Posted on February 2, 2017
While you might be busy stressing out about what to get your significant other for Valentine’s Day (what do you get the person who has everything?!) your outfit should be a source of joy. Whether it’s Galentine’s Day or Valentine’s Day, everyone loves an excuse to throw on a pretty pink dress and throw back a few glasses of champagne. While my personal style does not usually involve a ton of bright colors, I love dressing girly frocks down with a leather jacket for some juxtaposition.
For the past few years, DJ and I have gone to Pastoral in Lakeview and had a phenomenal time- it is the cutest little spot with a phenomenal staff. They host a Valentine’s Day dinner that is coursed out with a wine pairing. Sadly I cannot eat dairy, gluten, soy or corn due to some health issues so we are switching it up this year and going to Cold Storage in the West Loop for the phenomenal shellfish tower.
I picked this pink, satin dress up in the Fall while traveling but it has been too cold to pull it out of my closet. I threw it on a few weeks back when the weather was above freezing and immediately fell in love with it- it is easy to wear with heels or sandals and pairs well with a leather or denim jacket. I can already tell that this will be on repeat through the Spring.
Sunglasses: ASOS. Dress: H&M- not available in the US but love these options: H&M, H&M, Kate Spade, Nasty Gal. Leather Jacket: All Saints. Silk Scarf: Alexander McQueen. Fuzzy Heels: Steve Madden. Watch: Rolex.
Hope your V-Day is just a lovely as you are!
Posted on January 31, 2017
Last week I talked about the FTC Blogger Guidelines and how Edelman is changing the data analytics game for bloggers- both important subjects to have a basic understanding of in the day and age of the career blogger.
When I first started blogging my Freshman year of college, I had no idea that in a few short years there would be a “business” side to something that I found pure enjoyment in. As I progressed in my blog and ultimately started working with brands, I had to learn the basics, like how to create a simple media kit and how to send a pitch to publicists and journalists. Being a PR professional, it is slightly comical to look back at something that caused me so much anxiety!
According to Webster’s Dictionary, the textbook definition of PR is: professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person. The state of the relationship between the public and a company or other organization or a famous person. While this is true, a PR person is as follows: the gatekeeper between you and the brand. To work with a brand, there are numerous people that have to approve: the marketing director, the PR director, the social media strategist…and on and on.
With blogger + brand partnerships being extremely prevalent, something I often get asked is “what does a proper pitch look like?” While that is a tricky question to answer because every PR professional has their own style of pitching, there are some basics that will help you get across the finish line in a brands’ inbox and hopefully a response!
Pitching brands versus media is very different. A brand pitch is tailored to one specific product and has a call to action. For example: “Would you like to partner…”, “Will you send me XYZ product….”. The question to ask yourself is, what do I have to offer this brand that the ten million other bloggers do not? Make sure you are asking for the right things. While these pitches will help you be professional, also know what level of goods to ask for. If you are a new blogger, request samples to review and start building a relationship with a brand you love.
Remember that when you are pitching media outlets, you are pitching to a writer/journalist. When you are pitching to a brand, you are pitching to a publicist. The job of a publicist is to protect their brands image and think about the business side of how actions will benefit the brand. Also, keep in mind timeliness: if you are pitching a holiday style segment positioning yourself as a fashion expert, give at least a month leeway for scheduling.
One thing that will help to set you apart is using PR to your advantage and aligning yourself with a brands current initiatives. If you directly link your blog or Instagram page and a brand immediately sees their product pop up, that helps set you apart. Below are an example of a brand pitch vs. a media pitch:
Example Brand pitch:
I hope you are having a lovely week! I just wanted to shoot you a note getting Chicago based blog XYZ on your radar for the upcoming Spring months! We explore career, food and fashion combined with unique elements.
(Introduce yourself and tell the publicist exactly what you do!)
Utilizing our background in public relations and digital strategy, we have tapped into a demographic of 21-27 year old women that value experiences over physical items.
(What sets us apart.)
With “spring break” season quickly approaching in Chicago, I just wanted to reach out and see if you would be interest in a collaboration post with us across XYZ and showcasing XYZ HOTEL as the ultimate alternate hotel from getting away from the craziness of the strip but still having all the amenities you could ever want at your fingertips.
I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have and am happy to shoot over my media kit. Do you have any time for a call next week?
Example Press Pitch :
Hope you are having a lovely week! I just wanted to shoot you a note getting XYZ BLOG on your radar for XYZ PUBLICATION. Utilizing our backgrounds in public relations and digital strategy, we decided to launch XYZ BLOG as a culmination of our passions. Do you have any “Real Women, Real Style” segments coming up?
(In this case, we are asking to be featured for a specific segment “real women, real style.” This lets the journalist/producer (if a tv show) know that you did your homework and actually know what they cover.)
XYZ BLOG is based out of Chicago and will be on the ground at Lollapalooza for activations. I just wanted to reach out and see if you would be interested in any kind of festival fashion piece or behind the scenes Snapchat takeover for XYZ or a “10 Craziest Things We Saw At Lollapalloza” segment for the WXYZ Morning Show?
(What can you offer that is different: come up with a catchy headline and offer it up. Also, mention specifics of what you can talk about.
Things to ask yourself when writing a pitch:
- Who gives a crap? Why should someone care about what you are writing?
- What makes your story outshine the others?
- Where does your story fit into the writers world? How can they use you to make news?
- When is this most important? (EX: if it is a pitch about Lollapalooza, make sure you send it out 4 weeks prior.)
- Timeliness to a pitch presents a sense of urgency to the Journalist/Publicist.
- Why would people want to read your story?
- How can this story help readers?
General Tips on PR:
- Have an idea for a specific niche collaboration? Offer it up!
- If you aren’t comfortable with your stats yet, don’t offer them up right away! Focus on the gorgeous photos you take of your reader demographic.
- Make sure your public image is clean, brands do not want to be associated with people with dirt in their closet (or on their timeline.)
- If you can’t find the direct PR contact for a company, try multiple versions in the BCC. Ex: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. One of them is bound to work!
- Know when to follow up: follow up a few days prior to your first email.
- The best time to pitch is first thing in the morning when a journalist/publicist gets to their desk (9am) or midday when they are not buried in emails.
- Have a catchy subject line that fits the length of the line.
I know this is a lot of information to take in, but it is worthwhile to know in the long run. Next week I plan on covering the basics of a brand phone call, a sample call agenda and what questions you should be asking. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments!
<3 Alexandra Moresco
Alexandra Moresco is the owner and founder of A Moresco PR + Digital Strategy.
Posted on January 26, 2017
Last week I talked about how Edelman is changing the data analytics game for bloggers- an ever growing subject considering that is how blogger fees are calculated.
In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released updated guidelines and regulations for advertising in relation to social media and bloggers. When the guidelines were first released, there was not much talk of it- why would bloggers need the same rules as advertisers? Last year, blog readers raised eyebrows when 50 bloggers coincidentally wore the same Lord & Taylor Design Lab dress on Instagram. As it turns out, it was not a coincidence and Lord & Taylor had sponsored the posts and gifted the dress to each blogger. None of the influencers disclosed that they had been paid for the posts, leaving followers confused. The goal was to cause a social media frenzy, and it worked: the dress sold out by the end of the weekend.
While there is no proven statistical correlation between Instagram and ROI, there is no denying the influential power of social media as the latest advertising tool. With social media being unregulated, it is difficult for the Federal Trade Commission to keep an eye on.
If you were to see a contract with real, big- time blogger fees- I think you would die a little inside. Instagram has become a powerful sales tool for brands- just look at Pink Peonies founder Rachel Parcel. Parcel made 960K in 2014 from RewardStyle ALONE, so I can only imagine what she is making now in 2017.
This past Spring while doing Influencer outreach for a client, I had offered to send Dani Song a 7k painting. Her manager emailed me back saying that it would be 5k for her to simply just post the photo, and an additional amount for the brand to be tagged in the photo. Crazy! For comparison, just two years ago Rumi Neely was charging 3k per Instagram photo on her personal account.
With the recent rules coming to light, here is what you need to know:
- The largest point: All endorsements, sponsored pieces, and gifted items need to be disclosed on all forms of media, including Instagram and Twitter.
- The disclosure must be made close to the original post (ex. If you promote a bag on Instagram, it must say “sponsored” in the same post.) This gets tricks: sometimes you may embed videos in your post. If the video is sponsored, you should be including a quick bit at the end mentioning the partnership.
- Brand relations teams sometimes feel icky when bloggers simply post “this post was sponsored by…” It makes them feel like all of their work of getting your partnership is cancelled out by the fact they they “bought” your endorsement. To keep the brand happy, try to disclose your sponsorship in an eloquent way.
- The FTC leaves it up to the brand to make it clear that they require the proper citations, and will ultimately go after the brand if the blogger enlisted to endorse their product does not follow the rules. This may not seem like a huge deal, but if a brand gets in trouble with the FTC over YOUR post it is most likely that they will not work with you again.
- According to The Shelf: “Any writer who fails to mention that they’ve received free items that might sway their coverage is liable for up to an $11,000 fine.”
- When gifted an item with no additional payment “c/o” meets the FTS guidelines.
- #Ad is considered sufficient for Instagram + Twitter posts as a disclosure.
If you are looking for more information on brand/blogger relationships and disclosures, I recommend you check out this link. To roll with the Digital/PR trend, next week I’ll be publishing a post on how to pitch brands for partnerships. If you have any specific questions about that, please leave them in the comments!
Here are some well worded exampled of how to disclose a sponsored post:
“I was SO thrilled when [brand name] reached out to me about presenting their newest collection…” or “[brand name] gave me the opportunity to try out [product] and I’m beyond excited to share it with you.”
Thanks to [brand name] for partnering with me for this post!”
“This post was brought to you by [brand name], but opinions are all my own.”
PS: How do you disclose and how do your readers react to the hashtag #Ad? Personally I have seen a lot of negative comments under other accounts that use the work- as a PR professional I am always curious to hear what others see.
Posted on January 24, 2017
Last week I mentioned that I love any excuse to dress up. Luckily for me, January is packed with black-tie events AKA a great reason to throw on a gown and support a good cause. This past weekend, DJ and I attended Chicago Booth’s Winter Formal, otherwise known as #NerdProm, at the Bridgeport Art Center. This coming weekend, we are attending Snowball. I have gone for the past five years in a row, and love supporting Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
When I was in Milan this Fall, I searched for a unique, transitional dress that could be worn different times in different ways. This classic black and metallic Missoni immediately grabbed my attention and it had to be mine. Unfortunately, the dress is not available in the US but I linked a similar one below. For #NerdProm, I threw an edgy leather jacket over it and kept my hair down. Next week, I am wearing it with my hair up and strappy heels.
Posted on January 19, 2017
The concept of analyzing data is not new- brands have been using data to track our digital footprint for years. However, it is safe to say that the way we analyze data is rapidly changing by the minute and if you are not an expert on the topic, it can be tough to keep up with. While I am not an expert in data analytics in any way and can barely do simple math (thanks core curriculum!!!) I had the opportunity to listen in on a panel with the head of data analytics at Edelman and pick up some tips on where the industry is going and how agencies are working with influencers to reap all the benefits of their partnerships.
Not only is it changing the landscape of public relations, but also for those that blog even as a side project. It is important for bloggers to grasp how deep rooted the tracking goes into their analytics and followers and exactly what agencies are looking for in the deep depths of your website code. As little as a few years ago, agencies use to have to specifically put out a survey to get data asking how consumers felt about a brand. In 2017, they no longer need to ask and simply pull data from social networks. Instead of asking- observe and track what people are saying. Below are five facts that will hopefully help you understand what agencies are looking for. I am very curious: what other data analytic trends are you seeing in the pr + influencer industry?
1 | Using a “follower” on social media to measure engagement or influence is done. Measuring a photo or post by how many followers a page has does not help a brand to understand the ROI (return on investment) they made in sponsoring that post or photo. Brands want to see your engagement- how many people enjoyed your post enough to interact with it? This could be measured in shares, comments or most importantly to brands: how many unique visitors clicked through to the call to action for the brand and bought their product or visited their website? In the end: it does not matter if your post got 5k views if visitors did not take action. This is often called the “conversion rate” and you can track this by using Google Analytics. Although I am not familiar with Adobe, Edelman prefers tracking through Adobe Analytics and believes Adobe is where the future lies.
2 | Bit.ly means that a tracking code is being masked. Bit.ly is a double edge sword. Bloggers like using bit.ly links because it creates clean links for them to share, but now consumers are more hesitant to click on a bit.ly link because they do not trust it. At Edelman, links are coded from the ground up and are often big lines of jumbled numbers and letters meant to track every move a unique website visitor makes- Bitly allows them to mask that. These links allow analysts to track individual analytics, post performance and ultimately measure if a campaign was a success or a dud. You can read up on some more Bitly basics, here.
3 | Influencers now sign contracts that give agencies access to backend code. What is the difference between frontend and backend code? I had no idea until I googled it after the panel. Typically, frontend code is what your user sees in the browser and backend code is the data within your server. I cannot personally speak well on this subject, but it is important to know that now more often than not, data analysts at agencies not only have access to what you tell them about but the whole shebang. These might be some good resources: Quora and Code Chicago.
4 | Influencers are viewed as “more for less.” More for less boils down to one thing: agencies are able to pay bloggers less than they would to purchase media buys (purchasing spots for advertisements in print, TV and online) thus getting more bang for their buck. Bloggers are among the top five most trusted sources for information. This is because consumers do not want to feel like they are following a brand, they want to feel like they are following a personality AKA they view bloggers as their online “friends.” Additionally, the influencer often signs a contract signing over the rights to content and photos for the brand to use in any way they please. This gets the brand a lot of content for not a lot of investment. Brands often find that mid-level bloggers are the most beneficial to work with when there is a smaller budget at stake: mid-level bloggers tend to have a very engaged following that leads to a great conversion rate. If you want to read more about blogger outreach from a PR standpoint, check out this article. If you want to read up on stats about working with bloggers, check this out (it is from 2012 so a little outdated but still makes some good points.)
5 | Agencies are now favoring Attribution Modeling. Or in normal person terms for people like me: what was the reader \ consumer journey to clicking on your specific website link? Data Analysts can now track what the user journey was to ultimately find your website in real time. For example, did the reader originate from a link shared on twitter and land on your page which led them to the brands page? Agencies track what your reader was reading before, after and during their time spent on your blog. This also means that agencies know where a bulk of your views come from, when they happen and how long they stayed on your site. What did they interact with the most?
What other kinds of data tips are you interested in seeing? If you have any tips or tricks of your own, please share in the comments!
PS: Buffer Social has a smart little dictionary of what different data terms mean. It is a great resource for the next time a brand asks you for a stat and you are not quite sure what number to give them! Check it out, here!
Posted on January 17, 2017
Ernest Hemingway was a smart guy for more than his gifted writing abilities…he also loved a great cocktail. More specifically, Hemingway had a love for daiquiris. According to “The Complete Cocktail Manual,” the Hemingway Daiquiri is a traditional daiquiri with a splash of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.
This past weekend I went to Chicago’s most loved tiki bar, Three Dots and a Dash. Three Dots transports you to an island bar far, far away from the chilly city of Chicago. Their drinks are fruity and pack a big punch with different rums. Admittedly, one of my favorite things is the presentation of the cocktails that are WAY over the top! I was a dork and picked up one of their souvenir mugs, but you can also get them here for much less! I can’t wait to break it out for long days spent on our rooftop deck in the sun!
The Hemingway Daiquiri
2 oz White Rum
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
Combine all of your ingredients in a cocktail shaker or cocktail mixing glass. Add ice and shake or stir for about 15 seconds. Strain into a preferably cold coupe glass and garnish with a strip of grapefruit skin or thinly sliced lime wedge.
The Hemingway Daiquiri is very spirit heavy so I would recommend splurging on a good quality white rum. Since the amount of juice is so small, you might as well go all the way and freshly squeeze your own grapefruit and lime juice. Personally, I needed to add a little bit of sweetness to my cocktail so I splashed in a half ounce of simple syrup. It helped to make the cocktail palatable for a slow drinker such as myself!
Posted on January 12, 2017
In the next few months, Chicago is booming with black tie fundraisers, galas and events. The feeling of getting to dress up in a floor length gown is one that I have always loved, but comes few and far between. I wore this Parker zing-zag skirt two years ago to Snowball which is quickly approaching at the end of January. This year, I am wearing a floor-length dress in a classic silhouette that I picked up in Milan. Specifically when making a big purchase like a floor length formal dress, I look for something timeless that I can wear again in many different ways and fits me well.
This year, I am topping my dress off with an All Saints leather jacket to give it a little “oomph!”
Posted on January 11, 2017
I have always been a veggies over meat kind of girl. I love the crisp crunch of a fresh veggie so naturally vegetables and dip is a staple in my diet. When Soho House in Chicago first opened, they served a gorgeous crudités plate with fresh heirloom carrots, radishes, cucumbers and other bits of colorful goodness alongside freshly smashed avocado. Since I do not go to an office, I often work out of Soho House and the crudités plate has remained one of my favorite things on the menu.
I love to entertain and am always looking for quick but satisfying bites to serve guests. Plus, if you prefer to ditch most of the prep work the day of, you can pre-chop your veggies the day before. The platter is all about presentation and it looks like you put in more effort than you actually did. Freshly chopped vegetables and dips is the perfect, simple and always beautiful appetizer to accompany a few cocktails (try this super easy vanilla Moscow mule!)
Essentially, the dip that I serve with crudites is a simple guacamole. I smash an avocado with a fork until it is a smooth consistency, squeeze in half a lime and add salt and pepper to taste. If you like spicy dips, add in some red pepper flakes.
I love this little marble serving tray to serve colorful veg on. Would love to hear about any other quick, easy entertaining recipes you may have!
Posted on January 6, 2017
If you are anything like me, you hate the frigid weather that the Midwest (Chicago, I’m looking at you) brings in the Winter months. With DJ getting his MBA at Booth and working full time + me getting my Masters and working part-time, we decided that a mini-vacation to a warm place was much needed. We wanted to try a place neither of us had ever been before so we settled on Amelia Island, more specifically the gorgeous Ritz Carlton.
I posted this same photo above on my Instagram a few days ago and got some questions on my dress so I thought I would share it here! While this dress isn’t current season, it will always be one of my favorites. We weren’t expecting to take any (professional) photos on our trip, but spontaneously decided to last minute and this playful parrot print dress worked perfectly! I don’t often wear tight pieces, but I love how Milly makes dresses for women with curves.
If you have any suggestions on some fun, form fitting Summer dresses- I would love to hear them!
Posted on January 4, 2017
One of the first drinks that truly helped me to begin appreciating a quality cocktail was the Moscow Mule. While most spirit experts would scoff at this- I do not like the “taste” of alcohol but appreciate a flavorful drink profile. I am a self admitted sissy pants!
Towards the end of December, Lexi and I had the chance to experience the new Crown Royal Vanilla whiskey at a tasting in Chicago as a little “girls night.” You can probably guess that I am not a big whiskey drinker based off of my previous drink recipes ( I typically prefer gin or clear spirit based cocktails.) Shockingly, I enjoyed the Vanilla flavor of the Crown Royal Vanilla and it paired nicely with all of the cocktails I tried. While it is still a bold flavor, the hint of vanilla adds a complex taste to the classic Moscow Mule that I did not necessarily expect.
Crown Royal Vanilla is a great, versatile whiskey for all seasons- it tastes great when mixed with sodas (for a Vanilla take on hard sodas), or when used to create a Vanilla twist on classic cocktails (like a Vanilla Old Fashioned and Vanilla Hot Toddy) or simply sipped on the rocks if you are stronger human than I! Crown Royal Vanilla begins with aromas of rich vanilla bean and delicate hints of oak. The taste opens with a delicious, not-too-sweet vanilla flavor followed by Crown Royal’s signature smooth finish. The aftertaste is best described similar to crème brulee.
Crown Royal chose the perfect location for the tasting- Celeste. The bartenders at Celeste were phenomenal and made the Mules with real, fresh ginger (I included that recipe below) but if you want to break this down into a simpler concoction, I altered the recipe as well. While you do not shake a Moscow Mule because of the bubbles in the ginger beer, I do recommend stirring the Crown Royal over ice to keep the drink cold. I like this modern cocktail spoon from CB2 and this sleek cocktail mixing glass from Crate & Barrel.
Vanilla Mule (Crown Royal + Celeste)
1.5 oz. Crown Royal Vanilla
2 oz. Ginger
1 oz. Soda
1.5 oz. Crown Royal Vanilla
3 oz. Ginger Beer
1 oz. Lime Juice
A few months ago, I was researching the “best new restaurants” of 2016 and Celeste consistently popped up on every list. Celeste described itself as a “modern American cocktail bar” and I would have to agree- every drink we had was equally as tasty as the one before it and the little bites at the party were delicious. Hoping to make it back soon for a full meal! The fried chicken is calling my name.
All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Crown Royal Vanilla for working with us on this recipe!