How Yahoo! Shopping Stole All the Media Coverage at Thanksgiving
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How Yahoo! Shopping Stole All the Media Coverage at Thanksgiving

The day after Thanksgiving is known in retail circles as “Black Friday” because it is historically the beginning of the holiday retail season (when retailers go into the “black”). In past years it has also become a bellwether of how e-tailers would fare

Paul Holmes

The day after Thanksgiving is known in retail circles as “Black Friday” because it is historically the beginning of the holiday retail season (when retailers go into the “black”).  In past years it has also become a bellwether of how e-tailers would fare in the holiday season.  The competition is fierce in the online retailing space with a tight race between MSN, Amazon, eBay and Yahoo!. The leader in the online shopping category - a relatively new option to consumers - is often determined based on fourth quarter sales and “share of voice.”

Taking the leadership role during this key period helps e-commerce leaders sustain sales through the coming year.  Last year, Yahoo! Shopping enjoyed heightened visibility among media and consumers but still fell beneath in total volume of stories. Second place wasn’t good enough for Yahoo! Shopping - an emerging leader in the e-commerce marketplace.  This year’s goal was to overtake Amazon - and others - with a strong start to the holiday shopping season.  Attention this year was especially significant due to a failing economy and a changing competitive landscape with a focus on fewer players and fewer media outlets to cover the story.

Through strategic, aggressive media outreach Fleishman-Hillard and Yahoo! were able to garner coverage with approximately 802 print, radio and broadcast mentions.  In just a four day period (Friday 11/23 – Monday 11/26), Yahoo! Shopping secured 95 million impressions – far surpassing the competition.
After market close on Monday, shares of Yahoo! were up two points which some analysts attributed to the shopping news: “The heavy interest in shares of and Yahoo! continued following the closing bell. Shares of the net retailers surged in the regular session following reports of robust online holiday shopping.” CBS MarketWatch.


Two months prior to the event, Fleishman-Hillard began research on anticipated trends in offline and online holiday shopping by conducting a detailed media audit of fourth quarter 2000 coverage.  In order to anticipate key media themes for the 2001 holiday season, Fleishman-Hillard also outreached to key influencers to gauge perceptions and upcoming trends. 

The events of September 11 coupled with the economic downturn made public relations a critical success factor.  The team continued to analyze coverage and learnings through the first weeks of the quarter and spoke to media contacts on a regular basis to gauge their needs. In addition, weekly research updates featuring economic data, trends and news of hot products and general updates related to offline and online retailers made research an organic part of this program.


· Drive consumer traffic to the Yahoo! Shopping site during the remainder of the holiday shopping season. 
· Secure mention of Yahoo! Shopping Black Friday sales results in an effort to show category leadership and receive greater visibility in media coverage.
· Raise awareness of Yahoo! Shopping spokesperson expertise with mention in product and category specific stories.


· Momentum.  Pique interest from the start of the holiday season by highlighting key merchant partnerships.
· Leadership.  Position Yahoo! Shopping as an industry expert by offering spokespersons during the biggest shopping days of the year.
· Engagement.  Drive purchases throughout the season by leveraging on-site tools and services to establish consumer trust and encourage repeat purchases.
· Visibility.  Develop creative mailers and strategic news hooks to heighten awareness of breadth of products and services available on the site.


Based on extensive research, Fleishman-Hillard and Yahoo! developed a plan that included: early outreach to print media in an effort to secure Black Friday day-of briefings; advance and day-of pitching of Friday/Saturday b-roll package; pitching of broadcast in-studio opportunities; execution of a “buzz” event in Union Square, San Francisco (the epicenter for offline shoppers in the Bay Area) that included a “Shopping Wizard” who handed out shopping suggestions and free bus rides throughout the day; and a radio news release (RNR) and radio media tour (RMT).  FH also did daily analysis of the media environment and competitors’ news in order to quickly seize opportunities to position Yahoo! Shopping as a leader and react to news developments in the competitive landscape.

Getting ready: two weeks prior to the event

Materials development.  Team developed talking points, Q&A, and media alerts for the buzz event and sales, traffic results; b-roll slates; and three versions of a news release (buzz event, Black Friday, Monday’s results).

Building momentum: week of the event

Messaging session.  Fleishman-Hillard and Yahoo! conducted a media messaging session with spokespeople Thanksgiving week. The four-hour session included mock interviews and message refinement.  Follow-up phone interviews with spokesperson team were conducted the day before Thanksgiving.

Print/wire outreach.  Fleishman-Hillard pre-pitched briefings with contacts at print publications and wires – securing approximately 25 interviews with top-tier retail and e-commerce reporters.  These included: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, AP, Reuters, Dow Jones, Investor’s Business Daily, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Wear Daily and more.

All hands on deck: day of event
Broadcast outreach. Yahoo! produced a b-roll package for use in local and national markets.  Footage included interviews with a Yahoo! Shopping spokesperson, screen shots of special holiday sites on Yahoo! Shopping and visuals of “hot products” and the Union Square buzz event. 

Fleishman-Hillard pre-pitched in-studio interview opportunities, b-roll package feed details and sales results. Team distributed alerts Wednesday and Friday and mailed b-roll tapes to numerous national and local media outlets.  Efforts resulted in mentions on top national cable stations, including CNN, CNNfn CNBC and Fox News National; as well as top local markets (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, etc.).  In-studio interviews with CNNfn and call-in with BBC Worldwide also occurred.  In addition, team mobilized quickly to combat MSN news of a similar b-roll feed and received positive feedback from broadcast media.

Results speak louder than….Radio news release. 
A results news release was distributed through Business Wire at 3:30 p.m. PST Friday with sales results as of noon PST Friday. The final release was re-released on Monday at 7 a.m. EST.

Causing a stir: Buzz event.  Fleishman-Hillard and Yahoo! descended upon Union Square at 6 a.m. Friday morning with the Yahoo! Shopping “Wizard.”  The team helped “decorate” the bus stop where the Wizard was giving out shopping suggestions and free bus rides.  Fleishman-Hillard also coordinated media opportunities and on-site interviews – including KGO, KRON and Good Day Sacramento. The on-site team also assisted with the photographer and on-site b-roll shoot of the Wizard and bus-stop.

Drum roll: Monday, November 26, 2001
Loud and clear…radio media tour.  A radio media tour occurred at 4 a.m. PST Monday, 11/26. Yahoo! Shopping spokesperson Jennifer Dulski discussed weekend sales and traffic results, as well as “hot” products and top-sellers.  Preliminary results were outstanding, including interviews with numerous national radio stations.

Press release was also distributed on Monday, 11/26, including final sales results and best-selling categories for the holiday weekend.


Media relations efforts helped drive consumer traffic and sales to the site as consumers were surrounded by hundreds of media mentions of Yahoo! Shopping’s preliminary Black Friday results over the weekend. Over the post-Thanksgiving Day weekend (Friday, November 23 – Sunday, November 25, 2001) Yahoo! Shopping showed a sales increase of more than 75 percent over the same period one year ago. 

Media positioned Yahoo! Shopping as a leading e-commerce destination, noting that growth in sales volume clearly outpaced projected industry growth for the holiday season. In several stories, Yahoo! Shopping was the only e-commerce destination included in round-up stories on the retail industry.

Augmented awareness of spokespersons as industry experts.  Many media cited Yahoo! Shopping’s list of hot products, clearly pointing to spokespersons as industry experts on retail and consumer trends.
Secured mention of Yahoo! Shopping Black Friday results in 95 million impressions and more than 800 mentions in 802 print, online, news wire, television and radio outlets.

Strong coverage by retail and business writers in target print and wire outlets: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Investor’s Business Daily, San Jose Mercury News, Associated Press, Reuters.

Broadcast coverage in key national outlets: CNN, Early Today (NBC), CNNfn, CNBC, NBC National Network, Fox News Channel.

Interviews with broadcast media including  BBC Worldwide, CNNfn, National Public Radio, AP Broadcast Services, Bloomberg Business News Radio, Good Day Sacramento.

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