Working with Journalists, interview with ex-style editor The Metro Bel Jacobs (Live Q&A)

Charlie Bradley Ross Monday, 1 October 2018

Bel Jacobs discusses the journalism side of the PR industry, including looking at how to approach and work with journalists, and better pitch your sustainable and ethical brand.

Los Angeles
Sunday Sep 30th, 2018 - 17:00pm
London
Monday Oct 1st, 2018 - 01:00am
Kolkata
Monday Oct 1st, 2018 - 05:30am
Sydney
Monday Oct 1st, 2018 - 10:00am


Bel Jacobs discusses the journalism side of the PR industry, including looking at how to approach and work with journalists, and better pitch your sustainable and ethical brand.
During her time as Style Editor for Metro, Bel interviewed some of the key figures in the fashion industry, including Karl Lagerfeld and Vivienne Westwood. Having been immersed at the top of the fashion journalism industry, Bel has incomparable knowledge on the industry, and journalists themselves. Now a freelance fashion and arts journalist and founder of beljacobs.com, watch this live Q&A to learn the inside paths in journalism, and how this can help your PR strategy.
We cover:
  • How to approach journalists.
  • Sustainability in fashion.
  • How to better promote your sustainable and ethical brand.
  • Bel's views on sustainability in fashion today.

Key Takeaways

Bel’s background

Bel worked for 13 years as the editor for Metro Newspaper. She knew about ethical fashion, but it wasn’t the movement it is today. The offerings were simple - it was associated with goats hair, it was bland and basic. However, Bel realised it was an amazing platform of engaged readers to promote smaller ethical brands to. The turning point was Rana Plaza - it made journalists think “who made my clothes”. Now, Bel only covers sustainable fashion in her writing.

About Bel’s favourite interviews (with some absolutely amazing people including Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld, Isabella Blow).

Vivienne Westwood - Bel met Vivienne in Paris after the show. “This phenomenal force of nature”, doesn’t suffer fools gladly and is incredibly passionate about her issues. Bel asked a question and Westwood took 20 minutes answering, talking about a plethora of unrelated topics like poetry, until finally coming back round to answer in the question - it was indicative of the way her brain works.

Karl Lagerfeld - was so nervous to meet him! He has an atmosphere surrounding him - also surrounded by a cohort of beautiful looking people in black and white. Met on a rooftop at a Paris art gallery. Bel asked about books - as he is an incredible reader.

Kate Moss - you think of her as a vibrant, social person - almost crazy! But in person, she was so shy. Even the PRs were surprised that she didn’t like the spotlight.

Valentino - so charismatic and flirty - even though he’s been with a male partner for 30+ years.

She realised, there’s an image that’s presented to the world and the reality. Always remember that there’s a public face and a private face as they are very different.

Can you be a “normal person” running a business?

“Today, more and more, the founders of sustainable brands are finding themselves having to speak about their processes and their aims”.

“The necessity to communicate what you learn as a sustainable brand is so hungered for now”

Kresse, from Elvis and Kresse, has decided to take their learning out and to be more proactive in their communications.

If you’re running a sustainable brand, learn to communicate. What you have to say is valuable. The processes you have to go through to become a sustainable brand are complex, interesting and useful for other brands.

If you’re shy?

Don’t force yourself to do it if you’re not a natural. The drive and the passion to direct the debate helps some people to communicate. If you feel you have something to contribute to the argument around sustainability, you will find your voice to communicate that.

 

The structure or hierarchy of fashion press

Editors are required to cover certain brands, so they must include these brands.

If you have enough money, you can pay for huge shoots and pay to be featured in this way.

If you are a smaller brand, contact the fashion editor, deputy fashion editor or the fashion assistant and go down that route.

 

Bel’s views on sustainability in fashion

How does Bel define sustainable fashion?

Fashion that doesn’t hurt people, planet or animals.

We forget how many people don’t know about these issues.

In Bel’s view, what are the biggest issues with the industry at the moment?

Slave labour: how people are being paid overseas for producing cheap fashion. Highlighted by Rana Plaza.

Environment: badly made fashion is terrible for the environment - dyes, cotton, Monsanto, farmer suicides.

Animal welfare: “we kill a billion animals for leather”. 100 billion for fur. These deaths are horrendous. 2010 My Fancy High Heels film - incredibly traumatic.

“We’re not making dialysis machines here! We’re making disposable, ridiculous items that people are not treating with any kind of care. It’s a really desperately frightening situation”.

“We are working against massive structures who have nothing but profit to gain by maintaining the status quo of fast fashion. That’s both incredibly depressing and incredibly inspiring because if you’re a sustainable brand and hold this knowledge, you know you are doing the right thing in this life and this world”.

How to encourage journalists to start covering ethical fashion

There are a few major editors who are not tackling this and Bel believes they will soon find it impossible to not talk about this. Pitching! The product has to speak first. Tamsin Blanchard, fashion editor for the Telegraph who now works with Fashion Revolution, agreed that imagery is everything. Your product has to speak well and is an advocate for these issues.

Rely on the broadening of knowledge - that the editor will learn - but give them a beautiful product.

Product is key. The trust conference. James Bartel (Founder, Outland Denim):

“Product is everything. Without good product, we will never be a sustainable brand, we will be a charity”.

“Every brand must stand for something”.

What is the best way for people to get Bel’s attention, and what is she looking for?

  • Beautiful product
  • Wonderful imagery - publications will need great imagery.

Greenwashing

  • Bel wants to know the story and the journey and build an emotional connection with it - how did you get the position where this was important to you? Who are you working with? Often creative craftsmen are involved, so the story is key.

Imagery

The product must look polished. As a sustainable brand, you will be under more scrutiny than other brands.

Don’t take the images yourself. Get a professional crew; photographer, stylist and lighting.

Bring seasonal shoots to two per year.

Look at visual language - the ads of current brands. How could you use their ads to inspire your shoots? Adopt the language of the mainstream to promote sustainability. Bring your individuality to the story.

Do’s and do not's of pitching

As style editor of Metro, Bel received over 1000 emails per day. Any press release with Kim Kardashian she immediately deleted. She was deluged with free products, which inevitably get thrown away.

What to do: send a single email. Wait two weeks and send it again. Wait two weeks and send it again.

What is in the email: a short, succinct press release. Fantastic powerful image. Small print with the sustainability story. The pitch should be short, don’t send a full press kit. Editors will only read the first few sentences of the emails, so make them count.

If you meet an editor - recognise the pressure they’re under. They are tired of being pitched to. So don’t get disheartened. Don’t get annoying - leave emails ten days/two weeks!

If someone tweets you - retweet!! Bel can’t stand it when people don’t retweet.

PR

Bel likes some PR agents - those with beautiful, unique products, people with integrity, and who are courteous. They can be relied on as curators - brands that journalists will know are fashion-forward and new and interesting.

Do brands need PR?

Doing it yourself is a challenge - you will spend 60-80% doing it. If you can afford a fashion PR, interview carefully - avoid the big agencies. Go to the emerging, ethical PR companies. If you’re paying £500/month and getting little snippets in papers, that’s too much.

Bel’s favourite brands who do press really well?

Elvis & Kresse - she’s very active.

Gung Ho - Sophie does beach cleans, she’s very busy. As a sustainable brand, it’s great if you can get involved in other areas.

How do you promote new fabrics?

Innovation is being broadly featured. Have confidence in your product and talk about it as a fantastic solution to environmental issues.

Extinction Rebellion

Extinction rebellion - non-violent protest to draw attention to. You can put yourself down as willing to be arrested. 50,000 demonstrated in Montreal.

T-shirt range

Raising funds for a wildlife fund to help orphaned elephants: https://theempathyproject.teemill.com

 

How do we make sure sustainability isn’t just a trend?

 

The environment will take care of that. The news will start to change, we’ll be looking at the effects, and people will realise it’s a new reality. There has already been a significant change to animals

 

Find time to have fun

Don’t feel guilty about looking after yourself!

“The stronger you are emotionally, having rested and nurtured yourself and taken care of yourself, the better able you’ll be to fight these things. You need this to empower yourself to keep fighting”

 

 

Words of wisdom for eco brands

 

“Keep fighting!”