Alt Title: Why Does my Publicist Insist on Seasonal Gift Sets?
By Melissa A Vitale
With today’s consumer demands for alluring branding, packaging and a superior quality, it’s already a tremendous feature to bring an entire product collection to market. Which is why it’s understandably discouraging when a publicist says, “well, we need a gift set,” in regard to making a splash in seasonal Gift Guide Coverage.
There are so many stand-alone products that are included in gift guides that a lack of gift sets isn’t exclusionary overall. For publications creating evergreen product roundups however, editors want to focus on items that are more gift-centric to switch up their offering of product recommendations.
There are many gift-guide stories that exclude single products and require some type of gift set. Gift sets can help widen the spectrum of seasonal gift recommendations stories a product can be included for.
Looks Better on the Page
From blogs and social media to print and broadcast, each gifting season there thousands of gift guides written. Especially with affiliate marketing driving SEO with revenue for the publication, outlets want their gift guides to perform well. In order to do that, they want to pick the most exciting gifts for their readers. They want something that looks good on a page. Sure, you may have the best product shots money could buy, but standing next to a deluxe gift-set from a luxury spa brand, it doesn’t have the same wow-factor.
Putting the Reader First
Someone may be the type of people to source souvenirs from a trip for the perfect gift for loved ones, but not everyone has the time or capabilities to thoughtfully gift everyone on their list. When someone is looking at “Gift guide for Coworker, Mother-In-Law, etc.”, they are hoping for a quick-fix suggestion with a one-stop-shop link.
Consumers [& Editors] Love Convenience
Consumers want ease. Single products don’t always carry that wow-factor and are often put as part of a larger gift. The 2020 pandemic showed us that we may not always be giving our gifts IRL. Pre-made sets are not only effective for brightening the day of your recipient but also easy on the consumer.
Gift Season is Special
From an editor’s standpoint, it really is a PR gimmick to take the same product they would recommend for a singular purpose and rebrand it as their top pick for a Mother’s Day Gift, unless the product alone has the size, function and price to be a standalone gift (think appliances/electronics, jewelry, designer bakeware – big ticket items as we call it). But when we’re talking about CBD, cannabis & Sex, a single ashtray may be included in a Stocking Stuffer round up but not a Forbes Ultimate Gift Guide. A gift set that is unique to the season makes it more special than just something they picked up.
Mother’s Day Gifting can be sourced as early as December the year previous, while Holiday Gift Guides can start as early as the preceding summer. Planning is going to be your best friend to ensure you can maximize your gift season coverage.
Keep your publicist in the loop as you plan for gift guides as we have our ear to the ground for what editors and their readers are finding most noteworthy.
How Legal-Cannabis & Sex-Wellness brands benefit from public relations campaigns
One of the first expectations I like to manage when kicking off a new client is that public relations is absolutely never measured or evaluated in sales towards a product. Sales drive business obviously, so I’m always excited to hear when media coverage we’ve secured has led to a boost in conversions and we always try to replicate those results.
Does PR lead to sales? Yes! Especially when incorporated within a strategic marketing funnel, or when an article hits a top SEO search, you will absolutely see the value in PR in sales.
However, looking to a publicist for increase in sales is like going to a dentist to have an ingrown pubic hair removed. Can they give you anatomical expertise that you yourself might not be privy to? Yeah! But when it comes to going under the knife, wouldn’t you want someone who specializes in exactly what you need?
When it comes to sales increases, I would recommend speaking to someone who specializes in understanding and building a marketing funnel, a freelance CMO, a business coach, or an advertising agency before speaking to a publicist.
Okay, so what is the value of PR if not measured in sales?
Say it with me: Brand Awareness and Relationships with key industry Media
Brand awareness is letting media and their consumer readers know that your brand exists, typically, with some degree of brand-control on the messaging. Awareness can be activated through social media, advertising and other marketing initiatives, but for Vice-category brands, those options are limited by the association with the cannabis and/or adult industries. Press is one of the most effective ways to make a high-impact with a limited budget.
Just about every PR agency I’ve come across measures their results in Ad Value, or how much money you saved if you were to go to an advertising agency alone. To give you an idea of how that correlates: I was once quoted $20,000 for a single product placement in a multi-brand roundup at a publication we work with regularly. My clients, historically, have all been placed in that same publication without advertising fees…typically, more than once.
I consider public relations Chess not Checkers. Advertising is like playing checkers: singular moves at one time, often reactionary. Chess is strategic, with the overall goal the priority over linear wins. What does that mean? Instead of looking for instant gratification, public relations is a longer-lead strategy with results, when done right, better than anything you can get from advertising, something most consumers are adverse to anyways.
Advertising can place one story in an outlet like GQ at a similar fee to six months of public relations; PR can place you not only in GQ, but outlets like Forbes, Well & Good, Men's Health, Popsugar and more, each, and every month.
This is where the value of relationships come in. A good friend and feature reporter for the New York Post called me up the other day after we closed a story featuring one of my cannabis clients. “You do it really smart, Melissa” he said.
Most publicists can be notoriously tit-for-tat with samples, interviews etc. If a journalist tries a product or interviews a founder, they expect coverage. I don’t! I hope the editor or writer tries the product or talks to my client, loves them, feels aligned with the brand’s mission, and if they work on an upcoming story that’s a fit, would consider sharing their experience with their audiences.
And if they don’t? Well, that’s the gamble of media. Not everyone is going to include every brand –that’s why we create multi-prong approaches. But usually, when a journalist loves a brand, they keep them in mind for anything relevant.
Now what sounds more valuable to you: a single ad-placement that consumers may or may not read? Or creating a lasting relationship with a pool of editors, writers and freelancers who regularly cover related topics, immediately think about you and include your brand often in their coverage? How about if they love your brand and want to cover any big announcement you have?
That’s the value of PR: becoming the go-to and must-feature for top tier media in your specific area of industry, especially for vice-category companies with limited advertising options, is beyond invaluable for a future leading brand.
An overview of a general campaign with Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
ABy Melissa A Vitale
There are tons of public relations agencies out there and there are also different ways to approach a PR campaign. In lieu of an elevator pitch that leaves out key details of what its like to engage with Melissa A Vitale PR, I wanted to give you a brief overview of what its like to work with us.
We have a detailed proposal process where we isolate the most newsworthy aspects of the brand, curate a sampling of storylines that would be pitched over the six-month campaign and review all the expectations of the account.
MAVPR works with Monthly retainer models. Our minimums vary heavily based on the media landscape and how many hours our experience indicates we’ll need to secure the results that MAVPR has become known for. Minimums vary heavily based on a variety of factors including how photo-friendly the products are, experts & brand founders available to speak to press, how topical the brand is to current conversations and the brand’s goals (if you’re hoping to be on CNBC Broadcast monthly, that varies differently from targeting mostly digital opportunities). Campaigns have a minimum engagement of six months. Clients get a monthly report based on press progress every month which includes a detail Birdseye view of the campaign to date.
Every campaign has unique strategies, but most of the time, our goals across each client is similar: to make the brand the go-to source for whatever industry expertise or experience they offer. For instance, with a female-founded luxury cannabis brand, the goal is that whenever an industry editor or journalist thinks about luxury consumption décor, considers covering female-founded brands, or wants specific insight inclusive of the female consumer experience, they think of me and my client. The same is true with my sex-experts: with a couple’s sex-coach and play-party host, our goal is that whenever an editor or journalist has a question about orgasms, pleasure, or being a better lover, they think about him.
To sum it up, our goal is always to make our client the go-to source for their specific area of industry expertise or relevant product recommendations.
“Yeah, Melissa, being a go-to-source sounds like a dream; how do you make it happen?” Luckily, I’ve been doing most of that legwork for years. I’ve already created a reputation for being a source-of-sources among the sex and cannabis industries. I curate my client roster to be complimentary – meaning my clients aren’t competitors of eachother, but I offer a range of experts, brands, founders, and products that fit a broad variety of stories they may be working on. As someone eloquently put it, “I should’ve gone to you before putting in a HARO request.”
I’ve heard of PR agencies that only focus on one topic, storyline or pitch at a given time. Media is not linear so our strategy shouldn’t be either. One of our main goals are full feature, glowing reviews of our clients in top tier outlets. But those can take a while. In the meantime, we create relationships with journalists working on existing stories that may be a fit for a brand’s product or expertise (inbound). Along with what comes through our network, we’re also creating outbound storylines not just around the brand story as a whole, but specific topics and ideas that the brand could be seen as a leader in.
Most of our campaigns have three-to-four main focuses:
With multi-pronged campaigns, we’re not just seeing coverage during announcements or coverage clusters, we’re seeing placements whenever there are relevant topics being written about. The brand is in stories it should be in.
Taking time to get organized & set us up for success:
Since PR is chess not checkers, its more beneficial to take the time to get yourself set up for success. It helps when clients are organized and ready to launch and can send samples quickly for an intro mailer. We also use the first month to iron out and onboard messaging. This way, when we’re focused on placing roundups, full-features and commentary opportunities in tandem, we’re not missing vital components needed to secure the coverage.
"So, I get one placement a month?" More than that. Once a public relations campaign has had time to bear fruit, clients with MAVPR typically experience anywhere from two (2) to nine (9) placements in top tier or industry publications per month. Even before a brand has been introduced wide, historically, most brands typically experience at least two placements in the beginning months of PR.
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.