Should I start working with a PR firm to grow my beauty business?
Once you’ve established your brand and developed reliable products, it can be hard breaking in to the larger market or getting to the next level in your business. Perhaps you’ve exhausted your capacity for social media, you’ve tapped out your local market, or you simply aren’t sure what the next steps are to grow. In many ways, this is an ideal time to turn towards a PR professional. It’s exciting thinking about the possibilities of PR and your beauty brand. But now may not be the right time for many small indie beauty brands—you could spend too much for not enough gain. Here we cover what you need to know about working with PR and help you figure out if and when you’re ready.
What to expect working with PR
If you engage in a successful PR campaign, you’ll increase brand awareness, hype, and sales. But it can be a slow process, and your goals should adjust accordingly. Increasing brand awareness or brand equity is a slow strategy, but almost always worthwhile. Being featured in a major publication can provide a great sales spurt, but don’t rely on it to change your business forever. It’s all part of the marketing process.
PR companies and professionals exist to promote your brand or product to the media, who will in turn organically promote you. You’re looking for someone with connections: both regionally and in the beauty industry. You present yourself to a PR firm, and then they mold your story to make it digestible and intriguing to the press. It’s their job to publicize you to the media and their connections, but they won’t risk their reputation on a brand they don’t believe in.
What you need before starting a PR campaign
Because PR professionals are protecting their reputation, they need a certain level of preparedness and materials from you. Here’s a list you should prepare before approaching a firm or individual:
- Have a product (or know for sure when it will be fully ready)
- Come 3+ months in advance of when you want to see some result
- How you’re selling your product
- Where you’re selling it
- Have a basic start on social media, or at least know a realistic goal for the efforts you can put into your social media
- Have an active website
- Present a professional headshot (it does not have to be formal, however)
- Ideally, you’ll have the product photographed as well
Where you’ll start
When you first sit down with PR for your beauty business, they’ll want to hear the full story of the brand and your product(s). The goal is to find the main difference from your competition, so they will work hard to find your unique value proposition. It’s worth having this idea in mind as soon as possible from the conception of your business, too. Knowing what makes you special helps to shape your whole brand identity. Come ready with your story, prepared materials, a timeline, and a realistic budget.
Red flags for PR professionals:
As mentioned, PR professionals trade on their own relationships and trustworthiness. Thus they may refuse to take a small beauty brand on as a client if any of these things, or combination of things, is missing:
- Credibility (you’re an expert, or expert researcher, or have lots of experience)
- Openness to marketing needs or experience in marketing
- Appropriate language for the market, some kind of hook, a brand that is in touch with its target market
- A powerful narrative (i.e. “I couldn’t find anything for my son’s skin condition so I developed XYZ;” or “I’m a long-term flower farmer and realized lily pollen can do ABC”)
- Some selling platform, ideally more than your personal website.
- A working, functional product
- A solid budget
Engagement length and budget: PR and your beauty brand
Many PR firms will suggest a 6-month engagement, at perhaps $2,000 – $6,000 per month. With a 6-month engagement, the PR firms we spoke with felt you could gain publicity in short-lead media (i.e. digital rather than print magazines).
However, you are more than welcome (and it’s a great starting point) to do a one-off engagement. This is particularly appropriate for announcing a new product launch, or perhaps the new retail location of your products. Set aside perhaps $5,000 for this purpose.
We were told repeatedly that if you can’t afford the ~$30k 6-month fees, it is NOT worth it. Not only may it not be worth it, you might not need it at all. Mastering digital marketing basics is a great place to start, and we also like influencer marketing (check out our 3-part blog on the subject here).
Yes or No?
It all depends on your business stage, your available cash, and the realistic benefits. Maybe PR will be useful in 5 years, or maybe it would have helped 1 year ago. It’s worth a careful analysis, and probably a brief consultation with a few firms to see if they have the beauty expertise you’ll need. Pace yourself, and keep your expectations in check—PR is a marathon rather than a sprint.
I hope this helped you decide on your PR path, or at least prepared you for a few options ahead. More to follow!