Header image by @annaottum for @passerbuys and @urbanoutfitters.
Developing a strong PR strategy today is not what it was before the world went digital. Brands and publicists now have a lot of promotional channels to contend with, and figuring out the whole social media thing has caused many a headache.
With that in mind, we asked PR boss Erin Allweiss, co-founder of No. 29, for some advice on how brands should take on this new age challenge.
Can you even remember a time when we weren't all addicted to social media? It's pretty fair to say that the medium has taken over our lives, and by that I mean it's affecting every single morsel of our existence. And that goes for businesses, too.
The way brands market themselves and score press nowadays is far from the game it used to be. All promotional lines are blurred, as are methods of reaching people, from both communicational and distribution standpoints. The landscape has gone through a makeover, lead primarily by changed consumers who are not only keeping up with the times, but are actually spearheading these major shifts.
The thing is, brands have had a history of trailing behind. Gears of well-oiled machines are not easily switched, not to mention generational discrepancies often getting in the way of progression. When such a quick evolution takes place—in this case the pervasion of social on the humankind—there's always going to be some stragglers. And some businesses were very slow to adapt.
While brands today are fully embracing social media as a priority, the territory is still proving dubious for many. Whether they're established and trying to adapt to new methods or are new, innovative, and figuring it out, the same mantra should apply: utilize social channels to the best of your promotional abilities. It's where people live and therefore where you also need to live.
We know this all still eludes many brands, so we asked PR boss extraordinaire Erin Allweiss, co-founder of New York City based firm No. 29, to impart some of her wisdom on why and how businesses should be including social media in their press efforts.
Erin is an accomplished pro who co-founded No. 29 after she began identifying a void in the industry that she grew ambitious to fill: the need for more socially proactive, mission-focused, ethically conscious businesses to be represented. Having spent her early career as a publicist in Washington D.C., being involved in mobilizing issues has always been instinctive.
The No. 29 media and marketing agency takes on "brands that are committed to impact," Erin tells us. The firm represents businesses in various sectors, but that sense of responsibility is their common thread, as she explains that "every client we represent—whether in fashion, design, activism, food, tech or art—is future-oriented."
The firm is proving that activism transcends categories, and that "anyone, regardless of industry, can affect change," asserts Erin. Together with her business partner Melody Serafino, No. 29 is making its mission to knock the status quo off of its throne, ensuring that these brands get their fair chance at exposure and growth.
So basically, there is no one better to take advice from on methods to grow your brand through media. Here we go!
There are no two ways around the question: social media is necessary to leverage with your press endeavors, as it "complements media coverage," muses Erin, implying a perfect match when used strategically. "In order to actively grow a community and sell products, PR and social media must go hand-in-hand," she continues.
We've mentioned before how Instagram is the new homepage, and this is proving one hundred percent applicable yet again. Erin explains that "when a brand (or individual) gets press attention, any person reading about that brand will then check their social channels to get a feel for the aesthetic, product, and mission." Grabbing our smartphones to discover more about a brand has become second nature to us, meaning that "to neglect social media is closing off an entire channel of communication," she confirms.
Adding that "while brands can’t get press coverage every day, they can use social media to communicate key messages and reach new audiences." Point proven. Using social channels like Instagram to nail your media buzz-worthiness is not just the thing to do, it's the thing to do to be successful.
When people hear about your brand, they will inevitably land on your Instagram profile. So you need to make sure that your content is up to snuff and reflective of your image. Your account should speak to your ethos while showcasing quality content you are proud of and that tells a story.
Nailing a cohesive visual narrative and tone of voice is a challenge for a lot of brands, and Erin shares that she often sees "a lack of consistency or images that don’t really reflect what the brand is about." It's important to get it right, especially for small businesses that have fewer resources and less equity in the market.
She cites her client VEJA as a prime example of what an on-point Instagram account should look like. The brand excels at telling its story with high quality visuals, describing that "they not only share images of their incredible sneakers, but they also reveal information about the materials and practices (sustainable, fair trade) that go into making the shoes." It's important to remember that it's about the story, too.
When pitching one of her clients to a source, Erin always provides "Instagram handles along with the URL so a journalist can easily get an understanding of the brand." Brands should use that to their advantage. A well-crafted social narrative earns you the respect of the industry, the admiration of your audience, the attention of the media, and, subsequently, the dollars of your consumers.
In this digital age, things move at lightning speed. Not only do you have to be nimble and ready to change tactics at any given time, but you also need to constantly feed the beast—for lack of a better term. We live in the era of content, and generating it is both expected and required from brands.
To ensure that you're consistent with your efforts and that you never fail to impress someone who stumbles upon your account, Erin advises to "build out a calendar and keep a folder of images and captions at the ready." Think of this smart time-saving tactic as a safety net. "This way you’re not scrambling every day to find an image or something to say," she quips.
Because the algorithm has complicated things for brands that like to promote time-sensitive content like flash sales, Erin encourages them to "build out campaigns and images that last a few days," since they might not be seen until it's come and gone.
While PR might sound like a fun networking job, it's certainly multi-dimensional and often underestimated. People aren't aware of "how much work and strategy is involved," mentions Erin, and she's right. When you read an article about a brand, you don't necessarily think about all the legwork that went into making that mention happen.
"Behind the scenes, we really work to figure out what makes a story timely, relevant and compelling." Calculating these moves is a huge challenge, especially in this day and age. Erin elaborates that "breaking through the (mostly terrible) noise [of the news cycle] is incredibly challenging, so one article might take weeks, if not months of work."
It's not all smoke and mirrors, which means that brands have to make sure on their end that their Instagram game is tight. If they want journalists to pick up their story, their social channels best be adequate.
If you want your brand to reach more audiences, have a global mindset. Because channels like Instagram enable visual storytelling, it's an opportunity to reach all kinds of people from around the world with a strong, engaging, and captivating content-driven narrative.
"Brands can’t physically be everywhere all the time—particularly small brands," notes Erin. Think about it, social media has no borders and you can generate enthusiasm for your brand from just about anyone who has an Instagram account if you're strategic (see point #4).
Retaining the services of a PR agency is a vital part of growing a consumer business in any sector. But it's how you approach those press efforts and what you also do on your end to make sure that the results are successful.
Social platforms have become such a big part of our lives that it simply must be weaved into any PR game plan. "Social media needs to be part of any brand’s engagement strategy in order to build community," Erin says, reflecting on the state of her industry.
Mindfully broaching the topic of influencers, she mentions the importance of brand fit: "publicists are looking to share brands with people on Instagram who have strong and relevant followings," assuring that a lot of research is done about who the right collaborators are for their brands.
Finally, she proclaims that "10k of the right followers can do far more than 100k who might not care about the brand or topic at hand." Touché.