How do I compete with big brands? Six smart & lean PR tactics
A question we get asked regularly by emerging brands, or mid-sized brands with small teams and budgets, is “how on earth can I possibly compete with the big brands for the attention of media and influencers…?!” HALP!
If you are one of the voices echoing the HALP! from above, rest assured that there are many [very practical] ways that you can take advantage of the inherent advantage that any startup has over an established enterprise: agility.
But don’t just take it from us. We’ve asked Adriana Glass from Talk Division to give us a run-down of her key insights after a decade of sharpening her skills in the PR world – showing you how emerging brands and small teams can compete with the bigs guns using six smart and lean PR tactics.
Ok yes let’s face it, big brands generally have big budgets, huge established social media platforms and international celebrity faces. But emerging labels can very easily follow any one of the six expert moves below to give the bigger brands a run for their money.
1. How can we compete with more established brands working with influencers?
We’ve all witnessed the power of social media in propelling a brand forward. Hi-Smile, Frank Body, Triangl are great examples of companies that worked with Influencers with low or no budgets and built momentum that created global interest in their brands – and very successful companies. Evidence shows that by engaging highly localised, niche influencers with smaller followings can actually return higher engagement (and arguably, sales) than influencers with larger but less focussed followings. The new approach to influencer marketing is leaning towards quality (appropriateness) over quantity (huge followings).
Keep in mind for influencer marketing:
- Don’t just target bloggers or social media stars, think about influencers as “people of influence.” This can include on-brand cultural figures, artists and creators, musicians, entrepreneurs and political figures can also be powerful brand advocates with more targeted followings and IRL followings… and potentially PR outcomes too.
- Get into free tools like The Right.Fit and Ampii.co to research social media Influencers in your area, and look out for accounts that regularly post content that resonates with your brand. Some will require payment or contra with part payment, but others will be comfortable with contra only.
- Consider trialling partnerships over a period of time rather than judging after one post, ongoing relationships that are genuine are far superior to one-off, obviously “paid” posts.
- Approach Influencers in the spirit of collaboration. Calvin Klein’s campaign #mycalvins was successful because it gave people the opportunity to create their own version of the iconic campaigns, to great effect. Give a clear brief but try not to dictate too much – if you like their style let them come up with something that will resonate with their audience and fit into their feed seamlessly. This integrity will translate into engagement.
2. What can we learn from big brands about influencer strategy?
What all those communications personnel and PR marketing executives are paid to do is essentially plan ahead, to find ways to support the business in good times and bad. Look at the next twelve months and think about what messages you need to get out, to whom and by when. If an opportunity comes up that doesn’t fit in your strategy, it could be a good sign that it’s not quite right for you (right now) and your precious time and energy can be spent better elsewhere.
- Answer your what, to whom and by when – then tailor your media releases to specific sets of media so you are not bombarding them with constant irrelevant pitches about absolutely everything.
- Target different media throughout the year for different parts of your collection, e.g. Styles for Spring Racing. Resort wear. Mother’s Day gifts. Really different styles and sets of media.
- Is this something you can PR? Not everything is suited to PR – consider channels like advertising, social media, and eDMs and how they can support your communications strategy.
3. How big brands manage their assets
The biggest brands still sometimes struggle with this – but it is PR 101. What assets do you have for media to work with? Monthly magazines are planning their issues 4 months out, so aim to have your samples and a strong selection of campaign, lookbook, and product images by then if possible.
- All imagery should be 1-3MB max, and 300dpi as standard.
- If you can’t afford to get 3D cutouts of all your imagery, ensure you have a selection of your strongest pieces or products – these product images can boost your results by up to 50% every month. Or look to a service like PixC.
- You’ve created these amazing assets so always make sure they are readily available on demand, and easily shareable. Of course, Flaunter is the go-to here.
- Consider doubling up on sample sets to make some available for media to shoot, while you are still in sales. You can also then use these extra samples (if of production quality) to gift influencers as they drop in store.
4. How big brands work with narratives or ‘Story’ to maximise PR outcomes
Big brands with history set the benchmark for coverage, building cache and context with each collection. Instant recognition of a designer or name may help secure editorial, but emerging brands often have great stories to be told too.
Have you considered:
- Investing in a well-designed and written brand bio, designer or spokesperson bio and headshot. Having these available for introductions to new media contacts and opportunities can be invaluable
- Your staff and customers as potential stories, from sell-out styles setting records to personal interest stories – sometimes the best new angles for media to cover your brand and products are right in front of you
5. How & when to call in the “Experts”
Big brands often have agencies and in-house resources they have working on their strategy, marketing and PR year round. Knowing when to call on expertise and what exactly you need is key.
Questions to ask:
- What’s your objective? Do you need to make your name known and get your collection out there? Or have you been around for years and need hero developing the right strategy to get to the next level?
- Are you simply too busy to fulfil media requests? Could it be something that an in-house resource could support?
- Do you need the credibility of an agency or consultant to help you build relationships with media and get your product in front of them through a showroom?
- Tools like Flaunter can support your PR for a fraction of the cost. The time taken to set them up properly will save you hours down the road.
- Consultants who set up and guide your PR and Marketing strategy can be an effective complement to your in-house team.
- Don’t be afraid to ask any professional to break down their quotes and explain their strategies or approach.
6. And finally, your secret PR superpower…
Often multinational brands miss out on opportunities because they simply can’t move fast enough. But emerging brands can be agile. Being small often means not getting tied down by internal procedures, timezones and red tape. Embrace this as your hidden, inherent strength – if you see an opportunity, breaking news, or even unseasonable weather, make your move.
Never underestimate how powerful it can be to be the underdog 🙂
Adriana Glass is the Founder of Talk Division, a consultancy specialising in strategic PR, media and communications for lifestyle, fashion and wellbeing brands. Adriana has represented international and Australian fashion and lifestyle brands for over a decade and worked in some of Australia’s biggest PR agencies managing their communications, strategy and influencer and media relations.
Image credit: Coco Rocha photographed by Gred Kadel (banner); Influencer success by Frank Body; Plan in advance – calendar by An Organised Life; Zoe Foster Blake by The File; Call in the experts – PFW Street Style by The Fashion Medley