ask about publicity consulting. If you have the time and manpower to do your own publicity, but need an expert to put a plan together – and someone to call for advice – this could be a good option as well.
If you find you really can’t afford to hire a publicist, you should still have a publicity plan. Make a list of all of the media you want to target – Mastheads.org is a great resource to find magazine staffers. You can find newspapers listed here by state and Epodunk gives detailed profiles of all of the media and community resources in small towns in the US, Canada, and the UK. Also do a Google News search for “fashion” or “jewelry” or whatever your product is and read recent articles that have been written on those subjects. Take note of the byline (the author of the article) and add that person to your media list. Keep a spreadsheet of all names, organizations, and contact info.
Before you make contact with the media, buy a book about DIY publicity – I recommend Full Frontal PR by Richard Laermer. I also recommend Joan Stewart’s Publicity Hound website and newsletter. She sends out a free weekly newsletter full of tips, and has an extensive library of articles and CD transcripts that give all kinds of practical advice. PR is more than just mailing a press kit and calling a week later to see if the person got it -find out as much as you can about how a publicist works before you try to become one!
Keep in mind that a good publicist is a resource for the media, not a salesman for their clients. Provide journalists with information useful to their readers, not just another pile of product samples, and you will be surprised at the positive response you get. Are you a fashion designer? Give advice for wearing the latest trends. Do you make jewelery? Write a piece about the best necklaces for different types of necklines. Send a photo of one of your products with a caption explaining what it is, the price, and where to buy it, to accompany the story. Think beyond the benefit for you of getting media coverage, and try to provide useful content instead.