In the digital age we are living in, it has never been easier to set up your own small business. The internet has opened so many doors to those of who want to follow a dream of working for ourselves, and in 2017 it was recorded that there were 5.7m SME’s (Small and medium-sized enterprises) in the UK! In fact, for many of you reading this, you will actually be running a ‘micro business’ – this is one with under 10 employees. Lots of you may even be the only employee and have had to become a jack of all trades – buyer, photographer, blogger, accountant, marketing manager, web designer, social media guru, the list goes on.
One of the things that I hear from many creative start up’s is that other than creating their own social profiles and promoting themselves through these, they don’t know how best to approach editors and bloggers to try and gain some exposure through other media outlets. PR is such an important aspect for any business, and whether you like it or not you are going to have to put a bit of work into this area, as the editors won’t necessarily always come to you. There are lots of things you can do to both increase your chances of getting noticed as well as best practice for making contact with the right people in the industry.
MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE & SOCIAL MEDIA LOOK FAB
This might seem obvious to some, but so many small businesses are lacking in good photography and website design. First impressions mean everything, particularly in this industry – editors are very busy people and will often only give a matter of seconds to looking at your website or Instagram. If it doesn’t instantly grab their attention, they will click away.
If your photography skills are limited then don’t try to muddle through, either invest in some courses (there are SO many out there these days!) or employ a photographer to work with you. With a little bit of research, you may be able to find a photographer who is starting out in their career and wants to build their portfolio, so will be happy to work with you for a more affordable rate than a more established photographer.
Websites like Squarespace are a godsend when it comes to achieving good website design as they have lots of lovely templates. But again, if you struggle, consider getting some help. If you are running a business online then a strong website is at the core of your brand, and you must make sure these elements of your business are up to scratch before you even think about approaching the media.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO TELL YOUR STORY
Social media plays many roles, but for us editors and bloggers one of its most advantageous uses is as a research tool. These days, most editors will use Instagram and Pinterest to seek out ideas for great content. But they are all potentially looking for different things – some are on the look-out for gorgeous homes, shops and studios to feature, some may be in search of inspiring people to interview and others may be hunting gorgeous products to put in their pages or posts.
All of these aspects will be great PR for your business if featured, so use your social platforms to tell the story of your brand. If you are a ceramicist for example, don’t just post images of your pottery; show your studio space, your processes, and you. If you have nice home – incorporate images of this into your feed. If you run a bricks and mortar shop, show pictures of it!
It seems like a no brainer, but I find so many shop owners focus on posting close ups of their products and don’t share images of their retail space! Imagine what a four page magazine feature of your shop could do for bringing in new customers?! It’s also worth having a page on your website with a few images of your shop, studio, café etc, and again, if you can’t shoot these yourself, get a professional to take them for you. Many magazines & blogs don’t have the budget to do their own shoots, so if you have existing photography that they can use then this greatly increases your chances of being featured.
CONTACTING EDITORS IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK
Many people find approaching magazine editors a daunting task, but unlike The Devil Wears Prada would have you believe, most editors are not scary, but lovely! They are just generally busy people, so bear this in mind when approaching them.
Firstly, find out who the right person to contact is. Most magazines have their staff listed at the front, so use this to your advantage. If you want to pitch your products, look for the Shopping Editor, if you think your home might be a good fit, looks for the Homes Editor. Generally, on smaller indie mags, they won’t have a huge team, so it may just be the editor you need to contact directly, but do your research first. If you can’t find their email address in the magazine or website, try googling their name and magazine title or publishing house, it may well come up, or at least if you know which company they work for, find out the format their email addresses take (ie. Firstname.firstname.lastname@example.org – Linkedin is often useful for this). You are much more likely to get a reply if you use a direct email address rather than a generic info@ one. And of course, address them by name in the opening line of your email.
WHAT SHOULD YOU PUT IN YOUR EMAIL?
First off, make sure your subject line is right otherwise they might not even open your email! Something like ‘possible home tour for XX magazine’ or ‘new Scandi blanket range by XX for shopping page’ points to the fact you have potential content for them, which is what all editors are on the look-out for.
As mentioned, always start off by addressing the person by name. Try to keep your email concise and to the point – editors just won’t have the time to read a lengthy email, so put the main points across in your email and you can always include further details of your back story in a press release.
Show that you know their magazine (as you will of course have bought it and not just looked at their IG profile!) by suggesting where you think your products/home/story might fit. Most magazines will have a structured format that they stick to issue by issue, and will run regular features, so for example, saying: “I think my weaving workshop would be a great fit for your Studio Tour feature” will demonstrate that you are familiar with their content and not simply blanket emailing a number of editors at once.
In the creative industries, visuals are key, so it is imperative that you include some low resolution images in your email. Either paste these into the email or attach them, as this is the quickest way to view them. Don’t rely on the reader clicking on a link to view images, and definitely don’t send them a wetransfer link straight away as most won’t download it – they will request high res files if they wish to feature the images and you can then send these via wetransfer/Dropbox etc.
If you are promoting something specific like a new product or range, then attach a press release to the email with details, again keep this concise and well written and include a little bit of background about yourself and your brand too. I’ve recently received some press releases send as a link which have been created in Adobe Spark – if done well this can look really professional, but you have to rely on the editor actually clicking through to the link, so make sure your email intro encourages this.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DON’T GET A RESPONSE
If you don’t get a reply within a few weeks, then it is worth sending a follow up email. It may be that they just haven’t had a chance to reply or overlooked your first email. Without being pushy, just ask if they thought your products/home/studio might be of interest. This will either prompt a reply, but if not, you may have to accept that it is not right for them and move on. Don’t be disheartened by this. It is not necessarily that they don’t like your work, it may be that they have recently featured a similar designer’s work or that they are looking for something specific for their upcoming issues. Either way, it is worth trying to engage with the editors, bloggers and magazines that you’d like to feature in via social media, both before and after you contact them. Don’t attempt to push your products/brand on them in this way, and I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to tag lots of magazines into your images as a way to get them to notice you. Try and engage with them on a more personal level first, as this may make your brand name recognisable to them, and then once you’ve built a relationship it will be less of a ‘cold call’ once you do get in touch with them via email.
Remember that PR needs to be an ongoing thing, so don’t rely on one big push when you first launch. Keep your finger on the pulse about new publications, and build relationships with existing ones. Keep your eye out for great bloggers and instagrammers who might just give your brand a mention or a feature and continue to think of innovate ways to share what you are all about!
Caroline Rowland, is the Editor of 91 Magazine. She will be hosting a couple of workshops this summer on this very subject.
Saturday 7th July – Get your indie brand noticed: PR & photography with 91 Magazine
Thursday 27th September & Thursday 18th October – Creative Business Masterclass
For full details and how to purchase tickets please head to 91 Magazines workshops page.
Caroline Rowland has ten years experience in blogging, publishing and running a creative business. She first launched independent interiors and lifestyle magazine 91 Magazine in 2011 as a free online publication.
The magazine is now published in both print and digital form and is stocked in over 150 shops across the UK and internationally including WH Smith travel, Anthropologie and Selfridges.
In 2017 91 Magazine won Best Interior Magazine blog at the Amara Interior Blog Awards.
Caroline’s first interiors book The Shopkeepers Home was published in 2015, featuring the homes and shop interiors of independent shop owners.