THE PR IMPERATIVE POST-VEMMA
Date: November 2, 2015
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Originally posted on The World of Direct Selling
VIEW ON THE WORLD OF DIRECT SELLING

As the industry comes to terms with the new questions that the Vemma case raises, lawyers and the DSA are reviewing and updating policies that have driven the industry for years. One of the primary themes in the decision: retail sales and its definition.

At the recent U.S. DSA Global Summit, Monica Vaca of the Federal Trade Commission Marketing Practices Division, talked about the current regulatory conversation of direct selling companies need to meet a demand in the market, versus the selling of a product or service purely for reward or some form of compensation. And while personal consumption remains neutrally in the middle of the discussion for now, the point was made that personal consumption cannot be an “excuse” for lack of pure retail sales.

From a public relations functional perspective, the directive is clear – create a greater demand for company product and services. Robust retail programs benefit the company and Distributor – PR can create demand, and thus create a larger market for Distributors to sell product/services and grow their organizations, which increases the revenues of the Companies they represent.

This requires direct selling organizations to continue to nourish relationships with Distributors as well as build relationships with the general public. Those relationships are different and need to be mutually beneficial, so that Distributors experience the rewards of the outreach. The PR needed goes beyond a marketing function, it includes the need for strong corporate communications within direct selling companies. More details about corporate communications is outlined in the May issue of Direct Selling News.

So what does PR mean in terms of a retail program, generally? Very generally, it means creating ‘buzz’ through communication channels, online and off. For specific products or services that PR includes traditional media relations work – publication reviews, awards, articles, events around the products or services, as well as influencer mentions and accolades.

For the products to have credibility, much of that goes back to the company and its credibility. Look into a PR corporate reputation program that touts the company as innovative in some respect, a product/service differentiator, its executives as leaders in various areas of their lives, and the company as a responsible corporate entity. Basically, if your company is “a best kept secret”, then it needs to stop being a secret.

Just as important, these initiatives will yield results that will become valuable tools for Distributors and that can help them build their business. Train them in how to effectively use corporate and product PR, and guide them in PR fundamentals and corporate policies in generating PR for their distributorships.

Each company’s culture will determine the specifics of these programs, as well as if the company is publicly traded, privately held or preparing for an IPO. Hopefully, the general categories outlined above can spark some initial thoughts in how to create, enhance or nurture your company’s PR efforts. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the Vemma case, PR programs can help create product/service demand as well as establish, enhance and/or improve a company’s reputation, all of which benefit the industry as a whole.

Bobbie Wasserman

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