Research is everything when you are asking people for money. That’s essentially what pitching is all about and you have to handle this with the most energy. There are so many ways to angle a pitch and even more approaches to make mistakes. It’s the most important part, because you want to show you’re invested in working with them and want to be a part of their team.
It’s like any job interview, but with a higher chance of earning the work, because you’re extremely fabulous for taking my research tip!
I’ve had my best clients (all my clients are the best) mess things up for themselves simply because they didn’t do their research. So everybody does it some time, but it’s a matter of trying to avoid it and picking yourself up again if you do. There will be a thousand brands on your list you might be interested in, so pitch wisely and carefully by lifting the veil on their story.
Here are all my full-proof principles for researching brands you really want to work with before actually pitching.
1. Know the Founder.
This is very simple to look up and Google, so do it. Find out if they are alive or dead, if they had a purpose for starting the company or if it was created on accident. If the creator of the brand is still alive, find out what they’re up to lately, read the most recent news articles about them.
This includes if they had a simple feature on a small online publication and were asked what’s in their beauty bag. It could be any written piece that mentions them or simply a quote from them to mention when you pitch to the brand.
It doesn’t have to be a super deep dive into the company’s history if you already feel passionate about them. It could be a really significant or viral piece of information that sticks out about the brand.
For example, Gabrielle Chanel started the trend of the loose little black shift dress as opposed Christian Dior’s more cinched silhouette. That was a huge statement at the time that separated Chanel as a designer. Something along the lines about the founder that makes them truly stand out and interesting.
2. Find out the mission statement.
I was working in a branding workshop and the first thing they said was to know your mission statement. This was easy for me because I’m in such a specific niche. However, being a lifestyle blogger, for instance, is more of a broad area to cover and is harder to pin down a specific goal. Unless you have an expert who helps you, or you really are known for something powerful that you started.
When meeting my clients for the first time, I always ask them why they started blogging. Some are obsessed with fashion and showing off incredibly curated styles. I take it a level deeper and ask what kind of fashion? Affordable styles, luxe pieces, sustainable materials. But not just “fashion”.
Some people simply want to be famous and that’s perfectly fine. But those individuals need to zero in on a niche to start a brand that is worth following. You have a sense of direction. It’s really important, yet difficult to pin if you’re not sure of who you are and what you represent. A simple way to find this is creating a mission statement.
Who is this brand trying to help? Why are they trying to help this audience? If you can find a brand’s goals, you’re good to go. You can simply pitch mentioning the brand’s mission statement saying it aligns with your values and you think you can share a following that appreciates it!
3. Learn the basic history.
You don’t need to go into detail about what you know about the brand, but knowing some core facts helps. I was at a job interview at Nordstrom years ago and I laid down everything I researched on the company. And just my luck the first question was, “What the fuck do you know about Nordstrom?” She obviously held a gun to my head as she asked this.
I replied, “Nordstrom was started in Seattle as Wallin & Nordstrom as a shoe store in the year 1901. There are now 136 stores worldwide (at the time–19 that closed in 2020). In the US, there are—.” Blah, blah. You get the point. I made sure to memorize this, but still didn’t get the job, because I kind of gave the same answer to later questions over and over haha. Anyway.
Know the basic story of a brand. Go on their website. Find the about page. It’s that easy.
You can say something along the lines of, “I know X brand started as this, and I have a special place in my heart for these types of companies, because I have an aunt who did something similar. I want to support all brands like this.” Or “I really relate to their [about story] and would love to spread this message with my audience. It really changed the way I see x.”
4. Update yourself on the latest news.
Visit the Google News page and type in the brand name to see what recent hits come up. If it’s negative, swerve it. If it’s positive–play it up in your pitch. You can even log on Wikipedia to see all the archived campaigns they had.
For instance, I was doing an elevator pitch to Balenciaga. My client is transgender and I actually didn’t know this at the time. She’s super proud and loves to represent. I mentioned to Balenciaga how they had a campaign I think in 2017 when Ricardo Tisci was director and had the first trans model, Lea T, walk the show for the brand.
I thought this was super progressive, relevant, and standout news in the fashion industry as a whole. Don’t be afraid to raise attention to a brand’s proudest moments, because it shows you’re paying attention and truly interested. This shows a whole other dimension of passion as someone who wants to work with such a power house name.
This step is imperative if you work anywhere. Always keep up with your friends, your family, and the place you work. You never know what changes are coming, and you always want to be prepared.
5. Check the annual report.
This goes hardcore. It shows your level of commitment to finding out about the brand, and takes news updates to a whole other level. If a company is public, you can literally Google what a company’s goals are for that year. Depending on the brand, they might update it every quarter or every 2 years, but typically have at least a shorter version in the years in between the larger annual reports.
You will find a photo of the CEO smiling with her quote saying, “We want to focus on influencer marketing this year, because it’s the best way big companies can act like small businesses again and truly interact with their engaged audience.”
A lot of public companies had to pivot during the lockdown and are focusing more toward pandemic-proof solutions. To exemplify, there was a beauty company–it genuinely slips my mind right now, because I email 75 brands a day–that said they’re not focusing on pigmented cosmetics. They were known for their lipsticks but face masks took over and are either selling mascara really hard, but nobody is going out. So they wound up pushing their skincare products instead especially since the uncertain times called for more peace-of-mind selfcare at home.
You can message a CMO (chief marketing officer) explaining, “I read the annual report saw X brand wants to focus on promoting their skincare products. Here is my Instagram, I’m a skincare beauty guru, and my followers die for your products. Hit me up if you’re interested.”
The CMO will most likely respond by forwarding your email to the marketing person who’s in charge of partnerships if your email is snappy and convincing enough.
6. Stalk the person you are going to contact who represents the brand.
You have zero idea how far this gets you. This is really weird, maybe creepy. But it’s ok. They’re professionals. They understand you’re on the hunt to work. Which is a positive thing to note. They get 500 emails a day, so showing up in their DMs whether it’s on Twitter or even Instagram–if the message goes through is ok.
Just a heads up, it doesn’t always work because your message might not go through all the time. If you don’t have mutual friends on Facebook, don’t have 1st or 2nd connection on Linkedin, or even if their account might be private on Instagram. Sometimes the message is filtered to go to their Message Request folder but that’s ok.
I typically would message them on Twitter, if they’re that kind of person who’s currently active. My go-to is to email.
You can find out what school the person went to on their Linkedin, what country they’re from, or part of town they live in. Just create some sort of personal connection. If you see they attended a music festival you know about, if they were in a sorority, or were a girl scout, or if they posted that they saw a certain movie. Connect. That’s the whole purpose of social media.
For example, I found out a certain brand had PR representation based in Sweden. I lived in the Nordics for a couple years, and when I eventually moved back to America, I got a private Swedish tutor. For me it was a means to connect with the lifetime friends I made overseas. But I pitched to this company in extremely fluent Swedish. I’ve done this kind of pitch in German, Swedish, French, and it always works.
The public relations people were so friendly after that. They were a whole other level of personable. It really disarms people when you make them comfortable and step into their element as opposed to talking hard, fast business all the time. Nobody wants to work with an accountant who talks numbers. Especially, Nordic people–extremely kind, friendly, easygoing human beings who aren’t necessarily obsessed with business being everything.
If you speak Spanish, and find out the contact for a brand you’re speaking with lived in Central America, let’s say, you don’t have to send a whole email in Spanish. You can simply throw some Spanglish if that’s how you actually talk. Be yourself, show you are actively listening to be a better person to work with as they’re essentially going to be your client. Wine and dine these people. They say partnerships are like dating. It has to be balanced on both sides.