Top 5 D.I.Y. PR Techniques for Boot-Strapped Fashion Startups

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Publicity is one of the most crucial elements in any startup’s success, but is also usually seen as a ‘luxury’ service that gets shelved until the business is generating enough profit to properly budget for it. It’s the old chicken-before-the-egg quandary where financers want to see press coverage before they invest, and startups can’t afford PR until they secure funding. If hiring a top PR firm is out of the question in the early stages of your business, here are a few Do-It-Yourself PR techniques that any fashion designer or start-up fashion brand can begin implementing with limited resources:

1) Do your homework.

You can’t achieve results until you clearly define what you want. Before starting any PR activity, it’s crucial to identify your goals for publicity. First, ask yourself whom you want to be targeting through press coverage. Is it potential investors or is it to drive customers to your e-commerce site? Perhaps it’s a combination of the two. Next, establish where the desired audience spends its time, for example: which blogs or media outlets are they reading? Finally, what medium is going to be most effective for you and your brand, ie: magazines, style blogs or TV? Beyond just the medium, decide if you’re targeting a luxury or budget consumer? Then, you can make a properly curated media wish list. Be optimistic and set your sights high, but if Vogue isn’t realistic, that’s OK. Make sure the outlets you’re targeting are relevant, attainable and the most likely to generate sales.

2) Use social media to your advantage.

With your wish list in place, you should begin to follow these press outlets on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Ideally, you should zero in on specific writers, editors, bloggers, journalists or reporters who are most relevant to you. It takes time to build a social media relationship, but by providing valuable interaction with your targets, they will start to notice you.This means re-tweeting or sharing their content, answering their questions, or providing helpful information. It’s not all about you, so make sure your interaction is not self- serving. If your target is silly, show them your silly side.

When the right time comes, ask if you can email over a look book or some info about your brand. It’s even better if you can refer to a specific column you’d like to be considered for. Perhaps they write a monthly column on the ‘Top Designers To Watch,’ or ‘Looks for Less.’ If they do, be sure to reference the column word for word and be clear on your call to action. Journalists are much more receptive to pitches when they know the pitcher understands and actually reads their content.

3) If you see something, share something!

A big part of PR is tying your company or brand to seasonal trends. To do this, you need to keep an eye on what’s going on in the news, or what’s trending on Twitter, and look for a way to incorporate your brand into that story. For example, if Pharrell’s crazy hats are the hot topic of the week and you run an online hat store, considering running a “Pharrell Phlash Sale”, and offer your customers a limited time only deal. Somewhere, there is probably a fashion writer talking about the Pharrell trend, and you could insert yourself accordingly. The goal is to always be thinking with an editorial mind, so whenever you’re launching something new (be it a new website or a new collection), be sure to use this news as a PR opportunity. Make it relevant and share it via social media, e-newsletter, your website’s newsroom, or as a reason for a press release.

4) Use a Newswire service.

You don’t need a PR agency to put something out on the newswire. Whether you have a publicist or not, it’s always a good idea to write and issue press releases whenever you have anything newsworthy to share. You can use free press release engines such as 24-7pressrelease.com, PR.com or NewswireToday.com. Truth be told, simply blasting out a press release will never lead to a flurry of organic editorial coverage, but what it will do is boost your legitimacy, and publish your press release on numerous credible media websites which you could share on the press section of your site. It also provides great SEO juice, which will in turn, drive more traffic back to you.

5) Become a “Talking Head.”

Nobody knows your business better than you do. Turn your passion into your credentials and become an “expert” in your field. Find industry trade publications or blogs that cover your turf and reach out to them about contributing educational guest articles, or perhaps doing an interview Q&A about your experience. This is a great way to build up your expert profile, while also linking back to your company’s website and potentially, putting yourself in front of a valuable customer or contact. Aside from writing, you can also look into local events and offer yourself up to speak on relevant panels or to donate auction items to local charity efforts.

There are also free services like HARO (Help A Reporter Out), that send out emails 3x daily with a roundup of reporters who are looking for sources for various articles. Almost every single time, there is a reporter seeking out “Small Business Owners.” All you have to do is reply via email to pitch yourself, and it could lead to news coverage in online, print, radio or broadcast.

These are all ways to start putting yourself out there and to becoming a well-known name in your industry.

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Alyson Roy

Alyson Roy is a Co-Founder of AMP3 Public Relations. She has served as chief of publicity for Nolcha Fashion Week. She is also the publicist of record for Cat Footwear and actively handles publicity for both emerging and established brands. She contributes to a slew of media outlets including PR Couture & The PR Closet, and sits on the Advisory Boards for Nolcha Fashion Week, Blazetrak, and Fashion Advance. She is also a Contributing Educator for Open Source Fashion--a hub for innovators that are working at the intersection of fashion, commerce and technology.