The PR Adviser: Leveraging Those Early Victories

ColumnistsFeb 27, 2024

The PR Adviser: Leveraging Those Early Victories

Lilian Raji offers advice to a “small brand with big dreams” that is unsure of what its next step should be.

National Jeweler columnist Lilian Raji
Lilian Raji is a strategic communications and PR adviser who helps companies understand their marketing problems, then designs and executes strategies to solve them.
You’re in for a two-for-one bonus this month, dear readers!

Since my return, The PR Adviser has been bombarded with emails that simply can’t wait.

I’ve learned for every one person with a question, there are three dozen others afraid to raise their hands! Bravo to the bold individuals who emailed me; I’m sure there are legions who stand with you.

We’ll return to our “Superheroes of the Customer Journey” series once I get these questions sorted.

Now to my inbox!

Q. I am a small brand with big dreams but sometimes figuring out where to start is hard. I was blessed to have been selected for the NDC x Lorraine Schwartz Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative in the infancy of my brand. It was an amazing way to start and I garnered a lot of great responses early on.

But as the program continued and I needed to leave the nest, I find myself struggling with what to do next. How can I pick up momentum? How can I find more customers and fans to make it worthwhile and exciting for retailers to carry the brand?

How impactful is placement on a brand’s direct-to-consumer sales? What is the best way to leverage PR successes when they do happen?

Dreaming But Not Living the Dream

A. Dear Dreamer,

You remind me of a Montreal jewelry designer for whom I once did consulting work. Well, not exactly; you’re humbler than she was.

The legendary Jean-Paul Gaultier had requested her jewelry for his Paris Fashion Week show.

With this request inflating her head to the size of the Goodyear Blimp, she dismissed my warning that the opportunity wouldn’t turn out how she hoped without proper strategic planning. She believed Jean-Paul had anointed her the Chosen One and everyone else would simply fall in line.

Of course, no one cared about her jewelry against the backdrop of Gaultier’s genius. She never figured out how to leverage the opportunity. All she has now to show for it are bragging rights.

I don’t believe landlords accept rent payments in bragging rights, no?

I don’t want this fate for you, or for other designers who receive such great honors.

So, first things first—whom did you meet in the initiative? Have you reconnected with them?

I once advised twin sisters launching a jewelry collection. I sent them to a Bloomingdale’s open call to help secure their first order.

Following my instructions, they dazzled the Bloomingdale’s buyer, who gave the sisters her card and told them to call her for a formal meeting.

“Fabulous!” I gushed, back when we were still calling everything fabulous. “When is the meeting?”

The fifth of Never at not-gonna-happen o’clock. They’d lost the woman’s business card and couldn’t recall her name.

If I were to psychoanalyze their behavior, as I far too frequently serve as an adviser and a therapist, I’d say these sisters self-sabotaged.  

They didn’t believe they could truly achieve success, so when opportunity came knocking, they treated it like a Jehovah’s Witness, and hid until it finally went away. 

I know this isn’t what you expected, dearest Dreamer, but I must start here. 

I’ve seen many emerging designers sabotage themselves by ignoring opportunities because it was too painfully disguised as risk—the risk of having to discover whether you really have what it takes to achieve your dreams. 

So, my love, we’re going to start with you listing everyone you met through the program. Everyone.  

Contact them all, and as you’ve so eloquently told me, tell them you need guidance on what to do next. 

Be humble. And persistent.  

Whatever promise is made to you, hold that person to it. Even if you think they may be full of it, gently but tenaciously follow up anyway until the promise is kept. 

I habitually offer to help people when they need something easily within my power to grant. 

When I was younger, I would make myself crazy following up with the person so I could do them a favor. I don’t do that anymore. If you need my help, I will help you. But you must send me an email reminding me of what I promised. 

Would you be surprised how rarely I get an email? The few that follow through, however, always find themselves rewarded with my favor. 

Never assume when someone tells you to follow up, they’re just blowing you off. Some are, but only gentle, persistent contact can determine this. Others may just be testing you to see if you’re worth their time. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

I’m often asked how, as a Black woman, I’ve climbed so high to command my fees. I simply answered the door every time opportunity knocked and didn’t assume it might be an illusion.

I have a vision of who I want to be in this world and don’t allow anything or anyone to stop me. Any obstacle put in my way is just a problem to be solved. And as clients can attest, I’m the quintessential problem solver.

Have I been disappointed? Absolutely. I could fill four football fields with my disappointments and two Olympic-sized swimming pools with the resulting tears I shed.

But I continued opening the door to every knock, entering every room to which the door led, and, corridor by corridor, found my way to where I am now. 

That is what I invite you to do, Dreamer, my darling!

While I know you want to leverage the PR coup of landing on Lorraine Schwartz’s radar, that time has come and gone.

But you know what hasn’t? The people you met through the program! They were part of the program for a reason, dearest Dreamer, and it’s the “who you know” that’s going to take you to the where you want to go!

Use those relationships to create a new opportunity for yourself, and then we can talk about a PR campaign for you as a rising star on the heels of the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative.

Picture it, shimmering in lights boldly like a brilliant-cut diamond, “After captivating the VIP of the Lorraine Schwartz Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative, the talented Dreamer has now launched a new collaboration that proves why she was selected for the initiative in the first place!”

Use your initiative contacts! People will help you if you ask nicely. Don’t be afraid to ask, and keep asking.

In my next column, a designer needs help navigating those insidious time-wasting tire kickers. Tune in as I share my Tourneau-honed skills for closing a sale. 

Your questions, my answers. Email me, friends!

Lilian Rajiis a strategic communications and PR adviser who helps companies understand their marketing problems, then designs and executes strategies to solve them.

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