The PR Adviser: Dear Lilian …

TrendsFeb 02, 2016

The PR Adviser: Dear Lilian …

National Jeweler columnist Lilian Raji outlines the three steps up-and-coming designers need to take in order to get editorial placement in major consumer publications.

Hi Lilian,
I just read your article about finding a jewelry product photographer and I think it is one of the best and most entertaining articles! Thank you for your guidance. I have a question about PR and properly approaching magazine editors in general. Although I have been in the industry a long time, I am launching two collections--one is 18-karat gold/diamond and one is cause jewelry for bullying awareness. I have two separate websites but need exposure. I have no budget to hire a PR team. How would one “emerging” designer get help and, with a zero budget, be in touch with editors? Thank you for any resources or recommendations!
Best Regards,
Alison Nagasue

Dear Alison,

If you and I were on a consulting call, one of the first questions I would ask you would be if you knew Cindy Edelstein and her tremendous services at the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau. Unfortunately, as many know by now, Cindy passed away last week.

Before I go into answering your question, dear Alison, please allow me a final farewell to one of the sparkling gems of the jewelry industry.

I met Cindy Edelstein in 2012 when I was tasked with what was then one of the biggest projects of my career. The Quebec Government Delegation was bringing 14 jewelry artist to the United States for an exhibition at Aaron Faber Gallery and it was my responsibility to not only publicize the exhibition, but to also ensure all 14 artists left the U.S. with a better understanding of doing business in this market. 

Janis Kerman, one of the 14 artists, suggested I hire Cindy as a consultant on this project. It is to Janis I credit with getting to know one of the most beautiful souls of the jewelry industry. With Cindy on board, spending hours brainstorming with me on how I could meet every mandate the Quebec Government Delegation gave me, I was able to deliver results that far exceeded anyone’s expectations of the project.

When I sat down to write this statement, I found it odd that I’ve really only known Cindy for less than four years. Four years! But that’s the impact Cindy had on my, and countless other people’s, lives. She was dedicated to helping out whenever she could, and always went above and beyond. In an industry where so many people think “me first,” Cindy was one of the few
that would genuinely say, “Yes, you first, how can I help you?”

When Cindy passed away, Janis Kerman emailed me to ask if I’d heard the news; yes, I’d heard the night it happened from Patricia Faber. My last conversation with Cindy, I told her, was just a little under three weeks ago, when I was encouraging her and her husband to take a cruise, having just gone on one myself for my birthday. I suggested that this may be a way for her to combat empty-nest syndrome, as her beloved daughter, Remy, was now off at college. Cindy’s response was “Yeah … maybe …”

Janis reminded me that the cruise was probably never going to happen, as Cindy was too dedicated to her work to ever take a vacation. And this was probably right, except I doubt if Cindy ever thought what she did was work. She did far too much, and helped far too many people, for her way of life to ever be considered work. Perhaps a craft, yes, but not work. Cindy’s passing left a hole in the industry that no one person will ever be able to fill.

Thank you, Alison, for this moment.  Now, it is on to your question.

Once upon a time, the PR Adviser was a scrappy 20-something year old with dreams of being the PR doyenne that years of experience and client successes have finally made me.  

Unfortunately, this dream took shape shortly after Sept. 11, when public relations and just about every other creative industry put a freeze on hiring as the economy slowly sank into recession. After a year of failed job interviews, I had to make a choice: either give up on this dream or figure out a way to give it to myself.

We don’t have to guess what my decision was, now do we? (Hint: it was the latter!)

In giving the dream to myself, I first had to learn all the ins and outs of the industry, without having the safety net of an agency team to help guide me along. With zero budget to hire PR, you’re now in the same boat I found myself in years ago. You, my dear, are going to have to learn to give yourself PR until that glorious day comes that you can make PR the worry of someone else on your team.  

Now, I can’t possibly summarize 15-plus years’ experience in less than 2,000 words, so you’re most likely going to have to email me again, while wearing a Groucho Marx costume and using a fake name, to get more of my wisdom. 

But in the meantime, let me impart three of the most important things you need to have right now:
1)    You need very good photography.
2)    You need a very good story.
3)    You need very good relationships with press.

One and two will help you get three, but three simply cannot happen without one and two. It’s basic math: 1+2 = 3.

For photography, head on over to my article on finding your Mario Testino.

Now, for a good story, you’re going to have to dig deep into your soul and ask yourself what makes what you’re doing in jewelry worthy of free editorial placement on the pages of Vogue, where a one-page ad can cost upwards of $200,000.  

Helping you answer this question is one of the most crucial duties of a PR person. Because while you think you’ve done something Extraordinarily New, Revolutionary, Never Seen Before, Game Changing (insert as many capitalized hyperbolic statements as you can here), editors have seen it all.

This reminds me of the time I called Cindy Edelstein, so excited as I’d just been introduced to mokume-gane in jewelry design and was certain the jewelry designer was about to become the next Todd Reed. Cindy tenderly put a pin in my bubble and rattled off seven other designers that have been doing mokume-gane for years.

So I repeat: Editors have seen it all. What makes you so special? Why do you deserve to have for free the coveted editorial space for which others are paying $200,000 and more?

I once had a consulting session with a woman who was launching a beauty line. A mutual friend introduced us as she’d been using the woman’s products for years. Over the course of a few hours, the woman told me her life story, her battle with cancer, where she had her first kiss and her PIN number.

I said that’s great, why would anyone want to purchase your beauty line? She started again on her battle with cancer, her husband’s fascination with football and why she’s certain tomato should be pronounced toe-mah-toe.  

To make a long story short, I declined her request for my agency to represent her. Launching a beauty line after battling cancer is not a good enough reason for a beauty editor to write about you (with sincere respect to those who have battled cancer.)

She went on to hire an agency that happily allowed her to take a second mortgage on her house to pay their fees (this is true) and started a PR campaign for her that focused on her life story instead of what was special about her beauty line--the very strategy I advised her was a bad idea. They scheduled a speaking engagement for her with members of  Mensa (this is also true), where she got to tell them all about herself, before later having to file for bankruptcy when her beauty line never achieved the publicity she needed to grow her business (and sadly, this, too, is true.)

There are so many morals to this story that I could write another article on this, but only, of course, if I get an email from a G. Marx asking me what the other morals are.

In your case, Alison, the moral is that you need to understand what is special about your jewelry collection; you must understand why anyone would want to purchase your collection; and you must be able to convey this press.

Once you’ve done this and tested your story on others--being very willing to hear objections about your story and being able to reasonably answer those objections--only then are you ready to work on the third most valuable thing you need to do your own PR.

Now, for me to properly go into that third thing, how to build good relationships with press, I will need an entire article.  

But wait, Alison! Before you order that Groucho Marx costume from Amazon and register a fake Gmail address, let me assure you I will go into step three in an upcoming article without you needing to take covert action.  

In the meantime, please allow me to end this edition of the PR Adviser with a message to Cindy’s family: My heart goes out to you, Frank and Remy, both of whom I’ve never had the opportunity to meet but whom I know very well through Cindy’s stories. May the love Cindy generated through her craft from the many people she’s helped give you solace in this time of mourning.

Until next time, readers.  

Lilian Raji is a strategic marketing and public relations adviser that helps luxury lifestyle brands sell more products to luxury buyers. Send questions for The PR Adviser to Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
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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