Millennials and Marketing

The most non-traditional generation so far, millennials (young adults who are currently between the ages of 18 and 34) offer an annual buying power of $200 billion, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. If that’s not enough to get a marketer’s attention, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that millennials are also a massive generation with a population size of 83.1 million, surpassing even the baby boomers.

While there are many common misconceptions about the group—mainly that they are single, narcissistic, “selfie-lovers”—they are a diverse group that requires a tailored marketing approach. Quite simply, not understanding them, not finding ways to be relevant or engaging to them, and not adapting to their new expectations are the easiest ways for a brand to fail. The real challenge in this is figuring out how exactly to do it. At the most basic level, here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re trying to grow your brand among millennials.

Be Authentic

The word “authentic” has become a general buzzword when it comes to millennial marketing; however, it is still worth emphasizing its real value and power. Millennials love content that was crafted with their best interests in mind rather than with the aim to open up their wallets. They are absolutely resistant to traditional advertising in all its forms and shapes. Forget call-to-actions focused on buying; instead, take the longer route to present consistent value, empower them and gauge their interest. At the end of the day, it’s the transparent ad campaigns that win.

Be Social

Millennials are focused on solving real life problems through online research, both in search and social media. According to a study by Market Strategies International, millennials are about three times more likely than other generations to reference social media networks when making purchasing decisions.

This means your online (and particularly mobile) presence simply needs to rock. And you can’t just “be” on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. You need to use these platforms effectively and truly be engaging. Brands that can be relevant and offer simple solutions to real problems are the ones who will come ahead with this generation.

Earning a millennial’s attention on social media means creating the impression that each consumer is special. There’s a number of ways that your company can do so: offer special discounts and loyalty programs to social media fans, run creative contests or (perhaps most importantly) curate on-brand, user-generated content. Those tactics should seem pretty obvious, and hopefully you’ve tried them in the past, but find ways to connect with Millennials through social media in ways that feel authentic (for reasons discussed above) and really make sense given your brand’s personality.

Be Mobile

We are increasingly living on our smartphones–catching up on emails, tapping social networks and sharing everyday events on the go. According to a Nielsen study, 85 percent of millennials in the U.S. own smartphones, so it’s essential when you are targeting this generation to have a strong mobile game plan.

To excel at mobile marketing, first consider the basics. Are your landing pages optimized for mobile? Are they too graphics-intensive, making load times longer with slower connections? Is your call to action clear, even on a smaller screen? After you’ve done these things, it’s time to get creative.

I often recommend influencer marketing campaigns to my clients who are trying to reach millennials because they often form an opinion or make a positive judgment about a product or brand based on the opinions of those they follow on social media. We know that millennials no longer trust traditional forms of advertising, yet they are particularly prone to expert and peer opinions on products, so start working with online influencers (bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers) to build a solid base of brand evangelists.

Always remember that winning the minds of millennials—and their dollars—happens through their hearts. Marketing to this generation doesn’t have to be hard. Remember to be authentic in your communications, be thoughtful with your social media, and have a strong mobile marketing strategy. And, if you’re not completely confident in your millennial strategy, I suggest you find a marketing-savvy millennial and start asking the right questions.

Don’t Just Get PR, Leverage It

Be honest with yourself… You’ve dreamed (at least once in your life) that “if only my product or company could get on the TODAY Show, or Ellen, then we’d be really make it big.”

You need that confidence, plus a good dose of passion and hard work to make that kind of dream a reality. But what you don’t need is that one big media hit.

For my team, it’s more important that our clients win coverage across a variety of media that reach their target audiences over an on-going, consistent period of time. You don’t need one media hit, you need one a week or one a month.

And perhaps even more important than the press coverage itself is how you leverage it after the fact. The day’s news is just that—day’s news. Once your segment airs, it’s over and done. Magazines have the longest shelf life and certainly major online media coverage can live online for eternity, referring traffic to your site. But many times, that big moment in the spotlight can feel over before it even starts.

So, it’s really important to think about how you use your press coverage to extend attention on your brand. You want the right set of eyes seeing that winning article, or watching the informative segment featuring you.

I’ll give you a few examples of how to leverage a media win that has worked well for our clients in the past.

Print Coverage

If you’re featured in a major magazine or newspaper, contact the publisher and make a bulk order. If you’re nice enough, you might even get the magazines for free. What will they do with 100 extra copies of an outdated issue anyway? Bookmark the page with a personalized note and maybe a quick sales sheet and snail mail it to key accounts, distributors and/or retailers. Let them know that as a manufacturer, you’re holding up your end of the deal by increasing consumer demand. It’s also a great excuse to be in front of those key individuals.

TV Coverage

It’s never a good idea to promote a future live TV appearance, for example in an e-blast or on social media. TV can be unpredictable and it’s not certain if you’ll get cut at the last minute due to breaking news. That said, once your segment airs, take to Twitter. That’s usually the first place viewers go to talk about what they’re watching. Respond to everyone and direct them to the appropriate page on your site to buy.

Online Coverage

Any online hit should be shared, shared, shared. Design an e-blast for customers around the article, craft social media messages to promote the coverage on your own platforms and work with the media outlet itself (and even complimentary outlets on social media) to see if they’re willing to share on their end as well.


Major attention at a national level would give your local media a timely reason to cover your story and news peg. Start with your biggest local media outlet and see if they bite on your pitch.

Capture Your Coverage

Whether it’s gathering clips for an upcoming presentation or snapshots of the media logos where you’ve been featured, the ongoing accumulation of your media wins can provide a shining example of how your brand is being received by the public. This can help you leverage your success and attractiveness to other buyers and top-level media. It’s also smart to have an ongoing record of coverage earned so you can quickly identify and diversify additional outlets to pursue.

A regular PR program will assist in building general awareness of your product or brand. The visibility from such a campaign can make your company look more established and larger than it is, something that can assist you in securing funding and customers as well as partnerships. Best of luck pitching, earning and leveraging that valuable media coverage.

How to Know If You’re Ready for PR

Your big launch is exciting, and you can’t wait for the world to hear all about your new innovation, this pet industry game-changer and a revolutionary new way to improve life with our pets.

Or, perhaps you’re not super new, but are starting to get interest from retailers and they are asking you: “So what marketing and PR are you going to be doing to drive customers into my store, and ultimately buy your product?”

Whatever the reason, it’s great that you’re thinking about PR, and how it can be effective for your business. But, before you jump in head first, ask yourself a few initial questions.

Am I 100 percent confident in my brand positioning and messaging?

Your company’s narrative must be tight, and it must prove how you are different from and better than any competitor. You should be able to deliver it on command, in an authentic, concise and memorable way.

Do I look the part?

You could win the interest of the biggest national magazine out there, but if you don’t have an image, or even better, a variety of images, that are high quality and to the specs they need for publication immediately available, you’re cut.

Opportunity missed.

It’s so important to invest in quality photography. This also goes for a live, functioning website with information on where the product can be sold.

Do I have both money and time in the bank?

If you’re enlisting the help of an agency, you will most likely need a budget of about $3,000 to $7,000 per month depending on the PR pro or firm you hire. And, just because you turn on the PR hose doesn’t mean big coverage will start tomorrow.

It can take up to two months to start seeing media placements, so plan product launches accordingly. Give yourself enough time to formulate a comprehensive strategy.

There’s also a chicken and the egg game to consider here.

On one hand, you have retailers asking what you’re doing to drive customers into their store. So, you start a PR campaign. However, if your distribution is weak, well then earning media coverage might look great and sound exciting, but if it’s not selling products because they aren’t in stores, then what’s the point?

My friend, John Cullen, principal of Bulldog Marketing & Sales, and I talk about this scenario often.

“I help my clients secure distributors, increase sales first, and then encourage PR campaigns to build brand awareness among the end consumer,” Cullen said.

PR is really one part of a bigger communications strategy, and while it’s often the most cost-effective, or seemingly exciting option, in order for it to work best, you have to be ready.

So You’ve Got a Media Interview Confirmed, Now What?


Your internal PR efforts, or outstanding PR agency, booked you a media opportunity that will allow you to promote your products, services, event or campaign.

Maybe it’s a live, on-stage interview with Diane Sawyer, a taped NPR phone interview, or a more casual conversation at an industry trade show with one of the Pet Age editors, you’ll want to ensure you’re prepared and ready to inform and impress, to get the most out of the opportunity for your business.

Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:

Know the Reporter’s Goal: Ask what the focus and scope of the interview will be, however don’t ask what specific questions will be asked- that’s a journalism faux pas and it’s important to be as considerate as possible when working with the media.

Plan Ahead: Think about the most logical questions that you expect to be asked during the interview, and practice your answers, preferably in front of a mirror, standing.

Sometimes you may not realize that when you watch yourself, you need to make eye contact or smile more, looking in the mirror or even taping yourself will help.

Avoid Jargon: Keep your responses simple, in easy-to-understand language that will be quickly understood by the reporter and audience.

Not everyone knows or uses the same industry lingo that you do, so it’s important to make sure your points can be well received.

Make a Power Statement: You must have one key talking point that you most want to emphasize during the interview. Know it, practice it and find a way to insert it during your interview, perhaps via bridging language.

Google Bridging Language: Politicians are famous for avoiding an unwanted reporter question, and quickly transitioning into a topic on their own agenda. They do it with bridging language, so find some phrases that feel most natural and conversational to you, and practice.

Use Facts and Specifics: Provide exact dates, figures, statistics and names if it adds value to your story, but again try not to get overly technical because you may have limited time.

Repeat Your Key Messages: Practice two or three ways to make the same point, but by saying them differently.

The most you, naturally, repeat yourself, the higher your chances are that the reporter will pick up on your message, and most importantly use that comment in their final story.

Don’t Sound Like a Commercial: You’re not filming an advertisement. Don’t sell the reporter, just tell them your story and answer their questions as thoughtfully as you can.

Appearing too sensational or sales-driven limits your chances for coverage and potential follow up interviews with the publication.

Be Honest: If you don’t know the answer, or aren’t the best person to comment on a particular question, say so.

The reporter wants to tell the most accurate story possible, and will appreciate your honesty.

Be Positive: Negative statements tend to reflect poorly on you. Keep the interview upbeat, and focus on your personal/company’s strengths, not, for example, your competitors’ weaknesses.

Be Cooperative and Courteous: Manners matter. Thank the reporter for their time after the interview.

If you said you’d get back to them with more information or supporting materials, do it. And, always respect their deadline.

Christmas in July

Christmas in July is real. Many editors are already working on their holiday gift guides, which are keeping us busy at the agency. Here are some things to keep in mind if your pitching program is DIY:

  • Think about the timing of your pitch. Different media outlets have different lead-times, so think about the timing of your distributions. A print magazine takes more time to produce, and hit the store shelves compared to an online media outlet.
  • Don’t pitch media until you’re ready. Before you click send- double check that your pitch is perfectly packaged, and you’ve anticipated and addressed any questions that may be asked during follow up. Make it as conscience and easy as possible for the reporter to review.
  • Meet deadlines. A reporter’s deadline needs to be your deadline too. If they need a high-res image, or product sample- make sure it’s scheduled to arrive on or before the requested date.
  • Follow up, but don’t inundate anyone.
  • Include “holiday gift guide” in your subject line, but add something interesting that is unique to your product or category such as celebrity fan, eco-friendly, etc.

If you have any questions about holiday gift guide pitching or media relations in general, just shoot me an email directly at



Retailers Can Profit From Brand Power

If only we lived in a magical place where shelf space was unlimited and inventory budgets didn’t exist. A retail dream.

Now, wake up.

Unfortunately in the retail world, space is limited, very limited, and only allows for the real ‘winners’ to secure a piece of that coveted shelf space real estate.

As a retailer, you’re doing your best to select only the top, most sellable, pet products for your store. But, with increasing competition in the marketplace, it can be difficult to know which brand is not just the best for your customers’ needs, but is also going to produce real sales results for your store.

One important aspect that retailers should not dismiss when selecting inventory is the public relations efforts of their merchandisers. In some respects, a company’s commitment to ongoing promotion efforts ranks just as important as their other sales efforts, as it should.

Seldom now does a product or company attribute the majority of their success to retail placement alone. It’s the buzz, the need and the attention generated that helps drive customers to stores.

Start Asking Questions

Now more than ever, you need to be asking manufacturers about their public relations strategy.

Some beneficial questions include: What are you doing to build the power of your brand in the eyes of the end consumer? How are you interacting with your audiences online, through traditional media? What about any recent media coverage successes?

Basically, what are you doing as a company to position your brand and products above the competition, and how will that plan evolve over the next year?

If the brand is savvy, they should have their marketing and public relations efforts outlined to you in their sales presentation, answering these questions before you even have to ask.

If you’re not immediately satisfied with their answers, go ask their top three to five competitors the exact same questions.
While this may seem like added work or measures to take, in the end, I’m confident that your research will help you arrive at the best brand, and product lines, to attract customers to your business.

At the same time, those manufacturers who are truly committed to building their brand awareness, and implementing real public relations and marketing strategies deserve your attention, support and business.

Their investment in their own company ultimately is an investment in your business as well. It’s a 360-degree approach. We’re all working towards a common end goal, and our collective efforts will produce the very best results.

Kerry Sutherland is the principal of K. Sutherland PR, a boutique public relations, social media and branding agency specializing in the pet industry. With offices in Irvine, Calif. and Reno, Nev., Kerry and her team produce innovative and personalized campaigns for pet brands to help their clients stand out in a cluttered market, and grow business. Contact her directly at or visit

Pinterest for Busine$$

The concept behind Pinterest- a virtual pinboard for storing images and their accompanying links- is so simple, and has taken off to become one of the most popular social networking sites on the Internet. In fact, some sites are seeing more referral traffic (and more sales) from Pinterest than even YouTube, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn in some cases.

Last month, Pinterest formally announced the launch of Pinterest for Business. Now, businesses can create commercial accounts on the social networking site with a new terms of service announced for companies and conversion features available for members with existing accounts- acknowledging cheekily by the site in the new terms stating, “If your boss is making you use Pinterest, you need to set up a business account.”

 So, I want to know- do you have a Pinterest strategy, or will you create an account for your company?

Thanks for stopping by, and happy pinning!

Kerry Sutherland

“That’s a Nice Looking Media Kit You Got Right There.”

As you plan for the New Year ahead, it’s likely that a trade show or two (or forty) will make its way onto your 2013 calendar.  Trade shows can be a wonderful place to introduce new announcements about your company, debut a new product, and they allow your brand to be in a concentrated presence of industry and mainstream media.

While you may be stationed at your booth, and frankly, unable to personally engage with the media; a strong, informative media kit can extend your brand’s presence and increase the potential for media interest…if done right.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make a good first impression when preparing for your next show.

  • Be sure to have a clearly identifiable label at the front of your kit. If your company has a vague name- clarify what your product is front and center. Your media kit will not be the only one in the pressroom; in fact, it will probably be one of thousands so it’s important to be distinguishable. This doesn’t mean you need to max your budget on light up, music playing, sequined kits (although that would be awesome). However, an easily identifiable and informative kit….is where it’s at.
  • Identify and explain what your company does, what products you are showing, with photos, and what its place is in the industry. You may think people know who you are, but a brief statement saying who you are and where you want to be will make it that much more informative for the press.
  • Include NEWS! More times than not, media attend trade shows to see and report on “what’s new.” So, tell them! Find a news angle and use it! Maybe you aren’t debuting a new product this year, but your product last year sold amazing, or you are highlighting an important feature of your product that the press may not know about- find something newsworthy and worth mention in the press.
  • Tell them where you are. Any opportunity to make your booth easy to locate, the better. Put your booth number front and center, try to identify other location points to include as well, e.g. “Booth 3342 along the wall near the south entrance.” Many times you can view the show floor map prior to the show so you can tailor press materials accordingly.
  • Update your releases for each show! A generic press release appears lazy and you may find niche opportunities at different shoes. Update your press releases accordingly.
  • And remember, a press kit…is for the press. Press materials and other company literature are not the same. Avoid including past articles, advertising or direct mail samples and heavily data-driven sales sheets and focus on developing backgrounders and editorial-friendly materials. Save the sales sheets for the distributors and the ads for the consumers.

If dealing with the media seems like something you have no time or interest in handling on your own, consider the help of a PR firm to ensure your press kits are ready for show time!

Cheers to the 2013 trade show season! I’m sure I’ll see you around!


5 PR Resolutions to Keep in 2013

Welcome to Mark Your Territory! I’m so happy you’re here, and I look forward to sharing my weekly pet industry and PR advice, as well as inspiration, dos and don’ts, and tips you can use to apply to your own marketing strategies. My goal is to provide industry insight on how to set your company apart, share what select companies are doing to make their mark in the public, and keep you informed on what’s currently trending.

I encourage your comments, and am happy to answer your questions; please feel free to contact me directly if there’s a specific topic you’d like me to cover in a future post.

I thought I’d kick-off this new blog and welcome in the New Year with a few resolutions…


5 PR Resolutions to Keep in 2013…

  1. Make time to seriously evaluate your current image. Examine your current communications channels, ask your customers how they heard about you, monitor your reputation online, and determine which strategies are working for you… and which are not, so that you can better invest your budget and time in the future.
  2. Start a plan. As you know, nothing gets accomplished without a plan. Evaluate your marketing strengths and your weaknesses, and formulate a plan that will help you achieve your goals.
  3. Learn something new each month about public relations. Know which publications, reporters and pet industry experts are the best fit for your brand, and why. Ask yourself how often (if at all) you’ve been interviewed for a story or featured in the press. Brainstorm new ways to earn media attention for your business and how to most effectively execute those campaigns. Evaluate your social media presence and event strategies to ensure you’re capitalizing on every PR opportunity. Consider new ways to engage your staff and get them involved in your overall communications strategies.
  4. Know Your Competition. All of this self-discovery and reflection will pay off for you, but you’ve got to know what your competitors are doing and why so that you can set yourself apart and more importantly… above the rest.
  5. Call someone. You’ll go further with sound advice from someone who has already tackled these issues, and that has familiarity with the pet industry. Contact a coach or mentor, start a mastermind group, or call me directly. I’d be happy to have an honest conversion with you about your brand’s image, strengths, challenges, the nuances within the pet industry, or any other questions you have.


Wishing you a very happy and prosperous New Year,

Kerry Sutherland,


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