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What Can PR Pros Learn from Black Friday?

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Nearly 75% of adults in the United States shopped over Thanksgiving weekend in 2018. And this year, holiday retail sales overall could reach $1 trillion for the first time ever. American spending is still on the rise, so brands continue to provide the deals consumers want to see, from discounted iPhones and iPads to pressure cookers and heated blankets. Because of this, retailers must battle it out to drive the most sales.

What does this have to do with PR, you ask? PR pros can observe parallels between the holiday and the work they do on a daily basis. Here are three Black Friday lessons that can benefit both PR pros and beginners alike.

The media landscape is constantly evolving

The example: Almost every brand that puts out deals for Black Friday also has a deal for Cyber Monday. The term “Cyber Monday” was created back in 2005 by the National Retail Federation, after Senior Vice President Ellen Davis observed a spike in e-commerce sales the Monday after Thanksgiving. In 2018, Cyber Monday sales reached a record $7.9 billion.

The takeaway: As the public demand for online shopping grew, retailers adapted to meet their buyers’ needs. Similarly, public relations professionals must adapt to the evolving media landscape, where new methods of media are constantly created. For example, paid social media and sponsored editorial content, such as the Forbes Content Council, are a new norm – creating a much different media landscape than even just five years ago.

Brands are under more public scrutiny

The example: Over time, stores began opening earlier and earlier on Black Friday. Soon, major retailers like Walmart and Target were opening on Thanksgiving night, causing employees to work on the holiday. As more retailers opened earlier, backlash from the public began, arguing that Thanksgiving should be spent eating turkey and playing football with loved ones, not fist-fighting for a $200 TV.

The takeaway: Brands must listen to their consumers and take their negative sentiment seriously. After hearing the public’s distaste for retailers that open on Thanksgiving, fewer brands have decided to do so, resulting in fewer online critics and berating social media posts. Customers drive business, and corporations that don’t listen to what their customers are demanding will suffer the consequences. Public relations teams should always encourage their clients to listen to online sentiment in order to avoid a crisis.

It’s crucial to cut through the noise

The example: Almost every major retailer offers Black Friday deals, so how can each brand stand out against the rest? Through pricey advertisements and word-of-mouth marketing, retailers rely on various tactics to cut through the noise of Black Friday sales.

The takeaway: PR specialists know it’s not always easy to maintain a consistent cadence of coverage, especially when competitors have major news, too. It’s critical to find a client’s differentiators and use those talking points to pitch the media, showcasing exactly how their product or service benefits consumers, drives ROI and sales, etc. Finding what makes a client unique, and driving home that point, is what will help them stand out against the competition.

After the last AirPods are sold and December starts to unfold, PR pros have a lot to learn from Black Friday’s yearly moment of fame. Learning how to adapt to the media landscape, implement customer demands and cut through the noise are essential to a successful and adaptable media relations strategy.


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