In 2016 Annual Conference, FPRA Blog, Professional Development, Student Members

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By: Alex DeIorio

As a student, I walked into this field trip unsure of what to expect from it. To me, Home Shopping Network (HSN) was an outdated method of marketing and sales, as I’d previously thought that the company made its sales primarily through television channels that run twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. However, when Brad Bohnert, the OVP of PR and Communications for HSN began speaking, I learned it was much more.

The company was founded in 1977, after the first-ever electronic sale was made by a radio station that had been paid in can openers instead of cash. The radio station had no use for the can openers, so it turned around and sold them to their audience. The next day, they were begging for more. Now, HSN has blossomed into a 66-acre campus in St. Petersburg with more than 6,200 employees in multiple industries. They have a viewing audience of 96 million, and the campus alone is responsible for $4 billion in sales revenue.

HSN has a multitude of marketing methods, limited not just to television but expanding to their website as well as catalogs sent out by their branch called “Cornerstone”. Bohnert told us that 20% of this revenue came from digital sales, as “mobile is their fastest-growing platform”. They also have diversity in the kinds of products sold, with 50% of their products being home goods, 27% beauty, 14% fashion, and 9% jewelry. Bohnert said, “Believe it or not, our most popular item sold this year is called the ‘huggable hanger’.” This product is simply a closet hanger covered in felt to keep clothes from slipping, and they’ve sold more than 750 million of them.

So, how does such a large, diverse company relate to you? The PR Team at HSN is a mere 4 people. While this doesn’t include their social media team, each of these four people provided insight as to how their jobs run smoothly.

As the presentation went on, it became clear that there were three main methods to their PR/Marketing, and most of the time the three were implemented simultaneously:

  • Celebrity Endorsement
  • Company Connections
  • Media Pitches

Celebrity endorsement appeared behind many of HSN’s products. In fact, the support went both ways as HSN helped celebrities market their own products and lines. For example, Serena Williams had her fashion show with assistance from HSN, and it got over 3 billion media impressions– their biggest to date. HSN also invests in supermodels, actors, and performers such as Coco Rocha or Melissa McCarthy, both of whom have their own fashion lines through HSN as well.

Networking with other major companies like Disney, Buzzfeed, or Cosmopolitan has assisted HSN in their PR greatly. HSN’s partnership with Disney through the movie Cinderella allowed them to put their name on products associated with a movie which debuted at $132.5 million globally according to Hollywood Reporter. The team was invited to private showings and viewings with celebrities.

As far as the companies of Buzzfeed and Cosmopolitan, HSN used their tactics of media pitches. They pitch to social as well as business publications, such as HFN. By bringing editors from New York or California to view their products, HSN has pitched products such as Margaritaville Desksides to companies who have in turn used their social media to reach a broader scope of consumers.

As Bohnert closed, he explained that many of their full-time employees began as interns with HSN. He directed us to a website (http://www.hsn.com/careers) where we could look for open internships with the company. They really emphasized that working at HSN is “fun!” And from what we gained from our tour, it definitely seemed so.

View additional photos from the field trip at https://www.flickr.com/gp/fpra/08MS2j 

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