Winning PR stories

Sweeney PR elevates awareness for an established brand and wins a Bulldog Silver

Established retailer Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores has a loyal and engaged following, but the company realized it had significant opportunity to increase media coverage in key markets as a way to continue growing its brand. The retailer, a current client of Sweeney, challenged the agency to develop and implement a strategy to secure local market TV news coverage in key locations where Jo-Ann had brick and mortar stores.

Read on to see how Sweeney accomplished these objectives and more—and earned a Silver Award in the “Best Campaign Under $50,000” category in Bulldog Reporter’s 2016 Media Relations Awards.

The Challenge: Jo-Ann established its campaign objectives,. and charged Sweeney with achieving these goals:

  • Continue to build awareness for Jo-Ann as the leading inspirations destination for crafting, DIY projects, home decor and holiday entertaining.
  • Secure coverage in local markets across the country with a focus on key cities.

The Strategy: Sweeney determined the best campaign approach was to target local morning/news entertainment shows, and use Jo-Ann local talent to conduct timely/seasonal “how to” DIY/crafting segments on-air featuring products available at the local Jo-Ann store.

The first critical step in conducting a successful campaign was developing a solid, comprehensive media database. Sweeney did not rely heavily on its media database provider because TV news contacts tend to be outdated. Instead, using the priority markets from Jo-Ann, they built a custom database ground up targeting morning show producers, assistant producers and weekend producers.

“One of the biggest challenges was wrapping our arms around a massive media database comprised of thousands of contacts and outlets across the country,” says Rebecca Wrenn, Sweeney team member. “We did not rely on a media database program alone as TV news contacts tend to be outdated in these systems. The media database was truly a team effort that required extensive research of our target outlets and contacts. It was critical we started with a solid media database that was 100 percent accurate from the outset.”

The Execution: The firm strategically developed and distributed pitches featuring timely/seasonal crafting/DIY projects that could be demonstrated on-air in 2-5 minutes—for example, kids’ summer crafting projects, tailgating entertaining ideas, fall décor, make-it-yourself holiday gifts and New Year’s Eve entertaining ideas. The team broke through the media email clutter by crafting simple and direct subject lines (for example, “Fall & Halloween: On-Air Crafting Demo Opportunities), distributing the pitches in the evening to target morning show producers when they first arrived at work, and crafting short and simple pitches with a few project ideas for the show.

The team linked to 3-5 projects on Jo-Ann’s website, allowing media to quickly view a number of timely/seasonal projects, and select a project that worked best for their viewers. The email pitches were extremely well received, and Sweeney immediately secured responses from producers within 24 hours of the first outreach.

“We were primarily working with TV news producers, and the cornerstone of this campaign was building the relationships,” Leah Evanovich, Sweeney team member explains. “We achieved this through providing high-quality segment ideas, with visually engaging crafts/DIY projects and Jo-Ann spokespersons who were well-trained for TV. We also maintained contact by answering all producer emails as quickly as possible – within 30 minutes. Our follow-up was also personalized and targeted, contacting producers through our personal emails rather than using a media database program with timely, seasonal, trendy ideas.”

Sample Pitch: Here’s an example of Sweeney’s original outreach efforts:

SUBJECT: New Year’s Party Prep Segment


From spending a romantic night at home to a big, glitzy bash, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores is here to help your viewers ring in the new year with some easy party preparation ideas.

A Jo-Ann crafting expert is available to conduct on-air demonstrations for New Year’s party projects, including:

Or if you have another on-air crafting demonstration need, we’re happy to discuss! Please contact me at XXX to coordinate an on-air appearance.

We look forward to hearing from you.

“Media relations is built around relationships—this means diligently demonstrating value and providing quality, timely information to the media,” Evanovich offers. “For Sweeney, this meant examining the producers’ needs and crafting personalized solutions as quickly as possible. In a few cases, a producer requested a specific crafting segment within a few days – like DIY Halloween costumes—and we made it happen.”

Once on-air appearance requests were received, Sweeney immediately coordinated coverage opportunities with the stations and Jo-Ann corporate offices. The coordination included providing team members with specific directions about the show appearances (time, location, special instructions), providing producers with any information they requested and Jo-Ann providing a short media training to their team members.

As Jo-Ann team members started to appear on TV news shows, Sweeney strategically followed up with producers to build relationships and secure additional segments. Additionally, producers began reaching out to the agency to secure monthly opportunities with Jo-Ann local team members.

“The primary obstacle was taking a universal media approach to a creating a TV how to segment, and tailoring it to unique details of the specific market, the media outlet and the craft or project being presented,” says Wrenn. “We could not simply push the same how to segment for every market—we ensured we provided a detailed and unique presentation for every request.”

Sweeney team holding their award

The Results: The initial campaign ran from August 2015 through the end of December—but producers continued to contact Sweeney and request additional appearances, extending the campaign into 2016. Also, based on the success, the client requested that the team continue the campaign focusing on timely opportunities throughout the year (e.g. Valentine’s Day, National Craft Month, etc.).

“The producers we established relationships with at the outset of the campaign accounted for a significant number of impressions as the campaign continued,” Evanovich relates. “Once the TV producers knew they could trust us to deliver on what we said we would provide, they continued to request more TV segments. Multiple TV stations have even committed to ongoing monthly TV segments with Jo-Ann.”
The metrics used to gauge the campaign success were the total number of segments secured, total number of markets where coverage was secured and impressions. The campaign garnered 108 on-air appearances in 34 markets, generating nearly 29.5 million impressions.

“We far surpassed our initial goals! In December alone, we doubled the number of segments and impressions we had originally established,” Evanovich says. “Our original goal for December was to secure 20 segments. We completed 40 for a total of 11,899,882 impressions. And the numbers keep growing as we continue with the campaign.”

Key Takeaways: Sweeney identifies some key lessons learned during this effort that they can apply to future media relations campaigns—and that you can you can learn from, too:

  • The media requires individual attention and customization to their needs. This helps build relationships moving forward—establishing Jo-Ann as a go-to resource for their needs in this specific market.
  • Tracking results helps gauge what’s effective and what’s not—and how to improve campaigns moving forward.
  • Continuous updating of the media database helps take an already solid foundation and creates an active resource that evolves as much as and as fast as the media does.

Secrets of Success: Team Sweeney offers the following tips that helped to drive this campaign—and demonstrates how Sweeney and its client won a Silver in Bulldog’s 2016 Media Relations Awards:

  • Everything starts with your media database. “Don’t solely rely on database programs—do manual searches to ensure you have the most accurate and up-to-date contacts!”
  • Quick, efficient communication is key with producers. “The media appreciates fast responses and updates. For example, while we confirmed schedules with our crafters, we made sure to touch base with the producers and let them know we would have an answer for them in X number of days.”
  • Take every opportunity to build the relationship. “Establishing the initial contact is sometimes the most difficult part; once that’s done, be helpful, add value and stay in touch as it becomes relevant. After each segment, we followed up with the producer thanking them. We also kept them updated with new craft ideas and projects for each holiday and season.”
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