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- 7 Apr 2011
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Hybrid PR & Publishing Strategies for the Digital Age

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PR and Publishing have always been two symbiotic but distinct service silos of the luxury industry. Occasionally their boundaries blurred but, for the most part, their primary activities were clearly defined and the route to get results was never really in doubt. Then, in charged the world wide web, irrevocably upsetting much of the system that these professionals had come to count on to keep their businesses profitable.

For much of the past decade, these prestigious gatekeepers to the consumer and advocates of the brand were able to stick their heads in the sand and carry on with business as usual. But in recent years, it has become all too apparent that the upheaval being ushered in by the digital revolution can no longer be ignored. To put it bluntly, the consumer media brigade and the PR firms serving them have now finally understood that if they don’t adapt – and adapt fast – they will become obsolete.

 The luxury media brigade and the PR firms serving them have now finally understood that if they don’t adapt fast they will become obsolete 

A few interesting stories coming out in the news this week highlighted just how far some have come – and indeed how far others have yet to evolve before they can gain an edge over the leading players instead of playing a constant game of catch-up. Bloomberg focused on the growing trend for luxury fashion magazines to dabble in the retail of the clothes that they feature. In the stagnant publishing sector, online and tablet versions of upmarket magazines may make many new revenue streams possible through hybrid business models.

But in addition to flat or falling circulation and ad revenue figures, another threat is posed by e-commerce sites themselves which are investing heavily in branded content, micro-magazines and other editorial platforms to augment their core retail business. Essentially, according to the Bloomberg piece at least, sites like Net-a-Porter are on their way to becoming competitors with fashion magazines. In a bid to address this, Hearst Magazines is said to be on the verge of announcing a series of e-commerce partnerships for its titles while Conde Nast’s Vogue recently partnered with the online retailer Yoox.

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The flip side to digital solutions for the publishing industry is of course PR firms which are prepared to roll out substantial digital components to their public relations campaigns. In an in-depth piece on the digital prowess of Nicola Formichetti for Mugler, Women’s Wear Daily touched on the PR angle of the brand’s spectacular comeback. Author, Rachel Strugatz wrote:

“The media blitz that surrounded the unveiling was carefully calculated by digital agency Moving Image and Content, with all digital public relations handled by KCD Digital in New York, and part of the brand’s digital strategy included a 45-minute preshow (in addition to the actual runway show) filmed from multiple cameras that fans could watch to build buzz before the actual event. The label’s fan base on the social medium nearly doubled to 80,000 from 45,000 “likes” in one week.”

Coincidentally, on the very same day as the WWD article, The Business of Fashion penned a must-read investigation into how PR firms are addressing their new duties in the digital realm. Canvassing opinion with leading firms and publicists, BoF’s editor-in-chief Imran Amed concluded that “although they may have been slow off the mark — and indeed much slower than many of their clients might have liked — it is quickly dawning upon the fashion industry’s most respected public relations firms that their once cushy domain is being rapidly disrupted by digital media.”