Cindy Riccio
Cindy Riccio

They say you always remember your first placement. As a young public relations professional, “your first” signified a major magazine placement you finally and painstakingly, after months — if not years — of pitching, secured for your client. 

For me it was Vogue, which was the equivalent of winning gold for my client, Argyle Diamonds of Australia. The sheer influence and reach of Vogue set the standard for fashion, beauty and lifestyle media coverage, and it was — and remains — at the top of every client’s wish list. And while Vogue’s staying power continues, today we operate within an industry that is constantly evolving.

With technology driving our lives, it wasn’t surprising to hear that Teen Vogue gave up its imprint to go digital, or that social influencers are securing front-row seats at fashion shows and new product mega reveals. As for my staff today, their firsts look quite different: they exist in real time with social influencers who have millions of followers.

“Superinfluencer” Arielle Charnas has proven this paradigm with her recent Nordstrom deal for a standalone Something Navy collection set to launch this fall. The “Elevated Basic” collection will feature a line of apparel, jewelry and accessories priced between $49-$399. Bag Snob co-founder Tina Craig started her career with a passion for handbags before becoming an influencer in her own right after launching a bag collection with DKNY and landing articles in Women’s Wear Daily.

The news of Teen Vogue’s print shuttering created a swirl of buzz, but it was a wickedly smart move for the publication to recalibrate its format, platform and voice to reach digital-dependent Millennials. For PR professionals, technology challenges us each day to pivot our strategies in order to deliver strong ROI and engagement for our clients as the evolution of influence has changed the core tenets of communication.

Another case in point is the inevitable demise of Time in light of Time Inc.’s purchase by Meredith Corporation. This structural shift is a direct correlation with the rise in digital marketing and advertising. Where people had once received latest news, beauty and style tips from emerging business brands, now they’re directing their attention to a superfluity of digital networks that induce content from profitable constituents. This evolution, promoted by venture capitalists, depict the ineludible migration from print to digital networks and platforms. 

As we counsel our clients on the influx and impact of emerging channels and platforms along with tutorials about the influencers and voices that are critical to a brand’s marketing success, we find an eagerness for them to examine their communications efforts in a bright new light that’s all-inclusive and open minded to the reduction of print editorial. 

For lifestyle product marketers, we’re customizing and “characterizing” our messages to an audience of influencers that reaches far beyond editors, writers, producers and researchers. WWD has said that these influencers are the new sales associates, and as we’ve seen, if they believe in your product, their endorsement — paid or otherwise — can be a powerful sales tool. We now have exciting web personalities whose blogs, Vlogs, Instagrams and Snaps deliver critical access to reach potential customers. 

These influencers are self-proclaimed fans of fashion, beauty, food and everything else, stylists who have the ear of A-list celebrities, former journalists who have re-imagined their voice and are using new platforms and channels to share their opinions. While they continuously push out content, many are approached for magazine features, TV talk and reality shows and ad campaigns. Even my own team members are creating their own blogs as a channel to share their product passions and style imprints. So, as we navigate the ever-evolving digital deities, the greater challenge we face is #howtostandout with real time news, noise and queries to Alexa.

Amidst this shifting media landscape, I’ve found that two truths remain: you must have an interesting and authentic story to tell; and all those influencers require content. The best stories pique curiosity, take a stand, solve a problem, fulfill an unmet need, offer a new perspective, inspire awareness, challenge conventional wisdom and most importantly, compel others to tell your story. Whether you’re talking to a journalist, producer, blogger, stylist, celebrity or BFF to a star, you can #standout on the strength of a story that’s customized to reach your customer of choice. Stories can be told with smart copy, vibrant visuals, 140 characters, #great news, emotion, an invitation and good reason.  

So, as the evolution of influence evolves, we’ll continue to work with our clients to tell interesting stories to interesting people and along the way, continue to help our staff members celebrate their firsts. 

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Cindy Riccio is president and founder of New York-based agency CRC.