Last month I had the good fortune to be on a panel about fashion influence with some very impressive women in the industry including Vox Frock Editor Janice Breen Burns, leading fashion journalist Patty Huntington, Founder and CEO of influencer marketplace Shopping Links Kim Westwood and model, presenter and influencer Danielle Collis.

We talked about fashion journalists and influencers, who they are, the roles they play in what is a rapidly changing media and marketing landscape and how to work with both, as part of a public relations campaign, to grow your brand. Below are some of the key points discussed, and insights gained, from the panel discussion.

  • What is the difference between fashion journalists and fashion influencers?

Before further exploring engaging with fashion journalists and influencers, it’s important to understand who each is and the difference between the two. That’s not always easy as there does seem to be more and more cross over with fashion journalists growing their social media profiles and fashion influencers taking the front row of fashion shows, a position that was once almost exclusively the domain of the fashion journalist.

Generally speaking, a fashion journalist is usually tertiary qualified, freelances or works for media organisations to report on fashion without bias. You can’t directly pay a journalist to promote your brand.

Fashion influencers work across various social media platforms. They may blog (or not) but also have significant followings across social media platforms particularly Instagram (for fashion) but also Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. An influencer can have an opinion and you can pay them to endorse your brand. That doesn’t mean they necessarily will, as many influencers want to maintain their integrity and authenticity by only working with certain brands.

  • Should brands be working with fashion journalists, influencers or both as part of a public relations campaign?

Every brand is different and needs to be looked at individually with a PR campaign tailored specifically to that brand. For some brands an influencer only approach may be the best way to go however, we generally find working with both fashion journalists and influencers has the greatest impact and achieves the best outcomes.

Using both these avenues can increase a brand’s profile and give it that credibility and desirability that comes with endorsement from a respected third party. The caveat on this would be that it needs to be the right influencer as the this can be the difference between success and failure.

  • How can brands work with fashion journalists to grow their brand’s profile?

While traditional media is shrinking, it’s still offers some good opportunities brands to grow their profile in conjunction with other avenues. Brands like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and marie claire still carry a lot of credibility, they’ve also diversified into online and other platforms. Major metropolitan newspapers still have an impressive reach across print and online.

To get exposure for your brand via a fashion journalist you really need to tap into your brand’s story and communicate it to a journalist in a way that makes it newsworthy, whether that’s identifying something unique about your brand or positioning it in a way that makes it fit into a trend or significant event. Pitching stories to journalists does take some nous and understanding about who to pitch to, and what to pitch, as well as how to manage things like exclusives or first runs of a story.

  • How do brands engage with fashion influencers?

Brands can try going direct to an influencer (this usually only works with micro influencers and can be a very time-consuming process), can work with one ore more of the influencer marketing platforms or with fashion PR agencies who generally have an understanding of who the key influencers are across various categories and have relationships with them and/or their managers. More often than not these days you will have to pay for a collaboration unless you are working with micro-influencers.

  • How do brands choose which fashion Influencers to work with?

It’s really important to work with the right influencers for your brand as it can make the difference between success and failure; sales or no sales. The influencer needs to be ‘on brand’ so that your product would not look out of place in their feed. With the introduction of Instagram Insights we no longer have to make educated guesses as we can now access the demographics and geographics of an influencers’ followers as well as reach and engagement to help us make decisions about which influencers to work with.

  • The future of fashion journalists and influencers

When it comes to fashion journalists, this is a bit of a tough one to answer. There’s no doubt that traditional media is shrinking, however hopefully there will always be a place for unbiased fashion reporting. With fashion influencers, it will become more data driven as to which influencers brands choose to work with. It will also be really important for influencers to be authentic, provide interesting and engaging content and only work with, and endorse in an organic way, brands that they truly believe in so as not to seem too commercialised.