designing a business with intention: PR

September 15th, 2010   |   Business AdviceLife

Given my declaration yesterday about the purpose of MML, I’d like to discuss why I chose to go with PR for Jess LC. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not here to tell anyone what to do, but I  can share my personal strategy. After years of selling almost exclusively via wholesale to boutiques, focusing on my online shop is an awesome chance to interact with customers and store buyers on a personal level.

Back in the day (circa 2008), I worked with an awesome road rep team who sold it to boutique owners across the country. They were great at their jobs, and Jess LC was quickly sold in over 100 boutiques. The reps made the relationships with the store owners in person, and I would receive a purchase order and we would then make and send the buyer the jewelry. It was a pretty simple system that required samples and commission on the items that were sold. However, the downside for me was a) the recession which hurt store owners’ credit lines – and many boutiques ended up closing, and b) I didn’t have much interaction with customers or buyers.

Oh, and I should also mention that I started this little thing called MakeunderMyLife at the same time that I did a giveaway for Jess LC on Cup of Jo in January, 2009. These two incidents provided me with a brand new understanding of what was possible with the web for brand awareness and for pursuing my purpose. I dove head first into blogging and marketing Jess LC through blog ads and the result was intensely satisfying: I was fulfilling my vocation with MML, and I was making real connections to customers who ordered online. Since then, I spend most of my time and effort spreading the MML message and introducing Jess LC to customers and store owners via the web.

But after my re-branding this spring, I decided to grow the online shop even more, which meant I needed to start reaching people outside of the wonderful world of blogging. To do this, I tried (rather pathetically) to fit my own PR efforts into my jam-packed schedule. It didn’t go well. Reaching out to magazine editors intimidated me: I didn’t know who I should be speaking with, and felt wary about sending samples “into the void” hoping that they landed on the accessories editor’s desk at O Magazine, Lucky, and InStyle.

This led me to taking the first real risk in the business, hiring a PR firm. A designer friend had great things to say about working with the ladies at Red Light PR in LA and New York. After interviewing them and a few other firms, I signed on and have been working with them since June.

The takeaways I can share about working with PR the past four months are as follows:

  • PR is an investment – retainers are not cheap (at least for the good ones) and there are additional costs on top of the retainer for things like office supplies, shipping (though product requests are paid usually by the magazines/stylists), and display items.
  • There is no guarantee. This is not a science, and it can take weeks or months to land a credit in a magazine. The better the relationships the PR firm has with the magazine editors, the better.
  • Desk Sides are awesome ways for you to introduce yourself and your line to the editors directly.
  • You need to have lots of samples. In order for PR to do anything with your line, you will need to be willing to give them products so they can send them to the editors. The more they have, the better represented your line is.

So far, I have been really satisfied with how the PR has worked out and I’m excited to see what opportunities arise in the future!

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  • http://leberpr.com carrie leber

    I couldn’t agree more! thanks for the great post.

  • http://ijeomabyijeoma.blogspot.com Ijeoma

    What an insightful post. Cheers for sharing. xo

  • http://vadjutka.hu/eng vadjutka

    That is what I am planning as well – I just asked a friend of mine, who happens to be a very good pr professional (sty at home mom now), and she can do something for me in Hungary…but I think I will need advices for the rest of the world :-) hahahaha.

    But first I need to overcome my shyness and go to store owners – I am not rally good at introducing myself and convincing others :-(…any advice for that? What to say to store owners? (Unfortunately we dont have that travelling agent system …)

  • http://vadjutka.hu/eng vadjutka

    (btw: yours is my favourite blog.)

  • http://www.makeundermylife.com Jess

    @Vadjutka: All I know about getting into stores is in this post: http://makeundermylife.com/getting-into-stores-business-advice/ – I hope it helps you as well!