The Hard Truths About Fashion Journalism

As a PR mentor for the FiSF and a clothing maker myself, I am always curious to learn more from the gurus of the industry: Fashion Journalists. How do you become cover material? How likely is the newborn fashion brand I’m pitching to end up in top publications? What makes the Anna Wintours of this world choose to talk about a particular brand?

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Let’s explore that, using my own experience working for Oxygen PR and the panel organized by the FiSF featuring three proud representatives of the genre. Erin is the Style and Design Editor of the San Francisco Magazine. Maghan is a freelance fashion journalist and Stephan is in charge of the Social Media Center and Fashion Journalism at the School of Fashion. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes. Did they have any useful tips? Let’s find out.

 

Getting People Excited About a New Shoe Brand. Again. And Again. And Again.

 

When you are a fashion journalist, you have to come up everyday with different ways to get people excited about the next accessory, brand, or the new way to wear a jacket. But even before that, for PR professionals, the first step is always to get journalists interested in their clients. And that takes more imagination and creativity than you might think because if you sound just like every other brand, you won’t make the cut!

A lot of people believe it’s about being friends with journalists. But that’s not it either.

 

A lot of people believe it’s about being friends with journalists. But that’s not it either, because they too will need to be able to defend their topic choice to the chief editor. They need to demonstrate how talking about my client’s dress line or accessory brand will make people choose to click and share their particular article more than others.

 

For Maghan, who faces this every day as a freelancer, she is all about making the most of where she works (San Francisco). Maghan has specialized in linking tech and fashion.  “Over time, I have cultivated this network of people who know I am writing about this subject. Then it is up to me to come up with a creative angle to present things.”

 

You also need to look for elements in your story (or your client story) that will provide context and make the subject more “human.” That’s what good journalists will be looking for; a way to create a connection with their readers through individual elements. Stephan explained it well: “To ring true, a story often needs a personal touch: why did this entrepreneur started his or her own company? Was there something in their personal history that led him or her to do this? That’s what I look for when I write my own stories. And turns out, the posts I am trembling to publish because I dared to share a personal experience are usually the ones that tend to go viral.”

 

Print Is Dead, Long Live the Print!

 

Being featured in the printed press still carries a lot of prestige, even though I am constantly reminding my clients at Oxygen PR that a printed article will probably end up as mere restroom reading material while an online article lives on forever.

 

Erin confessed that newsstands were something of the past: “No money is made at newsstands anymore, those are more fancy billboards than anything else. The real focus in the newsroom is whether an article will get shared and commented on.”

 

So, is print really dead? For many magazines, surely. And as an example, San Francisco Magazine, where Erin works, is the last standing local, lifestyle magazine in SF (sad). But for others that will know how to adapt, opportunities remain to be seized. For Erin, it’s about navigating new ways of communicating in our Millennial-obsessed world. “Magazines are objects, and we still love objects. But we need to rethink it. Maybe you have to give up chronology to make it less time sensitive. Because in the age of Instagram, you will never be current enough for your editor’s letter to matter if it’s about an upcoming election.”

It’s all about creating new experiences and telling stories in different ways to fit the needs of diverse audiences. Today for instance, long-form stories have never been trendier. The same reader will vary in his or her way of consuming stories and adapt the support (pictures, videos, text, podcast) accordingly: listening to a podcast during a home commute, lounging on a beach with a printed copy on your lap, checking the ever increasing Instagram during a lunch break, etc.


 

So, How Do I Get My Amazing [add your product here] Featured in a Fancy Pub Then?

 

First and foremost, learn from the mistakes of newbie PR people. “Make my job easier by paying attention to my beat seems obvious but it’s often overlooked. Don’t be afraid to offer to me only something different than all the other 400 people you plan on contacting. Getting one great feature will get a longer way than a tiny mention in an article,” comments Maghan.

 

“Don’t invent impossible embargo deadlines for me to follow,” adds Stephan, “and please if I just talked about something, don’t offer me something similar JUST YET. Wait a couple of months so I can use it to refresh my publication with new stuff.’

 

And pick subjects you actually care about. I know, not always easy at an agency. But developing a subject where you feel you are knowledgeable enough for your opinions to matter will show in the way you present a pitch. Erin, for example, only works with a pool of PR people she KNOWS are really into the stuff they pitch about. Not just glorified salespersons.

 

Head over here for more tips on international PR.

See you très soon.

Alicia