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“Fashion Industry Embraces Social Media” is not accurate.

February 13th, 2010 6 Comments

Today, Mashable posted an article about how fashion labels and their publicists are embracing social media.

Basically, writer Hitha Prabhakar states that brands are learning how to harness the power of the web and recognizing the value of bloggers at Fashion Week.

The first part is true.  Prabhakar writes:

“Ignoring the Internet [and social media] is madness,” says designer Diane von Furstenberg who has been advocating for transparency in the fashion industry for years…With her following at over 22,000, von Furstenberg is one of the most beloved and popular designers on Twitter….The viral marketing capabilities of re-tweeting by this targeted group is something an advertising budget cannot buy. Within the last year of having a major online and social media presence, von Furstenberg’s online traffic has increased by 13% and sales “have been great” according to a source in the corporate offices of DvF.”

However, in terms of PR reps allowing bloggers the same access they do for traditional media at Fashion Week…You can hear it from the horse’s mouth, I can tell you they are not. (Bryanboy and Tavi are the exceptions here.)

I am a perfect example of how publicists still value print over digital.  Let me elaborate.

ACCESS DENIED

After sending a request for a backstage badge and a seat to 75% of the designers’ publicists to livestream their collection to the world, I was denied by over half. Let’s examine my pitch and explore reasons for this response.

My coverage is THE ONLY CONTINUOUS live broadcast from Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.  THE ONLY ONE.  The stream doesn’t stop between shows; we don’t stage encounters; the camera follows me every moment; there is absolutely no editing.  It is truly authentic and respectful of everyone involved. Plus, we can guaranteed eyes on their collection and allow designers to communicate their message to their customer personally.   In traditional media, a reporter backstage chops up their interview, and a editor sitting front row can’t promise inclusion in their publication. (Keep in mind that if you enter the tents, you are consenting to being photographed and recorded so people are on their best behavior.)

As this is only my second season to stream, distribution has been limited, but our audience is solid and engages in chats via a feed connected to twitter.

Yet publicists deny us access because we don’t have a platform they recognize/value.

Until now….The Huffington Post has embeded our livestream player on their website and is promoting our coverage because of the continuity and quality.  Our schedule is already set to stream a certain number of shows and is not flexible. So, how do think a publicist would respond if their client asked them, “why is my collection not being broadcast live to a worldwide audience that is now on one of the web’s most popular platforms?”

As you saw above, Diane Von Furstenberg has seen the translation to sales due to her presence online, yet her people declined to have us at the show.  I don’t think she would be pleased to know she’s missing out on this unique, free publicity.  However, my readers requested to see the collection live, so I will be there streaming it.

THE TRUMP CARD

So now you wonder, how and why I do it.  My access comes from a media credential (provided by IMG that produces the event) that allows me entrance into every show within the “Mercedes Benz” schedule.  Front row seats are actually easy to come by because most of the magazine editors, buyers, and celebrities rarely attend so the publicists are then eager for fashionistas to fill them.

MORE THAN ME

For a head-strong, independent entrepreneur, the “why do I promote a brand that doesn’t value my work” is a more difficult question to answer.   First of all, my career in blogging started at Fashion Week with Julia who was covering the shows for Star and TimeOut New York.  As a designer and woman, I loved seeing the ensembles grace the runway, and I knew my readers would too.  The Fall 2008 collections were my first to live blog via my iPhone, and the response was overwhelming.  Readers applauded the constant uploads of blurry pictures because it gave them a sense of being at the event.  NYFW then became the cornerstone of my blog.

As others picked up on this liveblogging trend (Racked was the first to follow in my footsteps), I had to come up with ways to keep my coverage on the cutting edge and my readers engaged.  Enter Livestream that uses a mobile technology not readily available to bloggers.

Even though my blog has grown beyond fashion, I continue because I am still ahead of the game when it comes to coverage of NYFW.  As I said, NO ONE ELSE streams continuously with the degree of quality as I do with Livestream.  This is beneficial for both you and me.  I am looking to grow MTM into a profitable business, which means I need to offer my readers a unique experience.  I believe there is value in the stream for 3 key reasons:  viewers get an all-access pass they would never have in real life to an event they are passionate about,  brands can sponsor the stream and interact with the viewers in a new way, and I can continue to publish MTM and grow the brand.

FAITH

Just as The Huffington Post did today, other media will pick up on this organic experience we are providing designers with our livestream.  Designers and their publicists will then value the unique communication they can have with their customer.   Our presence on blogs and news sites will entice brands to sponsor the stream so we can grow the experience for you.  Streaming fashion week is fun and exciting, but the system requires a traditional  network and dynamic in order for us to build it out.

Perhaps Paris is in our future…..keep your fashionista fingers crossed!

Also, check out “What Will We Do With Influencers” by Chris Brogan.  Josh Levine, of Rebel Industries in LA, makes a great point in the comments section as well, noting that by brands having  “a goal of getting influencers to talk about your product as if they were magazines [they] greatly undervalue the opportunity.”  Read his comment here.

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  • Bob Baer

    Are publicists that ignorant?

  • joy peace

    Love the coverage Mary.

  • Sarah

    Totally agree with you. It is a FACT that Word of Mouth (driven by the mavens and the influencers) is the #1 source of purchase influence for almost all product categories, including fashion.

    I think if you are a brand marketing manager and you haven’t read Groundswell & Tipping Point and you don’t have any WOM tactics and influencer “relationship marketing” tactics in your bag of tricks – you should be fired.

    It shouldn’t be the only tactic for brand marketing – but it is certainly one that can’t be ignored.

  • Pingback: How Social Media Will Change Fashion Week « Word Couture Blog

  • Hitha Prabhakar

    Hi Mary. Hitha here. Just wanted to clarify a couple points without sounding mean. Designers via their publicists do (and did) grant a huge amount of access to fashion bloggers this season it wasn’t just Bryanboy and little Tavi. In fact, my very close friend who was the director of PR for one of the designers who I mentioned in my piece (and shows at the tents) and now runs PR for a major beauty brand said in a separate convo. back stage, “everyone is ALL about the bloggers because they get the info out so quickly via Twitter, Facebook and of course their blogs. We want to take advantage of that so more so than in the past, we’ve granted them access.” Mary, what you don’t understand is that if you are well respected fashion blogger/journalist you WILL get access. Getting denied to more than 50% of the shows to live stream has nothing to do with publicists being clueless, TRUST ME they exactly who everyone is and are very meticulous about who they invite to their shows. Maybe the answer is just as simple as this: they didn’t want their shows streamed on your platform because they a) don’t know who you are or b) don’t trust your coverage or c) want to have control over how their backstage and front of house is covered in a “live” capacity. In terms of you being the first to live blog, I do belive fashionista.com was doing it way before you and have had much more access over the years. In fact, they have been going to London, Paris and Milan to cover shows for years now. Don’t hate on the publicists Mary or the industry itself. Understand it more and then maybe you will have more success in your coverage.

    • http://morethanmary.com Mary Rambin

      You’re absolutely right!

      However, it is the job of the publicist to research. A quick click on the links I provided in my letters would show that I had covered their shows before in a very respectful way and was able to distribute the content around the web.

      “Credibility” is also relative because a lot of blogs with little reach get access simply because of their name.

      As far as traditional media goes, as I said, the brand name won’t always get you the eyeballs you are looking for. Julia, who covered for NBC Digital, and I had a lengthy discussion (on camera) about how much access she gets with “NBC.” However, the videos don’t make it to air until weeks after the event, if at all.

      As someone who has been at the tents in the trenches, trust me when I tell you publicists are not as welcoming as the media lets on. That being said, bloggers don’t NEED a front row or even third row seat to tweet their coverage, which is why this season I often took any available seat or stood to comment on the collection. It’s only when I do a trend wrap up and video in HD that I really need to be seated for a clear shot.

      Listen, I have respect for the established media as well as the publicists who make the event run smoothly. It’s just the attitude that I don’t feel is necessary. We are all there to do a job and we have to be respectful of each other. This is another topic I discussed at length on livestream. You can’t/shouldn’t interrupt people just to stick a microphone in their face. The reason we would go backstage an hour or so before was to find the appropriate time to approach people. This can lead to some downtime, but that’s when I would try to chime in and talk about something else or check in with viewers tweeting and chatting.

      With “my understanding” of the event, I could type for days. The bottom line is that media and its influence is changing and the fashion industry will have to evolve with it.