For many emerging and independent designers, one of the best ways to help build brand awareness about your business is by creating some media buzz. Whether in print or online, good press can do wonders for growing your brand.
As a small business, you may not have the budget to hire someone to handle your PR. Luckily, it's totally possible to manage your own as long as you understand the ins and outs of what editors are looking for.
We caught up with Rachel Gallaher, Senior Editor at Gray Magazine to get the inside scoop on what she looks for when deciding on stories for the magazine and her best advice to designers and fashion brands on pitching the media.
LAPTOPS & SMALLTALK: HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR CAREER IN JOURNALISM?
RACHEL GALLAHER: I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was in first grade. Storytelling has always been a draw for me, although I wasn’t always on a straight journalism track. I majored in English with an emphasis on Fiction writing at the University of Washington and was originally planning on grad school and years and years of academia after that. In 2008 (the year before I graduated) the economy crashed and all of the sudden grad school wasn’t as practical of an option. The next year I started an internship with the former Seattle Homes & Lifestyles magazine. That experience opened my eyes to the fact that there were people out there who would pay me to tell stories, pay me for my writing. What a dream! I’ve been in magazines for the past eight years, and can’t see myself doing anything else.
L&S: AS THE SENIOR EDITOR AT GRAY MAGAZINE, WHAT SORT OF THINGS ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR?
RACHEL: My responsibilities include writing stories, editing stories, brainstorming issue themes, finding and pitching story ideas, working with interns, attending events, moderating panels, and representing GRAY at various conferences and design shows. I’m not the kind of person who can sit in one place and do the same tasks over and over again, so one of my favorite things about my work is that it’s so different every single day.
L&S: WHAT'S THE BEST WAY FOR DESIGNERS/BRANDS TO CONTACT YOU ABOUT PITCH IDEAS?
RACHEL: We have a submissions email (firstname.lastname@example.org), but I am actually the gatekeeper of sorts for that account, so projects can be pitched directly to me (email@example.com) as well.
L&S: WHAT KIND OF FASHION-RELATED STORIES/PITCHES DO YOU LOOK FOR?
RACHEL: When it comes to fashion stories our publication is unique because everything we cover has to have a design-related angle. This usually means that we cover designers based in the PNW region (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, British Columbia, and Idaho) rather than national brands available through larger retail stores. We love independent designers who are creating fresh new styles whether it’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, or handbags. Sometimes we feature a designer in a profile, and other times we’ll focus on the clothes with an editorial shoot.
L&S: WHAT MAKES A GREAT PITCH?
RACHEL: There are quite a few factors that go into a great pitch, but here are the top things I’m looking for:
- Be familiar with GRAY! I can’t stress this enough. Read several back issues of the magazine cover to cover to make sure that your pitch really fits within our coverage areas or hasn’t already been covered. I can always tell when someone didn’t do their homework, and that pitch is much less likely to make it into the magazine than one that is well researched, suggested for a specific section, and makes connections to our focused subject matter and region.
- Pitch me something new! Did you just learn about an architect moving from New York to Portland? An interior designer launching a brand new line of wallpaper? Let us know! We’re always looking to break stories, so if you pitch an idea and let us know that we’re the first to see it, then that will definitely catch my attention.
L&S: HOW FAR IN ADVANCE DO YOU WORK?
RACHEL: We plan our issue themes a year in advance (we publish every two months), so we have a general idea of the angles we want to pursue for each issue, and often have a pretty solid lineup at least two issues.
L&S: HOW SOON/OFTEN SHOULD SOMEONE FOLLOW UP WITH YOU AFTER SENDING AN INITIAL PITCH?
RACHEL: I always suggest waiting two to three weeks before following up. We receive a lot of pitches and want to be able to give each one the appropriate amount of attention and consideration.
L&S: WHAT SHOULD A DESIGNER DO IF YOU DON'T USE THEIR STORY? PITCH IT AGAIN AT A LATER TIME? TWEAK THE STORY?
RACHEL: If GRAY has passed on a pitch I don’t suggest sending it to us again—as mentioned above we try to give each pitch a thorough amount of consideration and this often includes going back to the pitcher with follow-up questions that investigate other possible angles. Our magazine is very visually driven, so images are important. Since we only publish six times a year we have to be very discerning about the projects we select, so again I suggest looking over old issues to see the style and types of projects we tend to run. If it doesn’t work for GRAY, don’t give up—the pitch might be a better fit at another publication.
L&S: WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU'D GIVE TO DESIGNERS ON PITCHING THEIR BRAND TO THE MEDIA?
RACHEL: I would say that it’s important to know what your brand is. That sounds silly, but I can’t tell you the number of people in the creative field who I’ve spoken to who can’t articulate exactly what it is they do, offer, etc. Practice your elevator pitch. If you can’t articulately give me a description of what you do/what your company offers and why it’s different from others in the field in less than 30 seconds then I’m going to interpret that as you not being confident in your own brand… in turn, I’m not going to be confident in your brand. Don’t just tell me you’r a writer or an interior designer looking to get published. Sell me on why you are the absolute best person to write a specific story, or why your project is the best fit for a specific issue. Remember that there are hundreds of people pitching me as well… make yourself stand out.
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