Beauty editors want PR professionals to be their friends and stop the awkward phone calls.
“Stop asking me to do drinks. I’d rather workout or yoga or get my nails done, but I don’t need to make small talk after work hours and ruin my liver.”
A few weeks ago I opened a private Facebook group for my fellow beauty editors, PR friends, and anyone else who may serve the greater beauty editorial world like dermatologists, plastic surgeons, makeup artists, and the like. The group has been a beautiful mish-mash of open conversations, high fives, and a sort of let-down-your-guard-because-there’s-no-competition-here kind of vibe. It’s perfect, and I wish every industry had a group as nice as ours, but possibly the best thing to come out of it has been all the major beauty and women’s mag editors opening up about how their either totally wonderful or completely awful PR interactions. It shouldn’t be that way, because most beauty editors actually love working with great public relations people and using them as an easy resource for images, quotes, product information and so much more. On a personal note, I’d love to be friends with all the PR people I meet (they’re mostly women, and I love supporting women in business, too), but sometimes weird emails or insanely unrealistic expectations sour potentially wonderful relationships.
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With the help of some of my fave fellow beauty editors, we came up with a fairly definitive list of do this, but never do that beauty, wellness, and women’s lifestyle PR practices. Feel free to weigh in below in the comments section if you have more thoughts on the subject, though, or join the Facebook group and weigh in for all the gals to see and discuss openly.
Personalize your emails to us, for the love of all things in this universe.
We totally understand that you have a crazy boss and a quota of 800,000 emails a day so you send out mass emails that start with “Hey There!” (cringing, but we get it), but when you follow up to ask if we’re going to place your mass market eyeliner client on page 14 of some major glossy or the homepage of the top beauty site in the USA, please, it’s worth the time to use our first names (spelled properly) and even make a cutesy friendly reference to just about anything appropriate.
A bad example is “Just following up to see if you can place this.” Do not ever do this. Your email will be sent to spam for eternity.
A good example is “Hey ____, How was your weekend? OMG it was the hottest and I saw from Instagram that you were by the beach, looked like so much fun!” You seem nice, let’s be friends.
Jeannine Morris, freelance writer and on-air contributor, shares, “The cold pitches I read and respond to are from publicists who do their homework before reaching out in the first place. They’re typically personalized emails that begin complimenting some of my recent work, introducing themselves and simply filling me in on how they see the brand they represent fitting into the type of content I write.”
Amen, amen, amen.
Understand that we want to meet up with you, but can’t always do it in your office or next door.
There are really three types of beauty editors out there, the first being the full-time, in-house editor who makes her (or his!) way down to the office each morning for a full day of typing, trying, and filming things to be an official winner of all things print and internet. These people have limited time outside the office, and by the time the sun is setting they genuinely have their own families, friends, and fitness needs to tend to. The second variety is the multi-dimensional freelancer, the gal or guy who writes for every publication and it’s mother (file me under there, because I write for publications at just about every major publishing company out there these days), and has a gazillion deadlines at any given minute. The multi-dimensional freelancer theoretically has more freedom with their time, but generally still manages to work office hours even if it’s from the comfort of elastic pants and their own coffee pot. Time is always crunched and somewhat stressed because this variety of writer gets assignments based on quick, easy turnarounds designed to make the in-house editors’ lives easier. The third type is the popular beauty blogger, and they’re more difficult to navigate because often they haven’t learned the ropes of proper journalism but are still busy, talented, and able to get their message across to a great audience. Let’s address how you can meet up with each.
In-house beauty editors have limited daytime availability unless you’re offering some seriously over the top gold-plated yoga session with an organic lunch that’ll make them rethink whether they really needed to order the same salad delivery they get every other day. If your offer isn’t significantly better, or you’re not already on a friend level with them, they likely will not say yes. There’s no need, and there are thousands of free coffees out there. Yours is not needed. Focus on learning what she loves and go from there. This doesn’t mean you need to woo her with a private jet (hi, we’re all regular humans), but if she’s super into her hair, offer a deep conditioning treatment and blowout on your haircare client’s dime.
This is an important time to remind everyone: nobody wants to have coffee. Not an in-house editor, multi-dimensional freelancer, or a blogger. Coffee is dumb, costs $3, and is almost always a colossal waste of time. If building a relationship isn’t worth making the 45 minutes you have together a unique or memorable experience, don’t even mention it.
Multi-dimensional freelancers would love to meet up with you, but you have to try to get to know them on a personal level before the outreach. They’re freelancers for a reason — they need the flexibility of taking care of some other life facet. Are they also Pilates teachers on Monday mornings so they can’t do that day? Moms with a hectic morning drop off schedule so breakfasts won’t work? Or maybe they’re just kind of far away from the city (NYC, LA, whatever media hub you’re in) and can’t schlep 2 hours regularly. Get to know them in a friendly email way first, follow them on social media for a bit, and then offer. Again, no coffee. If you notice the freelancer in question is obsessed with her nail art, offer to take her for a mani-pedi. If she’s all organic, gluten-free, raw, and into leaves shaped like reindeer, cool, there must be a place in the East Village serving that exact lunch up, so offer to take her.
GO TO HER NEIGHBORHOOD. You’re the one dying for a placement, right? She’s likely not dying for lipgloss, so make the effort to meet in a place convenient for her.
Bloggers, while I love them so deeply, are a harder to sort out bunch. If they only write for themselves, they may not have any limits when it comes to expectations (or they could possibly just be the nicest, easiest going people on Earth — it’s a crapshoot). Some just want gifts and expensive experiences. Some just want genuine friendship. You’ll have to sort these gals out on your own, because while I can say I’ve definitely been lucky to call some of the best my close friends, there are a few less-than-sweet apples in every harvest.
“Thank you” is possibly the most important thing you can say, and the way you say it sets the tone for future placements.
I recently wrote a major feature on combatting hair frizz for the digital arm of one of everyone’s favorite lifestyle magazines. The piece was picked up by a ton of other outlets and basically went from ordinary levels of popular to all-over-the-damn-internet and translated into a few other languages. The PR gal who I worked with on the story saw it go live even before I did, and immediately sent me an email saying the following:
Bryce, this link is the best and the client is going to be THRILLED! I love the way your hair came out and please don’t hesitate to let us know if you ever need frizz-killing refills. Also, send me your address so I can send you a little something and I hope you’re feeling well!
She spelled my name right, took the time to send a personal email, showed me she was genuinely happy (which made me happy, too), and mentioned she’d like to send me a little something. Now, I can’t speak for every other gal, but I will tell you that any gesture is a good one. I’ve gotten hand-written notes from freelance PR professionals with zero budget to speak of that meant the world to me, and I’ve also gotten major gift cards and experiences to places I’d typically consider a treat. Not every brand is going to be a multi-national one with a budget to send me for my fave experience ever, but every PR person has the ability to say thank you in a genuine and kind way. Thoughtful humans are the ones we tend to love the most.
And yes, if the placement is significant, a thank you is always required.
Let’s talk about press mailers now, shall we? We love them, but please remember (again) to remember who we are.
If there’s no time to invest in learning what each of us is genuinely into or able to consume, there’s probably no time to really do a good job for the brand you’re working with. I doubt your lipstick company really wants you to send along some peanut product we’re deathly allergic to and talk about openly on our social media (not me, but I’ve seen a fellow editor get a major nut mailing just days after publishing a viral national story on how she nearly died of a nut allergy). I personally keep a kosher home, and have seen boxes of bacon (sigh) shipped to my door, marshmallows (they’re super cute, but most are made with pig or beef bone gelatin, and that definitely doesn’t fit into the hot chocolate Jewish girls can drink), and even a delivery a few years ago of freeze-dried oysters to go along with some pearl powder-enhanced face cream. I get it, we all get it, cute mailers are fun, but when they include food, it might be best to stick to completely vegetarian, allergen-free items. Otherwise, think cute non-food things that might pair well with your product. If you’re pitching the launch of a brand new face cream, consider a gift card for a facial at a spa featuring those products. If you’re launching a new mascara, throw in a code for a Glamsquad or Priv to come do our makeup with your new, obviously magical and revolutionary wand. One of the best launch boxes I’ve gotten lately was from my friends at MML PR back in April for a shampoo line they were working on. They sent the new products, a gift card for a blowout in the privacy of my own home (can I get an AMEN?), and a somewhat-related kitchen tool that everyone knows and loves and can really use. I still chat about that mailer with Aly Walansky all the time, and they got 2-3 solid national placements from me alone out of it, and it totally opened the door for a relationship that has landed their other clients with countless mentions and features. Well played, Dana at MML.
Also, I hate to bring this up, but if we’re something other than white, please don’t send a giant box of foundations marked beige, creamy white, super porcelain, electric ghost, and/or Russian ballerina. I’m not a scientist, but if my friend is black and writes for Essence, she’s likely not going to care that you just launched a new, brighter shade of electric ghost.
As my friend Peg (named changed to protect her from the potential onslaught of sad, weepy emails from cookie senders), an editor at one of the biggest digital women’s magazines, said to me recently, “STOP SENDING ELENI’S COOKIES OR DESSERTS WITH MY FACE ON THEM.” She seemed pretty serious about that, and yes, people love cookies, but those aren’t the kind that melt into your coffee like little bites of Heaven — they’re just sort of decorative. Who wants to eat their own face, anyway? That’s some Florida drug-induced headline stuff that is far beyond the parameters of beauty editors’ comfort zones.
Events can be super cool, but please know they need to serve a purpose.
We want to come to your event to learn something truly new, fascinating, or even experience your product or launch in a way we’re unable to do in our offices or homes. But if you’re launching a purple eyeshadow that’s just slightly more purple than the year before? No, there’s no need for that to become a cocktail party for beauty editors to travel to.
“They’re usually a colossal waste of time and I get no more from them than I would from a press release and samples,” my colleague Alexis Wolfer shared. “I’d much prefer a one on one lunch/dinner! Or that event better have a major value add (celeb endorser available for interview, etc). A free manicure isn’t going to get me away from my desk.”
“I don’t mind events as long as they serve a purpose. I work a full-time day job so if I have run all over town to events, they need to have product, good demos, food etc,” blogger Misti Schindele shared with me over email. “The worst is when you go to an event and it’s just a preview and all your given as you leave is a cookie and flash drive.”
Kelly Bryant, a freelancer for Teen Magazine and a bunch of others shared, “I feel like a well done event is really informative or gets me excited about a new product. With that being said, I hate events that feel kinda cold or uninviting. Like you get there and you’re wondering why you’re there because no one is there to greet you or give you any sort of information. Also, events are expensive. If you go really cheap, it’s obvious. In that case, I think no event is better than an event where a brand clearly had to skimp big time.”
Please stick to emails, and pretend you don’t have our phone numbers.
Most of us never, ever want phone calls for any reason at all. There’s just no such thing as highlighter emergency, so there’s no reason to call us. If you’re pitching a pharma company, still, we don’t want the call. If your wrinkle filler is REALLY that important (and wrinkle fillers are!), they’re worth an email saying “Hey ____, do you have time for dinner or a yoga class with me in the next week or so? I have some info on a new wrinkle filler that I can’t put into email, but I’d love for you to consider it and I know you’re really into organic Thai food!”
I’m going to reiterate that it doesn’t matter what drug company you represent or how big their budget is. We ALL hate this. Phone calls are for our moms, our kids, people we’re sleeping with, or best friends.
“I loathe being called on my personal cell without setting up a time via email prior,” Amber Murray of BeautyJunkiesUnite shared with me via email. Email, you guys. She didn’t need to call me to say it. “I feel most of these things can be handled via email anyway.”
Please, never use the word “campaign” unless you have money earmarked for us.
This one applies primarily to the full time bloggers, but also many (and I mean many) 9-5 editors and multi-dimensional freelancers also have separate lives as influencers on social media and run our own websites. If you send an email with a subject line like “New Hair Campaign For You!” and then it opens to basically just describing how the brand is spending money with everyone but us, it makes just about all of us say “Bye, forever, crappy shampoo brand.” There’s a friendlier, less misleading way to get that message across without burning bridges. A couple examples that never use the C-word include:
50 Top Wildlife Experts Support _____ Shampoo. Works on Zebras, too!
Cher Publicly Announces Partnership with Frizz-Fighting Serum
While we’re on that topic, no, we cannot legally, ethically, morally, or whatever else you might want to call it, take money to publish sponsored content on another publisher’s website. That means if a freelancer says they’re willing to take your $500 to publish a link in an editorial-seeming way on some big mag’s website, that freelancer is shady AF and leaving YOU and YOUR BRAND totally open to the wrath of the FTC. You should probably steer mega clear of that writer now and forever, because they’re likely the type to to steal your man, too.
Decent beauty editors understand they can offer sponsorship opportunities to brands on their own social media channels and/or websites, but the lines cannot be blurred into web properties we do not own. Full disclosure is also a thing, so if you’re thinking of asking one of us to casually ignore the disclosure (here’s looking at you, major plastic surgery website), you need to step to the left.
Beauty editors are humans, and want to care about you, too.
I can’t tell you how many times a day I find myself emailing a PR friend asking how their wedding planning is going, how their kids are feeling, how their move is going, or even just what their dog is up to because he/she is the cutest on Instagram. I mean it. Sometimes it’s just nice to care about the people you work with, their lives, and their futures. I know the group of friendly beauty editors I keep close company with generally echoes this sentiment, and I’m often on text chains with Amber Katz, Jamie Stone, Andrea Arterbery and other big writers talking about how genuinely happy for certain PR people we are. << a mega shoutout to Marie-Laure Fournier right now for being generally loved by all of us for being the most thoughtful beauty PR gal pal out there >> If you’re not getting that kind of love, there may be a reason for it, and we recognize it’s a two way street. If you’re mean to us, there could also be a reason for it, and maybe we need to do some self-reflection. Who knows.