DC Influencer: Bill Thorne, National Retail Federation

Bill Thorne, SVP of comms and public affairs, National Retail Federation, talks about changing the perception of retail and reaching young people

Bill Thorne, SVP of comms and public affairs, National Retail Federation, talks about changing the perception of retail and reaching young people

How did the video contest that started in 2011 transition to the This is Retail campaign?
With more than 100 submissions, we had the opportunity to get a lot of stories from retailers across the country. It was a great look at what they were doing in the communities they serve.

This is Retail came about because of those stories. What we found was a common theme – the careers they had chosen, the things they were doing to be innovative and competitive, and the things they were doing in their communities. Retailers are as entrenched in communities as any family owned business can be.

It was important to broaden the campaign to help change a perception out there that when people think of retail, often they think of the person at the mall store folding sweaters at the rack.

How do you balance storytelling and advocacy and promote the message?
What we’ve found most successful is when we use particular brands, such as HSNi or Walmart – they also send it out on their social media platforms. We did some cross-promotion on our blog, too. Shared content is pretty astounding in terms of its reach.

If there’s an issue, we can take those videos and stories and make sure we get them to the people making decisions, such as Congress. 

For example, when we worked with Florida-based HSNi, we made sure the message got to the congressional delegation and we pitched local media.

What is the next step in This is Retail?
We use all of our communications vehicles. Not only do we host events around the country, but we also have our senior executive team that speaks nationwide, particularly with students, to get them into retail.

Instead of just talking to young people, we’ll show them videos, infographics, or slideshows. We also have more traditional articles and blogs [on the website]. We did a great Instagram campaign last year with Dannijo, a high-fashion jewelry brand, called ‘A Day in the Life.’ 

We also just wrapped a shoot with the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association. There will be four videos, eight to 10 blog posts, and one slideshow through Instagram.

Each month we will be releasing content featuring one of our members, looking to entertain and make sure our message is getting through, because we will continue to target young people.

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