Yahya Bouneb’s Part_ 3rd
The UK PR and Fashion PR Industry
Promotion plays a crucial role within the fashion industry as designers, fashion houses and companies compete for attention and vie to get featured in the media‘s editorial coverage. Mintel (2004) suggests that in response to the huge choice of fashion items on the high street and the consumer‘s desire for fashion information, fashion editorial pages have gained much higher product density.
As claimed by the CIPR (2004)16, the UK PR industry is the most highly developed in Europe and at the time of writing had a rate of growth in the number of PR jobs at all levels that was higher than that of any comparable function over the previous fifteen years. In November 2005 the CIPR launched the results of the first major study into the size, nature and composition of the UK PR industry. The research was carried out by CEBR and showed that on a global scale, the UK PR market is second only to that of the US with a turnover of £6.5billion.
The same study further showed that the PR profession contributes £3.4billion to the UK’s economic activity and generates £1.1 billion in corporate profits. The annual turnover of PR consultancies is £1.2billion. The UK PR Industry employs around 48,000 people 82% of whom work in-house and 18% work in PR consultancies, 25% of PR practitioners work
16 http://www.cipr.co.uk/About/index.htm [accessed 4th June 2005]
in London. The health, public and not-for-profit sectors are the biggest employers of PR, together accounting for 36% of turnover for PR consultancies and employing 51% of in- house practitioners.
According to fashion PR index The Diary (2005) there are more than 200 PR agencies representing fashion clients in the UK, the majority of them are based in London. This is more than twice as many in comparison to other European ―fashion capitals‖, such as Milan or Paris (Diary, 2005). Julian Vogel of Modus Publicity one of the UK‘s leading fashion PR agencies in a lecture given at the University of Westminster in the Spring of 2007 claimed that there are circa 8000 fashion brands which are represented by over 500 PR consultants in the UK. This statement was supported by members of the fashion PR industry interviewed during the course of this study. It was confirmed that 90% of all UK based fashion companies have some form of press representation, either through agencies, freelance consultants or in-house staff (Fashion Monitor, 2007). Outlined below are the different types of media or communication categories as suggested by Bivins (2004) targeted by the UK fashion PR industry.
A Brief Excursion into the History of PR
The literature suggests that the precursors to PR can be found in the publicists who specialised in promoting circuses, theatrical performances, and other public spectacles and modern PR tracing its beginnings to the late 1800s (Cutlip, 1994; Ewen, 1992; Ewen,1996; Fombrun, 1996; Grunig and Hunt, 1984; Jefkins, 1995; Wilcox, 1992). However, as Ewen
(1992) writes, the field began to emerge as a powerful corporate tool in the US in the late 19th and early 20th century as industrial and business leaders, under attack by a new breed of investigative journalists sought to shape public opinion and stave off governmental interference by hiring experts in « PR ». The battlefield for these campaigns and counter- campaigns Ewen claims was the mass media. Most early PR practitioners were originally journalists with first class contacts in the field, and generating favourable publicity was the main aim of those practitioners, a practice that largely applies today (ewen, 1992). As Wilcox (1992) notes, PR initially was publicity. The First World War helped stimulate the development of PR as a profession with early visionaries such as Edward Bernays, Arthur Page, and Harwood Childs who saw PR as a way of ‗balancing the interests of organisations and their publics‘ (Cutlip, 1994).
Bernays was the profession’s first theorist. As a nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays drew many of his ideas from Freud’s theories about the irrational, unconscious motives that shape human behaviour. Bernays is the author of ‗Crystallizing Public Opinion‘ (1923),
‗Propaganda‘ (1928), and ‗The Engineering of Consent‘ (1947). He saw PR as an « applied social science » that uses insights from psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to scientifically manage and manipulate the thinking and behaviour of an irrational and « herd- like » public which arguably specifically applies to the area of fashion PR and the mass following of trends.
Fashion PR – A Historical Perspective
Over the years PR became a global discipline which was applied within a variety of businesses and different categories of PR developed as it grew in importance. Interestingly the history of PR is very much focused on its political content and seems to leave out the consumer aspect. The literature gives very little information about the history of fashion PR, only by looking at various fashion houses and designers a vague historical image can be drawn. According to Charles-Roux (2005) Coco Chanel famously promoted her own label by entertaining journalists and becoming the face of Chanel. She successfully applied modern PR/ marketing strategies in order to make Chanel an internationally recognised brand. These exercises included the use of famous friends and models to endorse her designs, the creation of costumes for the theatre, the high society and red carpet events, articles within fashion magazines: as well as showing her creations at the ‗Exposition of Arts and Techniques‘ in 1937 and a charity event in Britain in 1932. In 1957 she won the Fashion Oscar.
However despite the fact that fashion coverage has existed long before, according to Savage fashion PR as we know it today did not exist until the 1950s (Savage in King, 2005). According to King (Independent Online, 10th November 2005)17 in an interview with Percy Savage, ‗it was seen as ‗vulgar‘ to have anything in the press apart from Perfume advertisements‘. French Vogue was the first European fashion magazine available allowing ground for initial PR exercises. Percy Savage is generally known as the founder of fashion PR (King, 2005). Australian by birth, he became a socialite in the second half of
17 The article can be accessed online via http://news.independent.co.uk/people/profiles/article326156.ece
the 20th century, counting celebrities, politicians, rock stars and royalty such as Marlene Dietrich, Princess Grace, Elizabeth Taylor, Cristobal Balenciaga, John F. Kennedy, Jean Cocteau, Farah Dibah (who became the empress of Iran) as his friends. His networking skills made him a coveted name and an important figure in the establishment of fashion PR. With Lanvin as his first PR client, Savage understood the importance of third party endorsement via the press in order to sell fashion. He was also the first to introduce celebrity endorsement. His biggest coup has been front page coverage of Liz Taylor in a Lanvin dress. ―I got the biggest buzz from attaining maximum press coverage for clients; especially press coups. Elizabeth Taylor was to attend the Lanvin show but her flight was delayed, » he explains. When Taylor’s film company called that evening to ask if she could choose something to wear to her premiere the following night, Savage hot-footed to her hotel with 20 Lanvin dresses. While the actress was trying them on, Savage was on the telephone. « I knew a journalist working for the Herald Tribune, so I called her and got her an exclusive interview, » he says. « I then informed the French press that Elizabeth Taylor would be wearing Lanvin to the premiere. It became front-page news in all the papers. The other houses were green with envy.‖ The coup broke the Chambre Syndicale embargo stating that no garment seen on the catwalks could be published in the press until a month after the shows. « That’s what caused the scandal, » says Savage, « but there was nothing that they could do because it was the client wearing the clothes, not something I’d given to a fashion editor to photograph. » [online] 18 So it was Savage who pioneered today’s pandemic of celebrities in designer dresses on the red carpet.‖
18 http://news.independent.co.uk/people/profiles/article326156.ece [accessed 18th August 2006]
At a lecture attended by the author at the British Library in 2005 Savage claimed that it was the press that expressed a need for proper information flow between designers and fashion houses and the journalists. When Savage moved to London in 1974 Madge Garland editor of British Vogue at the time and Ernestine Carter, fashion editor of the Sunday Times asked him to promote British designers and raise the profile of British fashion within the press. In response to that request he brought together an array of British designers including Zandra Rhodes, Bruce Oldfield and Wendy Dagworthy and hosted a fashion show entitled ‗The new Wave‘ at the Ritz. This show has been the fore runner of London Fashion Week with front row seats allocated to socialites such as Bianca Jagger and royalty such as Princess Margaret.
In the early 1970s Lynne Franks, a former journalist, opened Lynne Franks PR. She was one of the first UK agencies to take on fashion clients. In her Bibliography she explains that the agency environment allowed her to take on more than one client and exhibiting their collections in a specifically fitted showroom where press could come and view the latest pieces (Franks, 2004). This research has found that she launched Tommy Hilfiger in the UK as well as put London Fashion Week on the international fashion calendar. The cult TV series ‗Absolutely Fabulous‘ is based on Lynne Franks.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s a large number of fashion PR agencies opened up in London. Amongst them were JRB, Jenny Halpern Associates, Janine du Plessis PR and Red Rooster. Janine Roxborough Bunce of JRB famously promoted Hardy Amies as the couturier to the Queen and made him a household name. Up until his death the PR
relationship between the agency and the couturier house remained strong and even now JRB still represents the fashion house of Hardy Amies. Red Rooster started business in the early 1990s and successfully promoted up and coming fashion street labels among them
‗Red or Dead‘ a funky London street wear brand which was promoted via unheard of PR techniques such as guerilla campaigns to the press and the public and also included a show at London Fashion Week.
This chapter acts as a defining pillar for the foundation of this thesis. It provides a detailed outline of the UK PR and fashion PR industry and its context. Looking at the historical development as well as recent figures of market structure and size a clear picture of the research subject can be drawn. It is important to note that although the area of fashion PR lacks academic attention, this chapter has shown its importance and omnipresence over the past seven decades and even before. It emerged that the fashion industry has always had an interest in communicating with the consumer and has used tools of promotion which are still applied by the fashion PR industry today. These tools mainly consisted of product placement but direct promotion as in the case of Coco Chanel who famously made fashion editors her friends were repeatedly used. Percy Savage, known as the first fashion PR man, introduced celebrity endorsement and made it a key communications method. Further information on the fashion industry itself helps understand the confines within which fashion PR acts as a representative today.
Part IV – Research
Chapter 6: Research Analysis
Chapter six states the hypothesis of this study and gives a detailed account of the research carried out in order to back up the hypothesis that fashion print media coverage is largely created by fashion PR.
As noted in the introductory chapter, it is the aim of this study to show that fashion PR is directly accountable for the vast amount of fashion coverage within UK newspapers today. This is being accomplished through content analysis of eight UK newspapers as described further below, as well as through semi structured interviews with industry insiders and participant observation.
With reference to the telephone survey outlined in Part I, Chapter 1, a preliminary study of one week‘s content analysis was carried out in September 2003 prior to the actual content analysis in order to establish the content analysis research sample and test which elements need addressing within the coding to retrieve relevant research data and to produce an effective coding schedule. Within this initial research it transpired that various factors in terms of fashion coverage are closely interlinked.
The majority of fashion coverage, which took place in the week beginning 8th September 2003, was accompanied by photographic footage of some sort. These photographs were either special fashion shoots using models, or they were product shots featuring fashion items and accessories photographed flat. A total of 134 fashion related photographs were detected during that week. This not only confirmed the vast daily presence of fashion coverage but also raised the first question as to how crucial visual aids are in connection with fashion coverage and in what way fashion PR needs to address this. Consequently this finding needed to be taken further into consideration and as a result had to be taken up in the ultimate coding schedule. A differentiation between pages and column inches of text and photographs was established to show the correlation between the two and to discern their importance respectively.
Furthermore it became apparent within that test study that most fashion related features and articles appear to have a ‗story‘ surrounding the coverage. This was frequently underlined by using noticeable headlines, which differed notably from the traditional newspaper headline, thus another detail that needed to be taken up within the coding.
Altogether there were 110 pages of coverage associated with fashion (this excludes advertising pages), 44 of which were articles and features directly fashion related. This finding on its own is interesting in relation to the amount of photographic material mentioned above (134 photographs) and in this regard raises the question as to how important the written word is within fashion coverage. This discovery required further attention within the final coding schedule and two special columns entitled „pages and
column inches of fashion coverage‟, which were then further divided into „pages and column inches of text‟ and „pages and column inches of photographic material‟ were introduced.
An additional crucial finding in the context of fashion PR and fashion newspaper coverage which was established during the pilot study was the fact that an extremely large proportion of the coverage within that week had a direct connection between celebrities and fashion. In fact at times it was difficult to establish whether the item was a celebrity article or a fashion one. Mainly this was achieved through either photographic material, showing celebrities wearing certain fashion items or in the form of interviews and advice columns in which celebrities would talk about their personal taste in fashion or give advice as to what they thought fashionable. All in all there were 11 of such celebrity features during that week. As a result this phenomenon had to be taken up within the coding schedule for further investigation. Under the main category ‗Type of Article/Item‟ celebrity coverage was given a sub-category.
Overall, the preliminary study has shown the considerable daily presence of fashion coverage within UK newspapers (this includes the week-end supplements of the above newspapers, which are either entirely devoted to fashion or have a section on fashion) and helped considerably with the construction of an effective coding schedule. An overall weekly schedule was established first with the intention to tighten up the data. This was ultimately followed by an overall schedule, containing all the research data that was
collected over the six months period. Table 7 shows an example of a daily coding schedule for data analysis.
Example of Coding Schedule for one Day of Content Analysis Coding
|6.The Financial Times|
|7.The Daily Mail|
|8.Daily Mirror||8 – 3am Magazine|
|Headline (copy verbatim)||Celebrity Style – Peachy Keen & Handbag of the week – it might be a difficult colour to wear, but be inspired by these stars who look peachy in er,
Exact positioning of Article in Newspaper
|Advertising of article within the
Name of Journalist
(name & designation, if given, verbatim)
Article Length /Column Length
|Pages of text||Captions|
|Inches of text||2|
|Pages of pics||Inserts|
|Inches of pics||4|
Prominence of Headline
|Prominence of Headline
(bold, capitals, etc.)
|Small black bold letters on peach in box
next to Rachel Stevens feature
Type of Article/ Item
|1 Main News Story|
|2 Other News Story|
|3 Feature Article|
|4 Celebrity Article||4 – Minnie Driver, Jenny Frost, Heather
Graham, Jennifer Lopez
|6 Celebrity Interview|
|7 Fashion Insider Interview|
|8 Photo Shoot|
|9 Product Article/ Shoot|
|10 Promotional Feature|
|12 Fashion Column/ regular feature||12 – part of the ―Celebrity Style‖ column|
|1 Fashion is the main focus||1|
|2 Fashion is a secondary focus|
|3 Fashion is mentioned only in passing|
Specification of Fashion
|1 Designer Fashion & name of designer||Lulu Guinness Handbags|
|2 High Street Fashion & name of label|
Advertising surrounding the article
The Detailed Examination of Newspaper Fashion Coverage (January 2004 – June 2004)
To approach the research problem and to discern whether and to what extent fashion PR is the key force behind fashion newspaper coverage a quantitative investigation had to be carried out. Thus content analysis has been chosen as the key research method.
Starting on the 29th December 2003, ending on 6th June 2004, the fashion content within the previously mentioned research sample of eight main British newspapers, covering a cross section of tabloids and broadsheets was analysed (see Table 12).
The question as to why focus the research on newspapers and not on the rather more obvious and influential fashion or ‗glossy‘ magazines may arise at this point. Fashion magazines are typically made up of 80% advertising leaving only 20% of the magazine for
editorial coverage (Tungate, 2005). Newspapers, although also dependent upon advertising revenue, are arguably keener on the news angle. According to Glassborow (in Tungate, 2005 p.81) ―…some of the best fashion journalism can be found in newspapers‖. Thus the aim of this research is to probe the level of impact fashion PR has over fashion reporting in this rather traditional medium.
Applying this quantitative research method, it was intended to demonstrate the vast impact fashion PR has on fashion content within British newspapers and as a consequence show that it is in fact largely responsible for the increase in newspaper fashion coverage, as well as possibly for the introduction of newspaper fashion supplements in the mid 1990s.
Fashion newspaper coverage is given an important role within newspaper lifestyle journalism and special fashion teams inform the readers about trends and latest fashions. The fashion team is generally made up of one fashion director, one or more fashion editors and a number of fashion assistants. As this research has found, the fashion desk of The Daily Telegraph for example is headed by Fashion Director Hilary Alexander who is helped by her editor Clare Coulson who was promoted from fashion writer in 2005. They have an ongoing scheme of work placements offering young graduates the chance of getting a feel for the industry for one or two weeks. The Telegraph like all other newspapers, frequently uses freelance writers, stylists and photographers who are employed depending on the journalistic calendar, which is set by the fashion director for the whole year, but is more of a framework with room for changes.
The various articles and features are discussed with the whole in-house fashion team and the editors are briefed on what to research and write about, photo shoots are also being scheduled. All newspapers as opposed to magazines have a tight schedule and work approximately a week up to a few days in advance. This research has found that the tabloids, The Mirror and the Daily Mail in particular, are the prime employers of fashion staff, employing more than just one fashion team but groups of journalists covering different fashion related subject areas. However with the emergence of newspaper supplements in the early 1990s, some of which have a fashion section, others are largely focused on just fashion, such as the Sunday Times Style Magazine, newspapers now employ more fashion staff and have longer lead times. There is usually a separate fashion team for the supplements, as well as freelance fashion writers who are also used frequently for specific features. They often function as outside experts that are brought in to write about certain fashion trends or items. Lucinda Chambers, fashion editor of British Vogue, for example writes for a cross section of newspapers on issues related to fashion. Due to her position at Vogue, which is regarded as the world‘s leading fashion magazine, she is referred to as an expert within her field.
Content Analysis Research Sample
|The Daily Telegraph|
|The Daily Mail|
Although newspaper circulation has been in decline over the past decade19 it is safe to say that in PR terms they still reach a vast potential audience which makes them an extremely important target for fashion PR. A further interesting point brought up by the pilot study was that the majority of articles and product features were entirely non-critical, fashion was mainly looked at from a ‗positive‘ angle especially within product features. This approach only changed when a celebrity‘s fashion faux pas was the main focus of the item or in features with a newsworthy angle such as articles surrounding fashion week which showed a certain amount of criticism. Thus the question was raised as to how much journalistic research generally goes into fashion coverage and to what extent might the PR industry be responsible for the nature of the coverage (i.e. are press releases just being copied?). This
19 http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/section.asp?navcode=161 – accessed 4th September 2009
question will be looked at in closer detail during the discussion part of this investigation as it was taken up within the semi structured interviews.
Originally, 12 months of content analysis were anticipated; however, during the first three months of research a certain pattern transpired, which was mainly in the form of repetitiveness as well as continual quantity of fashion coverage which led to the decision that sufficient data can be retrieved over a lesser period – six months. The intense monitoring of fashion newspaper coverage has emphasised the findings of the preliminary study as well as encountered further discoveries which will be addressed in this chapter.
Throughout the six months research period continuous presence of fashion coverage transpired and five out of the eight sample newspapers carried fashion coverage on a daily basis. On weekends this expanded to the whole of the sample group. Overall the total amount of fashion pieces within the above listed titles from January 2003 until June 2004 comes to 632 with 578 of actual pages totally devoted to fashion coverage, which equals 8,993 column inches.
Table 9 displays the overall quantity of fashion features within the sample group of newspapers over six months.
Overall Quantity of Fashion Coverage in pages within the Sample of Newspapers from 29th December 2003 – 6th June 2004
Source: Table based on own research data
These numbers alone shed light on the vast potential for fashion PR, especially since they are purely based on product endorsement only and do not include pages of advertising. As demonstrated in Table 14 the amount of coverage varied significantly between the various titles of the chosen research sample.
The most fashion related features were found within the tabloids. The Daily Mail came out as the prime publication for carrying fashion content (119 pages), followed by The Mirror (99 pages) and the Express (90 pages). Throughout this coverage photographic material continuously appeared which confirms the original finding of the pilot study. It consisted of product shots showing fashion items flat, as well as photo shoots involving models wearing fashion items & accessories.
The visual content within fashion coverage throughout all sample newspapers is vast; it supersedes the amount of column inches made up of text by 2/3rds. Text is mainly used as an explanatory tool to underline the visual content. This is primarily achieved through captions, which are small lines of text usually beside or underneath a photograph stating the make of the garment and often its price and where it can be purchased.
Out of the broadsheets The Times emerged as the publication with the highest fashion content. 82 pages were dedicated to fashion coverage. This was followed by the Daily Telegraph with 78 pages, then The Guardian with a fashion content of 62 pages, the Independent at 55 pages and lastly the Financial Times with 47 pages.
These figures demonstrate the vast potential that newspapers offer to the fashion PR industry. However in order to confirm this hypothesis further enquiry was needed and this point was taken up within the semi-structured interviews which will be discussed later on in this chapter.
A further finding that emerged whilst carrying out the content analysis was an omnipresence of fashion advertising. Advertisements by fashion designers or companies often appeared next or in close proximity to fashion coverage. The author‘s previous experience in the fashion PR industry suggested that advertising has always played a significant role and therefore it seemed of importance to investigate the context between fashion PR and fashion advertising further. It was thus taken up within the data coding schedule as a column entitled „advertising surrounding the feature‟. Here the actual
amount of advertising features was counted and furthermore the exact positioning in relation to the fashion feature as well as the advertising company was noted. Again this finding needed further attention and was addressed during the interview part of the research and will be discussed later.
An essential discovery that transpired throughout this empiric inquiry was a definite correspondence between fashion coverage and the time of week or month. The majority was found within the weekend editions and mainly within the various supplements. However Thursday and Friday seemed almost equally significant days for the appearance of fashion coverage. A telephone survey to five fashion journalists carried out in May 2005 brought up the fact that newspapers expect their readers to take time to read fashion coverage on the weekend, more than they would during the week. The rationale for this is to inspire the readers to purchase fashion products over the weekend and though fashion PR is not officially linked to sales figures, it is ultimately the aim for a featured fashion item to provoke sales. To increase sales over and above making a product known are the main incentives for fashion companies to employ PR professionals. If sales go up after a certain fashion item has been featured within a newspaper this is the direct prove that PR has worked at its best. Furthermore fashion companies are more keen to advertise in the weekend editions for the same reasons.
With reference to frequency, it appeared that the tabloids feature fashion also frequently on weekdays. Further investigation into this finding has brought up that this is primarily due to their readership which is made up of 35% of stay-at-home individuals, most of whom are
female and are thought of potentially having the time to inform themselves and purchase fashion products during the week. Outlined over the next few pages is the overall data collected during the six months of content analysis supported by charts to highlight the most significant findings.
Time span of content analysis
29.12.03 – 06.06.04
Fashion Pieces during that time span
Overall Pages of Fashion Coverage
Overall Number of Column Inches
The research data above gives an exact account of the quantity of fashion coverage detected during the content analysis.
Overall Quantity of Fashion Coverage in pages within each of the Sample Newspapers
Source: Table based on own research data
Type of Fashion Coverage in pages:
|A||=||Main News Story – with fashion being the prime focus|
|B||=||Other News Story – not a main story but with fashion taking the prime focus|
|C||=||Feature Article – a created fashion story but not a news story|
|D||=||Celebrity Feature – fashion main subject within a celebrity article|
|E||=||Editorial – fashion as standard editorial ( in designated fashion pages)|
|F||=||Interview – with fashion designers|
|H||=||Photo Shoot – fashion photographed on models|
|I||=||Product Article/ Shoot – fashion photographed flat|
|J||=||Promotional Feature – paid for articles/ photo shoots featuring fashion|
|K||=||Competition – paid for competitions with a fashion prize to win.|
Source: Table based on own research data.
The above data outlines the large number of pages within the different categories of fashion to give a clear idea of the actual presence of fashion with UK newspapers and thus the potential for PR.
The next step within the content analysis was to pay attention to the exact nature of the fashion coverage as this is of particular concern in terms of PR. Thirteen different types of fashion coverage were identified. Table 16 below shows the various categories along with their overall appearance throughout the sample group.
Newspapers as opposed to magazines approach fashion coverage from a different angle and arguably newsworthiness is at the forefront of their content. Thus the first two categories which are entitled ‗Main News Story‟ and ‗Other News Story‟ are of prime interest. Fashion appeared as a main news story with coverage on the front pages sixteen times, most notably when new collections were viewed during London Fashion week. This finding occurred in the tabloids as well as within the more traditional broadsheets in particular the Times and the Daily Telegraph. There is a cross-over however with the third category, ‗Celebrity Article‟. In March 2004 for example photo coverage of Scarlett Johannson was featured on every front page of the sample group on the day following her win at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). Interestingly it was not Johansson‘s acting skills that made the front page news but her dress designed by the Italian designer Miuccia Prada. Prada was mentioned in every headline thus putting fashion at the forefront. The coverage has been supported by photographs showing the actress in the golden gown throughout.
The occurrence of fashion in combination with celebrities has been omnipresent throughout the course of the content analysis and also during the latter parts of the research. In fact the connection transpired as such a strong one that it has been addressed separately in this thesis. ‗Feature Articles‟ discussing certain fashion items emerged only eight times during the research period however the large part of ‗Celebrity Features‟ also contains some feature articles and there is hence a cross-over. Feature articles were written by either the paper‘s fashion editor or an independent fashion features writer.
‗Editorial‟ in general emerged 46 times with a slight dominance on the tabloid side. Fashion was discussed in various ways, mainly journalists expressing their viewpoints on new trends and particular garments. This was often expressed by picking out special fashion items and discussing those in closer detail, this was in all cases supported by visuals.
Eight ‗Interviews‟ were counted, all of which were with non-specific interviewees and often carried out on the street. People were asked about certain trends or interviewed about a particular garment they were wearing. A particular trend within this type of newspaper fashion interview transpired in the form of surveys – these surveys consisted of short open end questions. A second interview category was identified in the form of the ‗Fashion Insider Interview‟, during which designers or other fashion professionals were discussing new trends and particular garments that feature within their collections. These interviews were given more of a news angle and most of them, particularly those involving an important designer, were carried out by the newspaper‘s fashion editor.
‗Celebrity Interviews‟ emerged twelve times during the research period. They were always supported by strong visuals. There was a clear dominance of certain celebrities who were regarded as ‗fashionable‘ opinion formers during that time (see Table 12)
Table 12 lists the detected celebrities in order of frequency.
Most mentioned Celebrities
|Courtney Cox Arquette||13|
|Nancy del Olio||7|
Source: Tables based on own research data .
The above research findings give an exact account as to how many times a particular celebrity was mentioned in connection with fashion during the time of the content analysis. This was an important factor for ongoing research measures as some names are directly linked to fashion and are therefore vital for PR activities.
It is important to note that the vast majority of fashion newspaper coverage is based on female clothing however male fashion is also covered though to a far lesser extent, yet male celebrities appear regularly within the fashion pages. In fact there seems a growing amount of male fashion coverage especially within the weekend issues of the FT, the Times and The Telegraph. The question arises as to where the dependencies lie, whether celebrities are the catalyser for fashion coverage or whether it is the other way round. This enquiry will be addressed in the ‗Research Findings & Discussion‘ chapter.
A further finding is the large amount of photo shoots which underline once more the huge importance that lies within visual content and fashion coverage. Within the coding a conscious separation was made between ‗Photo Shoots‟ which involve models and
‗Product Shots‟ which only feature the actual garment or accessory – these were not the visuals that accompanied written fashion content but photographs that were commissioned by the relevant newspaper. All in all there were 125 „Photo Shoots‟ and 107 ‗Product Shots‟ detected during the research period, making this the largest quantity of the measured fashion content. Fashion photo shoots as well as product shots within newspapers are mainly carried out by freelance photographers which are appointed by the fashion editors. Stylists who style the shoot are also mainly freelance however some such as the Daily Mail employ their own fashion stylist who is also in charge of booking locations for photo- shoots.
‗Promotional Features‟ emerged only twice. These were features entirely paid for by the fashion company. A small indication at the right top hand corner saying ‗Promotion‘ identified the feature as advertising as opposed to un-paid for fashion coverage. The Daily Mail ran two fashion competitions, which also fall under the category of promotion, i.e. paid for coverage and therefore not PR, in their ‗Femail‘ section during the research period. A question was posed to the reader and the first five right responses were honoured with prizes which in these particular cases were a handbag and jewellery. This form of advertising however is far more common within magazines.
A further differentiation was made in terms of the actual focus that was given to fashion within the coverage. Table 13 shows the quantity of items that had fashion as a main focus, a secondary focus or where it was only mentioned in passing, figure 6 provides a visual overview of that finding.
Fashion Focus in Pages
|Fashion is the main focus||Fashion is a secondary focus||Fashion is only mentioned in
Source: Table based on own research data.
Figure 6 sums up the previous research data and the figures are a further proof for the vast existence of fashion content within British newspapers and as these numbers only show non-paid for coverage thus do not include fashion advertising, they sum up the immense potential that the fashion PR industry has at its disposal.
The ‗Specification of Fashion‟ was an additional item that was taken up within the coding in order to illustrate the significance that was given to the various categories of fashion. Table 19 below demonstrates the detected categories and outlines the quantities of their appearance.
Specification of Fashion.
(top end exclusive clothing)
(mid-market to low- market clothing)
|Designer & High street||No specification|
Source: Table based on own research data
It transpired that high end designer fashion is most frequently featured, closely followed by the middle and low end markets also known as high street fashion. Often both, designer and high street fashion was mentioned within the same article/feature. Coverage containing fashion without any specification appeared 159 times. These were largely articles or features where certain styles of garments were discussed without direct reference as to who made or sold them.
There was however a clear preference of designers and high street labels that were mentioned more frequently than others. Prada and Gucci are the leaders on the designer side with 66 and 60 counts respectively whereas Harvey Nichlos and Harrods were the most repeatedly mentioned department stores (25 and 23 counts), Topshop and Gap emerging as the most recurrently mentioned high street stores with 66 and 64 counts. Table 20 below lists the frequency of designers, department stores and high street stores with their respective figures in terms of appearance.
Ranking of Mentioned Designers and Frequency in Pages
|Dolce & Gabbana||49|
|YSL Rive Gauche||39|
|Diane von Fuerstenberg||23|
|Paul & Joe||20|
Source: Table based on own research data.
Most Frequently Mentioned Department Stores.
|Department Store||No. Mentions|
Source: Table based on own research data.
Most Frequently Mentioned High Street Stores
|High Street Store||No. Mentions|
|George at ASDA||49|
Source: Table based on own research data.
These tables and figures illustrate in detail the vast existence and nature of fashion coverage and more specifically point out which fashion companies get the most frequent coverage. The establishing of exact numbers of mentions for both designers and department stores were a further vital step towards the investigation of the extent of PR involved in the process of achieving newspaper coverage. It further gave a vital idea as to which companies use PR and to what degree. For the purpose of this study the PR activities carried out by these companies were investigated further. In this regard it is important to note that Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace were also the most frequently detected advertisers.
Throughout this part of the research it became apparent that fashion coverage has its own style perimeters which varies greatly from traditional newspaper writing. On the whole fashion coverage brings along a far more unconventional way of writing. This becomes prominent within the headlines, the layout of the articles as well as in the wording. Text is largely kept to a minimum hence the style of writing is brief, often descriptive yet informal. In fact a specific fashion terminology seems to have emerged with vocabulary entirely created for the fashion industry. Words such as ‗directional‟ (meaning ahead of or indicating a new trend), ‗trendsetter‟ or ‗fashionista‟ are just a few examples.
As for the text and style of fashion writing, it emerged that headlines within fashion newspaper coverage are mostly non-traditional and vary from oversized black letters on white to colourful scripts and fonts. It is obvious that the fashion press intends to stand out from the hard news and attract the reader‘s attention through such visual exercises.
In order to measure fashion content correctly it was important to establish its relation to fashion advertising. Within the coding a special column was set up which identified the advertisements that surrounded the coverage. A further differentiation was made in terms of the actual advertiser – fashion or non fashion – to investigate if this is possibly related to the actual coverage. Table 18 displays the quantity of advertisements featured in direct proximity of the fashion coverage within the sample group of newspapers. Special reference is made to the amount of advertising that was actually fashion related.
Advertising (ads) surrounding Fashion Coverage in Pages of which Fashion related in pages
|45 ads||43 ads||37 ads||34 ads||54 ads||28 ads,||51 ads,||43 ads,|
Source: Table based on own research data.
The majority of advertisements were fashion related however interestingly a significant amount of the directly surrounding advertising was not. It emerged that the large fashion houses had their advertisements placed in more prominent positions within the newspaper or the supplement. It also transpired that the majority of fashion features mentioned the advertising companies within the coverage, a finding which was taken up within the semi structured interviews.
The content analysis was carried out with the aim of supporting the argument for the existence of the direct relationship between fashion PR and newspaper fashion content. Through the collection of quantitative data the intent was to work backwards and recognise the various forms of fashion coverage and then discern whether and in what way PR activity was involved or possibly responsible for it.
Firstly the actual quantity of newspapers along with their large circulation figures and readership, all of which arguably make for a considerable PR target, had to be looked at in closer detail. Julian Vogel of Modus Publicity states that newspapers because of their vast circulation figures are of vital importance to the fashion PR industry and a prime target, featuring in 90% of their campaigns (interview notes 6th June 2007). The consistent daily presence of fashion coverage within the sample group of newspapers supports this statement and raises the question as to how this is achieved. Taking into consideration the structure of newspaper fashion departments, discussed previously, and the rather small fashion teams in comparison to the actual amount of fashion coverage, the question arises as to how much journalistic research is undertaken and to what extent might the coverage
be a product of the PR industry. This vital point needed further investigation which was achieved through analysis of the actual fashion coverage within the different newspapers and then cross referenced to the PR efforts made.
The research showed that the tabloids carry nearly twice as much fashion content as the Guardian (62 pieces), the Independent (55 pieces) or the FT (47 pieces). The Daily Mail carried 119 pieces of fashion coverage, the Daily Mirror 99 pieces and the Express 90 pieces. The two broadsheets also high on fashion content are the Times with 82 pieces and The Daily Telegraph with 78 pieces.
The notable variables of fashion content within the different titles and their relevance to fashion PR needed further examination. One theory is that the readership might be responsible for this emergence. The Newspaper Marketing Agency claims that the Daily Mail has an actual based census data (ABC) figure of 2,323,858 which rises to over 3 million copies with a readership in excess of 6.2 million on a Saturday, 52% is made up of female readers20 which arguably makes this title particularly attractive to fashion companies and therefore ultimately to fashion PR. Julian Vogel in an interview for this research21 supports this theory and states that the diverse readership of the Daily Mail makes it a prime target for fashion PR activity. He expands further by explaining that the diverse readership is in fact the reason for the diversity of the actual coverage. Whilst carrying out the content analysis it transpired that the Daily Mail in particular covers a great spectrum of fashion from low end high street fashion labels up to high end designer and
20 http://www.nmauk.co.uk/nma/do/live/factsAndFigures?newspaperID=14 [accessed on 29th April 2008]
21 Interview date 6th June 2007, see transcript in the Appendix.
haute couture garments and accessories. It is important to note that The Express as well as the Mirror tend to cover the low end of the fashion market, whereas The Times, The Telegraph, The FT, The Guardian and the Independent cover the mid and high end of the fashion spectrum.
An interesting finding which transpired throughout the content analysis is the non-critical nature of fashion coverage. The majority of articles were written in favour of the featured fashion product, a finding which was entirely supported during the interview part of this study as well. Photo shoots however were mainly accompanied by captions which were written from a largely neutral stand point.
Tracing of PR Material
In order to establish the direct impact PR has on fashion newspaper content a further part of the research laid within the tracing of PR material that may have been the catalyser for the emergent coverage. The results of which are discussed in closer detail in the discussion chapter of this study.
A sample of five frequently mentioned fashion companies was chosen and through contacts as well as careful examination of the industry trade publications Fashion Monitor and The Diary it was determined which PR agencies or consultants represented the relevant companies if they were not previously known to the author.
A lengthy process of telephone and one to one personal conversations lead to the compilation of PR material, consisting of press releases, visuals, invitations and other documents with publicity purpose. These were analysed and cross referenced with relevant press coverage in order to reveal any direct crossovers.
It emerged that there was a direct reference within each piece of press material to the relevant article in the newspaper. Lines were taken verbatim from press releases and at times the whole release was copied. Visuals provided by PR companies were frequently used within the coverage. In fact this research has shown that newspapers due to time and budget constraint s now depend on visuals distributed by PR companies. These have to come with permission for publication.
Press invitations to specially staged PR events such as the launch of the new Matthew Williamson flagship store on Bruton Street in March 2004 resulted in coverage across newspapers and on one occasion the journalist of the relevant paper was not even in attendance. The launch was preceded by a carefully organised PR campaign through London agency Beverly Cable PR. Prior to the launch of the flagship store Matthew Williamson made headlines by dressing the actresses Joely Richardson & Sienna Miller for the Golden Globe Awards, both of which were invited to the opening (see Appendix 6).
The houses of Prada and Dior both of which employ their own PR people as well as seeking advice from outside agencies involved advertising campaigns into their respective PR strategies which led to the resulting coverage being combined with the advertising in
the form of a double page spread. Prada in particular has since established the Prada Foundation (Fondazione Prada) which supports modern art and coverage within newspapers appears without fashion being the prime focus.
Summary of Interviews with Industry Professionals.
Verbatim transcripts of the several interviews with PR and fashion industry professionals are provided in the Appendix. A summary of some of these interviews is presented below.
- Summary of Interview with Kate Halfpenny (K.H.) Freelance Fashion Stylist Interview Date: 04.04.2007.
This self employed/freelance fashion stylist made several points concerning the relationship between PR and the fashion industry today. In this regard, K.H. points out the importance of fashion PR in her industry, and noted that, ―Whenever I am hired for a photo shoot, I call in samples from PR agencies.‖ This stylist suggested that the most distinctive function of consumer/fashion PR was ―to promote fashion in every form possible,‖ and indicated that although these promotions were primarily directed at the press, other avenues such as store and promotional events should also be considered. Pointing to the hectic nature of the business, K.H. related that she could not work efficiently without the assistance of fashion PR and they represent a source of referrals and inspiration as well. As for the most essential PR techniques for a successful styling assignment, K.H. emphasised the time- sensitive nature of her work and remarked that ―speed is of the essence.‖ This stylist also
commented on the tacit knowledge that PR professionals were able to use in helping her accomplish her goals in terms of currently popular trends and styles.
Finally, K.H. pointed out the importance of celebrity endorsements in her line of work, and indicated that approximately 80% of her work was done in connection with celebrities., emphasising that, ―Fashion and celebrities go hand in hand – it is a two-way relationship. The celebrities get to wear the latest trends and the designers get their name in the press…that is the way!‖
- Interview with Gabriele Shaw (G.S.) Director of Gabriele Shaw Communications (GSC)
(Interview Date 6th October 2004)
This interviewee stated that 20 people were employed at this company with five of them responsible for working on fashion alone for three PR clients. Noting the various occupational backgrounds of the fashion PR staff, G.S. stated that most of them had ―a degree of some sort,‖ but pointed out that there had been an increasing number of applicants with degrees in media or PR. G.S. also indicated that the company hires college students as interns on occasion and hires them full-time upon graduation; G.S. said these returning interns were usually rapidly promoted within the organisation.
Reiterating a common theme that emerged during the interviews, G.S. stated that the relationship between the press and PR was vital to her business and also pointed to the mutually beneficial nature of the relationship. As to the most distinctive function of consumer/fashion PR, G.S. believed that it was important to ―be as informative and helpful to journalists as possible, to supply them with the samples they need and be speedy in replying to all their requests. This is a fast living industry with a very fast turn around, trends come and go and it is important to stay on top of them – always be a step ahead.‖
Concerning the influence of consumer/fashion coverage on fashion trends, G.S. suggested that this process is self-perpetuating to the extent that if fashion journalists like a given fashion item it is likely that they will provide coverage on it; conversely, if fashion journalists do not like a given fashion item, they will probably not give it much attention. This accounts for the attempts by the fashion industry to make their products more appealing to fashion journalists by ―the spoiling treatment of freebies, samples and invitations.‖
An important issue to emerge from this interview was the inextricable link between advertising and PR, with its importance in newspapers being outweighed by its importance in magazine advertising. G.S. remarked that, ―Magazines are bound to give free coverage to their advertisers. Newspapers have less space for advertising due to their much shorter life span, however there is some scope. Advertising is also important in terms of giving a label or a trend an ‗image‘ and though it is paid for coverage as opposed to unpaid, it creates a certain buzz in itself.”
Despite these considerations, though, G.S. added that she still believed that PR is more effective in the long run as most people tend to regard the opinions of experts seriously, and fashion editors are generally considered to be experts in their field. Fashion editors are also known to be susceptible to manipulation by knowledgeable industry professionals. G.S. made the point that this approach represents one of the most successful techniques for ensuring a successful fashion PR campaign: ―Spoiling journalists is always a good way of attracting their attention, this can be in the form of freebies or party invitations.
As to the approximate time-span from the start of a PR campaign to the first results in terms of press coverage, G.S. indicated that this depended on the client and the publication involved; magazines, she said, typically work three to four months ahead before any feedback is received, but with newspapers and television, the results are known immediately.
Celebrity endorsement gives the label or designer a ‗face‘ with which people can either associate or aspire to.‖ As the fashion industry totally depends on visuals, celebrities have vast influence. There is also a co-dependence as for example the right or wrong dress worn to the Academy Award Ceremony can make or break an actress. Designers constantly try and get their dresses on famous people, it adds enormous credibility and we as the PRs are forever trying to get our clients‘ products on them.‖
As noted above, the relationship between the fashion industry and fashion press is an intimate one, with the need for mutual support being recognised and appreciated. This point
was confirmed by G.S. who reported that her company was in constant contact with the press (she indicated they communicated on a daily basis) to determine what was in demand and what was needed. In addition, G.S. intimated that in some cases, these contacts were more for their ―schmooze‖ value than anything: ‖We also call them for feedback, send them presents on their birthdays and for Christmas and generally try and keep them interested.‖
- Interview with Janine du Plessis.(J.d.P.) of Du Plessis PR (Interview Date 17th May 2006)
This PR expert used to run her own agency but has retired a few years ago, stating that the fashion PR industry is ‗far too exhausting‘ and really only suitable for young people with no families.
When still in business, her company was staffed by just herself and an occasional secretary and/or intern. Of these, just J.d.P. was responsible for working with the fashion industry, and the company at its height had four fashion clients amongst other consumer accounts. Like the other interviewees summarised herein, J.d.P. was insistent concerning the importance of the relationship between the press and PR practitioners. For instance, J.d.P. suggested that neither industry could exist in its current state without the other, but did note that despite this importance, some journalists continue to research their own stories.
As to what she regarded the most distinctive function of consumer/fashion PR, J.d.P. suggested that it was most important to remain fully aware of what was transpiring in the industry and communicate with the company‘s clients to ensure that their message is being received and understood in the manner in which it is intended. Speed was also again cited as being essential to the process. In addition, J.d.P. made a notable observation concerning why fashion coverage is almost always positive and non-critical: ―Fashion holds a unique position within lifestyle journalism and as opposed to for example food journalism there is very little point in writing about non trends.‖
Concerning the issues of the importance of advertising in relation to PR, J.d.P. agreed that it was very important, with magazines being especially important because they are guided by advertising content. According to J.d.P., advertisers who pay for the back and inside front covers are given priority in a given issue and are provided with a certain number of column inches of free editorial space as well. These advertisers also enjoy some level of control over what is reported about their products. This makes magazines an especially important print media outlet for the fashion industry compared to the newspapers because they have a shorter lifespan and ―advertising happens on a lesser scale. They come from much more of a news angle.‖ Nevertheless, the introduction of magazine-like newspaper supplements, J.d.P. suggested, has provided yet another avenue for fashion advertisers seeking to target a specific market because these supplements received extra attention to the creation of their front covers to provide them with a lifespan comparable or close to magazines. According to J.d.P., ―Within those supplements again priority is given to main
advertisers, but a great deal is also initiated by PR alone. She suggests that without the vast amount of fashion companies and their use of PR these supplements would not exist.
Concerning which techniques she regarded as being most essential for a successful consumer fashion PR campaign, J.d.P. stated that the techniques depended on the target market: ―A PR campaign for Vogue is very different to a campaign for Grazia Magazine and it is important to have their readers in mind.‖
In addition, J.d.P. was emphatic concerning the importance of celebrity endorsements to the process and noted that fashion journalists and members of the fashion press are drawn to media events if they know that a celebrity will be in attendance, and pointed out that pictures of such events that contain celebrities wearing fashion designs are more popular among readers today. This close connection between a celebrity and a given brand, though, can backfire if celebrities become involved in acts that destroy their celebrity. According to this industry professional this did not matter so much in the case of Kate Moss when caught on camera whilst taking cocaine and pointing out Moss‘ almost untouchable
Finally, J.d.P. pointed out the importance of keeping ahead of fashion trends as well as maintaining close contacts within the fashion press and reported that a constant communication flow is essential.
- Interview with Julian Vogel (J.V.) of Modus Publicity (Interview Date 6th June 2007)
J.V. stated that Modus Publicity is the largest fashion PR company in the UK, employing 55 people with 35 of these working on fashion accounts for 17 different fashion PR clients. This interviewee reported that the occupational backgrounds of the fashion PR staff at Modus Publicity were diverse, but emphasised that a positive attitude was the most important quality they looked for when seeking new employees. Although it is useful for the company‘s fashion media representatives to have some existing contacts when they come to work for Modus Publicity, J.V. also said it is possible and commonplace for people to acquire these from the ―bottom up‖ by working their way up through the organisational hierarchy and establishing these valuable contacts as they progress. Whatever their origins and backgrounds, J.V. also pointed out that all staff members working for fashion clients are required to thoroughly understand how this company functions to be effective.
J.V. further emphasised the importance of the company‘s relationship with the press and stressed the need for responsiveness in a time-oriented industry, but also noted that it was important to fine-tune their efforts according to the individual journalist involved. For example, J.V. stated, ―There are one or two journalists who tend to prefer doing their own research and use PR agencies as little as possible. ―I recall a party we did ages ago in a fashion store in Notting Hill when it was just about to become an up and coming part of town. We invited journalists from a cross section of media. At a certain point I noticed Suzie Menkes taking pictures from outside the window. She has always researched her own articles and is a highly respected journalist within her field.‖
As to the most distinctive function of fashion PR, J.V. stated that his philosophy was to be as responsive to whatever journalists needed from the company as possible. Flexibility in this area was also deemed an essential ingredient for success: ―We offer a service to them and to our clients so it is our main priority to deliver the goods, be it via showroom visits, by lending product, managing and holding events or by being the UK representatives at the respective fashion weeks,‖ he stated. An interesting empirical observation made by J.V. concerned why consumer fashion coverage is typically positive and uncritical, and pointed to the highly subjective nature of what is covered in the fashion media. This aspect of the industry was particularly important in terms of newspaper coverage, he said, and emphasised that, ―This sometimes happens especially within newspapers which have much more of a news angle than magazines after fashion week shows. Newspaper press coverage after a fashion week show can make or break a designer.‖ However he further stated that as far as fashion magazines and even newspaper supplements are concerned ―there is very little point in reporting about non-trends, which makes fashion different to any other area within journalism where reporting failure is equally newsworthy‖.
J.V. also pointed to the priority provided to advertisers by the monthlies and weeklies and increasingly newspaper fashion supplements, and indicated these represented important tools in the public relation professional‘s repertoire of promotional tools. He further notes that giving an exclusive to a top end magazine or newspaper can be one of the most effective PR tools, but points out that this mainly applies to well established products or designers. He explains that ―Sienna and Savannah Miller‘s 28/12 Collection has been so desperately awaited that we gave the exclusive to Vogue, which is the most highly regarded
fashion magazine in the world. Only a month later did we have a launch party for all the other journalists to come and view the collection.‖
J.V. further indicated that there were many other ways of attracting attention for the appropriate media representatives, but also emphasised the need for speed: ―We now mainly send e-releases as opposed to ordinary press releases by post. Usually we do an audit before we take on clients and discuss with them in great detail which form of PR activities would be most effective for them.‖ The approximate time-span from the start of a PR campaign to the first results in terms of press coverage also depends on the client and the publication involved, noting that magazines require more lead time than newspapers. Modus Publicity also offers the press visits to the company showroom and they conduct press open days twice a year so media representatives will have an opportunity to see the latest collections of the clients they represent amongst other treats such as hair dressing as well as beauty and styling advice.
As to the value of celebrity endorsements, J.V. was also emphatic concerning the importance in terms of getting more attention from the fashion press and agreed with his industry counterparts concerning their value to a given fashion line, and cited Kate Moss as a good example of this value added quality.