Small Brand, Big Coverage: Indie Beauty Entrepreneurs Share How They Secure Press Mentions

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 25 brand founders and executives: What’s your approach to garnering press attention?

Leila Aalam Founder, Beuti Skincare

I was about a year into the launch of the line when I knew it was time to invest in PR. My approach is slow and steady wins the race. We ensured we had all our ducks in a row, and sales were steady and growing before we made the investment. 

We have worked closely with our PR agencies for the past 3-plus years. One is based in London—Debbie Schogger Public Relations—and Rachel Lynne Johnson Public Relations RLJPR is in the USA. It was important to me to work with publicists that worked hard, created results and also were a great personality fit.

Ray Shealy CEO, HaloSmile

We take both an organic and a paid approach to press. We work with a great firm called Light Years Ahead who is positioned throughout the U.S. and has experience in both beauty and oral care. Working with a PR firm who has experience in our industry was key for us after we worked with ones who were not as effective. Additionally, taking advantage of any positive press opportunities that made sense for us is something that helped get our momentum moving before we had a budget for a PR firm.

ROZY KRISTON Founder, Ampersand

Quite often, it’s best to leave media strategies to the professionals. We’ve found that it’s best to trust someone who’s on the outside looking in. Having the time and dedication as well as the right contacts pays when it comes to brand recognition.

So, not long after launch, we hired a PR firm, Push the Envelopefor tasks such as press packs, media opportunities and follow-ups. Since we’ve been working with a PR firm, we’ve been able to get the word out and make connections for press opportunities we might not have otherwise known. Leaving the press to the professionals has also allowed us to focus on other aspects of growing our indie brand, while maintaining our exposure to the public.

Lissette Monzon Founder, Lilly Be

Most of the press I have received has been from local outlets here in Miami. I have been lucky enough to be prepared, in the right place at the right time, and ready to share my story when the opportunity presented itself.  

Being that my company is in a place right now to accelerate growth, I have been investigating more concrete ways for exposure and press. Like most new areas of development, I have put on my entrepreneur learning hat and researched ways to pitch, contact, and build relationships with media. 

I have also looked into verified PR firms via UpLink. Partnering with one of these amazing PR firms is definitely an investment that must be budgeted for. Currently, I am continuing with my DIY method and following my instincts, but, as my brand and budget grow, I can explore more of these options.

Eugene He Founder, Ceramiracle

We use a PR firm to manage our press relations exclusively. Together, we have done desksides, press seeding and trade shows. As a brand founder, I find it helpful to build relationships with the press by contributing ideas and stories. Great content that is newsworthy is important to a brand, but getting the news to the right people is even more important! Melody Joy PR has been a wonderful part of our team, and they've been with us since our beginning.

EVELYN SUBRAMANIAM Founder, Bija Essence

To pay or not to pay for press, that is the question. Press is very important for brand awareness and identity. We were born of a personal journey and passion. Therefore, I feel that I am the only one that has the voice to communicate honestly and passionately about the brand. So, from the very beginning, I decided not to pay for press, but work hard to get press for my brand, at least during the start-up phase. 

My approach is to reach out to editors and leaders from different sub-groups in media, such as magazines, newspapers, blogs, radio stations, podcasts, etc.  I email, DM, LinkedIn and, of course, call them. My second press article was in Allure because I met one of the main editors, who loved my story, at Indie Beauty Expo. So, it doesn’t hurt to attend expo shows that target your market and industry because you may meet press that is right for your brand. Who knows, you may be in line for tea or coffee and meet the editor of your target magazine or podcast. 

Remember, press is crucial for brand awareness and also to connect with your people. This is why I have chosen to do press myself and speak about Bija Essence personally instead of hiring someone to do it for me as I want to connect with my people and express my passion. 

Mary-Andrée Ardouin-Guerrier Founder and CEO, Loving Culture

My approach to getting press for my brand has been to focus more on niche placement. Since my brand is both vegan and Leaping Bunny Certified, I have collaborated with Leaping Bunny through their promotional opportunities to generate more awareness, and I have reached out to vegan publications as well. 

Also, I was part of a small business program through the Columbia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the Columbia Business School and, through that relationship, have been able to get more local press in various different ways within the New York City area. So, while my press is not vast, it is expanding locally, and I think this is great for generating true loyal customers and partnerships. 

Annie Tevelin Founder, SkinOwl

I remember always being really self-conscious about talking up SkinOwl's products in the beginning. I wasn't good at it. It was in that moment that I made a decision to hire a publicist who could talk up the brand better than I could. Rachel Johnson of Rachel Lynne Johnson Public Relations RLJPR was the first person I hired to help me grow. Her approach has always been to wait for the great versus paying for placements or advertising as a way to market your brand. 

She's always wanted more for the brand and has pitched accordingly. From the beginning, she said having a publicist is a marriage, not a one-night stand, and I couldn't agree more. The longer you stick with the right one who really knows your brand, the better the coverage.

Tonia Walker Founder, Ime Natural Perfume

In the early days, I tried doing it all myself, Facebook ads, free sample mailings, cold calling, but, in the end, I realized the best way to market and get press for an eco-luxe perfume brand was to partner with a like-minded PR professional. They had all the contacts. They knew how to package it all together with press releases and get it into the hands that mattered. 

I just wasn't able to wear this kind of hat along with all the other hats I was wearing in the business, and it was definitely the better way to go for us. Yes, it is expensive, but, in order to cut through so much online and offline clutter and save time, which is money also, working with a professional who knew exactly what to do was invaluable. It also gave me insight into where to focus my attention. The other is exposure at consumer and trade events like IBE. You never know who will turn up that might be interested.

Valerie Obaze Founder and CEO, R&R Luxury

My career background is in PR and, before I ventured into manufacturing my own skincare brand, I had my own PR agency, so I know the importance of press coverage and how it can grow your brand. 

Our marketing and PR team try to find creative solutions when it comes to contacting media outlets and sharing our brand story. We proactively draft and send out tailored press releases when we have a new product launch, collaboration or news, and we ensure that our media list is specific and that we are targeting the right person at the publication, which can all be done with a quick Google search or by flicking through the magazine to see who writes the beauty articles. 

I also try to follow as many beauty editors, writers and freelancers as possible on social media from both my page @valerieoba and the brand’s page @randrluxury. Many of the writers often post requests for new products or information on launches on their Instagram and Twitter feeds, which is the perfect opportunity for you to send in information. Social media also gives you the chance to engage with the journalists directly by liking and commenting on their posts, which may get your brand noticed.

Oftentimes, journalists may reach out to you, so I advise always having a press release and link to images available so that you can respond quickly. However, it’s also just as important to be proactive and approach them to find out where your brand could be featured, too. 

Marie Vanderstichel Founder, The Sign Tribe

Initially, we developed our own press relationships by sending products to local editors in Germany. However, as the business grew and we expanded globally, we realized that editors are like consumers, you need to create consistent, trustful relationships with them.

To that end, we started working with PR partners in the different markets to really invest in and develop these PR relationships and it has made all the difference. We can’t hide that it is a certain amount of money to invest, but it’s worth it.

We work with Erin Kelly PR, who we connected with through IBE. Our approach to securing press is to really focus on The Sign Tribe’s innovation. The brand’s entire ethos is built around the idea of bringing solution-oriented products to market that previously hadn’t existed. In a saturated space like beauty, that concept alone helps our brand stand out. Through our publicists, we’ve been able to get our Remove & Chill nail polish eraser cream into the right hands and tell our story in a meaningful way. That’s where a PR agency has proven to be really helpful.

There are a lot of amazing products out there, but, if you’re unable to get them in front of the correct editors, writers and influencers, and tailor your pitch to appeal to each individual, it can be difficult to break through.

Jill Rowe Co-Founder, Cultivate Apothecary

We explored PR firms pre-launch and, although we had compelling conversations with a few companies, ultimately, between the high cost and us believing no one can speak as well to our brand as we can, we are keeping it in-house for now. 

I happen to love marketing and wear that hat for our brand. And, in many of my former careers, in art galleries, film production—on one film I oversaw product placement—and restaurant management, I became well-versed in the art of the sale. In fact, I often tell people, “I could sell sand to an Arab.” So, essentially, I am not shy about reaching out to people I don’t know. 

Over a year before launch, I started following many people in the beauty and wellness industry on social media. People that I respected or, if I didn’t know their reputation personally, companies, magazines, blogs, etc., that I did know and respect. This way, I could start to create an online relationship with them. I often naturally found commonalities and would comment on their posts with enthusiasm, questions and generally fun, upbeat responses. I would especially respond to their Instagram Stories posts, which are usually more personal and fun. This allowed me to have a behind-the-scenes dialogue with them in their DMs and get to know them a bit. 

Now that we’ve launched, I’ve reached out to them to tell them about our brand and ask if they’d be interested in knowing more [by] sending them product/press-release, pitching story ideas, directing them to our social media pages, our online e-commerce site, etc. I’m just in the early stages of doing this, but I’ve had some very positive responses. 

Michelle Shaffer Co-Founder, TwinMedix

Working with a PR agency is an essential component of getting press for our brand. We work with Melody Joy Public Relations, who quickly made huge strides into not only obtaining strong relevant press articles, but has enabled us to build solid relationships among the media.

It's important for brands to find an agency that caters specifically to your niche and, since Melody Joy Public Relations has been working specifically with beauty editors and influencers for the past 10 years, they have been able to grow our presence in the media much quicker than if we did it on our own.

MARCELLA CACCI CEO and Founder, One Ocean Beauty

We work with BPCM, one of the top PR firms in the business with offices in New York, LA and London. We also use our social community to communicate our brand message.

Rose-Ann Reynolds Founder, Faraç Beauty

My approach to getting press for my brand is that press releases are branding and credibility tools. They are a great way to get the word out about my company's products. Being in such a competitive industry, it's very important to generate social signals and sharing. It also directs targeted and organic traffic back to my website and generates interest with potential customers or other brands that want to collaborate.

Erin Taylor Co-Founder, 2 Girls With Curls

Our approach to getting press for our brand is to keep putting ourselves out there. We have a very small marketing budget, so we have to get creative. A few things we do are try to attend as many events as possible, giveaways on social media, reaching out to customers for their feedback, attend networking events, partnering with other brands and businesses, social media promotions and advertising. We have found the longer we are in business, the more things seem to find us.

Tom Reynolds Head of Brand, Coco & Eve

There is so much noise and competition for beauty airtime. Our unique brand positioning and storytelling has always been our most powerful asset. We understand that people want to be entertained, surprised or to discover. When we develop a new product, work with a new influencer or create a new campaign, this is always in our minds. We never have a business-as-usual mindset, we are continuously looking for new angles that can engage. This has been critical to building next-level brand awareness and engagement.

NASIMEH YAZDANI Founder, Seaside Medical Technologies

We have reached out to editors directly on sites like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and their blog pages. We utilized a professional PR company, which created a small amount of buzz, but I believe it wasn’t worthwhile overall. 

Christy Hall Skin Therapist, Mikel Kristi

Foremost, it is vital to understand that the press is not just going to magically come to you. Press has to be sought out. Brands must pitch and seek out media that will reach their customer demographics. Media will be more apt to pick up a story about your brand if you pitch a trending topic and stand out as a beauty industry leader. We try to craft pitches that speak to the media company’s audience and touch on topics that will interest and educate their audiences.

JENNI TUOMINEN Founder and Creative Director, Henua Organics

We really haven't done that much paid press or collabs just yet as we are still a small startup company, but have gotten quite a lot of exposure and featured in many magazines and social media posts. We have been in touch with the influencers directly. We believe in our products so much that, once the influencer/press gets their hands on our products, they will love them and want to share the love. So, pretty much all of the features have been real and authentic.

Shivonie Tirbhawandat Founder, Sahasra

I think it's important to constantly keep up with social media to tell the story of your brand and product because you never know whose attention you will catch. I have been fortunate to have digital writers notice and try my product, which led them to mention my product in their articles on major outlets. Just recently, I had one of my products featured on a major outlet. Had my girlfriend not found and sent the article to me, I would have not known we were featured.

NATALIA BEDNAREK Co-Founder, Herla

We know the media is ever-changing and try to think outside the box when it comes to pitching. We know they are inundated with emails and products constantly, so we always craft various story angles such as our unique ingredient story, sustainable packaging, etc., to set our brand out from the rest in the field.

Camille Obadia President, Camille Obadia

We use a lot of social media. We contact the beauty editors for various magazines, and we contact bloggers. This method helps us a lot since it is important to be in constant contact with the beauty media.

Ada Polla CEO, Alchimie Forever

As an indie brand that launches a new product every 18 months on average, the strategy relies on consistent storytelling, strategic sampling and one-on-one relationships, and less about inevitably expensive, activation-laden, twice-a-year press events.

More specifically, our approach to hone is on brand DNA of clean and clinical, ethical and efficacious Swiss skincare with strong dermatological roots, ensure the cult classics like our Kantic Brightening moisture mask are always top of mind, but introducing people to hidden gems within the line, continual product seeding for brand awareness, constant editor entertaining and meetings to keep us top of mind.

Dafina Smith Founder and CEO, Covet & Mane

We work by invitation only and came to the market with a built-in demand because we worked for over a year to focus on a product-first approach with stylists with whom we had relationships. It was collaborative and iterative. We also have a product that is essentially a limited natural resource. It takes one woman one full day to make one unit of our product.

Growth is good, but it can also be crippling if it comes too early, especially when it comes at the hands of an unexpected or unaligned press mention. So, when we were looking to retain press, we were strategic in the fact that our core strategy was to the brand story.

We wanted our PR team to feel like an extension of our in-house team and act as more of a communications department to make sure that all interactions with our brand were cohesive. Our product is unremarkable without the work of the stylists who transform their clientele with our hair extensions. We wanted to elevate our collective of stylists and tell their stories alongside our brand story because we acknowledge our product is only as good as the stylists who work with them.

We focus on the business side of beauty publications as the best vehicles to highlight when pitching to more traditional media because it is truly our vision to be a prestige hair extension brand and disrupt the traditional distribution business model within our industry.

So placements such as WWD were precisely on target for our brand. Coming from the fashion industry, I always looked to WWD as a dream publication for any new brand. Their team has a business sensibility and eye for trends and to be quoted as building a “cult audience” for hairstylists was a high point for our team.

I think press is essential to emerging beauty brands, especially in the prestige space. Technology and globalization have made getting beauty products to market much easier. Consumers have a dearth of options. So, journalism is still at the core of beauty publications, and media and journalists uphold a duty to tell stories, educate and investigate. All three of those are essential to consumer trust and still essential for a brand to have validation in media.

But I also don’t think you can solely rely on press coverage at the expense of a truly wonderful product and solid plan and execution for both customer acquisition and retention. I’m aware of brands with a lot of press mentions that do not have the customer retention analogous to their press coverage.

I work with a business consultant from SIF Industries. She asked Tamalin Srisook what PR firms would she retain if she was to start a beauty brand from scratch. She provided her with a solid list of four strategic beauty PR firms. 860S was one of the firms she recommended. From my first talk with the principal, Kelly Howard I had two pages of notes that were essential to our strategy, whether I had retained them or not.

She was entrepreneurial and patient, and was willing to work with our approach. She has also been a firm and accountable partner when we were launching to make sure that every step of the first impression of the brand was communicating our brand mission. She worked with us to redesign and edit some core components of our website, and took a very critical eye to the work we were doing.

When you are a new brand, your team is small and insular, and is proud of the work you have done thus far because they know the origin story. The advantage of an outside agency is that they don’t know the backstory and can offer a fresh set of eyes to everything you’ve built internally.

Rachel Johnson Founder, RLJPR

As a Los Angeles-based boutique agency, we specialize in working with indie brands in the beauty and wellness space. Including PR in your budget is a game changer, but you need to make sure you are well versed in how the PR model works or have a general understanding. I also suggest not making the jump into PR until you have set the foundation (for example, products/services are available online or in brick-and-mortar, brand identity solidified, website developed, marketing materials created, social media presence built out). 

Put feelers out and ask friends, family and colleagues if they know of agencies in your particular industry or individuals that work in your industry. Finding success with a PR firm is like finding a partner in life. You want to ensure that your personalities align and the other person understands your goals. Ask the agency for client references and don't be afraid to ask questions. The more we know about your brand goals, the better we can assist you.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs or influencers, please send it to [email protected].