Promotion & Publicity in the 21st Century

November 1998

November Feature

Promotion & Publicity in the 21st Century

The Information Age will revolutionize the promotion and publicity efforts of small retailers such as independent jewelers. Some of the Jewelry Information Center's most creative retail members look at what the future may hold. JIC President Lynn Ramsey, a communications expert, chips in with her own advice

Public Relations: The Essential Marketing
Tool of the Millennium

BY LYNN RAMSEY
PRESIDENT, JEWELRY INFORMATION CENTER

You are entering a new world. The changes you will experience in the next five to 10 years because of technological advances will be beyond your imagination. Information technology gives the consumer more knowledge, more choices and more power (over you) than ever.

The solution to preparing for this new age is a marketing tool that's often overlooked and sometimes derided: public relations.

Public relations, or the ethical profession of communicating to an organization's various publics, is the ideal management function for this new world of information technology. PR encompasses many disciplines, including media relations, employee relations, publicity, event planning, crises management, community affairs and promotion.

To compete in the next millennium, this function must be an integral part of your marketing strategy. It is an investment in your business that can be even more effective than advertising, at a fraction of the cost.

The following strategies from the Jewelry Information Center, the public relations arm of the fine jewelry industry, will help prepare you to compete in the complex environment of the 21st century:

  • Hire a public relations professional or designate an individual in your organization to work with a public relations professional or agency. Get recommendations from other businesses or call the Public Relations Society of America (212-460-1459) for its Red Bookdirectory of member-affiliated firms and sole practitioners in your area.
  • Know your local media. Build good relationships with your local news, fashion and business editors. Invite them to your store to learn about new products or changes in your business or staff. Keep them informed with interesting news but don't overload them with press releases they can't use. (For information on writing a press release, contact JIC.)
  • Empower your staff. In these fast-moving times employee communications and training will help motivate your staff and maintain loyalty. It takes only one disgruntled employee to destroy a customer's trust.
  • Micro-market. The tools are there to customize your marketing/public relations/promotions to individual customers and groups. Do you have a marketing plan designed specifically to reach your best customers? Working women? Teens? Hispanics?
  • Create a Web site. By the year 2000, 150 million people will use the Internet (up from 40 million in 1997), according to a study by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. A millennium study by Deloitte & Touche predicts the Internet will be the main source of business news for top executives in 2005. It also will be the main source for many other items, including information about buying fine jewelry.
  • Get involved in the community. Today it's not enough simply to run a business. Consumers demand that retailers also be good citizens, supportive of their employees and their communities. If you are philanthropic, make sure you're recognized for it.
  • Be a service-oriented organization. The new currency is time, and no one has enough of it. Uncomplicate the lives of your customers by providing extraordinary service and they will reward you.
  • Be a pool of knowledge. Value-oriented consumers today want to know what they're buying. Give them information they can use – in other words, make them knowledgeable. Bring in experts and provide seminars for your better customers. Given the sea of information we're all drowning in, you will be perceived as a reliable authority.
  • Build strategic partnerships with other businesses to reach shared customers. To get the attention of your customers today, you have to work harder. One solution is joint promotions with other businesses in your community: a hotel, travel agency, florist or dress shop, for example.
  • Be prepared. Bad news travels fast in today's wired world. Make sure you've prepared your staff to respond appropriately when bad publicity appears in the local or national press. Create a Q&A pertaining to issues such as diamond switching and gem enhancement.
  • Support your industry associations such as the JIC, Jewelers of America, Jewelers' Security Alliance and Jewelers Vigilance Committee. Not only do you gain valuable information and benefits for running your business in a professional manner, you will be supporting the growth of our industry. In the 21st century, you cannot go it alone. The strategic partnerships you forge at the local and national levels will bring strength, knowledge and, ultimately, success.

Lynn Ramsey is a 17-year veteran of public relations and was formerly manager of the Diamond Information Center, a vice president of N.W. Ayer and a board director of the Public Relations Society of America New York Chapter. JIC was founded in 1946. It uses a variety of proven public relations tactics to create a more favorable environment for the sale of fine jewelry. Retail membership in JIC begins at $95 a year. For membership information, call Carolyn Jacoby at (800) 459-0130.

A Message from the Chairman

Gary Gordon of Samuel Gordon Jewelers in Oklahoma City, OK, is chairman of the Jewelry Information Center

Gary Gordon on local Oklahoma City radio, commenting on his appreciation of music as well as important jewelry industry issues.
Gordon promotes his store's four generations, always bringing his son, Daniel, into the picture.
Staying ahead of the curve in promotion and publicity is a skill Gary Gordon regularly shares at packed trade show seminars and with fellow retailers who call to chat. He shares his views about the future of these communications strategies with Professional Jewelerreaders.

"Bonding" with the public will continue to be key. "We have to be attractive to people, otherwise, why should they come in?" Gordon says. He continues to believe it's effective to promote himself as a local personality. Recently, he was the guest commentator at a radio station because of his reputation as a music fan. The gig gave him hours of free airtime during which the disc jockey repeatedly introduced him as a local jeweler and asked him questions about jewelry as well as music. Gordon also brings his son and heir apparent, Daniel, into photo promotions of the store's four-generation history so locals can begin to know him too.

Co-op ads linking retailers with national advertisers will continue – and that's a good thing. Though many retailers hesitate to lump their names with other retailers for fear that consumers will comparison-shop, Gordon thinks the good outweighs the bad.

National advertising lends retailers all kinds of prestige with local customers. "People think Town & Country is a classy magazine, therefore, they think the jeweler advertising in it must be good," he reasons. Besides, the more jewelry that's advertised, the more editorial pages consumer magazines seem to devote to jewelry, he says. Even editorial pages covering clothing are using more jewelry and providing credits. "We put the magazine articles right in our showcases with the merchandise by the designer featured. It gives salespeople one more thing to talk about."

Ads and posters draping jewelry on passive models will give way to product photos. Inspired perhaps by Cartier's example, many retailers are going in this direction, says Gordon. He uses giant lighted Duratrans photos of jewelry to push product in his store windows, some of which is visible to drive-by traffic.

Even when prominent retailers use people in their advertising, the product is highlighted in a large still life. The model is secondary and there to push the lifestyle angle of the product, not as a languid mannequin on which to drape jewelry.

Tiffany's ads are a good example – a young bicycle rider conveys lifestyle, but the large photo of the silver bracelet he buys is the focal point.

Large photos of jewelry, such as this ad from Cartier, are the wave of the future for all retailers promoting jewelry, says JIC Chairman Gary Gordon.

Celebrity product endorsements are on the upswing. Gordon believes celebrity endorsements are heating up again, though with the product still in prime view. As an example, look at Omega's ads with supermodel Cindy Crawford. The watch is prominent.

"Whether people will admit to it or not, they watch what the celebrities are wearing." Gordon says. Breitling does a particularly good job of sending to its authorized retailers any consumer magazine photo of a celebrity wearing its watches. Gordon puts these into a special album and shows them to customers considering a Breitling watch.

Big names such as Cindy Crawford will continue to be powerful draws because consumers watch whatcelebrities wear, says Gordon. Note, however, that a picture of the watch is the focal point of the ad.

 

More Trends From JIC Members

Innovative retailers are pioneering promotion and publicity ideas with their eyes on the future

Knowledge Will Be King
The thirst for knowledge will grow and retailers who deliver it will stand out from the crowd.

In-store educational events keep excitement high concerning pearls, one of the best-selling products for Eve Afillé of Eve Afillé Ltd., Chicago, IL.
TREND TIP: Bring in out-of town speakers &#150 it adds to the excitement and importance of the event.

Offer seminars for customers and for general groups, which works wonders for Curt and Elizabeth Parker of Curt Parker Inc., St. Louis, MO. Topics include different gemstones and how jewelry is made.
TREND TIP: Hold the seminars in your store whenever possible. The Parkers used to go to groups' locations, but now they're focused on getting people to see their store.

Plan an evening cocktail seminar on South Sea pearls, as Colleen Rafferty and Diane Christensen of Christensen & Rafferty, San Mateo, CA, plan to do.
TREND TIP: Hold events in the evening and serve drinks. The social side will provide added attraction to the education.

Talk about products in an educational manner – not necessarily as a selling event. Brent McMaster of O.C. Tanner, Salt Lake City, UT, brings in vendors to present the talks at evening cocktail events. "People want to learn and they expect stores like ours to do this." McMaster says consumers are more sophisticated and knowledgeable and really want to know details regarding what they plan to buy.
TREND TIP: Tightly target the group you invite. They should be specifically interested in the product being discussed.

More Sophisticated One-on-One Relationships
In a world of personalized services, cultivating one-on-one relationships is key to sophisticated communications efforts.

Though phone and e-mail are the main tools for keeping in touch with busy people, sponsoring special entertainment events for your best customers reinforces your ties. Here's how some retailers do it:

A fall preview for invited guests only spurs sales for Lex Harrison of Harrison Jewelers, Pocatello, ID. After invitations go out, individual sales associates follow up personally. "We make our guests feel special in the store, giving them candy and playing soft music."

Take to the high seas for high-spending clients. Marion and Lula Halfacre of Traditional Jewelers, Newport Beach, CA, will take 60 or 70 key clients on a 140-ft. yacht for a three-hour party cosponsored by Cartier and Vanity Fair. Last year, they held a formal dinner for about 40 people.

Have some customers for lunch. Steve Rosdal of Hyde Park Jewelers, Denver, CO, invites small groups to participate in cozy luncheons with jewelry designers. Steven Lagos, for example, came to chat with guests about fashion, what's happening with color and what inspires him.

Charitable Support Will Continue, With Mixed Results
Many jewelers cite participation in charitable events, though a great number say these have a tenuous connection to sales. Still, such acts of generosity convey a commitment to the community, so they're likely to continue.

Sponsor a black-tie event. Al Molina of Molina Fine Jewels, Phoenix, AZ, rents a hotel ballroom each year for a charity event that draws up to 800 people. Molina honors the event's chairpeople in his ads and holds an open-house luncheon in his store the day after the event. Perhaps because of the sales-related follow-up of ads and in-store events, he reaps direct sales from his charitable sponsorships.

Curt and Elizabeth Parker participate in an AIDS walk advertising program and work in booths at their local art fair. Though hard to see a connection to direct sales, their store comes up in references to the events and thus garners increased exposure for its name.

– by Jack Heeger and Stacey King

Internet Sites Are Here to Stay

Boost your hipness quotient and your sales and service with Web communication

For jewelers who want to reach tech-savvy consumers, Curt Parker Inc.'s World Wide Web site provides an enlightening example. The site opens with this statement: "We're not your grandfather's jeweler. We are up-to-date in design and technology. We're hip, we're happening, we're now!"

This may seem a bit over-the-top, but Curt and Elizabeth Parker, whose store is in St. Louis, MO, are determined to make cyberspace travelers realize the site isn't produced by a traditional retailer. Far from it.

They wield Web technology to convey their message in greater depth or with lightning speed, depending on the interests of each on-line visitor. And they spend the time (daily) to answer queries, ensuring their site is truly interactive.

The Parkers' site demonstrates the strategies detailed in this article and highlights an important fact: if a Web site is all bells and whistles and no substance, it's essentially ineffective. A publicity-minded brain is still needed in this newest medium for communicating with customers.

Among the features on the Parkers' site:

  • Their Town & Country, Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair ads. The ads convey they're "in" with the upscale consumer press.
  • Their jewelry design awards. These award announcements include photos of the prize-winning jewelry.
  • Consumer education. Pages on subjects such as deceptive pricing, appraisals and repairs, truth in advertising and fashion give consumers information they can learn – a key request from today's customers.
  • Their philosophy is summed up simply so on-line visitors know who and what to expect. Photos of Curt and Elizabeth are prominent.
  • Industry memberships. The Parkers cite their membership in such industry organizations as the American Gem Society and the Jewelry Information Center and the benefits to consumers.
  • Jewelry divided by product category. Here, the power of the Internet becomes evident, as a much wider array of product is shown than anyone could afford to display in a traditional ad.

The Parkers make sales all over the country from the site, but a review of its components indicates it's first and foremost a powerful promotion and publicity tool and, therefore, more effective in their own market.

For more information, see www.professionaljeweler.com. for an on-line review of the site's technological features.



Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


 

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