knowing when you're ready for PR

PR is about storytelling and no PR professional worth their retainer would engage you without first understanding your story.

Dear Lilian,

Maybe a silly question, but at what point do you know your brand/line is ready for PR and how do you decide which PR Advisor/Group to go with? We use to always ask Cindy Edelstein these questions. Thanks for the guidance!

Elizabeth Stewart Read
Charlotte Allison

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for considering the PR Advisor to fill a role Cindy Edelstein did so well. You’ve given me very big shoes to fill. No pressure!

So, how do you decide which PR group to go with?

Go with the one who asks engaging questions and listens thoughtfully to your answers: Who are you as a company? How did you determine what you stand for? Who are your customers? Why are they your customers?

PR is about storytelling and no PR professional worth their retainer would engage you without first understanding your story. Ultimately, PRs are salespeople: we’re selling your story to our customers — the publications.

Understanding your customers helps determine which publications to contact. While we’ll obviously contact the fabulous people over at that fantastic magazine, National Jeweler, deciding which other magazines to approach isn’t quite as easy.

Let’s say Elizabeth Taylor is one of your customers. We all know how much Ms. Taylor loved her gems. A gal like Liz will be reading Vogue, Robb Report and Departures because their editors only feature one-of-a-kind pieces that are as statement-making as the woman who wears them.

However, if your customer is more understated in her jewelry choices, then we’d be contacting InStyle, Glamour and O: the Oprah Magazine. Although these publications will feature stunners befitting Beyonce’s décolletage, they prefer accessible jewelry – more accessorizing and accenting, less statement-making.

Smart PRs know editors are always thinking about who’s reading their publication. Editors decide which jewelry designers to feature based on their magazine’s consumer. And your consumers define which editors your PR will contact.

Elizabeth, can I bend your ear? I’ve got to tell someone about this recent experience.

My event producer friend recently contacted me as her client needed PR to launch a new jewelry collection. I asked my friend to send over pictures, which she happily did. That’s where the happiness ended.

This client had ostensibly awoken one day and decided she’d be a jewelry designer.

At least, that’s all I could surmise given the poor craftsmanship immediately apparent from the photographs.

My friend insisted those were terrible pictures and she’d send others. No, I said, those pictures were perfect. They were snapshots, absent Photoshop, which showed me the truth and saved an awkward first meeting.

I’m telling you, Elizabeth, if you’d seen these pictures, you’d have encouraged my friend to turn the launch party into a scholarship fundraiser that helps send her client to the Gemological Institute!

We’ll come back to this story.

Since you’re an acolyte of the Cindy Edelstein Program of Tell It Like It Is, I’m certain Cindy insured quality is the least of your concerns. Quality is an important part of being ready for PR, as no editor will feature jewelry that appears to be destined for scrap metal collectors.

Let’s run through a checklist of what else you need to be ready for your close-up:

Do you have high quality, high resolution photographs of individual pieces set on a white background?

No, not pictures your best friend’s nephew’s neighbor took with his new, $8,000 camera — bought because he awoke one day and decided he’d be a photographer. You need pictures from a professional photographer who understands how to make your 3-D gems dazzle in 2-D. Here are tips on finding one.

How is your website?

When I tell Town & Country’s jewelry editor about you, is he going to find a website that shows you’re serious about business or is he going to see what your daughter’s piano teacher’s son made for you? You know, because he woke up one day and decided he’d be a web designer. Here’s are tips on good jewelry web design.

Where is your jewelry sold?

Once upon a time, editors wouldn’t consider jewelry only sold on the designer’s website. They insisted on stores, and preferably, national ones. They’ve since become more forgiving. However, if your jewelry can’t be bought anywhere, including your website, why should they bother giving you valuable editorial space?

Can you handle a substantial increase in orders?

When I placed a client in “Oprah’s Favorite Things” (Oprah’s annual Christmas list that gets more publicity than Donald Trump’s tweets), even before Oprah’s people would consider my client for their shortlist, my client had to sign an agreement saying, if accepted, they’ll be able to fulfill all orders. Would you be able to do this?

Editors get ticked off when they receive complaints from readers who couldn’t buy merchandise featured in their latest issue. So before you consider hiring PR, make sure you’re ready for the results.

There are more questions to consider, but for time’s sake, here’s a very important one:

Will you listen to what the PR person tells you, even if it’s not something you want to hear?

Regarding my friend and her client, I spent two hours explaining everything wrong with her client’s jewelry; why I couldn’t work with such poor quality and craftsmanship; and what her client could do to turn things around. I even offered to explain everything directly to her client, who clearly was surrounded by sycophants proclaiming her the next JAR.

My friend understood the challenges I outlined and advised her client to meet with me. The client refused.

The client had already invested over $200,000 on a collection she thought would sell at a starting retail price of $35,000. My 15 years of industry expertise, evidently, was interfering with her dream of having a private salon at Bergdorf’s. She instead found a PR person who told her exactly what she wanted to hear. I have yet to see her jewelry anywhere.

Now, I’m not saying you must take advice from the first PR person you meet. I am saying, to avoid less ethical PRs, make sure the person is more concerned about how she can promote you than how much you can afford.

She should ask a million and one questions as it will require as much to fully understand your business and devise an appropriate strategy. The best PR person will act as your business partner, fully vested in your success.

And while this is often difficult to hear, especially when your business is new, good PR costs. You’ll almost always get exactly what you pay.

It’s better that you wait until you can afford someone good than to hire your husband’s boss’s daughter — who decided to be a PR person because she’d seen Samantha Jones do it on Sex and the City, and she most definitely considers herself a Samantha.

There’s so much more to cover, but my time (or rather, my allotted word count) is up.

Until next time, loves. 

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