Retailers around the world marvel at how Apple generates so much free publicity over every store opening and product launch. But is it free?
Apple spends an inordinate amount of time and money carefully crafting the story it wants to tell. It uses inspiring, fresh design to create visual spectacles that are exciting and compelling. It weaves celebrity, engineering and fashion into one irresistible story. If you ever catch yourself wondering why the media gives the company such enormous publicity, ask yourself this: if you got an invitation to an Apple event, wouldn’t you be curious and a bit excited?
Local outdoorsmen (and women) had the same kind of excitement when we worked with Cabela’s Canada to help it open its flagship Canadian store in Winnipeg. Cabela’s is a dream space for people who love the outdoors. The company understands that its stores are destinations and need to deliver sensory thrills. That’s why it invests in design that allows shoppers to feel they are stepping into a log cabin somewhere secluded and beautiful.
We have created PR campaigns around dozens of retail openings and events over the past few years – from insurance offices to auto dealers to super-sized retail locations. Here are a few of the things we’ve learned.
Visual spectacle and design usually works
People love beautiful things and places. If you’re opening just another store with goods on shelves or clothes on racks, you better have the newest, most exciting products in town or you’re not going to attract much attention. Apple stores generate publicity because of their design and their function. Cabela’s gets attention for its taxidermy displays and fudge. So what is your edge?
Investing in innovative design and function is a great way to set your business apart from others and to gain attention from media and the public.
If you don’t have that, it is important to spend time thinking of ways to create something visually appealing for the media. Build an obstacle course and run a race for charity. Bring in a professional stunt driver to take reporters for a thrilling ride. Host a black tie grand opening with a celebrity entertainer as headliner. There are so many things you can do to catch attention. Use your imagination, but tie your event to your brand in a real way (ie. make sure it makes sense).
We once helped an insurance office generate blanket media coverage in its local market by inviting a popular local professional athlete to attend. We held a barbeque and open house and he mingled and signed autographs. Customers raved. Media loved the opportunity for the celebrity interview and photo,
Make the most of an opening
You don’t open new stores often, so make the most of every opportunity. The bigger and more unique your store is, the more likely you’ll earn publicity. That’s just the way it is whether you’re in Toronto or Timbuktu.
We have been working with Princess Auto to help the national Canadian hardware retailer open stores in several markets. Our media outreach begins months before the store opens and continues for as long as we can stretch it. For each opening we notify the media that the store is coming well in advance of the actual opening. We may issue further news releases along the way, such as call outs for new employees. As the day of the actual opening nears, we like to invite local media in for a sneak peek too. By the time shoppers are at the checkout, our team has often generated multiple local news stories and mentions in print, radio, online and on tv.
Some of those kinds of tactics don’t work for smaller retailers without a recognizable brand name and track record, but with some creativity you can still earn attention. For example, a new clothing store could team up with designers and models for a fashion show. A game store can hold a gaming marathon. A beer making store can hold a celebrity beer making contest.
We scored terrific coverage a few years ago by inviting local media to decorate gingerbread doghouses. If you think about it for a while, you can almost always find a fun, creative and inspiring way to interest local media to come out and write a story.
Make it local
Let’s not forget the famous saying that ‘all news is local.’ Why does your store matter to your local market? How many jobs are you creating? Have you invested a significant amount of money into the local economy? Are you manufacturing locally? Are you partnering with other local businesses? Are you using local patents, research, design, experts?
Are you answering a local need? Will your store help revitalize an old building, a street, a mall? Can you get a local VIP like a politician, professor or celebrity to say nice things about you and your operation?
If you’ve got a storefront in need of publicity and attention, but find it difficult to dream up interesting ways to get it, give us a call. We love this stuff and have experience doing it at locations across Canada.
And we haven’t even mentioned social media yet, so we’ll need to revisit this topic again in the future.