Social media is transforming public relations, and both practitioners and academics are grappling with its impact on traditional public relations concepts and practices (Fitch, 2012). Studies reveal Australian practitioners increasingly experiment with social media in professional contexts (Robson & James, 2012) although they adopt it erratically (Macnamara, 2011) and tend to use social media primarily for marketing and brand promotion purposes (Macnamara, 2010). Noricks identifies the significance of social media for fashion PR is that it potentially enables more engagement with fashion publics:
Traditionally, PR tactics focused on gaining media attention, while marketing focused more on customer sales. However, social media has changed the playing field a bit, and PR is now concerned with more than just media and may be more involved in customer relationship building. (2012, p. 16)
The challenge for fashion PR practitioners, more accustomed to developing relationships with fashion journalists and traditional media outlets, is how to develop ways of engaging fashion publics in an industry where online shopping is increasingly a ‘socially connected event’ (Wright, 2011, para. 5) and fashion publics share their product wish lists and purchases with social network sites. In addition to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, fashion PR practitioners have embraced social media platforms such as Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, Foursquare and increasingly eBay Fashion Gallery. These platforms are perceived by industry commentators to ‘facilitate real-time and genuine relationships with consumers’ (Akahoshi, 2012, p. 11), allowing fashion labels to connect withfashion publics and providing publicity that an advertising budget simply cannot buy (Prabhakar, 2010). For example, international luxury brands now design campaigns around user-generated content.
Burberry’s ‘Art of the Trench’ campaign encouraged users to upload images of themselves wearing a Burberry trench coat (Burberry, n.d.; Business of Fashion, 2012)and Jimmy Choo’s ‘Choo 24:7 Stylemakers’ campaign encouraged fans to post street-style images to its website and via Instagram and Twitter.
Fashion PR refers to the public relations role in managing fashion labels or brands, rather than celebrity or model management. Sherman and Perlman define fashion PR as ‘being in touch with the company’s audiences, creating strong relationships with them, reaching out to the media, initiating messages that project positive images of the company, assuming social responsibility, and even adjusting company policies’ (2010, p. xix).
Despite the economic and cultural significance of the fashion industry, little academic attention has been paid to fashion PR, which is often perceived as superficial and frivolous, and associated with marketing, promotion and image management (Cassidy & Fitch, 2013). The public relations industry’s drive towards professional status has marginalised niche practices that do not fit into the dominant conceptualisation of public relations as a unique strategic management discipline primarily in the corporate sector (Cassidy & Fitch).
Cassidy, L., & Fitch, K. (2013). ‘Parties, air-kissing and long boozy lunches’? Public relations in the Australian fashion industry. PRism, 9(2). Retrieved from http://www.prismjournal.org/homepage.html
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IbisWorld. (2013). Clothing retailing in Australia: Market research report [report snapshot]. Retrieved from http://www.isbisworld.com.au/industry/default.aspx?indid=407
Jimmy Choo. (2012). Choo 24:7 Stylemakers. Retrieved from http://www.choo247.com/
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