Doing Social Media in Style - by 3x1 Public Relations Managing Director, Edinburgh, Katrine Pearson

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Tom Ford. The high priest of fashion. When he talks the industry listens. So far, so ‘Devil Wears Prada’. But he said something recently which will strike a chord with public relations consultancies; a high fashion appraisal of the power of social media.

“Something new is happening that I'm just clueing into now—this probably won't go down well—but customers don't care anymore about reviews or hard-copy publications. They care what picture Rihanna just Instagrammed while she's naked in bed, what new shoes she has on, how she's talking about them. That's what they respond to.”

The death knell for fashion magazines? It seems not.

Shortly after, three models graced the cover of fashion bible US Vogue’s seminal September issue. Not ‘Supermodels’ but ‘Instagirls’ who according to editor Anna Wintour – allegedly the Devil herself - are "All savvy on social media, they're building their own brands and single-handedly catapulting themselves to this generation's version of supermodel status."

Just one example of fashion media embracing the digital age. They have been exceptionally savvy in integrating social media and digital activity into their offering over the past two or three years – to the benefit not detriment of their print titles.

Interactive features have turned the pages of fashion magazines into virtual catalogues allowing readers to ‘shop the shoot’ and buy direct from featured retailers. They are also masters of the sneak peek and behind the scenes access whether it’s bonus videos on iPad editions or Blippable content in the editor’s letter.

In 2012 Elle UK live tweeted from a cover shoot featuring actress Kristen Stewart. Even though the cover didn’t hit the shelves until two months later they uncharacteristically revealed the concept through Tweets of the set, outfits and accessories at thirty minute intervals. The move nearly doubled magazine subscriptions.

Fashion is one of the areas where bloggers have most made their presence and influence felt. Despite being potentially huge competitors for fashion magazines, many titles have the seen the sense of combining their power. Numerous mags have bloggers as columnists. Anna Wintour recruited a panel of young female bloggers from WordPress to review products, fashion collections and even ads for brands like Estée Lauder and Dolce & Gabbana.

Condé Nast’s Style Society is an even more sophisticated feedback mechanism. Launched over two years ago, the 2,000 social media users act as a virtual focus group with message boards, surveys, blog posts and photo galleries about different fashion topics for discussion.

So social media is allowing these titles to engage with and understand their audiences in a way they would never be able to do through the pages of a magazine. It has made their offering more appealing to the public and advertisers and influenced their content, or even in some instances, created it. Magazines are gathering user generated content through social media from ‘street style’ pictures to US Elle’s You’re the Editor campaign which allows users to plan the magazine’s photo shoots.

So what can PR consultancies take from this? Well apart from the fact that it’s probably the first time Tom Ford has been behind on a trend as opposed to setting them, social and traditional media work well together. They can drive content, increase engagement and enhance one another. Social media campaigns can give you news stories for print coverage and you can amplify traditional media using social.

Yes, we are supposed to know this but how often do we truly practise it as opposed to cobbling a bit of social media activity on to a campaign or reusing a press release on a digital channel? So why not pick up a copy of the latest fashion glossy and take a fresh look? In the fashion world traditional and digital go together like Dolce & Gabbana.



Katrine has 12 years' experience in public relations. She has worked across both private and public sector clients ranging from financial services and food & drink to property and the arts.  A knowledgeable media relations and stakeholder engagement practitioner, Katrine also has extensive experience in digital campaigns and internal communications.

By Katrine Pearson, 3x1 Public Relations Managing Director, Edinburgh and Chair of CIPR Scotland