Courting The Press: How Indie Beauty Brands Garner Media Exposure
In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 16 founders and executives: How do you court members of the media, influencers and bloggers?
- Cassy Burnside Founder and CEO, Fatco
In my experience, securing media has been difficult. We worked with a PR firm for about a year, which resulted in little to no major press coverage. I was baffled. I kept thinking, "But, we have such a cool and different product! How in the heck aren't we getting any press?" While that experience was not so pleasant, I do believe that working with someone who knows their stuff is very important when it comes to securing press. Therefore, we are currently courting PR firms and trying to find one to use in 2018. My advice is vet PR firms, and vet them hard. Talk to references and understand their level of knowledge in your category.
Regarding bloggers and influencers, I always recommend brands implement some sort of affiliate program. We use a software called iDevAffiliate. When we first launched in April 2014, our entire marketing strategy was social media. Three years later, we have developed an amazing brand ambassador program, which allows bloggers and influencers to sell our products and earn commissions based on sales placed through their affiliate link. I love this because it allows us to have a sales force of genuine Fatco enthusiasts built directly into our online community. It really is a win-win.
- Lindsay Knaak-Stuart Founder and CEO, Meant
I discovered very quickly how important PR is for a new beauty brand. You not only need to launch in a big way, but you need to keep the momentum going and to remain top-of-mind with editors and ultimately consumers. As a CEO and founder my bandwidth is limited, and PR is very much about editorial relationships, which I didn't have, so I prioritized budget to hire Poke PR, a New York-based health and wellness focused PR agency.
As for securing blogger and influencer coverage, I personally manage this for my brand. I have a lot of influencers reaching out to me directly and, only if they're a good fit for the brand and agree to work for product trade, do I run test programs with them. I've also been working with a small mirco-influencer agency, Palm, to run larger campaigns that have provided a ton of great learnings and the scale that I couldn't get on my own.
- Dana Roberts Founder, Malie
I have been managing our media for 15 years and the landscape has completely changed. The power of the PR firm, print media placements and celebrity endorsements have diminished as consumers become savvy to the paid endorsements and the lack of integrity in their messages. Consumers want to hear their voices and see endorsements from their own social media circles where they see faces like themselves. The power of the message has moved from magazines to social media micro-influencers whose messages seem real and sincere. We create a shared community of bloggers and influences that have a common value and lifestyle to our message and keep these influencers in constant contact with our brand.
- Michelle Ranavat Founder, Ranavat Botanics
Press is an all hands effort. Exhibiting at Indie Beauty Expo was incredible and definitely got the ball rolling with press, but, in reality, it all takes time. Relationship with press is like any other relationship in life. You can’t just meet someone and ask them to marry you. You need to genuinely get to know them with no pretenses. I think, if you are interested in what the bloggers, influencers or editors are writing about, it is best to just start a very natural conversation with no expectation at all. Over time, that relationship may turn into more of a friendship and when a story opportunity comes up that is a great fit, they will reach out. Also, when the opportunity hits, make sure you always meet your deadlines and send nice thank you note. A little appreciation goes a long way.
- Lauren Berkovitz CEO, Lauren B. Beauty
For me, it is all about meaningful relationships with the press and building strong solid foundations and conversations with the them. When I first started out in the industry, I met beauty assistants, interns and junior editors, and made sure to connect with them and create some sort of bond with them because I knew that they would soon be rising stars. They then became the editors and were able to help me more and more.
As a young indie brand, it is so important for me to make more thoughtful connections and relationships that keep me and my brand front-of-mind because I realize I will never be able to compete on the lavish gifts or trips that my brand competitors are able to. I constantly think about how I can share my brand message by being more creative and thoughtful. Aside from this, consistency is key to being front of mind. The press world is changing daily and my competitors are also increasing, so being consistent and playing the long game has helped prove that I am here to stay, and determined to share my excitement about my brand.
- Robin Williams Founder, Ola Tropical Apothecary
My advice is to get any blog exposure that you can. Share your products and get the free press that this affords. My other advice is to find a small PR firm to work with. We were lucky enough to find a wonderful PR team when we first started, and we have worked with them ever since. J9 Public Relations specializes in growing small brands at a fair cost and their hard work and support has been invaluable to us.
- Michelle Tu Founder and CEO, CURA Skincare
Since we are still a small growing company and our PR/marketing is mainly done in-house, I send out personalized emails to most of our targeted bloggers, influencers and editors. They appreciate the personal touch and connecting with the person behind the brand, and I'm able to offer something of value, like my scientific expertise, as well as samples.
Another tip is to leverage as many relationships as you have that are directly or indirectly related to the beauty industry. A friend of mine is a popular fashion photographer who connected me with several beauty bloggers that were happy to exchange press for free product. My last piece of advice is just reminder to be kind, patient and persistent when securing media. Bloggers, influencers and editors are constantly inundated with new products to review, so don’t take a no response personally. Just keep pushing forward.
- Meryl Marshall Founder, Hynt Beauty
I worked in the diamond and jewelry business for over 20 years and was taught by my mentor that trust and loyalty go a long way. He taught me the power of the classic handshake. The handshake mentality seems quite lost in the current corporate business climate, but it’s been revitalized within the green community.
I just came back from the W.E.L.L. Summit in New York City. The collaborative mentality and level of mutual support within this growing movement is astounding and truly wonderful. I nurture these handshake relationships with other founders, editors, influencers, bloggers, vloggers and even dedicated customers who have an active, strong following or network. These relationships are key and there is a genuine, kind spirit at the foundation of this reciprocal process.
We get numerous inquiries from media and influencers each day that we vet carefully, but also do our best to leave some time to reach out to media who share similar philosophies as our company. When the stories are published, we do all that we can to cross promote and broaden our brand awareness. When the media know that the products and information we provide are great, and that there is extensive cross promotion and support from us especially on our social channels, they are more apt to return for another compelling story.
- Sara Dudley Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Sunscreen Company
We’ve had the most success with gaining press for our brand from directly reaching out to bloggers and influencers. I find when you connect one-on-one, more often than not you get a great response from individuals who are genuinely interested in what you are doing. You used to have to try and hide that you were a smaller independent brand, but now most people in the press actually think that is an advantage.
We do really well with bloggers who are well informed and ask really detailed questions. When they dedicate long-form blog posts to us, we can really share what we call The Story of Sunscreen. I think their readers appreciate getting that level of detail and maybe hearing some new things. We got our first big piece of coverage from a blogger called Beautyeditor. We’ve maintained and built the relationship over the years, and she has been a real promoter of ours.
We’ve just started to break into the U.S. mainstream media with blink-and-you-might-miss-it mentions like this summer in Real Simple. I consider those as getting your foot in the door. They do not necessarily lead to conversions, but kind of chip away at getting some brand recognition in the industry.
- Jessica Postiglione Co-Founder and CEO, Olika
We partnered with PR representation to help secure earned and paid media for the brand. We suggest understanding the editorial calendar of the media outlets you are pitching, their audience and the type of content they distribute. A one-size-fits-all approach is not the most fruitful when pitching editors.
I also personally search and scour Instagram for influencers to partner with. I am looking for individuals who have a strong design point of view and an engaged audience, as well as influencers who would love to use a stylish bird shaped hand sanitizer. I suggest doing your homework. Take the time to really look through an individual's feed, read the comments on their posts and then understand how your product does, or does not, fit in with the lifestyle they are sharing with their followers. We seek to partner with influencers who aren't afraid to be playful with our bird and show off his personality.
- Dara Levy Founder and CEO, Dermaflash
As a brand, we host first-class industry events in New York and L.A., and we’re very generous with product samples and gifting. We also work closely with influencers and makeup artists to create original content for social media and always encourage authenticity. Instagram videos do very well for us because you can see the instant results. We believe in paying it forward when building meaningful relationships with our media and influencer friends and we are thrilled with the organic results. I always say what you put out to the universe comes right back to you.
- Pamela Viglielmo President and CEO, Menaji
We enjoy investing time to cultivate and harvest press and bloggers and work hard to keep an ongoing dialogue and good relationship with them. They need us and we need them, and it’s a constant process of keeping up with what they’re doing and sharing our story. Also, we look to create partnerships with influencers, charities and other brands that we feel are aligned with our values. I truly believe it's always a win-win when like minds and values come together for a great cause.
- Michael Putman President and Co-Founder, Elysian Cosmetics
I think the most important thing, because so much communication is done online or over the phone, is to always remember there is a person on the other side. I always take a little time to connect with the person I’m in contact with. If I send out a package I typically include a personal, handwritten note. If we take the time to meet in person, I like to keep things cool, casual and brief, in order to be respectful of their time.
I have to mention that it's equally important to remember that you are always representing your brand. What you say, how you speak, what you wear, even down to how you wear your makeup, all these things cultivate people’s perception of your brand. Know your brand’s esthetic and make it clear in the way you present yourself along with anything coming from you or your brand, such as PR packages, client deliveries, PA events, social media content, ads, etc. This consistent branded experience has helped us numerous times in securing new partnerships and, most importantly, new and more passionate clients.
- Linda Wang Founder, Karuna
We benefit most from organic seeding, which we manage in-house, because the outreach and, ultimately, the end result is much more genuine. We've been very fortunate that a lot of amazing influencers, celebrities, makeup artists and hairdressers love our products, so it helps with our clout. In addition, we work closely with our PR agency to help secure press.
Overall, I believe it's important to have face time and meet with editors so they can put a face to your brand. This is especially important when you are being caught in the shuffle of hundreds of emails and press releases in their inbox.
Another key thing when it comes to securing media is that you want to work with people who genuinely love your product and align with your brand, someone who you are proud to have represent you. And, as always, don't worry about how many followers they have. Sometimes starting with someone small is even better because you never know where someone will end up. We were fortunate to work with a makeup artist who was just starting out and is now one of the most well known on Instagram. Everyone has their own method of influencer outreach and seeding, but we found this method to work best for us as it's more organic and genuine.
- Tina Rowhanian Co-Founder, CleanTan
We feel there has been a shift away from traditional PR such as press releases and magazine publications, although we love those, too. We even think macro-influencers or pay-to-play arrangements aren’t as effective as they once were. Since our pre-launch in April 2017, we’ve continuously experienced a very enthusiastic response from micro-influencers. Without solicitation, many have reached out to us stating they were already a fan of the product and wanted to give us a shout out. No one got paid, and most didn’t receive free product. From there, real relationships started forming and, voilà, they love us and we love them.
Also, knowing that the CleanTan brand was social media friendly due to its fun and sexy innuendo, we deliberately launched our social media efforts slightly ahead of actual product launch to gain SEO momentum and as much brand awareness as possible. One major underutilized tool is Snapchat, which we gleefully embrace. We have found that one Snapchat message can result in several orders within a matter of minutes. Pretty darn impressive considering Snapchat messages self-destruct after 10 seconds.
Right now, we are focused on micro-influencers. That said, it is important to stay open minded and flexible in testing new strategies that are cost-effective for young brands like us. Oh and hey, if you are a social media guru, we are hiring interns.
- Ikram Elharti Founder and CEO, Sahara Rose
Media relations is a wonderful opportunity for indie brands to communicate their story, products and news. Building a good PR campaign is key. Whether it is through hiring a PR agency or doing it in-house if the brand has the internal resources, one thing to keep in mind is that results do not come overnight. It is called media or press relations because it is about building the relations with the media and the influencers. There are many tech tools and platforms that allow brands access to contact databases. But, from my experience, nothing beats meeting and engaging through events like trade shows and other professional events to share the uniqueness of your products and your authentic story.
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