As a salon owner you’re constantly juggling clients, staff, problems and all of the other fun business needs. Getting through the day-to-day of the salon sometimes means putting important elements on the back burner, especially when it comes to landing great PR for your salon and work.
How do you crack the mysterious world of public relations and press? We took a stab at it for you, answering these five questions to help you learn more about what you need to know to get the best press:
What’s the difference between PR, marketing, and advertising?
Small businesses owners often struggle with this fundamental question, using the terms interchangeably. While these three areas are interconnected by being communications-related, they do deal with different things.
“PR and advertising are used to inform the public about your service or product,” said Patricia Maritsch, Principal of Piqued PR, a boutique public relations firm near Philadelphia.
“Marketing consists of promotional material such as postcards, billboards, websites, etc. PR is press placement, meaning a product featured in an editorial layout or an article in a newspaper, etc. Advertising is a form of marketing and PR but is paid placement or coverage,” she explained.
Why is PR important to small businesses?
PR is fundamentally about image. While advertising and marketing play key roles, PR goes a step further in the process by helping to give more story and insight into what your business offers.
“In an ad or flyer, you’re generally left to portray your business with a single image and sentence,” Maritsch explained. “PR goes beyond this.”
This is often accomplished through press, or landing mentions or articles/segments about your work in local and national publications, websites, or television programming. It can also be getting used to offer expert advice on a particular topic, like new hair color trends or wedding styles for bridesmaids. These both show off your expertise and create a positive image more than just a placed advertisement.
What are the perks of hiring an agency or PR professional?
Bringing in a professional means working with people who have a firm grasp of exactly how to get you the PR you need. Not only are they skilled at shaping strategy, but they’ve also built helpful relationships.
“Basically with PR you’re paying for a publicist’s contacts,” Maritsch said. “They’ve spent time building these contacts which benefit your business and would be hard for you to obtain yourself efficiently.”
In addition, PR professionals are skilled writers and know how to find the stories of your business. “Publicists also have crafted story pitches to an art to creatively catch the attention of the media and tastemakers,” Maritsch explained.
What should I look for when finding an agency?
If you’re super serious about landing key press–especially on a national stage–and can fit it into the budget, an agency is a wise course of action. When finding the right fit, look for ones that have a successful track record of working with salons, stylists, or the beauty field. Many agencies have a focus–lifestyle brands, tech companies, health fields, etc.–so be sure you do your research beforehand. On top of type of industry, look to see if they’re with businesses that are of similar size and not just large mega companies. Working with a local agency can have the perk of face-to-face meetings, but it’s also not necessary. If the best fit is three states away, don’t shy from working with them unless they specify they only work with local clients (though most don’t).
What do I need to know if I want to try it on my own?
First and foremost, PR starts with you–the salon owner and the staff of stylists who represent your business. Positive attitudes, impressive atmosphere and services, and well-run social media, websites, and other marketing efforts all help shape your image. Remember to encourage stylists to refrain from negative talk about clients or the salon via social media, and stay on top of customer complaints and issues to maintain a positive impression.
Outside of those basic in-house efforts, getting press can be tricky, though not impossible. If you want to try it on your own, remember the following things:
- Look for stories. The fact that you exist isn’t enough to land you a media spot. You have to have a story. Are you doing something that’s new, like offering a new trendy service that other salons in your area aren’t? Are you an expert on the latest trend? These lead to stories.
- Host an event. Events often lead to stories, but some businesses host events just to introduce their products or services to the right people. Consider inviting local style bloggers or beauty and style editors at local publications to a special event to introduce them to your salon. Show off your services selection and offer discounts for that evening. Just add a new product line? Do demonstrations showing what that product can do, or offer samples in swag bags.
- Research is key! If you have a story idea, it’s extremely important to do your research and make sure your ideas make it into the right hands. Bloggers are usually pretty easy and straight forward to contact, but you can’t write to just any editor. If there’s a specific beauty & style editor at your local newspaper, great, but if not you may need to dig deeper through the paper’s staff to find the find the appropriate person (often in the features section). Mastheads, the pages in the front of the magazine that list all of the employees, are your best resource. As a general rule of thumb, assistant editors in sections are the ones that tend to gather information and story ideas, but this might not always be the case. Also, make sure the publication, blog, etc., is a good fit! Too often they receive pitches that wouldn’t fit in anywhere in the publication, meaning you’ll automatically go into the trash bin. And remember: magazines typically work several months out, so the Christmas issue is usually being planned in early fall if not summer. Each one will have it’s own calendar, though.
- Keep it simple. When pitching an idea, remember the journalistic 5-Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. Be sure those are covered within the pitch (though not in an obvious list). Also tailor it to the editor and publication–don’t use the same pitch for everyone, and make it more personal (Example: “I saw you featured Emma Stone’s new color change on a recent blog post and loved the insight you offered. We agree, it’s a hot color choice. At XYZ Salon, we are known for helping our clients make a transition to Emma’s auburn shade and are hosting a color event next month.”)
Overall, PR can be a tricky world full of rules. But it’s not impossible! Whether you choose to work with a professional or want to try your hand at contacting an editor, it can take time–possibly several months to a year–to develop a strategy that works and lands you significant and consistent press. Explore your options and consider resources like Recipe for Press, a site with a book counterpart that includes a wealth of information about PR for small businesses.