Fashion companies can be very complex organisations they can employ hundreds if not thousands of individuals spread across very large supply chains that start with acquiring raw materials and end with returns and customer service. Undoubtedly, every part of the company contributes to the value the brand is creating and to the long-term success of the organisation, but if we were to ask which division of the business holds the most responsibility in keeping a fashion brand current, relevant and up-to-speed with the market, we’d have to answer very simply with the PR Office.
The PR Office is not only the most important asset for your fashion brand but in our opinion is also the first team a fashion startup should have, as, in the current business environment, no one can deny that every company is a media company.
- So, what is it that a Public Relations office does? The role of the office is to manage the communications between your company and its stakeholders (all of the people who are impacted at some level by your firm) favourably influencing the attitude towards your business, its products and strategies. The goal of the PR office is to build and maintain a connection to the public, establishing goodwill.
Goodwill is the keyword here, as it relates to the loyalty of your customers and the size of your audience. A company with strong goodwill is worth a lot of money because building an audience for your firm is one of the most challenging, and time-consuming activities you can do, but on the other hand, once you do have an audience, you have a business.
- How does it do it? Now that we’ve clarified what the goals of a PR office are, we can now move on into how it’s actually done. PR offices manage the company’s communication with its community of stakeholder through a variety of tools such as through managing relationships with the press, developing corporate communications designed to promote the understanding of what the company does, counselling high-level executives on matters relate to public issues (especially in the case of issues connected to the brand), develop events that demand media attention or developing public service initiative.
Each of these activities contributes to your brand, as a brand is the gut feeling that you are able to summon in your customers. This feeling is connected to the different types of associations connected to your brand and we can see clearly how these intangibles are closely related to the way we acquire information about a company.
In this post, we’re going to explore the ways a PR office impacts your brand’s performance more than one can imagine. To help you navigate this article and go straight to the part which may be more relevant to you.
- The PR Office Should Be Where Your Fashion Business Starts
- How The PR Office is Your Best Marketing Office
- How the PR Office is Your HR and Recruitment Division
1. The PR Office Should Be Where Your Fashion Business Starts
Starting a fashion business is not as cheap as starting the next big app, or the next social media. The latter can be easily started with not much more than a laptop and an internet connection, whereas a fashion business actually creates physical products which are much more expensive to make.
Not only they can be very expensive, but the actual process of setting up a supply chain can take months. Building the pipeline is pretty much 50% of building the actual business, without considering the time necessary to actually develop a collection for the 2 basic seasons. In this sense, we can quickly realise that an entrepreneur simply can’t wait for the business to be completely set up before starting to reach out to potential customers or business partners. On the contrary, a business will start as soon as it has developed that minimal digital presence that can allow starting a conversation with a brand. As the Cluetrain manifesto states, “all markets are conversions” and unless a conversation can be started, the brand has no market.
So let’s see what are some of the functions that the PR office can serve for your business:
- Engage Influencers in Your Market Space. As a newborn company, you may need all the support you can get. This, however, may not always come in monetary form, but in the form connections to the industry. In order for you to reach out and start developing conversations, you need a PR office which can make use of the mission and values of your brand to start branching out to all of the main influencers and spokespersons in your industry. This is especially effective when you still don’t have anything to sell yet, because it’s not a good idea to show interest and participate to online discussions as a sales strategy, at least in an early stage. These connections and conversations will serve you very well as the company grows, especially if you’re the one adding value to other people’s communities first.
- Develop a Voice for Your Brand. As you start exploring the online marketspace, your PR office will collect information and experience coming from the groups and communities it participates to, and as a result, you will have a chance to develop a voice for your brand, by identifying those key elements that arise from the overlap between your value offer and your customers’ needs. It’s really difficult to develop this brand voice or branding position in a vacuum, it’s actually much more effective to build an understanding of what your brand stands for, by interacting online.
- Conduct Market Research. As the brand explores its market space and interacts with other brands it will be actually conducting market research, as the brand will be able to understand the competition and the potential whitespaces or opportunities in the niche selected. As a consequence of this activity, the brand will be able to identify its points of parity and its points of difference. The points of parity are a list of all of those elements that a brand needs to have in order to be considered at the same level as the competition in the eyes of the consumer. These points of parity are not designed to make the brand stand out, but to show that the brand is good enough, to own a piece of the market. On the other hand, the points of difference are instead the elements that are unique to the brand, and that through a clear differentiation can lead the organisation to have an opportunity to build stronger loyalty with its customers. Points of parity are elements that a brand needs in order to be considered in the eyes of the consumer. This is where a brand may have similarities to others—leading consumers to believe that brand is “good enough” to be included in the conversation.
- Attract funding. Companies that succeed in the social media game can attract interest and show promise to investors. It’s certainly very difficult to stand out in such a crowded space, but nonetheless, building a reach and audience can be a form of validation for your product, showing to funders that there is actual interest in what you are bringing to the market. This is why we’ve often spoken about blogging as a great way to start a business, and even attract potential funding opportunities. If you’re interested in reading about this, here’s a link to our blog article.
We can now see how in reality there is a very clear alignment between PR and Marketing. In this sense, in the next paragraph, we’re going to explore how PR can be a form of fully-integrated marketing, designed not only to engage with your audience but to lead them towards purchase.
2. How The PR Office is Your Best Marketing Office
As we start discussing this topic it’s very important to clarify why PR is an effective form of Marketing.
- What’s “wrong” with marketing. Marketing is not simply selling, it’s more developing a relationship with customers that can lead to selling. In order to develop this relationship brands and customers need to interact several times (usually 7 or more) as firms build a stronger and stronger bond through a “funnel” that eventually leads to a sale. The issue with this is that throughout all these interactions, customers interact with owned media. This term refers to content which is actually owned by the firm, which is placed or better yet seeded in order to intercept a buyer’s intent through online searches. The fact is that however, customers, subject to sales saturation, are sceptical towards brand information that comes directly from the company, for the simple reason that a brand can pretty much say anything they like to promote their products, as they are paying for the advertising. This makes marketing much less effective in delivering the values of a brand, as customers may not believe the content of the communication.
- What’s “right” with Public Relations. On the other hand, public relation offices manage information about the company making sure that those who talk about the firm may have access to all the right and current information about it. However, a PR office cannot tell a media outlet what to write, as they have no control over it. This is certainly limiting, as firms will have a much harder time to manage the information flow, but on the other hand, the customers who access this information will be much happier to trust the source of the information. Moreover, PR content is much more current and directed towards a broad audience which will develop strong brand awareness.
In this sense, the impact of an effective PR office cannot be downplayed, and in the long-run, the reach of these more institutional communications will outlive the much short news cycle of sales-oriented advertising. But that’s not all, exactly because of the opportunity for the PR office to engage with a much broader audience. In this sense, the wonders of this office are not limited to the brand but involve the company image too, in the context of serving multiple HR activities.
3. How the PR Office is Your HR and Recruitment Division
It is safe to say that one of the primary goals of a business is to generate profits, so this is why we tend to think about outbound communications first, especially towards customers, who seem to be the most important stakeholders for a fashion brand.
- HR from the recruiter’s perspective. At a closer look, however, we can see that any fashion business – stating up or established – in order to succeed needs to attract, recruit and retain talent. In other words, it needs to fund the right people to work for the firm, helping developing it and to move it towards its goals. Attracting the right candidates is really challenging because you don’t want to hire people based on motivation which is too strictly connected with their salary expectations. On the contrary, you want to attract people who believe in what you believe and who are passionate about the values that are at the heart of your company.
- HR from the candidate’s perspective. If we instead think about the perspective is just as challenging. For new talents entering the job market, it can be really difficult to identify the right company for you. Brands in fashion may look very much alike – in their respective segments – but it’s always difficult to understand what company is the right fit. In this sense, PR initiatives can really help in putting centre stage the values of a firm, to allow it to focus on those aspects that matter the most. In this sense too, PR offices can help your brand attract the right talent, for the right reasons.
As a result, we can see that HR offices greatly benefit from PR activities as PR already pre-selects the candidates that will apply for a job, by attracting those that are overall better aligned with the position, for the mutual benefit of the company and the candidate. So, as we’ve seen PR offices are very versatile divisions, that can really help your business in a variety of situations, and especially at different stages of development. Let’s now move towards the conclusions paragraph to draw some final reflections on the topic.
As we’ve seen in this post, PR offices are really an essential asset to your firm. In order to summarise the content and conduct a short summary, we could see how the PR division can help out, by setting different priorities at different stages of development for your fashion brand.
- During the startup stage. As discussed in this stage, a PR office simply gets your brand on the map by allowing you to reach out to the other players in your industry and getting your message heard by the general public, as well as by the relevant players in your space. At this stage, PR does nothing less than market research, as the comparison with other players will lead the brand to establish its points of parity and points of difference.
- During the growth stage. In this stage instead, the fashion brand can use PR as a marketing aid, to build strong associations between the brand and a set of values that resonate with the customers. As discussed, the benefits of PR are linked to the fact that the information is shared by other organisations and news outlets, where the control of the brand is very limited, and this helps to build stronger effectiveness for the message.
- At the scaling stage. When the business is established and they are now moving into scaling globally, PR can serve in terms of attracting, hiring and retaining talent, buy showing how your fashion firm stands for much more than its products, but for a broader set of values that make the brand matter.
So that’s it. These are all of the values which are connected to developing a strong and efficient PR office. As you can see the work of the office is to build a strong brand that connects to the audience and creates that loyalty and attachment which is key to your brand’s long-term success.