Best Buy holiday PR akin to 'political campaign'

MINNEAPOLIS: This holiday season, retailers are touting value and price, but at the end of the day it's about targeted engagement via media relations and social media.

MINNEAPOLIS: This holiday season, retailers are touting value and price, but at the end of the day it's about targeted engagement via media relations and social media.

This year, Best Buy is focusing on a targeted media relations strategy, positioning its campaign less as a theme-driven initiative and more as a “political campaign” with continuously updated outreach strategies based on short-term research, news updates, and consumer feedback via new media site bby.com and the @BBYNews Twitter handle, explained Scott Morris, senior manager of PR at the company.

“Not only have we predetermined what the news will be that week, but we also can adjust it based on news in that media landscape, and adjust our message or deliver a dual message,” he said. 

With this approach, the company aims to more specifically target its media relations message in local markets and drive regional traffic.

“We don't have huge media buys in local markets,” he said. “The PR team drives coverage in [those] markets.”    

In the absence of a traditional national campaign theme, the team is focusing on executive interview placement, featuring six senior-level executives, in its advertising, media relations, and online campaign.  

“While hitting on that [local] nerve, we can reinforce that we have executives also positioned to tell a story via national and tier-one outlets,” he said.

As with a political campaign, consumer feedback and research is dictating holiday marketing strategy more-so than in the past. It's a trend that's also evident in the pre-Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach.

Steve Nave, SVP and GM of Walmart.com, told The New York Times, “I don't think retailers would tell you it was our target to start shopping earlier — that's what consumers wanted. As broadband penetration, specifically, started to grow, customers on that day, once they were done with their Thanksgiving celebrations, they weren't necessarily ready to go to a store, but it's pretty easy to pull up a Web page and start researching.”

As is the case with the evolution of PR and marketing via digital integration and research-driven programs, companies are tweaking their strategies to adjust to online consumer presence and digital demand.

Best Buy's strategy was inspired by research showing that the brand needs to focus its message on key audiences, including the core 45-year-old males, people who want to learn about products via experiences, mothers, and tweens.  

“We wanted to make sure we had the right mix in terms of outbound pitching and looking at the editorial space available,” he said.

Marketing stories are also considering external factors, such as Christmas falling on a Saturday and eating up  last-minute weekend shopping. 

And in Best Buy's case, the “change in direction” also has to do with “a change in agency partner.” This summer, the company chose Edelman to handle its consolidated holiday PR, and it continues to work with Ketchum on various PR activations.

Though consumers are still dictating value this season, it's up to the retailers and brands to update their consumer engagement strategies via execution and a constantly evolving and compelling business story.

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