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November 1999


The Luster of Publicity

Pearls' biggest U.S. proponent shares some PR secrets

Ah, the life of a New York City fashion editor. She gets invited to the best parties, chats with famous people and dictates to millions of women what they should wear every day. Everyone wants to be her friend, but very few have figured out exactly how to get her to notice them.

Devin Macnow may have discovered the secret. The executive director of the New York City-based Cultured Pearl Information Center may not have single-handedly gotten cultured pearl jewelry back on the pages of the fashion magazines, but his public relations efforts haven't gone unnoticed. CPIC's tony luncheons and fashion shows, constant contact with celebrity stylists and fashion - forward photography have made the consumer fashion press look at pearl jewelry – again and again.
CPIC is operated by Tele-Press Associates, a 40-year-old public relations, marketing and strategic research analysis firm founded by Macnow's father. To serve its long-standing client, the Japan Pearl Exporters' Association, Tele-Press fronted a pearl trade association that educated and supported retail jewelers. It also took the bold initiative to do much of the publicity for cultured pearl jewelry on jewelers' behalf.

"We devote about 80% of our promotional efforts to the consumer press," Macnow says. "The vast majority of American women's purchasing decisions are based on what they read and see in the nation's fashion magazines and newspapers."

To laud a product known in the U.S. primarily as a conservative, traditional gift for special occasions – weddings and graduations, mostly – Telepress took a different approach, pushing cultured pearl jewelry primarily as a cutting-edge fashion while still emphasizing its value.

Staying on Top of the Pile

Macnow also represents the South Sea Pearl Consortium in the U.S.; recent promotions have been funded partially by Perles de Tahiti GIE and the Cultured Pearl Association of America. But he still executes promotions with a small staff and relatively limited budget. For maximum effect, he tries to get inside consumer editors' minds to grab their attention and make their lives easier.

"Fashion editors get 200 pieces of mail from PR folks everyday," Macnow says. "They don't have time to read every piece – they'll look at the ones that stand out, that are unique yet relevant." Each month he reads the major fashion magazines, including European magazines that use edgy photography and fashions. He matches current clothing styles with cultured pearl designs in his own photo shoots to give editors a quick, practical look at the possibilities. He also designs unusual, sometimes outrageous images that are sure to get a second glance.

But never expect those photos, which he binds into an annual trend portfolio, to end up in the magazines, he warns. "Consumer magazines like to do their own photography."

His biggest success with fashion editors has been his designer luncheons, where the press gets to meet the hottest cultured pearl jewelry designers of the season while on lunch breaks. "We somehow had to give them a quick snapshot of the trends at a time that's convenient for them," Macnow says.
Celebrity placement has been successful also, especially in primetime TV shows and movies, including this summer's Thomas Crown Affair. It's usually as much of a surprise for the CPIC as for everybody else when cultured pearls appear in a movie. "You never know until it comes out, because sometimes the director will cut out entire scenes," Macnow says. "Most of the time we've been lucky and the scenes with pearl jewelry haven't ended up on the cutting-room floor."
What hasn't worked? "Celebrity placement for live events" such as the Academy Awards, he says.

"The competition is very fierce among the jewelry categories, retailers and designers," he says. "There are usually four or five decision-makers – everyone from the hairdresser to the public relations person to the celebrity's mother."

by Stacey King

Macnow and the CPIC combine pop culture, edgy photography and the latest fashions to catch consumer editors' attention.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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