Why do some vegan business owners and brands get featured in the media and others don’t? Katrina Fox provided some tips during her talk at the inaugural 2018 Plant Powered Women’s Leadership Conference in Sydney.
You can also listen to this talk which has been released as a podcast episode.
Below is an edited transcript of the talk.
Firstly, a quick bit of background: I’ve worked for about 18 years as a journalist. I’ve worked as an editor, features writer, news editor, and subeditor, on a range of niche and mainstream media, both on staff and as a freelancer in the UK, where I’m originally from, the US, and Australia.
Currently I have a column on Forbes online, the iconic business publication, and I specialize in writing about the vegan and plant-based business sector.
In this talk I focus on one particular aspect of how to get free (or ‘earned’) media coverage (as opposed to paid content), and it’s stories.
As human beings, we’re hardwired to love stories. Every time we go out to meet people, and we hang out over dinner, or we go on a date, we get to know, like, and trust each other by sharing our stories.
Stories challenge our minds, they peak our emotions. They lift our spirits, and they impact our values.
The key with media coverage is to pitch the right story to the right journalist or media outlet at the right time.
As this talk is for the Plant-Powered Women’s Leadership Conference, I’m going to share a couple of stories that I wrote about in my Forbes column and discuss why I chose them because I hope that will give you a bit of an insight into how journalists think and the process we go through to decide what stories to run.
So I’m going share with you the story of two, fantastic, female vegan entrepreneurs:
LAURA WAY, FOUNDER OF VEGAN WATCH COMPANY VOTCH
In August 2014, Laura was spending up to 20 hours a day, lying in a bathtub to try and relieve herself from the excruciating pain she was in because the skin on her entire body had dropped off.
The reason this had happened was because since she was a small child, Laura suffered from eczema, so the doctors put her on steroid creams. So for nearly 30 years, she’d been on these steroid creams, but in 2014 she decided no more, she was going stop taking them. So in conjunction with a health practitioner, she stopped taking the creams.
The problem was, her skin had become an addict. It was so used to these steroid creams that it literally went into withdrawal. The condition is called topical steroid withdrawal. She had pus dripping off her as the skin on her whole body fell off, and she was in terrible pain.
At the time, Laura, was working as a TV producer for an advertising agency. She was working for brands like the BBC and other big names. She was a bit of a high-flyer. She was living with her husband in an apartment in London, but the apartment had no bathtub.
So when she got the topical steroid withdrawal condition, she needed to move in with her mother, so that her mother could care for her, and she had a bathtub. Laura had to give up work and spent 20 hours a day in the bathtub to try to gain relief from the pain.
While she was spending those 20 hours a day in the bathtub, she educated herself on animal rights and animal documentaries.
Then one day, the strap on her watch, her favorite watch, broke, and she said to me, that because she had experienced the pain of losing her own skin, there was no way she was ever going to buy a product that used the skin of a once living being.
So she hunted around for vegan watch straps, couldn’t find anything she liked, so she started Votch.
When Laura approached me, she already had a really successful business story.
She launched her business, Votch, in August 2016, so by the time she pitched me, the company had only been running for 18 months. She was in start-up phase, but was already on course to make £250,000 pounds.
So for other business magazines, that alone would be an interesting story.
But what really got Laura over the line for me to want to share her story is her willingness to share her personal story, to share her vulnerabilities, to be very open about the struggle that she’d gone through.
So, if you’ve got a business or a brand, think about your founder stories – in other words, your personal stories.
Be brave and share your stories because that can get you over the line in terms of media coverage.
Above is the headline that I used for Forbes: ‘How A Debilitating Skin Condition Led A TV Producer To Start A Vegan Watch Company’.
It’s a headline that peaks people’s curiosity. And that’s what journalists are looking for. We’re looking for that something extra that will resonate with our audience and be likely to make them want to share the story.
You can read Laura’s story here on Forbes.
ANNA TAGLIABUE, FOUNDER OF LUXURY VEGAN FAUX FUR BRAND PELUSH
Anna Tagliabue is from Milan, Italy, but she’s lived in New York for over 20 years, and is a real fashionista.
Anna’s first job when she came to New York was at Fendi, the store that is well-known for its luxury animal-based furs. Anna said to me, at the time, even though she was working at Fendi, there were people from PETA outside with their banners, chanting, “Down with fur!” The seeds were planted and Anna knew one day she wanted to start a luxury faux fur company.
Four years ago, she decided to launch Pelush. All the products are handmade. I met Anna at her studio in New York last year and I’ve touched and worn her faux fur coats. They’re beautifully handcrafted and they look and feel like real fur.
Above is a German opera singer, Diana Damrau, who borrowed one of Anna’s coats to wear for the photo shoot for her CD cover.
Even though she has beautiful products, it was more than this that made Anna interesting. When she contacted me to let me know she had a show coming up for New York Fashion Week, she started her email saying she was first and foremost an animal activist, and then started to share her story.
She revealed that she brings activism into her shows, using models of different ages to highlight animal rights messages.
The models begin by walking the runway with messages such as the ones in the images above: ‘Cats are used in fur, trim, and trinkets’ and ‘Animals are not objects’.
She then gets her models, who are dressed in her beautiful clothes, to walk down the runway carrying placards.
Typically, fashion shows see animal rights groups like PETA jump onto the stage to protest designers who use real fur and then get thrown out by security. Anna actually builds this activism into her shows and collaborates with non-profit organizations.
Above is a rescued wolf dog who featured in one of her shows. She also collaborated with a local rabbit rescue, and had rabbits at the show who were available for adoption.
So, by this time, I was starting to get very warm about sharing Anna’s story on Forbes.
But there was one extra thing she mentioned that made it even more of a no-brainer for me.
Earlier in the year, Anna got a phone call from celebrity stylist Ise White who said, “Helen Mirren would like to wear one of your coats to the opening of a film that she’s in, ‘Collateral Beauty’.” Of course Anna said ‘yes’. But when Ise came to collect the coat, she gave her a ‘No to Fur’ pin and asked her to ask Helen if she’d wear it.
Helen, being as cool as she is, obliged, and the above image got a huge amount of media coverage. Mainstream media loved it because well, let’s be honest, Helen Mirren could get media coverage just by stepping out of her front door, or turning up at the premiere, but the fact that there was this added element, it made journalists even more interested because it was something different.
As an added bonus, not only did mainstream media cover the story, but, of course, several animal rights and vegan media covered it as well, which was obviously great for Anna’s brand awareness.
So if your business or brand has been endorsed by a celebrity in any way, make sure you capitalize on that.
Like it or not, we live in a celebrity-obsessed culture. If you have a celebrity who supports your cause, and is willing to do something for you, make sure you use that because it can get the media’s interest.
Above is the headline I used for Anna’s story: ‘This Vegan Entrepreneur is Taking On The $40B Fur Industry – And Helen Mirren Approves.’
I did that on purpose because I knew that by putting ‘Helen Mirren’ in the title, that it would be a good search term, and that not only regular business people who read Forbes would see it, the vegans would see it, but also fans of Helen would see it (and hopefully Helen herself – yes, I’m a fan!).
You can read Anna’s story here on Forbes.
Nowadays journalists are looking for stories that are not only of interest to our audience but also, shareability is really important.
This is a new development. When I trained as a journalist, back before email and the internet were properly a thing, shareability didn’t really come into play, but now, stories are often run, designed on how likely they are to be shared.
These are the kinds of headlines that editors are thinking about, and when you’re pitching to journalists, you want to use your subject header as an interest-peaking headline.
So I hope that’s given you a bit of an insight into the way journalists think and how, not only your business story is of interest, but your founder stories are important too.
What are your stories?
If you’re worried you’re not very interesting or can’t easily think up some aspects about you that people would find intriguing, I want you to give the following a go:
5 fun facts that most people don’t know about you
This is a little exercise that I teach my PR consulting clients and the vegan entrepreneurs, authors and creatives enrolled in my Vegans in the Limelight Online PR Course and Group Coaching Program.
What you do is figure out 5 (or 7 or 9) fun facts that most people probably don’t know about you.
Before you panic: I’m not asking you to reveal your deepest, darkest, most intimate secrets!
Maybe you have a quirky hobby, something a little bit interesting or unusual. Make sure it’s legal of course! ? And doesn’t harm any being.
To give you an idea of how this works, here are mine:
• I’ve played a lesbian vampire in a short film.
• I was adopted, and I’m in touch with both my birth parents.
• I’m half Persian by birth (My birth father is Persian and lives in New York).
• I met Lauren Bacall, the golden age Hollywood film star. I met her at the age of 18 outside the Haymarket Theatre in London. I was incredibly excited and starstruck.
• In my 20s I was chased by riot police through fields protesting against a farm that bred kittens for vivisection.
• In 2005 the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper gave me an ‘Oscart’, which is their version of the Oscar, for a one-woman character comedy show that I did called ‘Kitty Minge: Good Time Girl in a Big, Bad World’.
• I once flummoxed Sophia Loren, another golden age Hollywood film star, when I asked her what her views were on marriage equality. (Sophia was over here in Sydney about 11 years ago for the Italian Film Festival. I was working for the gay and lesbian press at the time, so I put my hand up at this press conference she was at, and I asked her what she thought of marriage equality. She looked very bemused, and said: “I don’t want to talk about this … let’s just talk about movies.”). Sidebar: I didn’t care. Sophia Loren spoke to me! ?
I’m not saying you have to meet celebrities or anything like that, but think of things that you wouldn’t otherwise include in your ‘About’ page or standard bio. Put it on your About page on your website or, even better, in your online media kit.
I know when I’ve been interviewed by other media, a lot of journalists will pull from this section and ask me about some of these fun facts. It gives you a bit of extra color and interest.
So if you’re a thought leader or an expert, and a journalist is looking to quote you, and there’s five other people who have got similar expertise to you, but you’ve got this extra stuff about you on your website, it can get you over the line and chosen because it makes you a more interesting.
I hope you’ve been inspired by these female vegan entrepreneurs and that you’ll go out there and share your stories too.
Find out more about the Plant Powered Women’s Leadership Conference Series here.
Would you like my help for a full 12 months teaching you how to get FREE PUBLICITY and learning how to GET YOUR VEGAN BRAND IN THE LIMELIGHT on a regular basis?
Sign up for my Vegans in the Limelight Online PR Course & Group Coaching Program for Business Owner and Entrepreneurs.
As well as video training that you study at your own pace, you get 12 monthly live group calls to ask me anything.
You also get to post your proposed pitch or press release BEFORE you send it journalists to get my feedback.
Find out all the details HERE