Tech PR Lessons from a Reformed Fashionista
When I started interviewing for tech PR roles in Boston, the most common question I was asked was how I thought my experiences in fashion PR would translate to the tech community. On the surface, tech and fashion PR do not seem to have a lot in common. In New York, I spent my days writing press releases about fashion shows and following up with Us Weekly about Jessica Alba wearing our clothing , which is miles away from trying to get PandoDaily to cover a product launch on a software platform.
But the truth is the fashion industry is as competitive as tech, if not more. It’s an incredibly fast-paced, high-profile, multibillion dollar industry where there’s zero margin for error (and people judge you based on your outfits). So put aside your skepticism, and accept that there are a few things tech can learn from fashion PR:
- The brand is everything. Fashion companies live and die by “brand identity.” Iconic brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Ralph Lauren are known as much for their name as for the lifestyle their clothing embodies. Ralph Lauren may play with Chinese themes in a season, but the brand DNA is always rooted in classic Americana. This is their point of view. A POV is just as essential in tech as it is in fashion. Think about the top players in the tech game: Apple and Google. Their brand identity and POV is as clearly defined and unwavering as Chanel’s. Shouldn’t yours be too?
- Sometimes you have to make your own news. At InkHouse, we stress the importance of creating news, whether it’s a new service, a study on the latest developments in their industry, or just a fresh angle on our client’s story. Fashion has news creation down to an art. Like the tech scene, fashion is a crowded and competitive industry. Fashion brands are constantly thinking of new ways to garner the attention of the press. From sponsoring movie premieres, to themed capsule collections, to scrambling to dress the next rising starlet, brands keep the news coming. In my old role, I often sent out a press release a week (at least). While tech companies shouldn’t attempt to copy fashion’s hamster wheel approach to news, they need to embrace the idea that part of their communications effort has to be thinking creatively about new stories they can create to promote their brand message.
- Speed is essential. The world of fashion PR is incredibly fast-paced. When we did fashion shows, we would approve photos within 5 minutes of the show ending. Then we dashed back to the office to edit photos, finalize the press release and send it out within two hours of the show (usually just before midnight). If a celebrity wore our clothing, I would send the press release the minute the photos hit the wire. Even if that meant waking up at 3 a.m. to press send. Fashion PR professionals respond to emails in seconds and at all hours. We respected the fact that while fashion writers are inundated with content, they won’t wait to publish their story just because we wanted to finalize the messaging in our press release. In tech PR, if there’s a breaking story or news to comment on, you need to channel the fashion world. If you want to be in the news, you have to be responsive to what’s happening that minute – either through social media, traditional media or a blog post. (My colleague Anne Baker recently shared her advice on how to handle these situations.)
- Know thy press list. Some the longest nights in fashion are those spent figuring out how to seat press at fashion shows. Fashion PR girls know their media lists like the back of their hand and can identify key targets by sight (and by shoe)! They know the brand of sunglasses Anna Wintour wears (Chanel), and the closest distance she can sit from a rival editor at a fashion show. Not knowing your fashion press hierarchy can get you slapped (literally). The same is true in tech PR. Understanding the perfect way to pitch a reporter or blogger can mean the difference between a great story and an angry and embarrassing tweet.
- Embrace social. Some of the earliest adopters of Vine were the fashion reporters at the Fall 2013 shows in New York in February. The fashion world embraces social media unlike any other industry and isn’t afraid to take some risks. One of the best examples of this is Aliza Licht, the SVP of Global Communications for Donna Karan. She convinced the brand to let her tweet back in 2009 and was one of the first in fashion on twitter. Licht’s open and engaging tweets have made @DKNYPRGirl one of the most beloved fashion names on twitter (453,197 followers and counting). Burberry has had HUGE success in the 21st century because it has embraced social media and technology. This 200-year-old brand is always the first to try any new social innovation. What can tech PR take from this? If an iconic brand like Burberry is willing to take some risk with social, why can’t you?
As companies like Gilt Group and Swirl (a client) continue to meld fashion with technology, it may not be very long before the tech and fashion PR worlds become one. Time to start brushing up on your WWD and Vogue!