Help Me Help You: a Small Business Owner Speaks to PR Pros and Press

I am loving being a member of small business community A big part of their strength is that their founders own businesses that service small business -- web design and PR. So they see all sides of the coin!

Public Relations are always a hot button topic with small businesses. Getting those big magazine and celebrity placements for your product or business often seems like the holy grail, the sign you've "made it". PR can seem like a big mystery and often small businesses turn to PR professionals for help. PR pros can be very very expensive, especially in relation to the typical small business budget. I've had my own experiences with DIY PR for Peggy Li Creations jewelry as well as with many different professional services, so I read with interest this article by PR pro Sabina Ptacin (one of Preneur's founders).

Help Me Help You: Publicists Reveal How Small Biz Clients Can Improve Chances for Press & Their Working Relationship

Reading the comments from PR pros affirmed for me that there is often an inherent tension in a client/PR relationship -- as a client, I am relying on a pro to secure placements I feel are vital to my business. These placements, however, may or may not actually drive sales or achieve my goals (but the PR pro is getting paid regardless).

So here is my response to the PR pro article.. Don't be surprised to find that we as clients have the same sentiments!

Help Me Help You: a Small Business Owner Speaks to PR Pros and Press

Give me all the information I need to fill your request. If you don't have all the details yet, let me know so I will wait for a second email instead of starting the back and forth of email strings. What is the shipping address?  Is there a shipping number? Do you want your images in a specific format or resolution? Is there a deadline and if so, when?

You ask me to be transparent -- be transparent for me.  There is value for a brand to share their brand story -- inspirations, experiences, latest news (although as one pro said, they are not there for idle chit-chat or to be our therapist). So if I ask for a little transparency on your part, like wanting to see the language of a post, pitch or the pitch list, I think that is within the realm of the professional relationship. Especially in the beginning of a working relationship, when you are (hopefully) building trust with a client, it is not enough to say "just leave it to us, we're the pros." I want to see how you are representing my brand and perhaps even more interesting to me, I  want to see my brand through your lens.

Yes, sometimes I cop an "artist" attitude.  I know intellectually that taking a brand to the next level can be boosted by taking advice from pros and those with more experience. And in the case of PR pros, I am usually paying for that advice. But yeah, sometimes I'm not emotionally ready for that "tough love"! If you believe in our small biz product and brand, it's just as much your job to find a way to reach us, educate us and work with us as it is for us to open our minds. If there is an impasse, then I am probably not getting the info I need, and neither of us will grow.

If you don't have a strength in an area I need, don't pretend you do. Marketing and PR is an ever-changing industry. If I want more social media and you traditionally work with print and don't feel comfortable taking on that work, say so. And then don't be surprised if I go to other sources to achieve those goals.

Explain it to me, please. The answer can't always be, "Editors don't like X", because inevitably the next month I'll see a fashion spread featuring X!

Surprise! I'm busy too.  Timing can be crucial to PR -- often samples are needed overnight, and the time pressure can be enormous. As a small business owner, often solo, I'm well aware of the pressure of not having enough time . As much as I want to drop everything for that "fabulous-AH-MAZING-major!" opportunity, sometimes I have orders to fill or other projects that I also have on my plate. So forgive me for not jumping for joy every time I have to drop everything and rush to the FedEx office before it closes.

It all comes down to communication -- and chemistry. I equate hiring a PR professional to finding a good date -- you want someone who fills your needs (has the right expertise, level of service, etc) but you also need to be able to get along. A good client/PR relationship should be built on mutual respect, trust and that spark of excitement that is created when someone truly believes in your product and business vision.

Bottom line is, we are all working hard here, all trying to be successful. Only by taking the time to educate each other on our businesses and business needs will we be able to work well together.  Part of the work as a client is to help define your goals for both yourself and your PR pros. Are you looking for a return on this investment? How would you measure it? You are spending lots of money, do you expect to see a return in sales? Or is it up to you or the PR pro to further spin the PR you may get into other business opportunities (PR begets more PR)? While it is tempting to think hiring PR takes work off your plate, it can introduce a whole slew of new tasks. Help Me Help You, indeed.


2011 Peggy Li Creations Survey Results

Keeping busy in 2012.
I'd like to thank everyone who answered the 2011 end of year survey for my Peggy Li Creations jewelry website (if you haven't gotten your responses in, you can still take the survey here!). I ask questions about my website and my designs and your responses help me plan for the upcoming year!

While all of the responses are anonymous, I wanted to address some of the feedback I've received from customers.

1) Website features for the upcoming year -- the biggest request is for jewelry photos on models (as it is every year!) and I hear you. I've added pictures of jewelry on a life size bust to help give you additional scale, do you find those useful? I'd love to style a real model shoot, but it can be difficult due to the delicate nature of my designs to take stylish photos and still give a good look at my designs. I wonder, is this request more about seeing some "how to wear" or styling ideas? I know I like photos on models to get a better idea of the "vibe" of a fashion line.

2) Alternative metals -- most of you are open to trying designs using alternative metals, which is awesome! If I do introduce some other metals like bronze, stainless steel or other, I'll be sure to describe them in the product description for those of you with known metal allergies. I think I am most curious to try alternative metals as they come in a variety of interesting finishes and colors and due to the lower cost, could result in some more elaborate designs at similar pricepoints to what I already carry.

3) TV Placements/Magazines -- I wanted to address a comment left to me in the survey that questioned how much I write about the TV and other PR placements my jewelry has received. The commentator said they were not impressed by the "freebies" given to celebrities and stylists. I want to let you guys know that the jewelry placements I have received for TV and film are 98% paid placements (some are used and returned to me) -- that is, the stylists requested my work and paid me for their use, just like any other customer. I'm proud to have had long relationships with some of the best stylists in the business and that they have turned to me over the years as a way to help their characters shine.

As for print magazines, it is the same story -- 98% the samples they request are all returned to me (if not lost!) -- in fact, it is magazine policy to not keep samples.

It's fun to get recognized for your work by folks who are tastemakers in the biz of fashion -- so if I get excited and post a few times, that's why :).

4) User reviews -- this is a new request I'm seeing in my survey for this year and I've definitely been thinking about it. It's a difficult website feature to implement, so I have to consider it carefully. I love that there is interest to talk about your experience with my jewelry products and even to share photos/styling tips with other Peggy Li Creations fans. While I explore the options for this feature, I would like to ask that if you have feedback, questions or comments you'd like to share with others, please feel free to do so on my Peggy Li Creations Facebook page or to @plcpeggy on Twitter.

I'd love to keep this dialogue going and hear from YOU, the customers! Thanks for your time and attention and here's to a fab 2012 year of the Dragon!


Valentine's Day Jewelry Ideas (Great Gifts!)

Who doesn't love a little bling for Valentine's Day? Here are a few choice picks from Peggy Li Creations Jewelry that are sure to please you or your BFF. Be sure to visit my website for even more selections of personalized jewelry, charm necklaces, or diamond jewelry.  It's easy to let someone know you'd like Peggy Li jewelry as a gift -- simply use the Amazon Wishlist button, located on every item page, to add the item to your Amazon Wishlist! Cool, right? It's never to early to give your sweetie a little hint.

And now until 2/2/12, save 20% your entire order with code "PSW20", an exclusive savings I currently have featured as a People Stylewatch Deal of the Day!  Enjoy!

Tucson 2012 Gem Shows

It's that time of year again! Tucson becomes a beader and jewelry maker's paradise, with tons of stone and bead expos taking over the desert city. I went last year and had a series of posts about it:

Registering for Shows at Tucson

Getting Ready for Tucson Gem Shows

Tucson Day 1 with Peggy Li Creations

It was a difficult decision, but I decided not to go to Tucson in 2012. To have a really effective trip, I think you need to have a real game plan (and budget) in place. While I had a blast there, I found myself visiting my usual vendors. They tend to bring more inventory to Tucson due to the size of the show, but since I didn't have a complete gameplan, I was reluctant to spend extra on items I may not have planned for.

I also did not get to mingle and meet other folks at the show. It may be worth it next time I go to allow for some social events or make more of an effort to meet and greet other designers as we converge on the shows.

I definitely want to return to Tucson, as there is tons of inspiration to be found in every corner of the event. Not just in the amazing materials to be found there, but in the sheer volume of stone mavens and jewelry designers roaming the town.

Alas, Tucson, I will miss you in 2012. Hopefully I'll be back in 2013!


Take the 2011 End of Year Survey for Peggy Li Creations

Hi all! Happy New Year!

It's that time of year again where I want to reflect on 2011 and prepare my handmade jewelry business for 2012. The best way for me to make Peggy Li Creations even better is to hear from YOU, the customers!  What jewelry trends and colors do you want to see in 2012? How can I make the Peggy Li handmade jewelry website even easier to use?

You've all made 2011 amazing -- I'd love to hear your thoughts, wants and concerns! Thank you so much for your support of me and small business! I read all the responses personally and they are completely anonymous.

Take the PLC 2011 Survey (link will open in a new window)

Peggy Li

Review: HP Topshot Laserjet M275 Printer/Scanner

This holiday season, I decided to treat myself to some new technology to help my small jewelry business, Peggy Li Creations. My brother had told me about a new HP printer, the HP Topshot Laserjet M275 that had an innovative scanner that was designed to scan 3-D objects, like jewelry! I currently use a scanner for a lot of my images at Peggy Li Creations, but this new printer would allow you to scan, remove backgrounds and send those images directly to the web. More importantly, it has a camera mounted on an arm that would take multiple images ("scans") of the object and using its software, would stitch those images together to form a shadow-free, "3-D" image.  Essentially, it acts as its own lightbox to take a photograph-style image of your object.
The HP Topshot, with camera arm extended.

Sounds genius, right?

Well, for starters, the printer is not inexpensive. I purchased mine at Frys Electronics for $395. The setup I left for my BF, so I can't say how difficult that was. I currently have about a 3 year old injet printer, so this new fangled type of laserjet certainly seemed foreign to me. But, once the printer was out of its packaging, it only took a few minutes to load the scanner program onto my computer and then set up a test scan.

Sadly, the image quality of the scan left a lot to be desired. The max resolution you can scan at is 300dpi (the minimum if you want to have print-quality images) and the LED light the camera used did not seem nearly powerful enough to capture fine details. The light also still had hotspot/glare problems, especially on the reflective jewelry surfaces.

Below is an example of a necklace I took an image of my usual way (with a flatbed scanner) and with the TopShot.
Old English Initial Charm Necklace -- original scanner image.
Old English Initial Charm Necklace -- HP Topshot Scanner. 

I tried scanning objects at night with artificial lights as the room lighting, as well as trying the scanner during the daylight hours to see if natural ambient light would improve the quality of the image. I may have been able to tweak settings to improve the image, but who has time for that? Not me when I am busy running a small business! I'm afraid for highly detailed objects, the HP Topshot simply wasn't able to give a clear image.

Disappointing, but it did seem almost too good to be true to use a printer scanner as a replacement for product photography. The printer will be returned!

Have you had a better experience with the HP Topshot printer/scanner? Please leave a comment!