Wednesday, 21 November 2012

How to Approach Fashion Bloggers: An Outreach Guide for PRs

 You need to stand out against the competition and be unique.
[Image my own, taken at London Fashion Week S/S13].

'Tis the season to be bombarded by PRs and marketing departments... yes, Christmas is upon us and many agencies and companies are approaching bloggers and needing their press release to be noticed. I've sat in both camps, PR/outreach and blogger, and I can safely say that it's easy to forget what it's like to be at the receiving end of your emails when you've spent ages working on a campaign and you have a never-ending list of people to contact. I totally get it. With this in mind, I've put together a few tips to make it a bit less stressful as you make your way through that blog list, and hopefully help you to achieve great results. 

1. DO make it personal

One of the laziest things you can do is to email without finding out the name of the blogger. Presumably you spent a few milliseconds/seconds/minutes looking at their posts, so it shouldn't take long to figure out their name, unless they deliberately prefer to remain anonymous. Simply writing: 'Hi, I love your great blog!' means you might as well admit that you're copying and pasting the same template email over and over again, and it doesn't matter how many kisses you put at the end to soften the impact (preferably none). Which blog do you love? Who has a bloody clue?! If you really loved their writing or photography so much then spend an extra two seconds referencing the post that caught your attention.

Most importantly, remember how annoying it is to receive post through your letterbox that's addressed to 'The Homeowner', because that's what you're effectively sending to the blogger. It's even worse if you don't even put any kind of greeting on the email at all, because that is being rude as well as being spam.

2. DON'T make us watch the party without an invite

Some PRs have an unusual strategy which is to prey on the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) culture by sending bloggers images of press launches that they were not invited to. Perhaps the target audience will be so impressed by the sheer coolness of the fashion party that they were not cool enough to attend that they will be spurred on to create a brilliant blog post about the ones who were invited? The more likely option is that they will just stare in bemusement at the sheer audacity of the PR. 

Let's put it in a scenario: the most popular girl in your school hosts a party but doesn't invite you, then asks you to help distribute her photos from the night, as you might just be lusting over what some of her chosen few guests were wearing. Madness. The difference between these events and the ones that we willingly write about without the chance of an invite (such as the Met Ball in New York) is that I know the organisers of the Met Ball are not trying to squeeze me for publicity; I can look from afar and admire, without having my face rubbed in it that I'm at home in my pyjamas. I knew I wouldn't be walking the red carpet in New York but I was happy to go along for the ride.

3. DO make sure your product is right for the blog

The scatter-gun approach of targeting contacts may get you points for enthusiasm but it doesn't get you anywhere in the long run. If you're flogging anything and everything then don't send out a press release that covers your extensive range of gifts for babies and husbands unless your bloggers write about families and marriage. Seriously, I don't care how bespoke your Christmas presents are, I cannot feasibly write about them unless I become pregnant or engaged overnight which, let's face it, would be highly unlikely on both counts (though that would be a show-stopping blog post). 

Doing that little bit of research can save you a wasted email and will allow you to stop getting distracted with the pursuit of easy targets when you should be focusing on building quality relationships with interested bloggers who you can work with again in the future. And remember, you can be more specific with your target audience, so don't aim at a die-hard vintage blogger if your client's product is brand new and smells slightly of plastic. It's okay to be picky in order to cut out all those irrelevant pitches, because you're unlikely to get a great uptake rate if you're barking up the wrong tree in the style stakes.

4. DON'T forget the geography

It's an obvious one, but you'd be surprised how many emails I receive that are geographically irrelevant to me, bearing in mind that I don't make a secret of the fact that I'm based near London. New York Fashion Week looks fantastic and I'd love to go, but inviting me with a week's notice means that there's no way I can scrape together the money for a hotel, let alone a flight, much as I'd like to accept the invitation. Closer to home, I've been invited to events on the other side of London at short notice - presumably as a last resort, I'm under no illusions here - which are basically impossible for me to get to without arriving as the last revellers are heading home. I know a lot of my peers are in the same position, wondering why they've been asked to go to a city that is hundreds of miles away without much warning, and it is much more common in the travel industry where I work, but then that comes with the territory as travel is now full of adaptable digital nomads. Fashion? We're a bit more settled.

By all means ask someone on the off-chance if they can attend your event, as you never know when people might be travelling, but be honest and admit if you know it will be out of their way ("Paris to Edinburgh? Yeah, should be a doddle. Dunno why she's making a fuss."). All it takes is a quick look at their author bio or their Twitter feed to see where they're based and then you can work out if they should be able to attend without setting out on a two-day trek to reach you.

I honestly hope these tips help to reduce some of the mad panic surrounding this time of year for those of you in PR and outreach. If you want to share your own tips or insight then get in touch, as I'd love to hear your suggestions.

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