By Melissa A Vitale
If you're a CPG brand, one of the first questions out of your publicists mouth is going to about available samples to press.
With any level of marketing, product sampling are a huge staple of public relations. Unlike gifting products to consumers or store reps, gifting to press can result in your brand being included in outlets like Glamour, Fast Company, GQ and Vogue.
PR mailers can be done in a number of ways:
You don't need to gift the entire line to every editor. Typically they just want to make sure the brand is a good brand and if they need to try out a specific product for a story they will request it.
When a product is in the hands of an editor it does more than my pitches can ever do. First, while I've made a reputation as a reliable source, every publicist needs to be taken with a drop of salt. Of course we're going to say great things about our clients. MAVPR only works with brands we love and are proud to support but every publicist needs to pay bills. Editors know this and need to test products themselves before featuring.
Not only does a sample sell an editor on a product, but it also keeps it at the front of their focus. You know the phrase "out of sight out of mind"? Very true for brands and samples. Once I emailed an editor about 8+ gift guide pitches but it was only after using a client's product that AM did she remember to include it in her gift guide. Editors get so many pitches that just stories and words won't always do it. Sometimes you need to get the product in their hands.
MAVPR maximizes samples and budgets to make PR attainable to vice startups.
To learn more about becoming a MAVPR client and our services, please visit: melissaavitale.com/services.html
By Melissa A Vitale
I really wish I had balls the size of some of the people who seek me out for PR services. I've never gone to buy something, was quoted and asked to either get the item for free, or with promises. The new one I've gotten recently was being asked to pay in a different way than I quoted.
My public relations agency, as it every one of the 7+ firms I've worked for over my tenure, bills retainers upfront. To be under publicist representation means your brand can be in rooms with editors at places like New York Times, Forbes and Rolling Stone in a matter of days. If you want to retain the services and representation of a publicist, you need to pay their retainer.
I was recently asked if I could forego my retainer to pay milestones. Supposedly I would still get the same amount of my monthly retainers in these milestones but understanding that those milestones could take months to cultivate, wanted me to work pro-bono until those milestones are hit.
I don't go into a store, buy something and then when I hand over my payment say "Hey, can I test this out first and then I'll pay you later once I like it?" If you want something you have to pay for it.
There are many creative avenues where you don't pay until you get the results. Public relations is not one of those fields. Public relations agencies already have meetings set up with journalists and editors before a client signs on board. We also have tons of tracking programs, email programs and other physical and digital supplies that make our press strategy possible. Many firms also have employees.
Rent, program subscriptions, supplies of mailers, tracking programs and media databases typically charge monthly. Employees have monthly salaries. When a client signs with a PR firm, they get added to these systems on day one.
Paying in milestones leaves the door open for a brand to abandon a campaign with no cost to them.
If you want the representation of a publicist, you need to pay for it upfront. Say I had three potential clients who said "oh we can pay milestones, just rep us we'll pay when we see results" it means I'm footing the bill for these brands' desires for public relations.
To learn more about what we do, visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/about.html
By Melissa A Vitale
Absolutely no brand is immune to slow coverage cycles. Well, unless maybe you're working with Elon Musk, an A-List celebrity or you have unlimited budgets for PR stunts. (And if you're a VICE brand and that applies to you, please contact me ASAP - we can do some GREAT work together).
I always make it a point to mention that PR is not immediate. Even though a brand pays my retainer, we're not giving anything to journalists. They maybe get a free sample. Journalists and editors are humans too. They have lives outside of their jobs. They have families, friends, other projects, side jobs, vacations and commitments. They don't exist to cover brands for their marketing goals. They serve their audiences and advertisers.
Just because a brand wants press coverage doesn't mean the editor, outlet, or journalist has time or resources to cover the brand. A journalist may be excited about a brand today, but won't be able to profile them for six months. Every outlet is beholden to advertisers and audiences for dictating their coverage. Not publicists and brands they represent. Sometimes, outlets are only allowed to cover niche subjects like VICE industries once every six months! If a particular magazine covered cannabis in June and a CBD brands starts in July, they may not have potential to be considered for four months at that specific publication.
Another thing to consider: budgets! It's no secret subscriber-ship has decreased across the board. There's only so much money to pay journalists & there's only so many editor salaries a publishing house can afford. Sometimes, editors love a brand, but already planned out their commission budgets for the coming months and need to pause on evergreen brand profiles.
It's the publicists constant pitches, calls, networking and schmoozing that keeps a brand relevant in the time between coverage opportunities. (Read more about how PR can take so long)
There are certain times of the year, Summer and January mainly where coverage can slow down. This does not mean that your campaign is failing. In fact, these months are often some of the most crucial to a campaign. One story could take 6 weeks to cultivate. So a placement in March means the end of January was when it was secured. I once had a brand with two placements in July and August but 11 placements in December... many of those placements in December were secured in July and August. The brands that are consistent with PR are the ones that will overcome slow months of coverage with explosions of press mentions in surrounding months.
Okay that all makes sense. But if I didn't get any results this month, do I still have to pay my publicist?
Unless your contract states that you do not have to pay without results, withholding payment from your publicist will hurt your campaign. Many publicists stop outbound pitching efforts if payments are overdue past a certain time. This could put a stall in the traction.
Even if you're without results one month, you of course need to pay your publicist! The results in PR are held in the hands of editorial departments. So if newscycles are slow one month, that doesn't mean your publicist doesn't have to or doesn't deserve to eat. They still did the work. If you're only paying when there are results, than your publicist is investing in your PR plan.
Unless you've gone 3+ months with results below the expectation, I would suggest talking with your publicist about what's going on but if it's a slow month sandwiched between stellar results, this is just the PR game and is very typical.
A slow month of results does not mean a bad campaign. PR is like a duck, on the surface, clients see results but there's a lot of hard work going on beneath the surface. Slow months just mean your publicist is working extra hard.
For Vice Brands looking to explore cost effective public relations packages, learn more about MAVPR’s services via: melissaavitale.com/services.html
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.