The adage has always been when the going gets tough, women buy lipstick. ‘The lipstick effect,’ where women make indulgent, but relatively affordable purchases in times of crisis is well documented. In the four years of the US Great Depression production halved, but sales of cosmetics rose. After 9/11 the Estee Lauder counter saw purchases soaring. Something to think about, right?
You don’t need me to tell you this global situation is unprecedented. From the client side, salons, stores and clinics are shut, new product development is held up and sales are dropping. I’m sure you, as PRs, are worried about the companies you work for collapsing, and on the other side, magazines and newspapers failing to survive.
And as quickly as the news around Covid-19 changes, so too does consumer behaviour and viewpoint. What seemed appropriate yesterday, doesn’t today.
How do you get an idea of the thought processes/needs/wants/desires of the journalists (and their readers/followers) with regards to beauty and wellness? I’d say you can get good insight from monitoring the social media of beauty influencers such as @thisismothership and @alexsteinherr. They are talking about staying fit and beautifying in confinement. There is also a movement to use this time to self improve. Plus they know that for their sanity, their audiences need distraction, lols and things to look forward to. Search-intelligence company Captify report a surge in interest on weight-loss plans; millions of people are tuning into Joe Wicks; even those who last went for a run in a Labour government are using their exercise allocation to pound the pavements. Literally running scared.
Interestingly the appetite for content seems to be increasing at a frantic rate, with people consuming it voraciously. Emma Gunavardhana is a beauty, health and lifestyle writer for Red, Stylist, and Sunday Times Style, as well as a very successful podcaster. She says her productivity has soared: ‘’I’m actually creating more content than usual.” This is something I’ve seen myself. More people are asking me for pieces, and about online collaborations, and they need them turned around quickly. All outlets, whether print or online, need to make sure their content reflects the situation and so are having to commission newsy pieces and sideline lots of their banked content which now seems dated.
Content creators like Times writer and YouTuber Nadine Baggott, are having to re-edit their archived content to make it fit for release. “If it doesn’t reference the situation it feels untimely,” she told me.
And what about help from PRs? What do we journalists/content creators need from you? The overwhelming need is for news. Nadine tells me she still wants the e-mailed press releases, but she’ll request samples to shoot only when necessary. Emma Gunavardhana is happy for comms to continue as normal, and is happy for people to call if they have a pitch. Now, more than ever though, speed of response from PRs is critical.
So how can you, as PRs be helpful?
Well, ideas are always welcome, and we are running low on fresh images. According to Red editor Sarah Tomczak, Hearst have (unsurprisingly) stopped all shoots, which presents glossies with a real problem. It’s worth asking your clients if they have pictures that could be useful to the press. Archived shots of products/celebrities/brand founders, which might not have been seen before or outtakes from shoots would all work. It’s time to plunder the archives.
As for tone, it’s obvious to all that it should never look like clients/PRs are out to profit from this disaster — that nobody should make light of the suffering. It also feels respectful that we should acknowledge the situation when e-mailing people and ask if they are okay.
Caroline Barnes, make-up artist to Kylie and Cheryl, content creator (her You Tube Speed Beauty channel has 50 K subscribers ) and contributor to every glossy from Vogue to Elle, says she is conscious that her viewers will be experiencing financial and emotional difficulties so is adapting her quotes and content according. “It’s a fine line to be seen promoting expensive beauty and yourself indirectly when people are losing loved ones and businesses, so I will be going back to basics and trying to teach make-up artistry.” What does she feel is appropriate from PRs/brands? “Giveaways. Brands supporting people right now might create a loyal customer base after this has cleared,” she says.
It’s apparent to me that there is an appetite for beauty at the moment. Yesterday a piece I wrote on Isolation Beauty appeared in The Daily Mail. People did comment that we shouldn’t be thinking about face masks when people were dying, but the overwhelming response was positive and grateful. “Thank you for some light in the darkness” one follower DM-ed me. I had to pull that piece together in super quick time and I was blown away by the speed and efficiency of the PRs I worked with. That close connection — I whatsapped most of my PR contacts — is vital.
I’ll leave the final words to my friend, PR Victoria Chalmers at Black & White Communications, whose approach I admire. “During this COVID crisis, I have appreciated the journalists we work with even more. The appetite for content and the ongoing work plays a vital role in keeping the wheels turning. Communication will be key to get us through this crisis, so thank you to the media.”
Right back at you PRs.