What the Shift in Store Experiences Means for PR

The Apartment by the Line in Los Angeles. Credit Courtesy of Apartment by the Line/Hanna Tveite

I was reading T Magazine the other day and fell head over heals for an article by Michael Rock, “When the Shop Looks a Lot Like Home.”

I’m a woman for whom space and tangible experiences are of the utmost importance. So after reading Rock’s article, that discusses the trend of stores offering an experience that simulates your actual life, I was ready to book a trip to New York.

If you’ve been reading about the trend for stores to offer experiences, you’ll be familiar with Rock’s examples. Want to buy a new shower? Try it out before you purchase at the Pirch showroom in SoHo. Want to cuddle up on a cozy couch while you lust over clothes with a Basquiat hanging out behind you? Go visit The Row’s Upper East Side townhouse.

The Pirch Showroom. Photo courtesy of Pirch
The Pirch Showroom. Photo courtesy of Pirch

Rock provides a deep dive into the history of this trend. Starting with the Sears catalogue and extending to the Internet as the ultimate big box store, we have at our fingertips everything and anything we may need. It is only a click away. So what then, is our need for stores? Rock answers, “What the shop can offer, however, are things difficult to achieve online: an intimate relationship with things, a haptic appreciation of materiality, a personal interaction with a sympathetic helper, an experience that contextualizes objects, a place to socialize with like-minded connoisseurs and, most importantly, a respite from the avalanche of too much stuff.”

He continues, to my jubilation, “A visit to the store may revert back to John Wanamaker’s original dream: shopping as a form of education and cultural edification. Maybe we learn best in the places that we feel most comfortable in: places that feel like our own living room, only nicer.”

So this got me thinking, if stores are evolving to feel like our own living rooms, does this mean anything for PR?

As a B2B technology provider for retailers, your strategy ultimately aligns with your clients’ strategies. If you’re not offering a solution to their problems and you’re not talking their language then you’re not gaining new clients and you’re not staying in business. The press has a similar model for business, if they can’t speak to the retail community’s experiences, their stories don’t resonate.

So what’s resonating?

To me, the trend of stores offering unique experiences aligns with the more general trend of authenticity. Everyone from marketers to your younger sister is talking about a desire to hear real stories, for honesty and uniqueness. We’re seeing this play out in fashion, as designers reflect street wear in recent collections, and in the trend for more personalization in products like Netflix.

To offer an authentic story for PR, consider first what makes your brand unique. What is different about you? What do you value? Ideally, your company has an accessible mission, vision and core values available for you to use as a starting point, but if they don’t, think about your own experience with your company. When crafting a campaign, make sure your language and your story align with these authentic qualities. So, if one of your company’s values is “innovation,” it makes sense to have a quote from your CEO in a press release incorporate the word “innovation.”

Next, think about how you can authentically engage with press who are reporting on ongoing stories. Recently, Ketner Group facilitated some replies for our clients in a RIS News story on Amazon’s “Project X.” The reason we were successful in having our clients’ opinions picked up is that each client uniquely responded to the story, in a way that was authentic to their experience and their brand.

As convenience continues to become a top priority for mass-market brands like Amazon or Wal-Mart, smaller retailers and the community in general will desire more authentic experiences to balance it out. By placing authenticity front and center to your PR campaign, you’ll be able to better appeal to prospective clients and the media.

The Most Buzzworthy PR Successes June 2015

Public relations is such a diverse and expansive field and there is a constant stream of notable PR successes to praise. With the impactful changes that have been made across all kinds of industries this past month, there are most definitely a few PR successes to celebrate.

A big win for Apple and Taylor Swift

There is no doubt Taylor Swift is aware of her influence and is no stranger to speaking her mind. A few weeks ago, Swift released a letter to her fans, peers in the music industry and to Apple voicing her opinion on their new free streaming trial. Swift explained that Apple hadn’t planned on paying artists during this free three-month trial. Swift explained that fortunately this was not a big deal for her, but it was a huge deal for upcoming and new artists who have recently released music and depend on income and recognition to continue pursuing their music. After Swift’s argument went viral, Apple changed their terms to pay the artists during the trial. Some speculate that it was Apple’s plan all along to have someone high profile to speak out against these terms to draw attention to their new service. True or not, both artists and fans are praising Swift; plus, everyone now knows about Apple’s free trial. Read more here.

Etsy, Amazon, Walmart and other retailers remove the Confederate flag

In light of recent events fueled by racism, controversy around the prevalence and meaning of the Confederate flag has heightened. The church shooting in Charleston that left nine dead was strongly associated with the Confederate flag. Many people were disturbed by the fact that the Confederate flag, which has historical significance involving racism and violence, still flies over the South Carolina State Capitol. Despite differing opinions, the flag is causing uproar. In fact, the South Carolina legislature is deciding today whether or not to keep the flag at the Capitol. The flag’s removal has passed through the Senate, and is now in the House. Many retailers have taken an initiative to remove items with the Confederate flag from their stores. Regardless of your opinion on the Confederate flag, it is a tactful move by many retailers, as it prevents the potential for future controversy. Read more here.

Obama’s approval rating is above 50%

Also, if you happen to have internet, watch TV, or interact with other humans you are probably aware of a few successes in the last couple of weeks for the Obama Administration. One being that The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act. The second: The Supreme Court ruling that the constitution guarantees gay marriage, making it the law of the land. Whether or not you support these rulings, they have led to a boost to 50% approval rating of the Obama Administration for the first time since the very beginning of his presidency. Read more here.

Brands show their support for marriage equality

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, and many brands have used this historic event as an opportunity to show their support of the decision. A number of brands used Twitter and Instagram, but one company in particular went above and beyond to celebrate. Ben & Jerry’s, who has publicly supported gay rights for quite some time, renamed their chocolate chip cookie dough flavor to “I Dough, I Dough.” The flavor is available all summer at participating stores nationwide and online through the Human Rights Campaign. Regardless of the different views on marriage equality, brands have used this ruling as an opportunity to connect with current and potential consumers in a heart-felt way. Read more here.

It’s safe to say that June was a memorable month that kept the PR world busy. Stay tuned to find out what July has in store for PR professionals.