Q&A: Designer’s guide to hiring a PR Firm

Today we have a guest entry from Shannon Cavanagh-Estrada, co-owner of Pitch Press. Pitch Press provides affordable public relations that focuses exclusively on securing fashion editorial. She has an extensive resume but her highest credits (in my opinion) are Miracle’s continual praises. This article is a Q & A of questions she hears most often. Thanks Shannon!

Q. I have been putting off hiring a PR agency because frankly I’m scared to death of hiring the wrong one! I know I have to invest a large chunk of change to get a longterm PR campaign going and that’s not the scary part… Besides referrals and the agency having experience with your target market – what else should we be looking for in good PR agencies?

Shannon: When hiring a public relations firm, first and foremost it must be a fit for your needs and a fit for your company. Personalities should mesh and practices should jive. PR firms should specialize in one industry as opposed to all. Make sure they have valid contacts and consistent outreach with the media and press you are seeking. Steer clear of ‘Girl Friday’ type firms (those that handle PR for a wide range of products and companies) and veer towards those that are experts in your industry and theirs.

Q. How does one go about finding a suitable PR agency short of googling “boutique PR” or “fashion PR”? I’ve tried searching online a few times to find agencies for future reference… but have never actually found many agencies that represent lines I hang with. (Maybe most do their PR in house, I’m not sure)

Shannon: Look to websites you shop, respect, peruse and may even be your competition to find out whom they work with. Seek information through Social Networking sites like Twitter and log onto the Better Business Bureau’s site. If you work with a showroom, they can provide references. If you have any existing editorial relationships, ask whom they prefer to work with; I guarantee they’ll have a strong preference.

Q. For a new brand who can’t yet afford an agency, is it worthwhile to hire on a freelance PR agent or would one be better off doing their own PR?

Shannon: If you are a ‘new brand’ make sure you have a branded, properly functioning website before you commit to anything else in your business plan. PR is a commitment. You shouldn’t expect to see any editorial placement for 9+ months typically and when you do decide to commit to getting your brand in front of the editors you seek, you will need to hire a professional. Typically, editors have low tolerance for designers who do not know the ins-and-outs of the PR process and blind-call and worse yet, blind-send samples. The PR process is fast and fastidious and should be left to those that have the proper etiquette, experience and expertise.

Q. If a product gets featured on a talk show, like Oprah or Rachael Ray, or in a major magazine how much inventory should one plan on having in hand? Pretty much anyone I talk to either wants to be on those type of shows or tells me I need o get my product on those shows. But I think it is prudent to do that only if the company is prepared.

Shannon: Everyone wants to be on Oprah. Everyone. It can single handedly change the course of your business. But since Everyone wants to be on Oprah, Oprah, is getting pitched, by Everyone. So the reality is, your product has a very long shot of being on Oprah. Programs such as Rachael Ray and The View might have more favorable odds (depending upon your product/collection/brand) but there is no guarantee your product gets worn, mentioned, bragged about, or could get skipped altogether and worst case scenario: the show gets preempted that day due to national news. In the end, much of it is a crap shoot. You can be featured in print and sell $70,000 in merchandise one month and not a single cent the next. Press comes down to timing; consistently being in front of the right people at the right time.
Don’t hesitate to contact Shannon if you think Pitch Press would be a fit for you.

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  1. Mary Lombard says:

    Grateful to learn about something I hadn’t even thought about! Being a professional gives you respect for others that are professionals in their industry; well worth time and money to hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

  2. Keep in mind, too, that PR people aren’t magicians & that getting your company in front of media eyes takes time. It’s like planting a seed…sometimes it doesn’t sprout for 6 months, sometimes longer! Also, be willing to work in tandem with your PR person & help them in any way you can.

    I did an interview with Working Mother magazine in 2007 and it just ran in the current issue!!

    Heather Allard
    The Mogul Mom

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