If You Sell a Product, You Need to Know This About PR

I had a hunch. It was a little more than a hunch because it was based on my first-hand experience. But nonetheless, my hunch was recently validated by people at some of the top national publications.

A few weeks ago, I was at an event in NYC with a panel of media contacts from Marie Claire, O, The Oprah Magazine, Pure Wow, and Pop Sugar just to name a few. I work with these publications all the time, and from the outside looking in, noticed some changes in how they choose which brands to feature.

The main difference is that they tend to only feature a product if it is sold online.

Now, I spoke about this a little bit in my 2019 PR trends article, but hearing how important affiliate marketing is from the source still really surprised me.

In this article, I’m going to explain everything you need to know to understand why the media is looking for e-commerce companies and what you can do to make sure your PR strategy is on point.

Why Does the Media Care if You Sell Your Products Online?

Remember the days when people read the newspaper and flipped through magazines? That consumer behavior shaped the entire media industry and people buying printed publications was the core of the publishers’ business model.

So, when the internet came around and consumer behavior changed, publications had to change their business model too.

I don’t need to explain how this hurt profits—that story is told all the time. Instead, focus on the consumer behavior part.

Publishers looked at how people interact with their articles and realized that if someone reads a great review about something, they often want to learn more or buy the product.

If a product isn’t available online, the reader can’t go directly to buying that product and the publisher can’t be credited (or paid) for an increase in sales. It’s disruptive to both the consumer and the business.

How Much Will It Hurt Your Chances of Getting Media Attention if You Don’t Sell Online?

A lot. Think of it like this:

Imagine you are trying to hire a customer service representative. You post the job online and get 100 applications the very next day with no sign of them slowing down. You’re a busy person, so even if you want to, you don’t have time to read through every single resume. Instead, you start looking for who stands out and who can easily be dismissed.

The first applications that will reach the recycling bin—probably without ever being read—are the ones that are incomplete.

What I learned from that panel is that media contacts are not wasting their time on products that are only sold in brick and mortar. They get inundated with new products every single day, so they consider the ones that make sense for their business model first.

You need to “complete your application” if you want to compete for media attention, and that means selling online.

There’s a New Type of Writer: The E-Commerce Team

This one was new for me: many major publications have an e-commerce team whose sole job is to put together lists of products with affiliate links.

There used to be a beauty writer, a fashion writer, and many other writers who all focused on a specific beat. The introduction of an e-commerce team shakes this up a bit.

Instead of reaching out to a journalist, you can reach out to a journalist/businessperson who is measured by the revenue they bring to the publication. This means you can appeal to their bottom line, which leads me to…

For the Love of All That is Good, Mention E-Commerce in Your Pitch

Whether the media contact is on the e-commerce team or not, you need to mention and link to your e-commerce store.

If you sell on Amazon or a big-box store like Walmart or Target, your first pitch is the perfect place to mention it. Publishers can get a special link to your product and get paid every time a reader clicks that link and makes a purchase.

This type of affiliate marketing plays a huge role in what the media chooses to cover. It only makes sense to start your communication by telling them you check the box.

Gift Guides are on the Rise!

I’ve been preaching gift guides for a while now, and after hearing this panel, I have no reason to stop. Product roundups are a huge moneymaker for the media, so we can expect them to continue publishing more and more content featuring products like yours.

Don’t forget, when the media takes their small affiliate commission, it’s because your products are flying off the (digital) shelves.

When you’re ready to learn more about how you can pitch your products for gift guides, head on over to my shop. I have tool kits, workbooks, and pitch bundles that are perfect for any small business owner to pick up and learn how to be their own publicist today. 

Rebekah Epstein