Earned coverage in fashion media is so last season with the rise of owned. If that’s what you’re thinking, guess again. Pros say retail affiliates and an instant-gratification buying economy have made earned media a crucial component of the marcomms mix.
With media titles giving less play to Fashion Weeks that unveil collections months before being available in stores, online coverage is all about what shoppers can buy now. An article might feature how to get a celebrity’s look for less. Or a round-up of the latest must-have accessories for spring.
Fueled by retail affiliations, each item highlighted typically features a direct link to purchase, driving incremental referral revenue for media while enabling readers to act on their buying impulses.
Kenzi Reddick, manager of brand marketing at Kontoor Brands-owned Wrangler on its Modern denim collection, says this creates terrific opportunity for brands to link their earned media efforts to sales.
“We see a direct correlation between earned media coverage and influencer initiatives and online sales,” says Reddick. “Unlike a traditional print or broadcast placement, products are linked to where to buy, and this traffic can be directly measured through website traffic, unique visitors, access to new consumers and ultimately purchase.”
Because of their affiliate agreements, “certain media outlets prefer to link to specific retailers — such as Amazon and Nordstrom — and do regular round-ups on them [i.e. “The Top 10 Holiday Gifts to Buy on Amazon],” adds Reddick.
And that is a good thing for brands in raising their profile on retail destinations where they’re sold. Consumers want to buy from popular e-commerce sites like Amazon, where Prime members can get same-day delivery, or Nordstrom, where loyalty members can earn points on their purchases.
“If we’re able to have earned media coverage point directly to our retailers and show a return on that coverage, it sets us up for a great relationship, deliverables and repeat business with our outside retailers,” says Reddick.
Earned media’s role
Alyson Roy, managing partner and cofounder of consumer lifestyle PR firm AMP3 PR, which works with Wrangler on its Modern denim collection, underscores the role earned media can play in building relationships with retailers where brands are being newly carried.
“Sales teams at fashion brands across the country are out selling to Zappos, Amazon and Urban Outfitters, and so once you sell through to one of those accounts, it’s important to help drive publicity to those specific retailers,” says Roy. “If you get your brand earned coverage in a Seventeen or Marie Claire and Refinery 29 that all pointed to the retailer’s site, and you can see from analytics it drove traffic and conversion, the sales team can go back and say, ‘We prioritize that above even our own direct channel’ and you become a valued supplier.”
AMP3 PR also works with Tencel and Fossil Group, the latter on all their licensed brands including Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Tory Burch.
With earned media serving as a strong foundation for building retail relationships, Wrangler recently hosted in-store customization events and a national influencer campaign with Nordstrom. “We are always ideating on creative ways to drive consumers in-store with experiential activations coupled with media relations, social media and influencer marketing,” says Reddick.
“Directly linking to ‘where to buy’ a product or service is a no-brainer,” concurs Jenny Pilewski, SVP at FWV, which also works with Wrangler. “It is what readers and viewers expect and it can absolutely lead to online sales, especially when the destination URL drives a good consumer experience.”
And if earned coverage for some reason doesn’t include a link, be sure to follow up, advises Pilewski.
“Most earned digital brand mentions will include this as a best practice when the article is a result of proactive pitching — PR practitioners should make sure of it,” she says. “With a little block and tackling, you can also chase down organic mentions and request a link be incorporated if it wasn’t. The link provided can also be a unique and trackable URL so the results of the placement don’t risk getting buried in your analytics.”
Like any good media relations strategy, she says brands should target media outlets that fit their desired audience, whether that’s trade or consumer, and also from topical and/or geographic perspective. But they’ll also want to do some research into the media titles that link to their preferred retailers.
“Very targeted pitching during key brand initiatives,” adds Pilewski, “also helps develop meaningful, long-term relationships with media.”