What do you do with a successful, online retailing association that your PR firm has stewarded through the media thickets as it grew from 12 founders in 1998 to more than 400 members by the end of 2000?
Without raising the association’s monthly retainer, how do you keep the association’s name –and their spokespeople—top-of-mind with journalists writing stories about online retailing when the association itself doesn’t have any news to proactively announce?
The answer was right under our very noses (or at least on our computer screens).
As 1999 turned into 2000, the Shop.org team at Cone decided to begin compiling industry statistics that we were coming across in our daily online news scanning on behalf of the client. We figured: “As long as we’re finding them, why not compile them, too?” We were doing this mainly for our own edification, as well as to help journalists who contact us for data from Shop.org’s quarterly and yearly studies with the Boston Consulting Group. Our list of stats grew very quickly, and by March of 2000, we had nearly 200 statistics from more than 40 different sources, including Forrester, Jupiter, Gomez and a host of others.
Cone suggested that Shop.org create an area of their Web site’s “Press Room,” so we could direct reporters to the site to find a wide variety of industry-specific statistics for use in upcoming stories (See attached example). We offered to send our updated statistics documents to Shop.org once a month, so the site could be updated. We also anticipated that it would be a great device to remind reporters on a regular basis when the stats were updated; our ulterior motive was, of course, to remind these same reporters that Shop.org is also a resource for industry-specific comment from Shop.org’s leadership and members.
In addition, as Cone is credited on the site, it is also a great way to market the agency to dot-com members of Shop.org.
Established in 1997, Shop.org was founded by industry leaders and influencers within the online retailing arena. Once each year, Shop.org releases its online retailing studies – “The State of Online Retailing” – in conjunction with The Boston Consulting Group. They announce smaller quarterly studies, as well. Cone has developed and implemented very successful media relations programs surrounding the studies and Shop.org conferences; however, Shop.org desired more of an ongoing presence in the media, in order to bolster their membership efforts throughout the year. Also, as a non-profit organization, Shop.org did not have the funds to develop and initiate an extravagant public relations program, so the solution had to work quickly and work within the set monthly retainer fee.
Cone responded with the idea to compile industry statistics, for use by the media, and as a resource for Shop.org members. It was cost-effective, because Cone was already scanning the media daily, looking for trends and statistics to help us in our ongoing journalist contact on behalf of Shop.org.
Cost-effectively increase the number of media requests for interviews of Shop.org spokespeople
In “dark” months when Shop.org has no news to announce, keep Shop.org top-of-mind with retail, interactive and business reporters
Provide a quick and easy statistics resource for journalists on Shop.org’s Web site, and market the resource to the media, reminding them that Shop.org’s leadership and members were available to comment on a wide variety of e-commerce topics.
An important part of this initiative included tracking new reporters who were writing stories in this space. On an ongoing basis, Cone used Internet searches to supplement information provided by Profnet and industry publications, in order to ensure that media contacts new to the space also received the Shop.org statistics reminder from Cone. On an ongoing basis, Cone contacted new reporters via email and phone, so reporters knew to call us, when they needed information or an industry quote.
Within the two weeks following the statistics reminder email, the average number of calls from reporters requesting interviews on various e-commerce topics increased 100% from four per week to eight per week.
Stories that included quotes or information from Shop.org also increased, from an average of 7.1 per month in 2000, to 9.2 per month after our initial stats mailing began.
Results included 289 articles that included quotes from—or reference to—Shop.org came out in 1999. Circulation: 90.3 million; Impressions: 225.7 million.
Membership to Shop.org increased nearly 50% between May and December 2000, from 290 to more than 400 members.
Immediately following one of our bi-monthly email alerts to our media list, we received a call from USA Today requesting that Shop.org supply a by-lined OpEd piece for this national newspaper. It ran on in the publication on December 20, 2000 (see attachment).
Examples of other media outlets who looked to Shop.org for comment on their stories included The Industry Standard, Computer World, Online Retailer, Retail Systems, Interactive Week, ZDNet and C/Net. Consumer business media outlets included Associated Press, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, CNNfn.com, Fast Company, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Broadcast efforts netted interviews on CNN, CNBC, “The Wall Street Journal Report” (syndicated to more than 200 local news affiliates nationwide), Bloomberg Forum and ZDTV (now TechTV). Of the total 289 stories referencing Shop.org, 97 of them included quotes from Shop.org spokespeople.
“We have been extremely pleased with the way that Cone has found cost-effective ways to keep Shop.org top-of-mind with journalists. Many of our new members first discovered Shop.org when reading stories in which Shop.org was referenced.” – Elaine Rubin, Chairman, Shop.org