I have no formal association with Girlfriend Collective; I’m just a fan and an observer of good PR and brand building behaviours. Girlfriend is a brand that many businesses can learn from. They’re executing a powerful PR strategy; the non-traditional PR success story. All image credits to Girlfriend Collective.
Girlfriend is a PR success story that every business can learn from. To give you some context if you don’t know it already it’s a super cool and much-loved apparel brand with an insanely loyal community.
Like a good friend, it instantly puts you at ease being in its presence; people (me) are naturally drawn to it. This happens when you can see yourself in a brand. You can relate to it and it feels like a friend. When you reach loyal brand-fan status with a business; you take the brand on as our own. You want to support it. You want to create memories with it. You want to tell your friends about it. You want to belong to it.
So how did I become a fan of a brand that has no PR?’
How did I become a fan so loyal that I would purchase active wear or anything they sell without considering any other supplier? Most fashion apparel brands have to work hard to sell to you; whereas Girlfriend has mastered the art of creating brand with a community that seek to buy.
This is a brand that manifests in the form of activewear and apparel that from the outside looking in, doesn’t pursue or even participate in publicity. But they do absolutely have a PR function. And businesses can all learn from Girlfriend as an example of a great approach to PR.
It’s a brand that nails PR so well that they’ve debunked all need to this point to pursue ‘traditional PR’. Believe it. For that reason alone they are fielding the charge on how incredible PR strategy defies the need for publicity.
The PR industry has done a pretty shit job of PRing itself. It is not the fault of the ‘business world’ collectively, that most people think PR is publicity and publicity alone.
I’m not undermining the power of publicity to a business or to the linchpin of a great PR campaign; it’s a big part of what we do. It’s social proof. It’s third party endorsement. It’s the ability to inform while at the same time share your story and reach an audience with huge impact on an emotional level.
Publicity is an incredible outcome that helps to educate, entertain, enlighten and connect audiences en masse. But it’s not everything. And some businesses are better off going in the direction of other useful PR pursuits.
Wearisome PR consultants for decades have experienced a lot of distress and heartache from clients who simply have a difficult time understanding what the hell PR even is. And in fairness to the clients; it can be a difficult thing to explain even for emerging and established PR pros.
I’m using Girlfriend as an example to clear up two things that will advance the PR function in your business and expand your knowledge of what PR is and how it works;
PR is always happening in and around your business whether you know it or not.
Whether you have a formal, wrangled, conscious PR function or not PR is happening. PR is the result of all efforts in and around your business. PR is the result of what people know and think about your business. PR is your reputation. PR is what drives longevity for a business. It’s what turns businesses into brands.
PR is not publicity alone. Publicity is one possible outcome of PR.
It’s something I say a lot and it’s because of the general perception that PR is publicity. It’s not. Publicity is one possible outcome of a tactical PR pursuit. And it’s not the definition of a successful PR campaign.
While Girlfriend doesn’t appear to participate in publicity, they absolutely are executing incredible PR strategy, just by being a team of people using business as a conduit for doing good and making it easy for their community to contribute and go along for the ride.
As a brand fan, I know it, I like it, I trust it.
What started as a chance Instagram encounter via a promotion for a free pair of leggings back in 2012, has moved into a romance that has moved me up the brand ladder to un-shakeable customer loyalty.
This is the result of a business that executes on PR matters consistently and leads with values first. Values show up in every piece of content, every designed asset, every product and every touch-point.
As a customer I can see myself in their values. Just in the same way we become friends with people whose values and ethos we share.
On top of that they have causes beyond themselves. Both of which are environmental and social.
- Their leggings and apparel are made out of recycled plastic bottles.
- They have a visible, proactive and transparent dedication to equality.
- They represent all womxn, all shapes, sizes, stories and backgrounds in their campaign imagery. As well as the LGBTQIA community
- They support the small businesses of the women in their community.
- And they take their customers on the journey of doing all of these things better.
- By shopping Girlfriend the customer gets to divert plastic bottles from landfill; look good and do good.
Everything they do is inspired by their growing community that joins the brand and the planet. It’s true people, planet, profit at its best.
Businesses that consistently lead with values first in their messaging and interactions is what turns them into brands. And I’m not talking about having them on a tired wall under an A4 Perspex. I’m talking about everything a business does that fans can actually see, feel and touch.
A brand is the sum of all impressions and the result is perception. A brand is not a logo. A logo is a symbol of a brand. The brand is a gut feeling about a person, place or thing. It is reputation. And it is shaped by executing every customer touch-point, every interaction with that brand with values first, consistently and infinitely.
Publicity is not PR. Publicity is one pursuit and potential outcome of PR.
Girlfriend is a great case study for helping to debunk the myths of what PR is and how it works, and importantly; how you can approach PR better for your business, for us all.
Lead everything you do, every touch point, every interaction with your brand values front and centre. And have a cause beyond yourself.
Girlfriend Collective executes on brand values so consistently and in such a meaningful way that like-minded folk flock to the brand by subconsciously and consciously knowing that it’s not just about leggings. It was never just about the leggings.
Having immersed myself in the brand over the years this is what I know from my interactions;
- They’re passionate about supporting local community.
- They care about the planet and people over profit.
- They’re kind, good and fair.
- They celebrate diversity and inclusion.
- They share stories from women around the world
- They’re not afraid of being different.
- They’re dedicated to creating meaningful connections.
- They work hard on doing good and delivering a good time.
- They care about design.
- They care about the end life of a product.
I’m sure there are more; but how do I know these things if they don’t have a PR function or chase publicity?!
The answer is this; while they don’t pursue publicity they absolutely have an incredible PR strategy. My impression of them is well-formed. Girlfriend has found a way into my heart and mind and here I am talking about it as if this brand were a friend. That’s a result of great PR.
While they don’t execute a traditional PR strategy, they have managed to execute a PR strategy that is interactive, shareable word-of-mouth driven. This is sustainable PR.
This is how (just a few examples but not limited to):
- The language they use for every interaction – communication is PR
- The beautiful and thoughtful design assets – design plus messaging is PR
- Their choice of materials to make their garments – values on display is PR
- Their open invitation to engage and make their community a part of the story – elicits a sense of belonging which builds community. Community is PR.
- Their transparency regarding charity associations and contributions – trust is good PR
- Generosity of spirit from staff and volunteers – team culture is PR
A few more below…
- Visible and consistent collaboration and inclusion with their local community.
- Fundraiser opportunities for small business.
- Respect and preservation of country.
- It’s about you and what you say, not them and what they say. The fans drive the story.
- The thoughtful, curation of cross generational, inclusion of womxn featured in all imagery consistently.
So the thing that all business can learn from Girlfriend Collective re all things PR. PR is an infinite game of doing good and being good for a community who over time will grow to love and be loyal to you; for all that you stand for and all that you are.
PR is the art of getting what you’ve got into the hearts and minds of people who need it most. PR is the sum of all impressions that create a perception of what your business is and means to someone.
Every experience your business creates is an opportunity to bring to life its real meaning and promise. All your products and services. Every aspect of your website or digital existence. All your copywriting and content. Every business decision you make should be guided through the lens of your values. All the ways you support your people, your community. It all adds up to creating a picture of your brand that exists in the hearts and minds of people for better; always and forever. This is PR.
Words by Jade Roberts
raraPR Founder and Creative Director
raraPR is above all the sum of people who together help build brands and share stories. We are present in our determination to make a positive difference to the world by representing individuals and businesses that are doing good. We are an extension of the personal stories within us, those that we exist for and those within you that need to be heard.