How to Get Your Products onto the Beauty Pages
Last year's film "The September Issue" offered viewers unprecedented access to how Vogue functions. But if you watched it hoping for clues to how to approach the mysterious species known as women's magazine editor, it was probably about as helpful as an American Express card at a cash-only sample sale. Here's some tips for getting your products on magazine beauty pages.
How to Get Your Products onto the Beauty Pages: Nice Packaging
Vintage-inspired beauty brand Bésame – Spanish for "kiss me" -- landed in Allure magazine in 2005 with a story talking about the brand's petite gold packaging. "The story brought us more sales on a national level and more distribution, since stores look to these publications for new products to stock," says Gabriela Hernandez, who founded the company in 2004, partially inspired by her grandmother's 1940s lipstick tube.
Adds Ted Dennard, CEO of Savannah Bee, whose beeswax-based body care products have appeared in dozens of magazines including Vogue and Cosmopolitan: "Our packaging is good and that helps a lot." The company also makes memorable appearances at trade shows: "We do a sweet-looking booth made out of beehive boxes and get a bunch of traffic."
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How to Get Your Products onto the Beauty Pages: Hit the Office
Beauty editors don't do lunch -- or at least, they don't do lunch with you. They do, however, do what are known as "desksides," which are exactly what they sound like: You come up to the office and have a quick meeting, erm, deskside. (Or possibly lobby-side.)
How do you get an appointment? There's the trickier part. Send an envelope with a product and chances are it will get lost in the mountains of mail littering the beauty closet. One editor suggests sending a carefully worded email that highlights what makes the product different and why the editor should want to hear about it/write about it/test it. "Don't tell me how fabulous it is," she says. "Tell me why it's fabulous. I've heard everything there is to say about lipstick, so if you can make me pause, I'll want to talk to you."
Another editor suggests hiring a well-connected public relations representative. You don't have to go for a big agency – you could go with someone who's worked in the magazine industry but now has decided to try the other side. "There are a handful of PRs I really trust," says the editor. "If one of them tells me I have to see someone, then I make the time." Hernandez says thanks to an agency "I was able to meet with most of the major magazines in a short amount of time."
If you don't have the funds for a public relations representative, you could also consider making a trip to New York and contacting editors to let them know you'll be in town. This is where a little research goes a long way. Many a meeting has been scored by the phrase: "I'll already be in your building at 11 am for a meeting with [insert name of other magazine here]." No editor wants to think she's missing out on something.
And speaking about access to the building of major media companies: Be prepared with a lot of samples, just in case. Consider the example of Innocent Drinks, a UK smoothie company with revenue of $150 million. When the company was just starting out, founder Richard Reed recalled to Inc.com, they got a meeting with a magazine in IPC Media, Time Warner's English publishing arm. "We went in and dropped off the samples and realized: This whole building is stuffed with journalists, and we've got security passes and a van outside. So [a co-founder] and I just went in and out getting bag after bag and we started at the top floor and worked our way down, leaving smoothies on every floor. You probably couldn't do that now in the post-September 11 world, but we got a ton of phone calls."
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How to Get Your Products onto the Beauty Pages: Get Your Face Time
Nothing can replace good old-fashioned networking. Hernandez, for example, met the Allure editors at a breakfast event hosted by Henri Bendel. An editor at Conde Nast – publishers of Vogue, Allure and Glamour – says small brands are more likely to lodge themselves in her mind (and turn up in a story) if she's met someone connected to them. "I once used a skin cream, I think it was, because this woman turned up at a party wearing the most amazing necklace. Months later when I was doing the skin story I remembered the necklace and then I remembered the cream," she says.
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How to Get Your Products onto the Beauty Pages: Be Yourself
Dennard says his company has never hired a public relations firm –"People are attracted to us because we have authenticity – real beekeeper, real products from beehives, and it all seems to make sense." Adds Hernandez: "My own enthusiasm for the history [the brand is about vintage glamour] seemed to rub off on the people who interviewed me, so I think that contributed."
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How to Get Your Products onto the Beauty Pages: Start Small
Start with regional newspapers and magazines – which happen to be a good source of ideas for the nationals. Bésame's first print press mention was in the Los Angeles Times magazine, three months after the brand's launch. "That brought us a lot of attention from other media," Hernandez says. How did they end up in the Los Angeles Times? "Word of mouth – the writer heard about us and contacted me," she says.
If you don't want to sit around waiting for people to hear about you, it tends to be easier to get the attention of writers and editors from smaller publications. They have space to fill and often are grateful for suggestions of ways to fill it. Does your product use an ingredient particular to the region? Did you meet your business partner in a novel way? Consider the audience of the publication and make sure you send your pitch to the proper editor. And yes, beauty bloggers are a huge source of customers – and a mention can spark sales and other press. Bésame initially launched online, growing thanks to the recommendations of bloggers and fans. "The Web really gave us visibility," says Hernandez.
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How to Get Your Products onto the Beauty Pages: Advertise
It's the dirty secret of magazines: Being a regular advertiser helps. Call it the ugly business of beauty.
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Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.