There are thousands of jewelry designers out there selling their products. What sets your jewelry apart? This is the central question that Rebecca Moskal, founder of the jewelry PR and marketing firm Communiqué, asks all her clients. She joined the Jewelry Journey podcast to offer her marketing tips for jewelry designers and brands of all sizes. Read the transcript below.
Sharon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey podcast. Today I’m pleased to be talking with Rebecca Moskal, founder of the public relations and marketing firm Communiqué, which specializes in working with jewelry designers to find their point of differentiation and get noticed. Her firm has offices in Los Angeles and New York. Rebecca has nearly 20 years of experience in luxury and jewelry marketing. We’ll hear more about the work she does and how marketing and PR can accelerate a designer’s success. Rebecca, thanks so much for being here.
Rebecca: Thanks for having me. I’m super excited.
Sharon: We’re so glad to have you. You have a really enviable career path for anybody who loves jewelry. Can you tell us about your career path? Did you always want to be in PR, and did you always think it would be related to jewelry? How did it happen?
Rebecca: Absolutely. Neither jewelry nor public relations was ever the plan. If I take it all the way back, I majored in political science and criminology, and I planned to go to law school and then the FBI. My dad was a career military officer, so that’s why I thought I’d follow the same path. After a semester-long internship at the U.S. Attorney’s Office during my senior year of college, law school was put on hold, and I wound up taking a job in an ad agency when I graduated. Then life took its course. My supervisor at the ad agency left a year into my tenure there and went to Bulgari. A year later, when I was looking to move jobs, she had an opening in her communications department, and the rest is history. From Bulgari I went to David Yurman, and then to Van Cleef & Arpels, and then 10 years ago, I founded my own agency. 2019 actually marks 19 years in the industry. I’m both proud and embarrassed as it makes me feel old.
Sharon: It’s something to be very, very proud of. What a fabulous journey. Tell us about Communiqué. What made you decide to start your own firm? What kind of clients do you have, and what kinds of things do you do for them?
Rebecca: My analogy to explain why I started Communiqué has always been the following: when you work for an established, well-known jewelry brand with multi-million-dollar budgets and decades-long, if not century-long, legacies, it’s like being captain of a cruise ship. In order to make a change in direction, you have to start turning the wheel miles in advance. There are policies and procedures and whatnot. When you’re with a new, up-and-coming, less established designer, it’s like piloting a speedboat. You can change direction and affect course at any moment, and it’s exciting. It’s sometimes bumpy, but it’s an incredible adventure. So, after of working for well-known jewelry houses, I was ready for an adventure. I was ready to roll up my sleeves and change the course of client business. When working with up-and-coming, less established designers, you’re working at a micro-level, and everything you need to do can affect their story, their business. For example, we had a client who we secured a placement for in the September issue of Vogue a couple of years ago, and it’s changed the trajectory of her career. It drove sales to double-digits. It had a massive effect on her business. When you work with the historic brands, these little wins are less impactful. But, we like being in the proverbial trenches with our clients, celebrating the highs and strategizing the lows. I hope that gives you an understanding of why, when you’re talking about the corporate world, you might want to go on your own.
In terms of who we work with, over the course of the past 10 years, we’ve had a myriad of different clients, from established firms with larger budgets to designers who are starting to dip their toes in the water, retailers, and trade shows. It really runs the gamut. It’s all jewelry and watch brands, and I think the commonality we look for when meeting with new clients is that they have a story to tell. You can have an amazing product, but if you don’t have a great story, if it’s not authentic, you’re going to have a really tough time in the world of PR, because that’s the nucleus we look for when we meet with prospective clients.
Sharon: When you say authentic, can you tell us more about what you mean by that?
Rebecca: Absolutely, it’s the nature of the reason the person or the company is designing jewelry. There are a lot of brands that make products for the sake of making products. We would rather work with people who have a passion for what they’re creating and what they’re inspired by, whether it’s architecture or travel or past experiences. They are involved in every step of the process, from the design to manufacturing to selling it to the consumer, whether that’s an end consumer or a wholesaler. We look for someone who likes to touch all of these at different points within their brand. I think in this day and age, especially with social media, the consumer can detect when something is false, when something is not true. When there is an air of authenticity, I think someone is more interested in learning more about your product and about your brand, and it translates to sales.
Sharon: That makes a lot of sense and yes, there’s nothing to hide behind today.
Rebecca: Exactly. I feel like we’re all under a microscope 24/7. We share so much personally and professionally, whether it’s via social media or doing podcasts or things like that. If you’re not your true self, it shows, and it can have a major effect on a brand’s prosperity.
Sharon: I know we’ve experienced that with some of our clients, even though it’s in a totally different realm. I would imagine that a lot of your clients don’t realize they have a story until you help them put it together.
Rebecca: I would say that’s one of my favorite parts of my job, playing detective and spending time, a lot of time, especially with new clients and helping them find their story. They might not know how extraordinary their situation is. It could be, “Oh, I’m a jewelry designer. I went to jewelry school because of this,” or “This is my third career path.” It’s digging in and asking questions. Part of our process is really interviewing our clients to understand all the different aspects, the whos, the whys, the whats, and that really helps us formulate the authentic story.
Sharon: That is one of the most interesting parts of the job, I’m sure.
Rebecca: Yeah, 100%.
Sharon: Why should a jewelry designer or a company or a trade show consider public relations?
Rebecca: I think generally, it’s to grow their brand awareness in the marketplace or among the target audience with the intent to drive sales. Especially within jewelry, the marketplace is so incredibly crowded and establishing your place can be quite challenging, especially if you’re newer to the industry. So, PR can really help get your voice out there. At the end of the day, everyone is looking to be prosperous and to sell their collections. I think PR is part of the sales strategy, being able to tell your story, whether that’s to a journalist or a prospective wholesaler that’s going to carry your collection or to an end consumer. You have to be able to tell your story, and a PR firm can help you develop that story. They can help you share that story. That’s how we see our participation in a client’s business.
Sharon: You mentioned a really interesting point, that it seems like the market is so crowded. I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but it seems like there are more and more jewelry designers every day.
Rebecca: There are, and I think with the advent of social media and certainly Instagram, so many people are coming into the market. They’re not going through the old school channels, where you either went to a retailer who would carry your collection, or you exhibited at trade shows or you had your boothed affairs. Now, the market is stronger, in a way, because we all have access to so many different designers, whether they’re in the United States or Europe or Asia. They’re all at the touch of a button; they’re all in your hand-held device. We are now being exposed to so many designers who may have existed for a while, but these new platforms have really allowed us to be able to share them.
Sharon: They made the world a lot smaller. Going through Instagram, you feel like you know what’s going on all around the world in terms of jewelry and retailing.
Rebecca: Absolutely. I can’t tell you how many jewelry friends I’ve made through Instagram and Facebook that I’ve never met, that I don’t know if I will ever meet in person, but we share tips and strategize and certainly purchase products, things like that. It’s, I feel, one of the better things about it. I think Facebook and Instagram can put people in a box at times, but for most people in our industry, it’s allowed us to flourish and blossom.
Sharon: It’s definitely changed things and made it so you can become friends without having to meet somebody face to face. So, at what stage should a jewelry designer or a jewelry company come to your firm? Should they have been in business a while? How large do they have to be, and do you work with those who are just launching a line?
Rebecca: We are willing to work with a designer at any stage of their journey. Our scope of service really ranges on the initial parts. If someone is just starting, they’re crafting their method and finding their point of differentiation and, again, building that story. Or we’ll work with a designer who’s more established, who might be launching a fifth or sixth collection, and we can help bring that to the press. It’s not necessarily about being large or small; it’s about whether your company is ready to handle the benefits of PR. Meaning, if we work with a client and they start to garner attention, is their website able to handle large volumes of traffic? Can they produce enough product to meet demand? Are their sales channels ready to accommodate customer inquiries? As the saying goes, you only have one attempt to make a first impression. With new clients, whether they be end consumers or wholesalers, you want to make sure you can handle all the touch points and not only deliver great product, but also great service. I think that great service is a mark of authenticity. It’s half the battle these days. So, it doesn’t matter the stage of your jewelry journey. It’s about whether you can handle it if your PR is very successful.
Sharon: That’s a good point. I know how often firms want more visibility, and then they get that visibility and clients are coming to a website that was done in 1995—
Rebecca: Or an Op Ed.
Sharon: Yeah, something like that. A lot of queries might come in. It takes time. You have to be willing to devote the time.
Rebecca: Especially if it’s a new entrepreneur launching a new business, they might still have a full-time job. This might be something that is being done on nights and weekends, so it’s a step-by-step process. I think it’s being truthful and realistic with yourself: How much can you handle? Is this now your full-time focus? Like I was saying, do you have the manufacturing capabilities? I do think with unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, consumers are willing to wait a bit, and then you can manage those expectations. I think it’s really about having all your ducks in a row before you launch formally via PR.
Sharon: What do you counsel designers who come and you see they’re not ready? They may have a really unusual or creative product, but you have to say, “Hey, you don’t have your foundation together.” Do you refer them? What do you do?
Rebecca: It’s obviously a challenging conversation, because you want to be truthful, but it’s always in the client’s best interest. At this point, nearly two decades into my personal jewelry journey, I feel that I have a good understanding of the marketplace and all the cogs in the wheels that have to be running before you can take that leap. We like to deliver what we call our roadmap for our clients, and it’s basically a visual calendar of benchmarks that they need to achieve and check off their list before they can really take off. As the saying goes, you have to walk before you can run, and they have to make sure they are hitting all of those benchmarks, because there’s no turning back. You can’t go in and spend a day pitching editors across New York City, and then when they call you a week later to pull in product to shoot for the magazine or put in an online feature, you can’t remit. You don’t want to be the boy who cried wolf. You really have to make sure that everything is ready to go. So, it’s working hand-in-hand with your clients to make sure that they have all of these procedures ready to move for ultimate success.
Sharon: It’s great that you make sure your clients have all of that, but it does sound like a challenging conversation in terms of people who are chomping at the bit.
Rebecca: Absolutely, and a lot of these designers also have a huge financial investment that they’ve made to make their first capital collection or their sample set, and money has to come in. We understand that, but, again, you have one opportunity to make the first impression, and you want it to be as perfect as it can be, so it’s worth taking the extra time.
Sharon: Right, you only get one chance to do it right. Today, the PR pipeline is so blurred. You can’t separate digital and social media from offline or print, and it’s just one continuum. How do you work with clients on their social media?
Rebecca: When it comes to joining social media, it’s such a key to success. It’s of uber importance, and for us, the starting point is developing a strategy. Why would people follow you online? Are you giving them a glimpse into your world? Are you offering them a look into your brand’s lifestyle? Are you more corporate, in focusing on products and how to wear them? Are you looking for sales transactions? Are you driving people to another point of sale? It’s more than just posting a few pictures each day or each week. You’re really sending a message. You’re developing your point of differentiation amongst all your competitors. It goes back to step one, defining your story, telling your story and then evolving that into a visual story.
Sharon: I presume that most designers who come to you are already on Instagram. It’s a sort of do-it-yourself thing, right?
Sharon: Do you then counsel them on, “O.K., let’s try and package this differently?”
Rebecca: We do, absolutely. Some designers are spot-on. Their Instagram is amazing, especially the younger generations. They’ve grown up with it, so it’s like a third language that they speak. But there definitely are some designers who come to us, and with a few tweaks, you can change the course of their platform to make sure that the messaging is there, to make sure that the photography and the images are on point, to make sure from a programming perspective that they are making it saleable, that you can buy directly from Instagram. There’s a lot of fine- tuning that has to be done. You don’t have to wipe your slate clean and start over; just a little tweaking can make a lot of difference.
Sharon: I presume that you and your colleagues are always online looking, comparing, seeing what the new and latest is, not just in product, but how things are being presented.
Rebecca: Absolutely, and to be honest, sitting here now, not on my phone, I’m having a little bit of anxiety that it’ll be an hour’s worth of time offline. It’s part of the job to see what’s new from a technology, style, and trend perspective, always staying abreast of everything that’s new and notable, what is working, what isn’t working, and the challenges. The niche of jewelry is unique amongst other products, so yes, we spend a lot of time on devices.
Sharon: Well, just a couple more questions and then—
Rebecca: Oh, don’t be silly. I’ve only been teasing.
Sharon: As you mentioned, you talk with prospective clients who are too small or don’t have a budget. Where do you suggest they start with the do-it-yourself approach? What can they do right now until they’re grown and ready?
Rebecca: I hate to sound like a broken record, but first and foremost, it’s finding your point of differentiation, what makes you different and stand out among your peers. Everyone says they have beautiful jewelry or stackable pieces and trends, but what specifically does a design or brand have that’s unique? Once you can establish that, build on that nucleus of an idea and roll out how to communicate it through whatever touch points your brand has with your consumers. That means your social media posts or your setup at a festival or market. It’s translating your idea into a 15-second elevator pitch, what you’re going to say when someone asks you the inevitable question, “Tell me about your brand and your collection and your story.” You really have a very small window of time to capture someone’s attention, whether it’s on social media or whether it’s face to face. So, step one in this entire process is finding that point of differentiation. Once you’ve built that and you know how to visually and verbally translate it, then it’s rolling it out to social media, because it’s something you can do in your own time with little to no funding. I think those would be our first two recommendations.
Sharon: It’s just like lawyers want to lawyer and jewelry designers want to design jewelry. What if they say, “Listen, my jewelry’s unique and I think it’s really different, but I have no idea what my point of differentiation is.” Could it be that everything is ethically sourced or it’s all in rose gold? Could you give some examples of what they should be thinking about in order to dig for that story?
Rebecca: You’ve definitely hit the nail on the head. You need things like ethical sourcing, and if you as a designer go down that road, why is ethically sourced important to you? That in and of itself is a point of differentiation. Is it something in your background? Have you traveled to an area of the world where you saw firsthand how this can affect or change lives? It could be somewhere you traveled—I saw Sri Lanka recently in the news—and you were overwhelmed by the beauty of the country and the wants of the people, and you loved the Ceylon sapphires, so they are the hero gem in your collection. Or it could be as simple as, why did you want to become a jewelry designer? What was it that upped that interest? Was it that your grandma collected, or you loved going to vintage flea markets, or you were an art history major? Everybody has a story. It’s just a matter of finding it.
Sharon: Those are great examples. I think people think about those things, but they don’t realize they’re part of the story. They think, “Well, yeah, my grandma had great jewelry and that’s what I got it from,” but they don’t think about building and packaging that.
Rebecca: Exactly. It doesn’t have to be, “I’m twelfth in line of a jewelry family from Italy.” It doesn’t even have to be long-term. It could just be something that ignited a passion. I have several clients for whom this is their second career. One was a very high-profile attorney, and after three decades of that, she said, “I have to do something that is fun and colorful and I can be passionate about,” and she did a 180 with her career and is an incredible jewelry designer now. It’s really about finding the why. That is your point of differentiation. It’s less about the product and more about you and the why.
Sharon: That’s good food for thought. Rebecca, thank you so much for being here. To everyone listening, we’ll have Rebecca’s contact information in the show notes at TheJewelryJourney.com. That wraps up another episode of the Jewelry Journey. If you liked what you heard and would like to hear more, you can subscribe on iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts, and please rate us. We’ll be back next time with another thought-provoking guest giving us their professional take on the world of jewelry. Thanks so much for listening.
END OF AUDIO