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How to Improve Your Holiday Sales with PR

In today’s guest column, media and marketing strategist Mark Macias explains how online merchants can use public relations to help market their products during the holidays. A former Executive Producer with WNBC, he reveals that December can be a prime opportunity for generating organic publicity with the media and provides concrete tips and advice on how to measure the return on your public relations campaigns.

Most ecommerce sites think they know how to market their products on the web but there is another overlooked sales strategy that many companies are missing. It typically has a higher ROI than advertising alone, its return on investment is measurable, and it can help nearly any business get through the noise.

I’m talking about public relations.

While most ecommerce sites turn to traditional online advertising this holiday season, PR can be a more effective strategy when it comes to reaching those impressionable consumers in search of gifts. PR also allows your product or service to remain in the news cycle long after your budget is over, effectively lowering the cost of your PR campaign over time.

But here is one of the most valuable reasons why PR during the holidays can help push your sales. Many ecommerce companies don’t realize that December can be a prime opportunity for generating organic publicity with the media. As newsrooms become understaffed with employees going on vacations, the threshold for getting a story on the news can actually be lower if you know who to target.

As an Executive Producer with WNBC in New York, I oversaw the consumer, features and medical units. If you were pitching a holiday segment idea, it very likely went through our department.

Here are a few publicity tactics I learned during my time as an Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. These are strategies I still use to secure media placements for my PR clients.

Identify a Holiday Gimmick (example: contests, giveaways or donations to the needy) 
If you want to stand out at a holiday party, you need something to push you above the crowd. Some people call that personality; others call it charisma. I like to call it a gimmick. It’s no different with branding a product, business, or service, during the busy holiday rush. You need to discover your gimmick to stand out among the holiday retailers.

Finding a retail gimmick during the holiday season will have more success if you can find an interactive element. Is there a promotion you can run that allows customers to help underprivileged children during the holiday season? Can you give away a certain percentage of holiday sales to buy gifts for families in need?

Do your business sales reveal any insight into how the local economy is recovering? What are the latest holiday trends in your industry and what does this mean for the local community?

Finding that gimmick first starts with questions and a deep understanding or your product or service. Once you start asking open-ended questions, you will find a possible promotion the media may want to cover.

Establish Credibility before any Media Outreach 
Credibility matters in life, but it especially matters for journalists. Whenever a business owner is pitched to the media, journalists will quietly and overtly measure his expertise, integrity and experience in the industry. Journalists will want to see proof on why this person is the best expert to add color to the industry.

This is why your business must establish credibility in the online world if you want to secure credible media placements. If a reporter doesn’t see a solid online presence, credibility questions will be raised and this includes stories with the other news outlets. This doesn’t mean you won’t succeed with a media placement if you have never been in the newspaper, but it will be a much harder story sell to the media if you can’t show why you are an expert.

You can establish credibility by writing editorials on the market and submitting them to influential business news sites, like the Huffington Post, Business Insider, trade magazines, etc. Writing a book on your industry will also give you another avenue to position yourself as an expert.

Pitch Unconventional Writers (example freelancers or weekend writers) 
One size does not fit all when it comes to pitching a story idea to the media. In many cases, you will have more success with your story pitches by targeting the proper news medium and reporter through unconventional ways. Newspapers can be a microcosm for this analysis. In many cases, you will have more success by targeting reporters or writers who are overlooked in their newsrooms. These journalists can consist of weekend writers or reporters, or even freelance journalists who need to constantly prove their value to news managers.

Once you have secured a media placement, how do you measure its ROI since PR can involve multiple variables that can indirectly lead to sales? There are multiple ways to measure the effectiveness of a campaign. They include:

1) The ROI of Media Placements: Retailers should take a closer look at the distribution numbers and demographics of the publications that their PR campaign reaches. These detailed numbers will give you a better idea if you are reaching the right audience with your PR campaign.

2) The ROI of Search Engine Rankings: Most business owners may not understand how Google measures the importance of one website over another. A successful PR campaign that drives links to your website will not only make it more effective but it will also improve your SEO with the various search engines. Make sure you give a news organization a reason to post a link to your ecommerce site.

3) The ROI of Credibility: Credibility is enhanced with a PR campaign, which can effectively close more deals.

4) The ROI from Analytics: Google analytics recently changed the way it shares search results that lead to websites, making it much more difficult for business owners to assess which search terms are driving traffic to their website. The good news is Google Analytics and Webmaster still reveal the source of the lead, giving you more data to measure your PR firm.

If you would like to read a white paper, How to Measure an Effective PR Campaign: The ROI of Public Relations, you can read it at www.MaciasPR.com. There is also a second white paper on our site with strategies on how PR can help push your holiday sales.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.