How Indie Beauty Brands Handle Public Relations
In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 18 founders and executives: Do you use an outside firm to manage public relations or take care of it in-house?
- Kristen O'ConnellFounder, Flora•py Beauty
We used firms for the first two years of our existence. One we used for four to five months and got absolutely nothing. Their reporting was nearly nonexistent, and we really felt they just didn’t understand our brand. We quickly pivoted and moved on to a new agency. We then had some pretty awesome results and really felt like we were working with a partner. That experience was great, and I think we will bring them back on board for new launches in the future.
I think boutique is best because you want someone to be constantly thinking for your brand. It definitely takes time to see results so plan on at least a six-month commitment. Finding an agency that you can activate around big events and launches is key. This is definitely not an expense you want recurring indefinitely. We do handle PR activities in-house throughout the periods in which our agency isn’t on retainer to try and stay top-of-mind with key publications and editors. It’s best to have an in-house strategy and an agency strategy that play well together.
- Nicole TracyCo-Founder, La Bella Donna
I work very closely with my PR firm, The Woods & Co., and we collaborate on marketing initiatives across traditional media, social media and direct-to-consumer channels. I chose a boutique firm because I feel that more creative minds are better than one. With a full team approach, I am presented with numerous ideas from multiple brains rather than just one.
- Fraser HillCEO, Skinega Inc.
PR can clearly be worth the money, if you have it. You only have to look at the glossy magazines to see who’s launching with a six- or seven-figure budget and a PR partner. Get what you can afford. Don’t necessarily go as big as you can, but go as niche as you can. Niche may be big or small, but go with an agency who lives and breathes your sector, and has a track record of delivery.
We do PR in-house. We are just normal people with a bank loan, a passion for what we’re doing, and the most genuine, authentic voice, our own, unaltered by PR or brand people. We know that doing PR ourselves will take so much longer, but like PR firms, we get creative and we get resourceful. That’s what you do when you don’t have resources.
Sometimes in life you don’t have the luxury of choices that only money can buy, and you have to make sacrifices. We simply couldn’t have launched and afforded an agency as well. Some would say we shouldn’t have launched then. Well, those commentators clearly are not entrepreneurs. When you believe in what you’re doing and have a genuine story, you make sacrifices, take risks, and relentlessly pursue your goals and you find a way.
- Ebru KarpuzogluFounder and CSO, AveSeena
We work with Push The Envelope PR, a full service public relations firm specializing in product placement and editorial features for beauty, fashion and lifestyle brands. We prefer boutique PR due to our interactive work to determine the best outreach and communication, not only in skincare, but also in health and wellness platforms.
Our brand is first of its kind as Dermoimmuno beauty-focused skincare. Being the first in the market requires a dynamic boutique firm that can effectively convey the message. The focus of the PR team is to combine the power of creativity, energy and forward-thinking with our innovative natural beauty approach to create effective reach and resonate with all who are in need of beauty made safer.
- Julianne RobicheauFounder, Robi Luxury Skin Care
I used to work in PR, so naturally, I’ve been representing myself. However, I haven’t worked in the industry in years, so I’m realizing I’m out of the loop. If you’re not constantly fostering relationships with the media, it’s going to be harder getting their attention, especially with beauty media because they receive so many product packages every single day.
You really need to stand out or have an interesting story and, then, you really have to have those connections. I’ve thought about using a boutique agency or a freelancer. That’s the route I’ll be going if I decide to budget for it. You just want to make sure whoever you choose has solid connections in the industry.
- Kara BrookFounder, Waxing Kara
When I first started out about five years ago, my friend called to tell me that an editor from Cooking Light Magazine was trying to reach me. My friend was listed as a stockist on my website. Something had gone wrong with the contact form on my site, and the editor was patient enough with the situation to be resourceful. I was able to get the editor what she needed in time and, as a result of the feature, I experienced lots of sales on the site that next month. That is when the light went off for me that the process of sharing our products and my story needed to become part of my weekly routine. I just had no idea how to do it, and there was no budget for PR.
I followed Design Sponge, and Grace wrote a story about Amy Flurry and her book Recipe for Press. I bought the book, read it from cover to cover, and went to Atlanta within a month to participate in an all-day workshop. I learned how to pitch, and Amy was so amazingly helpful and did some consulting with me to make sure that I got on the right path to PR.
From time to time, I work with different PR specialists. I am always open to work with different people and experience different opportunities. Recently, I started a test with PRVolt. It’s an interesting service that combines the power of technology with a PR specialist. They offer a semi-automated service that enabled me to keep in touch with my contacts while also reaching out to new contacts.
After the release is crafted and delivered, the interview process and the conversations happen directly between editors and myself. I like this concept. I literally just tried my first campaign, so I don’t have results to share, but I am optimistic that something good always comes from putting forth the effort.
- Betty GuerreFounder, Aim HI Every Day
We handled PR in-house until late last year. We went with a smaller PR firm and, while we really love what they’re doing for us and love working with them, we now know that we were premature in going this route. While we’ve had great press since hiring them, our experience has been that a solid marketing plan to accompany good PR would have been a better strategy.
- Stephanie G-MFounder, Ouli's Ointment
When I launched in the U.K., I was on a tight time frame to get Ouli’s out to the public before our move to L.A. Having started my career in makeup there 12 years ago, I wanted to make use of all my contacts and my network. The best way to do this was through PR. I was introduced to Capsule Comms, a fantastic beauty PR firm in London. Ouli’s was featured within its first few months of life in British Glamour and British Vogue.
Capsule Communications helped me spread the word and our image in ways I wouldn’t have thought up myself from beautiful press packages to the wording of press releases, [and] connecting me with retailers and more contacts in the industry. Capsule has a wealth of knowledge and can really help package what a brand is about.
Since relocating to Los Angeles the U.S., the PR Ouli’s has received has been through word-of-mouth and bloggers I have reached out to, and that has proven the most beneficial to sales in comparison to magazine press.
In hindsight, I wouldn’t change what I did because having that press helped lock down retailers. There is nothing better than seeing your product featured on the pages of magazines you have turned to for the latest and greatest in trends and products. But, at the same time, PR and retailers work far better together than PR on its own. It’s a real catch-22, so trusting your instinct and feeling out what’s right for your company is the first step in deciding whether PR is right for your brand.
- Danielle GreveCo-Founder, Beauty By Earth
We manage our PR in-house. We are a small family-owned and operated business, so we divide and conquer between the two founders and their spouses. My background happens to be in PR, so I handle all of the PR and marketing for the company.
You can also say that I’m a social media maven, both for our business accounts, promoting our products and my personal accounts, promoting our children. I personally truly enjoy handling the PR, while still managing to find time to raise our young children.
- Janna SheehanFounder, Ojai Wild
We just hired a publicist. After interviewing several boutique firms, we decided to go with an individual who shares our sensibilities about being grassroots, authentic and is passionate about the uniqueness of our process and story. We tend to wait and shop for what feels just right rather than fill a void.
- Brianna KingOwner and Founder, Brija Cosmetics
We are a small company that works out of my house, so myself and one employee handle all PR. We do it all ourselves mostly via Instagram, Facebook and bloggers. Admittedly, it's a hard space to be in because social media is incredibly saturated these days with other ads and posts. The new and always changing algorithms make marketing challenging because followers don't always end up seeing any of our posts at all unless they've been previously engaged.
It is time-consuming and requires a lot of time on social media to do everything ourselves, but I enjoy engaging one-on-one with customers and feel like every piece of content we put out is to create something realistic our customers can connect to rather than a perfectly crafted photo or vision of perfection.
- Gina CaraballoFounder, For Love & Beauty
So far, I have not needed to hire a PR firm. I do it all myself with the help of some friends along the way. I hear mixed reviews from other colleagues in business about PR Firms, so I'm holding off until I feel there's truly a need. There is so much available information on the internet, and I find it invaluable for a new indie startup.
I also listen to some great podcasts on marketing and social media branding to learn how to do it myself. I recently hired a marketing consultant who co-founded a successful social-good business. She has trailed a similar path to mine, being a young, female with a dream to start a do-good business with a limited budget. She has been a great help to me in so many ways, and is teaching me tips and tricks on things she already tried successfully.
Most importantly, I really believe in surrounding yourself with a tribe of people who are either entrepreneurs in some way or well-connected with others who may be. I truly believe you meet people along your journey that were purposely placed in your life for you to one day go back to for nuggets of wisdom. This is why it’s important to always get out there, network, attend conferences or events, meet people and try to say yes often, even when you’re tired and want to say no. Always being intentional and wise with your time is also very important.
- Graydon MoffatFounder, Graydon
We work with a publicist in Toronto. She's a one-woman-show who's a seasoned professional in the beauty world whose focus is on Canada, not the U.S. That means we still have to do a fair bit of outreach on our own. We could definitely grow in this area.
- Erika ElizabethFounder, By Erika Elizabeth
As someone who began their business out of pure heart and passion, it is important that whomever I work with when it comes to PR has the same heart behind the work they are doing. Not only that, but I desire a connection with the person who is representing my company. I want them to feel like they resonate with and stand behind my vision.
I recently hired a woman based in L.A. who does freelance work. She not only loves my products, but believes in my purpose for spreading them. This has made all of the difference in growing my company, and I couldn’t recommend this enough to other small companies trying to spread their product with intention.
- Dennis GrossFounder, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare
We handle our PR in-house. We have a great team that collaborates between social and traditional media to create 360-degree programs, maximizing our efforts. Our PR team handles press for my practice, Dr. Dennis Gross Dermatology, as well as for our consumer skincare line. The two really go hand in hand. I always tell my patients that if they want the best results, they should combine in-office procedures with a routine at-home skincare regimen.
- Kailey BradtFounder and CEO, OWA Haircare
For us, it is really important to get the right information across about our brand. We are a company with new-to-the-world products. We manage the consumer education portion of our brand so there are no miscommunications. Keeping our PR in-house has allowed us to do just that.
We manage all of the information that is delivered to our consumers and make sure that information is accurate. Even on our social media accounts, we want to make sure that questions are answered relatively quickly and accurately. At the end of the day, it's what is best for our consumers, so it is what we do.
- Marie DragoFounder, Gallinée
We started by doing PR in-house and got great results from it. After one year, we switched to a big, but friendly agency that understood the need of an indie beauty brand. And, recently, we have taken a little boutique agency in France, too, which brought us not only amazing press, but a lot of advice and help on tailoring our brand for the French market.
- Meghana AngleFounder, DIA Naturals
One of the most important considerations, especially for a new business like mine, is getting the biggest return on my investment. PR is a slow and steady process that takes time to see results. Right now, I’m handling PR in-house partly for the savings, but also to control exactly what information is going out about my business.
I need to let the largest number of people know that I exist, and that I’m offering something they need. I can accomplish both of those goals with freelance services through micro marketplaces for everything from press releases to video content. I emphasize that DIA Naturals is cruelty-free, organic, vegan, handmade with kosher and halal ingredients, and that we donate a portion of our sales to worldwide charities.
Social media is a vitally important element. I’ve found it’s a good idea to send an email to customers who have made a purchase to like me on social media, but it’s essential to maintain a steady flow of engaging content for consumers. I’m working on opportunities for being featured on blogs and by similar social media influencers, and perhaps writing a guest blog myself. I’m working on differentiating myself from similar businesses and honing my brand message.
I’ll also be featuring and mentioning customers in my social media posts. Above all, I’m not taking responses for granted, nor am I taking a lack of response personally. I’m making myself available for any and all promotional opportunities and, if I need help, I’m not afraid to ask for it.
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