The New PR Agency Model: How Lauren Kleinman of Dreamday is Pioneering the Future of PR
Ask any DTC brand what they want more of (aside from sales) and they’ll usually say something along the lines of this: to expand brand awareness and build community. But, hitting those goals requires clarity and deep insight into what the customer really wants.
To learn more about what DTC brands can do to scale and drive brand awareness, we chatted with Lauren Kleinman, former founding team member and VP of marketing at Ritual and founder of Dreamday, a performance-driven PR consultancy, partnering with disruptive brands such as Parsley Health, Seed, Brightland, Girlfriend Collective, and Fly by Jing. Lauren is also the Co-founder of the performance publisher in high-demand, The Quality Edit.
From choosing brand partners to crafting strong PR pitches, Lauren shared her experiences, learnings, and tips with the Tydo team.
On Building a Brand: Listen to Your Customers First
For Lauren, every brand touchpoint impacts the customer experience. And ultimately, it’s those moments that do the heavy lifting during a brand’s key growth period.
Lauren shares, “Everything comes back to brand—the campaigns you launch, your social media presence, the way CX responds to your customers, how you present yourself as a founder, and your authentic storytelling. It's important to be thoughtful about every detail while keeping the big picture in mind.”
All these factors apply to how Lauren chooses her clients at Dreamday.
Before deciding to work with a client—first and foremost—Lauren dives into the founder’s story.
After many conversations and her own research, she’s able to see why the brand exists and whether the founder’s goals and vision align with the brand messaging.
That’s a big part of her decision-making process, in regards to whether or not to take on the brand as a Dreamday client—as authentic storytelling is such an important part of any publicist’s job.
“At Ritual, I learned that it's really important to listen to each and every customer, proactively seek out feedback, and apply those learnings to constantly make the product and experience better.”
Putting Your Brand First and Foremost. But, What Does That Really Mean?
Reputation is one of the driving forces behind how Lauren approaches branding at Dreamday.
From hiring practices to PR pitches, the vision and reputation she sees for her brand determine the steps she takes on a daily basis.
Most importantly, her team makes it a priority to always go above and beyond—creating the best possible experience for customers and clients.
Before working with clients, there are a number of boxes that need to be ticked so that both parties get the best results. By understanding everything she can about the client—from values to mission statement—Lauren clearly gets a sense of the brand’s priorities and how Dreamday can be the best partner possible.
This type of strategy pays off in the long run. In fact, Lauren says all of her clients come in as referrals from other founders and brands.
What are some of the questions Lauren likes to ask herself (and her team) to ensure they’re on the right track? She focuses on the following:
- How do we innovate on the PR model, pioneering the future of affiliate PR or “performance PR” to drive not only impactful storytelling but also strong affiliate performance?
- How do we anticipate client needs before they ask?
- What can we do to go above and beyond at every touchpoint?
- How can we make the editor’s life as easy as possible and draft the most compelling pitches?
- Do we care deeply about every client we’re servicing so that we can truly act as an extension of their team?
- How do we hire the best and most supportive team members to foster a cohesive culture even with remote talent?
Asking these types of questions helps Lauren and her team create a powerful and effective service experience, which they anticipate will lead to even more partnerships down the line.
With all of this in mind, the Dreamday team tries not to do too much. And, they tell their brands to do the same.
For Lauren, clarity is key. “Consumers have a very short attention span. The more you can clearly define your mission and values and stick to them at every touchpoint, the better off you’ll be,” she says.
“Sometimes less is more; do fewer things better.”
Performance PR Defined
About a year ago, Dreamday coined the term—performance PR.
The way Lauren describes it—most traditional affiliate marketing agencies are broken and affiliate marketing deserves its bad rap. That’s because most affiliate agencies focus on deal sites and loyalty partners that are rarely brand-aligned, and they have very little focus or relationships with publishers and top-tier content. Generally speaking, PR agencies are not performance-oriented and the UVPM metric for a small and growing business is outdated.
Dreamday sits at the intersection of affiliate marketing, focusing on top-tier publishers, content, commerce, and shopping that can drive ROI.
When the Dreamday team talks about affiliate marketing with clients, they bring up partners such as Meredith, PureWow, New York Times, and Condé Nast.
Lauren and her team forge direct relationships with these publishers on the brand’s behalf in a mutually beneficial way—through increasing commission rates, providing performance bonuses, and/or just keeping the brand top of mind.
On top of that, they focus their efforts on commerce PR—pitching evergreen product stories and roundups that drive meaningful brand awareness, affiliate traffic, and revenue.
As it relates to measuring success, clicks and revenue are great indicators, as well as the AOV from the content piece, click through rate, and conversion rate. Lauren also looks at the brand's commission on every sale to make sure the economics align with the brand’s KPIs.
“We mainly look at the number of PR inclusions and the quality of inclusions. On the affiliate side, we look at the corresponding revenue and traffic from that piece of content.”
Ready to Pitch Your DTC Brand? Do This First.
As the former VP of marketing at Ritual and the current Founder of a performance-driven PR consultancy, Lauren has valuable insight into best pitching practices for DTC brands.
Before crafting a PR pitch, one of the best places to start is the brand story. Why was the brand created? What’s the idea and vision behind each and every product?
“Make the pitch as relevant and intriguing to the editor as possible,” Lauren says.
There’s a stark contrast between an effective pitch and one that’s created just for the sake of pitching. Brands looking for a way to stand out in an editor’s inbox should add the following:
- The 5 Whys: Who, What, When, Where, and Why
- Founder quotes
- If samples are available
- High-resolution images (or a link to imagery)
- Affiliate information
And, the call to action (aka the end goal) is important too.
“Editors get hundreds of pitches a day,” Lauren shares, “It's important to add some color and personality. Don’t go overboard but add some nods here and there to show you're human and did your research ahead of time. Lastly, and maybe most obviously, don't make careless errors.”
Another way to stand out? Show the real side of being a founder.
“Just as important as all of the above is having the founder of the brand open up and share the intention behind the product and company. They need to be willing to put themselves out there,” notes Lauren.
Lauren shares an example of one client, Partake Foods, whose Founder Denise Woodard did just that: “She drained her 401k and sold her engagement ring to start Partake. It’s those types of stories that make you respect entrepreneurs so much more and make our work in supporting their journey that much more rewarding.”
“Authenticity and vulnerability make you kind of step back and say, ‘Wow, this is an amazing accomplishment, founder, and brand. We’ll do whatever we can to support them.’”
- What to pledge
- How to improve
- Which tools will set you up for success
I think the most important thing brands can do in 2023 is to better manage their customer data—both ethically and effectively. There’s an opportunity for brands to know their customers better than ever before—a clear benefit for both the customer and the brand. When you manage your data correctly, you’ll create stronger and more personalized ads, creative, site experiences, and so much more.
This is a classic: Let the data guide you. Go where the buyers for your products are and communicate with them on a personal level (i.e. by persona and funnel position) and nurture those relationships (past, present, and future customers). It’s possible—all through data.
We recommend that Shopify brands analyze and update their websites using data-driven decisions. Using analytics tools such as heatmaps and scrollmaps can help brands better understand how customers are interacting with their store.
Store owners tend to make assumptions about the way customers interact with their website. Most never go back and analyze their design choices to find pain points or areas of opportunity. By using heatmaps and scrollmaps, they can see where real customers are clicking and concentrating their attention. Leveraging this data, brands can start to iterate on design and make their online store experience streamlined and intuitive.
Hotjar provides a simple way to implement heatmaps, scrollmaps, and recorded user sessions on your site, helping you acquire incredibly informative user data. Additionally, it gives you the ability to create on-site surveys, which allows you to obtain direct and often critical feedback from users about their experience.
Test various attribution models and analyze the impact on your business. At Fifty Six, we are always here to help our clients identify and optimize their approach—a critical step in any successful marketing strategy.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times–Customer Lifetime Value. And even more importantly, Future Lifetime Value (FLTV). With the ever-growing importance of first-party data, it is crucial that brands take a good look at their CRM and FLTV metrics.
Stop allocating budgets to low-hanging fruit that doesn’t move the needle on conversion. Think about what’s really going to improve your CX and the return of undertaking different initiatives—not just on what’s top on your list of bugbears on the site!
One of the best ways to understand your customer behavior is by using HotJar. Their heat-mapping and screen recording tools shine a light on where customers are navigating to and from on your site, where they're rage clicking and experiencing frustration, and where conversion is dropping off within real life customer journeys and flows!
Understanding your customers’ pain points via data and analytics , will allow you to work with your CRO/CX Agency to solve customer frustrations and improve conversion.
Rewind backs up all product, customer, and order data for Shopify sites—essential since Shopify itself doesn’t provide this solution. It's saved so many of our clients time and money from administrative accidents.
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33% of customer service inquiries are pre-sale questions. What does this mean? If you’re not investing in customer service, you’re missing out on revenue-generating opportunities.
The benefits of elevating your customer experience:
- 10% to 25% increase in AOV for customers who engage with live chat pre-purchase
- 21x higher conversion rate for customers who reach out via Live Chat or SMS compared to other site visitors
- 87% of customers who have a great customer experience will make another purchase
- 72% of customers share positive experiences with 6 or more individuals
Gorgias is our favorite Helpdesk platform. They can reduce costs by 35%, primarily by decreasing the average ticket handle time. Their machine learning algorithms are trained on millions of ecommerce-related interactions across Gorgias’ customer base and provide accurate, automated replies for the most common ecommerce inquiries. This helps our agents resolve tickets faster, which provides the customer a seamless experience.
Trust your agency! Agencies do the same things across multiple brands and niches, so we see the trends and have the practice and experience!
Don't be afraid of data and insights. If customers aren't clicking on your emails, try a new CTA. If your ads are driving good metrics at a small spend, start scaling. If your customers are complaining about a product, look into QA! If the data tells you something isn't working, let it go and try something else!
I'm supposed to say Tydo, right? 😉
Double down on differentiation. There will be a lot of headwinds this year and standing out from the crowd will set you apart.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. A video? Probably millions. In ecommerce that value translates into engagement, acquisition, and retention—everything you need to impact your bottom line.
At soona, we've seen the we've seen the impact of creative and the continuous split testing of it yield results. Our resolution is to challenge ourselves and double down on innovation and creative optionality so that each brand we work with can distinguish themselves in a crowded sea of D2C ecomm. We'd love to see our brands share this resolution and keep pushing the creative limits.
Klaviyo. We're using it to power our email and newsletter at soona too!
Optimize your returns strategy! This can lead to valuable customer insights, enhanced user experiences, and increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Brands need to dive deeper into understanding their customers to set themselves up for success. Conduct research to gain insights into customer needs, preferences, and behaviors. By doing so, you can develop targeted strategies that will enhance customer experience and boost overall retention.
Right now I would say Gorgias. Having a good customer service tool is crucial to building strong customer relationships.
Start paying heavy attention to data, specifically around retention. We see a lot of effort put towards acquisition with the assumption that once someone buys, they are your customer forever. Instead, get to know your customer, understand their needs, and analyze their behaviors once they are on-site and judge their sentiment after they have visited. Work with a retention focused and data-driven agency to implement tools that contribute to repeat business and customer delight. It will pay dividends.
When surveyed, about 80% of ecommerce merchants think that they are delivering a great experience to their customers. However, when the same customers are surveyed, only 8% of those customers think that they are getting a great experience from the merchant. Now, more than ever, retaining loyal customers is an essential part of any online business and you should spend time with your customers to judge their experience with your website and products and offer improvements based on that feedback.
Tydo's report cards are an essential tool, along with Klaviyo for email and SMS, Recharge for subscriptions and memberships, Okendo for reviews and surveys, Rebuy for AI driven collections and upsells, Loop for self service returns... each tool is great on their own, but their strength as the ultimate tool comes from when they are used together!
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