How to Use PR to Grow Your Online Marketplace Business

The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once said, "your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room."
Public Relations instruments help you shape the image of your virtual ecommerce marketplace for your target audience and the wider public.

Besides, PR helps to incorporate your web ecommerce marketplace's idea and the PR message to your target audience set of values.

As a result, people are having a positive and genuine image of your business, and they perceive your product and values as a natural part of their needs.

PR significantly influences the business growth.

After witnessing Uber in the news for various negative allegations, consumers' willingness to use it decreased heavily:

Consumers' willingness to ride with Uber, 2017
virtual ecommerce marketplace promotion
After the PR crisis, 50 percent of clients are willing to use the multi vendor online store.

However, 36 percent of the customers are unwilling to use its service. They've never used it before and the negative PR discourages them from trying it in the future.

To gain the opposite result and to whip up your business growth through efficient PR activities, you need to understand your readership core values, habits and content consuming preferences, and create your PR message accordingly.

The role of an audience in PR: constant research and two-way communication

To form and convey your virtual multi vendor center PR message correctly, and to build a strong connection with your readership, create a detailed picture of the people you are addressing:

  • the type of publications they prefer;
  • the channels they use to consume information;
  • who are the influencers they trust;
  • the events they attend online and offline;
  • how they usually spend their time.
Besides, that picture should be constantly updated. It will help to tweak your message and PR tactics to all changes in your readership in a real-time mode.

There are detailed recommendations on how to research your audience in our How to open an online marketplace, and How to turn your marketplace into a community article.

Besides, research your competitors' PR activities: what publications, which events and places they are using to spread a word.

Additionally, learn about your audience from your social media followers' behavior: profiles, the likes, comments, retweets.

Track engagement with all your content: in your blog, and on the third-party media platforms.

On the basis of that information, build the picture of your readership:

  • profession;
  • values and views;
  • hobbies and interests;
  • current problems and goals that are connected to your virtual marketplace mall PR message;
  • the needs they satisfy using your web shopping mall product or service;
  • the reasons why they use your online mall platform: is their interest financially driven, or they share the values and the PR message?
  • the type of sources they read, and the influencers (journalists, bloggers) they follow.
Airbnb is researching its audience thoroughly and thus was able to create a strong message that resonates with their readership needs and values.

After the in-depth interviews with the Internet multi-seller marketplace actual customers, the marketplace team realized that the PR message should be built to inspire people to live anywhere in the world, even if it's just for one night, instead of sightseeing.

As a result, the "LiveThere" PR-message was created.

Airbnb LiveThere Campaign:
virtual ecommerce marketplace
The audience thorough research helped the virtual marketplace mall to form a PR message that resonates with their readership, the indie millennials, perfectly.

The campaign results:
web ecommerce marketplace promotion
Shape your Internet multi-seller marketplace image and PR message

Analyze the initial PR environment

When BlaBlaCar entered the Polish market, there was a competitor, which attributed the generic name of the BlaBlaCar service, carpooling, to its web shopping mall name.

Since the initial market research was implemented in advance, the issue was defined on time. To overcome it, the consistent use of the term "shared rides" was incorporated as part of the online mall platform PR strategy in the region.

Through the long-term PR activities, the virtual multi vendor center made it a generic name for the target audience, instead of the one that the competitor uses.
Create your own story
A clear PR message helps to stand out of the competition without putting large budgets in public relations.

Besides your readership characteristics and the multi vendor online store idea, take into account your long-term goals to create a resonating PR message.

The BlaBlaCar had set the specific goals for its PR activities in Poland:

  • informing the target audience about the web ecommerce marketplace;
  • making BlaBlaCar a recognizable brand as "first in mind."
The vision that Lyft is using as a positive PR driver is making car ownership unnecessary. Its mission is to bring people together: every car on the road should be a Lyft car.

The virtual ecommerce marketplace delivers on its PR promise: 30% of San Francisco Lyft drivers are entrepreneurs who use the service for business networking.

Besides that, the fact that the web shopping mall CEO Logan Green believes in the message is the positive PR itself. He is a Lyft driver as well: "I made $20 on the way to work the other day."

Etsy is building its PR activities around its main values: creativity, handmade product, and its community.

The virtual marketplace mall "Difference Makes Us" campaign's content is featuring household items such as mugs, which could easily display one's individuality.
web ecommerce marketplace
Besides, most of Etsy publications emphasize that the Internet multi-seller marketplace stands for no mass products and help the platform to stand out.

Another part of Etsy PR activities is dedicated to its community.

The online mall platform target audience are women: 95 percent of its clients and

97 percent of the blog readers are females.

The virtual multi vendor center announced that it hires women engineers to fit its main audience better. Etsy funds "Hacker School" grants for women, and providing ten $5,000 grants as a financial support for women to attend.
Build brand identity
Having a distinct brand identity helps to create a recognizable message for all your PR activities: both for your own content and third-party publications.

To strengthen its visual identity, Airbnb created its own typeface:
multi vendor online store
Through a unique typeface, the multi vendor online store team aims to keep the brand message unified over all types of content and media: from online publications to offline billboards.

The Lyft mustaches is another example of a marketplace visual identity:
virtual multi vendor center
Define key PR messages
If your web ecommerce marketplace idea is based on the set of values, you can create several key PR messages that reflect those values. It will help to choose suitable PR activities, and to track the results more accurately on a long term.

The BlaBlaCar key messages for its long-term PR activities:
multi vendor online store promotion
The virtual ecommerce marketplace defined the few messages to share with its readership during a few years scope of PR activities. As a result, they gained 2887 of publications in the period from May 2013 to July 2016 and were able to track those results by each channel they used.

BlaBlaCar key messages and the results connection:
virtual multi vendor center promotion
Besides that, the Internet multi-seller marketplace had got such a good outcome, because the channels to spread the PR messages were defined from the very beginning.
Spreading the message: define the channels
Focus on the channels that are of a long-term and trustful information source for your target readership.
Cultivate your social media readership
That is the way Amazon maintained a 29,156,891 followers' Facebook page.

The web shopping mall replies to an enormous comment amount quickly, efficiently and with the human touch:
virtual marketplace mall promotion
online mall platform promotion
Also, share your PR-content on the social media that suit your readership the most. One of the Airbnb "LiveThere" campaign success element was the fact that the campaign was widely spread over the social media.
True Experience #1

Scott Fish
Founder of 32° digital marketing
Strategy 1. PR & Social Media Are Blending Quickly

When social media platforms began their increased popularity, not many advertising opportunities were available. Now, Facebook and many other social platforms have a built out advertising platform that allows even deeper advertising strategies than what you might find in Google. In fact, I think Facebook may know more about is than Google, at least the data they know about our habits and interests are more valuable. We recently worked with a local jewelry store that was having a family member buy out the business and needed to quickly liquidate their assets to lower the cost of the purchase price. We jumped at the idea to blend this PR news story with a social media selling strategy. By utilizing Facebook's custom audiences and lookalike audience advertising, we were able to take 10 years of customer data and create a very targeted campaign to reach out to previous customers. We use language in the ads that was not used anywhere else. With tracking metrics, we were able to track back close to $50,000 worth of in store sales and over $100,000 in online ecommerce sales. We were surprised how well this campaign worked, as it run for 3 months and had a total advertising cost of about $4,500. The long term value that this campaign helped create is still being realized as we see return customers every day!


Strategy 2. PR Research Drives Ecommerce Data

Most e-commerce platforms that someone might be working within, whether it's WordPress or Squarespace, have SEO functionality built into them. You will be able to implement title tags, and tag your images. But by simply adding in SEO elements, you won't necessarily gain traffic from the implementation. The missing piece is strategy. Sitting down with your team and figuring out how people are searching for the products that you sell is extremely important. Often times people search for products and what they do or what they can solve, rather than what they actually are. That is an important set of keywords to address when you look at creating a keyword optimization strategy for your eCommerce site.


Strategy 3. Focus on SEO & Paid Search


Marrying up your SEO strategy with your paid search strategy, can mean that you will save money over time and have a more informed eCommerce SEO strategy for your business. When you use Google AdWords or other Ad platforms, you are able to Target keywords and understand the search volume that happens for those keywords, but more importantly you are able to test different landing pages and user experiences to see what combination converts the best. Taking the data from Google AdWords and applying it to your SEO campaign, you now know the keywords that you should be targeting that drive the most qualified traffic, and the user experience that will drive the best conversion rate on your website. When we work with clients, one thing that we like to do, even if we are only working on an SEO campaign, is to put together a small ad campaign to test out these strategies.
Define the right moment: time-related PR tactics
Use the trends that are relevant for your readership. The Airbnb "LiveInTheMovies" campaign contains the idea of enabling people to live in a castle or a treehouse, which otherwise could be possibly seen in a movie.

The online mall platform released the campaign on the Oscars' weekend, asking via Twitter: "If you could live in any movie, what would it be?"

Airbnb used the relevant hashtags such as #Oscars and posted over 30 tweets:
virtual marketplace mall
BlaBlaCar launched its product, car sharing, during a train strike. The press release message was centered around BlaBlaCar being a travel option during the strikes.

30 minutes after sending it through, Reuters picked up the news and diffused it, and the marketplace was featured in over 500 newspaper articles.
True Experience #2
Dave Lastovskiy
Head of Marketing, Bus.com
1. Do you use PR in your promotions?

We leverage PR in marketing promotions for particular opportunities for our business. A successful PR campaign can lead to increased awareness amongst targeted customers for an online marketplace. If done well, these customers will discover your service, and decide to test it. When the marketplace services these customers well and the experience is positive, they can be developed into loyal users.

2. What PR practices turned out to be successful and what - not?

When March for our Lives was underway, Bus.com wanted to get involved to contribute to the event in a positive and transformative way. We elected to work with organizers from Parkland to provide transportation for students within those areas at cost.

We knew that mobilizing students was key to ensuring the movement was successful. In order to increase usage of our service, we reached out to specific news agencies that understood the importance of this movement to share our story. The result was working with Vice to create a story that highlighted transportation options for this event, which generated awareness of our service with those that could leverage it.

3. Any results which really surprised you?

Press is a challenging channel to understand. We've worked with various outlets (TechCrunch, Fortune, VentureBeat, etc) on different types of pitches. It's important to understand that press often does not lead to customer acquisition in the same way that advertising on Facebook may.
Build your media network: influencers
Establish a strong connection with reporters, journalists, bloggers, and the relevant community leaders. The main condition is that they are addressing your readership with the quality content.

Pay attention to the level of their activity, and the relevance of their content and readership to your PR message.

Offer to contribute valuable content or exclusive material. If possible, address the personal interest of the influencers to catch their attention.

Build a partnership with relevant PR-allies.

To demonstrate that its service is a must when you live from flight to flight, Airbnb set a contest together with KLM: the winners could spend a free night in a luxury 'Airplane Apartment':
web shopping mall
If you have a strong community around your marketplace, use it for your PR strategy as well, as the web shopping mall Airbnb is doing.

During its "LiveThere" campaign, the virtual marketplace mall encouraged its users to take over its Snapchat account:
online mall platform
Also, find your advocates and evangelists among your readerships and benefit, inspire and encourage them.
True experience #3
Jim Milan
Communications and Organic Search Manager
Auto Accessories Garage
The PR we at Auto Accessories Garage use the most in our marketing and promotions is responding to and creating HARO queries. Responding to HARO queries has allowed us to receive mentions and backlinks from authoritative websites in the automotive and E-Commerce spaces. For example, we received a backlink in a Huffington Post article by responding to a query on tips for buying a new car. The backlinks we receive boost our website's domain authority which allows us to rank better in search engines for our targeted keywords and, thus, grow our organic traffic and revenue.

We have also used HARO to reach out for quotes on content assets we have created, like The Best Small Towns to Visit on a Road Trip. Because the sources for these stories are mentioned in the article, they have an incentive to link to these pieces and, in this way, our website receives more backlinks.
The PR message ambassadors
Whether or not you have a dedicated spokesperson within your company, all the interviews and information sharing should reflect the company values and PR message.

Your readership should see that your spokespersons' values and interests resonate with the audience values and the virtual multi vendor center PR message.

Chad Dickerson, the ex Etsy CEO, picked up the right tone and approach while addressing the marketplace community concerns in his blog post since he truly shares the multi vendor online store values.
True Experience #4
Steve Gow
the co-founder of UppstArt
1. Do you use PR in your promotions?

Yes. We run an online marketplace for original artwork with pretty high price points when compared to other e-commerce industries. Due to the higher price points than people are typically used to when shopping online, our customers really need to trust us. That's why we focus on in-person speaking engagements, influencer marketing, media outreach and other PR strategies that focus on winning over trusted influencers to promote us because they like what we are doing.

2. What PR practices turned out to be successful and what - not?

In-person speaking engagements are probably the most succesful PR tactics for our business. When you speak in person you really get a chance to explain the value you provide and win people over. They are much more likely to visit our site and buy artwork if they have had an in-person experience with one of us.

Media outreach is also quite lucrative for us because it shows that we are credible and trustworthy.

Reaching out to social media influencers in the art and design world has not been very productive for us historically but we hope to change that as our business grows and our brand becomes more recognized.

3. Any results which really surprised you?


I'm always surprised by the power of putting yourself out there to speak for free at events. When I speak in public I don't try to sell my product or services to people. I just try to explain what we do and why it is valuable. The focus is on making a personal connection with the audience and convincing them to care about what you are doing. After speaking events I always meet a ton of people who are interested in either buying artwork, referring an artist to us or helping us in other ways. It's a really great way to build relationships, network and establish credibility.
Leverage relevant events
As well as with influencers, the type of event is not that important, while its relevance to your PR message and readership is core.

Align your agenda with a particular event type:
internet multi-seller marketplace promotion
For press conferences, you can announce important milestones and focus on local target audience if it applies to your web ecommerce marketplace concept.

In 2015, the Deregulation Act, which confirmed that Londoners could rent their house out for 90 days (the legalization of Airbnb), was adopted.

The virtual ecommerce marketplace floated a house on the Thames River to highlight the event.

It supported the PR activity with a variety of related events including a #FloatingHouseParty where attendees were encouraged to share their impressions over the social media.

Airbnb floating house:
internet multi-seller marketplace
As a result, there were 340 press pieces in the UK, 10,000 new users, more than 200 million social impressions, and 73,500 people to the web shopping mall site, 28,000 of whom were new to Airbnb.
True Experience #5
Marialuisa Curran, MBA, APR
Chief Strategist
Infinite Owl Marketing and Design Studio
1. Do you use PR in your promotions

Yes! PR has evolved into social media and online engagement. Not only should you reach out to writers and online influencers, but you need to create your own content and following on your own social media pages. You can tweet and chat with media and influencers directly from there as well.

2. What PR practices turned out to be successful and what not?


A successful PR practice is to create a dynamic segment idea and pitch it to news producers. Maybe it's graduation season and you have a product or service from a client that can offer advice for money-saving graduation parties, for example, or how best to prepare your graduate for the new road ahead. Create a cool, visual segment pitch and send it off to your favorite producer. Tell them you've not pitched the idea to anyone else yet.

I've used interesting holidays like national ice cream day, for example, to post online and tweet about a product. This can be shared multiple times.

Another great PR practice is to write the article yourself and "sell" the content. If you have 5 tips on XYZ, which happens to plug your product or service, you can offer this article for free to media to publish.

Contests are always successfully picked up if they are timely and relevant - for example, you work with a wedding dress designer and she wants to give away a dress to a financially-strapped bride-to-be.

What doesn't work - boring announcements that offer nothing to the reading public. No one cares about your company announcement. Sometimes appointments are covered since they have friends and colleagues that are interested but for the most part, your product launch is only interesting if you get right to the "what does it do for me today" pitch right away.
Define and promote the content
Research and understand which content is interesting to your readership.
The content types
The press release contains everything that positively resonates with your audience and strengthens your image.

The online mall platform Amazon press release announces that the Internet multi-seller marketplace is planning to create 300 high tech jobs:
virtual shopping mall promotion
Besides, it can be an award or relevant data.

Airbnb brought the survey results to its audience in a partnership with SolarCity, proving that home sharing is more eco-friendly than staying in a hotel whilst traveling, as tourists are likely to consume less water and produce less waste.

Also, personal stories of your web shopping mall team, sellers or buyers can resonate with your readership, like the Airbnb Stories.

User-generated content can boost PR activities through the readership engagement.

During the Airbnb "Is Mankind?" campaign, anyone could share the story of kindness using the #Mankind hashtag.

Create your own content hub: your website, blog, social media channels.

BlaBlaCar blog — the virtual marketplace mall PR-hub:
ecommerce shopping mall promotion
Besides your readership engagement, it will help third-parties (journalists and bloggers) access your PR-assets as well.

Etsy Brand Assets:
online marketplace center promotion
Dealing with negative PR
To mitigate the negative PR, first of all, admit the misstep.

When Airbnb's billboards didn't meet the public endorsement and caused the wave of negative PR, the virtual multi vendor center representative apologized quickly, and the billboards were taken down immediately.

The Airbnb billboards, 2015:
multi vendor shopping mall promotion
Besides, address the actual problem that caused the wave of negativity, instead of just dealing with the bad PR itself.

Amazon tried to improve the negative reputation connected with labor using the online ambassadors, who were dedicated completely to create a positive image of the multi vendor online store regarding the issue. It brought an ambiguous result.

However, when the web ecommerce marketplace rolled out the hiring program that will pre-pay 95% of training for their most-dedicated employees even if they will use that training to pursue a job elsewhere, that worked out much better since it is a real action that is addressing the issue.

Thus, knowing your readership well and creating a PR message that resonates with the audience values is not enough.

Keep in mind that it takes time and a consistent approach to grow a positive PR impact on your business.

Besides, due to the power of word of mouth, the reputation cannot be faked, and it's necessary to stay true regarding your PR message.
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