Business post – wedding industry PR and advertising demystified!

I think it’s time to take off my superhero mask and reveal my double identity. If you’re a wedding industry blogger, business owner or just a follower of Under the Vintage Veil, you probably know that I’m a blogger by day and a freelance PR by night. While I concentrate my full-time efforts on my blog, I still love the PR game so I wear a number of different hats.

I did umm and ahh about writing this, partly because others have addressed the topic. But I think the fact that I work on both sides of the fence, I send out pitches and press releases, I receive them. I sell advertising space. I know the marketing and publicity side of the wedding industry quite well, so I feel qualified to comment!

I get asked a lot (and I really mean a lot) of questions about advertising and PR, so I’ll try to address some of the more helpful ones here! So without further delay, it’s…

Under the Vintage Veil’s guide to advertising and PR

Advertising

What is advertising?

Advertising is paying money to put a banner advert on a website (or indeed in a magazine, but I’ll focus on the online side of things as I know more about it) or to have a piece written specifically about you or your products. Almost all popular blogs will offer advertising in banner ad form, and some in the form of sponsored blog posts, although I personally don’t do those.

What are the benefits?

In my experience, the benefits of advertising are threefold.

1. The first is to increase traffic to your site. Naturally you want more visitors. Visitors lead to sales, sales lead to the success of your business. Simples.

2. The second is to increase brand awareness. While I think click throughs are important, I also think that people seeing your brand name in lots of different places helps to imprint it in people’s minds. When I see the same ad in a few different places it does make me more aware of that company in general.

3. The third is to associate your brand with another popular brand, like a major wedding blog. Let’s take a really extreme example. If you saw someone advertising in Vogue you would think they were doing really well to be able to afford it, but also you’d see them as luxury and high end. Just as if you see someone on my blog you can assume they offer a vintage-inspired service.

Which publication is right for my wedding business?

There are many different ways to go about choosing where you advertise. Here’s a small step-by-step guide!

1. The first step is to make a list of blogs and magazines you like and that you enjoy reading. This is really important – if you’re not a fan of the publication, you’ll attract couples that you won’t necessarily gel with.

2. Make sure you’re a good fit with that publication and vice versa. There’s no point advertising on a mainstream site, for example, if your services are really alternative. Really think about whether your brands go well together.

3. Ask for media packs and compare. You’re allowed to shop around without committing after all! Take into consideration stats, types of readers, social media followers etc. in correlation to the prices.

4. Decide how to place yourself. Depending on your budget, see how many places you’d like to appear. For example, you can put all your eggs in one very prestigious and respected basket, like a magazine or a major blog, or you can distribute yourself among the smaller blogs – or both.

5. Make sure you like the advertiser! It’s still a working relationship and you want to make sure you get good customer service and have a good rapport.

How to get the best results!

Don’t expect miracles. You’re only buying advertising space, it won’t automatically translate to sales, or even click throughs, unless you put in the effort. The most successful ads on my site are the ones that are pretty, clear and bold. So:

1. Make sure your ad stands out. Don’t just throw any old ad together, it’s worth paying a designer to knock up something really spectacular and eye catching that you can use again and again. Also consider the place it’s going. If the blog you’re advertising with has a blue background, don’t put up an ad with a blue background etc.

2. Take advantage of your sponsorship time. Even though I don’t do sponsored posts, if I’ve accepted a sponsor it’s because I really like what they do and I’ll (more often than not, as long as it’s appropriate) feature their work. I know other blogs do sponsored posts as part of the advertising package. Make sure you submit, submit, submit.

3. Evaluate. If advertising doesn’t seem to be working for you, really look into why that is and try a few different things to see if they work.

4. If your click throughs are increasing but your sales aren’t, the issue isn’t with advertising itself. You can lead a horse to water and all that. If you’re getting noticed but not getting hired, think about whether your website and your offering is as impressive as your ad, and if not, how can you improve it?

PR

What is PR?

PR, or public relations, is basically getting you out there in as many ways as possible, including in magazines, on blogs, on the radio, on the TV, on social media and anything else you can think of!

But it’s so much more than just plastering your name everywhere. Good PR is placing your brand in the right places to build you an amazing reputation as an expert in your field. I do a lot of freelance PR work so have worked for different companies, and the ones I’ve worked for the most consistently have been the ones that understand the bespoke nature of PR.

Is PR right for me? 

Only if you’re willing to put the work in. Unlike advertising, PR is a two-way street. It requires you to constantly be feeding your PR company with your updates and your information. Their job is to make it sound good and to send it to the right people, but they aren’t psychic. If you’re considering PR, think about whether you’ll have time to provide info and quotes for articles, pictures etc. and fast! The PR game is very quick and journalists can get very frustrated waiting on pieces (I know, I’m also one of those!!)

How do I choose a PR company?

When considering hiring a PR company, always shop around, but ask yourself the following, crucial questions:

1. What is their client list like? If you’re a high-end supplier and the PR company has lots of cheap and cheerful clients, maybe it’s not right for you. Or, conversely, there’s nothing wrong with being a budget supplier, but if the PR company is used to the luxury market, bear in mind that’s where their contacts will be. Make sure you’re a good fit!

2. Do they know your industry? There are a few excellent wedding PR agencies out there, none of which I name as I’m biased because I freelance for one of them, but for a variety of reasons, which I’ll get to in a moment, they might not be able to take you on at that point in time. If they can’t, find out which other PR agencies take on wedding clients and don’t be afraid to test their knowledge of publications (online and offline) in your industry that they should be targeting. Also ask for evidence of successes with other companies.

3. Do they have other clients in your category? And does it matter? Sometimes PR companies will have exclusive contracts that say they can’t hire anyone else in your genre, sometimes it will be by region, or by style. If a PR company has a client that’s too similar to you it may present a conflict of interest. If they have a client in the same category but you feel you’re different enough in your offerings, then there’s no issue.

4. Do they understand you and your business? Each business is unique. If a PR doesn’t really “get” what you do, and who you do it for, they won’t be able to sell it very well.

5. Are they successful? Do you often see their clients in the press? Ask to see evidence of this if you can’t find it yourself.

6. Do you get on with the PR / account manager? This is crucial. Your PR will become the public face and voice of your brand. They will also be someone you deal with on a day-to-day basis. Not only do you have to trust them implicitly, but you have to really like them and be able to communicate with them too.

7. Ask how they approach pitching to the media. Do they take a personal approach? Do they know the names of the people they’re pitching to? Most “hi there” emails go straight to the trash – so make sure you don’t hire a “hi there” PR!

How to get the best results

1. Provide the information. Don’t think you’re being a pest, PRs LOVE information. The more we have on you, the more angles we can find, the more we can sell you to the press. Pictures, info, quotes, angles – give your PRs all the ammunition they need to go out and show you off to the world!

2. Make a plan and discuss PR targets with your agency. Talk about the key publications you’d like to appear in, the reasons behind wanting PR, and whether your brand needs any work.

3. Be patient! While blog coverage is usually a fairly quick turnaround, magazine coverage is often secured months in advance. If, three months into your PR journey you haven’t seen any magazine coverage don’t worry! Most magazines compile their summer issues in the winter etc. so it will take a while for the results to show, but if you’ve hired a good PR the wheels will be in motion.

4. Stay in the loop – make sure your PR keeps you up to date with where they’re placing you.

5. Remember that PR doesn’t always equal a drastic, instant increase in sales or bookings. PR is a slow, drip feed. It places you in people’s mind as an expert in your field over a long period of time. I would always suggest sticking with PR for the long term to really see the benefits.

Doing your own PR

While I would always suggest outsourcing your PR (or hiring somebody in house) to leave you with time to work on the rest of your business, not everyone has the budget for an external PR agency. While you might not have the contacts or the resources to get yourself out there in the way you’d like, there are still things you can do by yourself.

1. Make a list of journalists and bloggers to contact.

2. Pitch them an angle. Don’t just ask them to write about you – give them something to write about!

3. Learn their names. Get them right. As I said earlier, “hi there” emails tend to go straight in the recycle bin.

4. Check your spelling, grammar and tone. Make sure you look professional.

5. Don’t be offended if you get a non-response or a “not for me, thanks” – for every few rejections you should get a success!

6. Target your emails. Don’t pitch an article about how rubbish vintage weddings are to a vintage wedding blog, for example (true story!) make sure it’s something the blog hasn’t covered recently. Make sure it’s also relevant to their readers, target your piece to brides, not industry people!

7. A courteous phone call or follow up email sometimes gives journalists the nudge they need to feature you. I get LOTS of emails every day and sometimes something that looked interesting will get lost in the pile. A simple, polite, nudge will remind me to feature.

8. Make sure any guest articles are well written. It’s not that we’re lazy, it’s just that it’s a lot of hassle to correct or edit other people’s work. Make sure it’s print quality before it goes out.

9. Make sure any pictures you send bloggers or magazines are the right size and are credited with full permission from the photographer.

10. Be timely. Every now and then I’ll find myself with a gap in my blogging schedule that a quick-to-respond company could easily fill…

PHEW – so I’m sure there’s loads I’ve forgotten (I could go on about wedding PR and advertising all day) but I hope that’s given you a clearer insight into what’s right for you and your business! If you have any questions or want any company recommendations for design, PR or anything else, post them in the comment box below! 

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