Most of the advice you will read on PR Daily
is motivational, tactical or results-oriented. We know it is where you come for “Five Ways to Make Your PR Campaign Dominate
We wanted to give a different kind of how-to piece this time. It is one you might not want to replicate, but a case study that can teach you valuable lessons. It is a true story of public relations domination that backfired. It is a cautionary tale of the dangers of getting too much exposure.
Here is how to dominate a public relations campaign—and still lose the client.
• Step One: Pick the right client
The Abbi Agency fell in love with Missouri Star Quilt Co. the first time we heard its story. The Doan family started the online quilting fabric sales company as a way to help their parents prepare for retirement. The company soon became a social media sensation on YouTube with entertaining and engaging Web tutorials, viewed by millions of people.
Soon Missouri Star Quilt grew into the nation’s largest online retailer of pre-cut quilting fabric. Instead of taking the money and running, the company took the profits and re-invested them into downtown Hamilton, Mo. The company has transformed its small hometown through major investments in downtown real estate and the hiring of nearly 100 employees in a town of about 1,700 people.
• Step Two: Get the client on the front page of the Wall Street Journal
We knew from the beginning that Missouri Star Quilt’s story was made for national news. But even with a story as good as Missouri Star Quilt’s it takes a lot of legwork to get national news coverage. We spent a lot of time talking to Al Doan, one of the company’s owners, and understanding the company’s business model and history.
We wrote up press release that were more feature news articles than marketing material—giving journalists something could sink their teeth into. Then we began pitching the best business reporters we knew. Not long afterward, a Wall Street Journal
business reporter was on a plane to Hamilton, and weeks later the story was on the cover of the Journal
Just days later, a camera crew from NBC Nightly News rolled into Missouri Star Quilt headquarters to film a feature segment that would air on national, prime time TV. Soon after that, MSNBC filmed a “Main Street USA” segment featuring the company. This media coverage cascaded into even more placements, as local, regional, and quilting-specific journalists covered a quilting company from small-town Missouri that had made national prime-time news.
• Step Three: Make sure media coverage drives sales
There is a common complaint in public relations that sales cannot be directly tied to a public relations campaign. This was not the case with the Missouri Star Quilt campaign.
Orders of pre-cut quilting material went through the roof after The Wall Street Journal
, NBC Nightly News, and MSNBC covered the company. With every other element of the company’s operations staying somewhat equal, the 15 percent bump in sales could be directly attributed to public relations.
• Step Four: Prepare for bad news
Anytime you land a client on the cover of The Wall Street Journal
, on NBC Nightly News, and on MSNBC within about a month, the last thing on your mind is getting let go. But Missouri Star Quilt was a unique case.
Unlike a Software-as-a-Service company that can rapidly scale to serve a rapidly growing customer base without increasing manufacturing or distribution, the quilting company soon found itself at capacity. The company had to face the very real logistical challenges of filling and distributing thousands of additional quilting orders.
The public relations campaign had been such a success that the company needed a break and a breather. They needed to make sure they could fill all orders on time—and this meant no more public relations.
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• Step Five: Deal with rejection and hope for the future
In public relations, it’s hard to lose a client—especially one that you love. The fact that we lost Missouri Star Quilt because we did such
a good job did not make it much easier.
The silver lining is that we’ll most likely work with Missouri Star Quilt in the future. For the time being, hitting it out of the park ended up putting our contract on pause.
Clients like Missouri Start Quilt don’t come around every day. The family was a pleasure to work with, and the story they had to tell was an authentic example of a retailer looking beyond simple profits and doing what was best for the community they called home.
We’ll look forward to working with Missouri Star Quilt in the future. We’ll also think a little harder about pacing our PR efforts to sync with a company’s manufacturing and distribution capabilities the next time we land a client who has to make and distribute each product that we promote.
David Bunker is a writer for The Abbi Agency, a digital communications and media relations firm with offices in Reno and Las Vegas.