Busy shopping centre

How to approach Black Friday from a tech PR perspective

The US-born shopping bonanza first made its way to the UK in 2010 via Amazon. It wasn’t until 2013 that Black Friday started to make waves on our high streets, when Walmart-owned Asda played host to what were essentially shopper riots, caused by the large discounts on offer. 2014 saw many retailers following suit, hoping to benefit from a footfall surge in their stores. This again resulted in skirmishes taking place in stores up and down the country.

As recently as 2015/16, there was a great appetite in the media for any Black Friday content, but as a few years have passed since the shopping phenomenon reached the UK, journalists now expect an elevated level of conversation. By this, I mean that it is important to try and promote a unique angle through your company’s PR messaging, rather than just rehashing what industry commentators have discussed in previous years. From a PR perspective, companies wanting to gain traction in the media around Black Friday need to have an interesting opinion to give.

When I started working at Babel, we were in the process of onboarding a new e-commerce client, Astound Commerce. The client was making its first foray into the UK market (it already had a major US presence) and we identified Black Friday commentary as an effective way of getting the company’s name out there to the national and trade press.

Through drafting a series of reactive comments (otherwise known as issues jumps), as well as proactive bespoke media outreach, the team were able to secure a variety of coverage in both national and trade press around Black Friday.

Based on my experiences working with Astound as well as other retail clients, I have compiled a series of tips below for any companies working in the retail space as to what they can do to maximise media exposure around Black Friday.

Promote company’s expertise year round

From a PR perspective, it is useful having your company’s name known in advance of Black Friday. The best way to achieve this is through year-round PR activity – regular phone and face-to-face briefings with key industry journalists, as well as contributed articles in top tier retail trade publications such as Internet Retailing and PerformanceIN.

It can also be valuable to profile company spokespeople whenever the chance presents itself. Econsultancy, for example has a ‘Day in the Life’ feature. Featuring here is a great way to build up a profile around company spokespeople and is also valuable from an SEO perspective.

Data, data, data

Original data can be invaluable for a retail PR campaign. Being able to offer relevant, interesting data to a journalist can make a story in itself. Commissioning a survey can be a great way of gathering information that a PR team can then leverage as a press release to secure media coverage. Data allows the PR team’s media pitches to stand out from the crowd in an increasingly busy space.

Speak to any retail journalist between September and November and they will tell you that all they hear about is Black Friday – the appropriate use of data, accompanied by a strong pitch will help your company jump to the top of the pile.

Be prepared for a rapid response on the day

When Black Friday itself comes around, it is important that your PR team is poised ready to react to breaking news. For Astound, we drafted an issues jump on the morning of Black Friday around the news that Argos’ website had buckled under pressure due to the number of visitors to its site. This gained traction across the retail trades and also resulted in coverage in the Daily Express.

Often the best results will be achieved through rapidly responding to news as it breaks throughout the course of Black Friday. For this, it is vital to have the right media contacts in place as well as the right team on board who can produce an appropriate comment within an hour of a news story breaking.

Never too early to prepare for next year

Remember to keep your Black Friday PR campaign fresh. As mentioned, there is a plethora of companies trying to commentate on the annual retail date, to such an extent that it is hard to make your voice heard. I appreciate that we are now in the week of Black Friday, but it is never too early to prepare for next year’s event. Partner with the right PR agency and they should be able to promote your company and spokespeople throughout the year. Gather data and build relationships with the right industry journalists and you should reap the benefits when we reach Black Friday 2019.

Find out more about Babel’s background in retail technology PR.

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