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. Many distributors in the industry started off consuming the products they sell, and there is nothing wrong with that practice. Yet, that personal consumption of the product 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 or services. Robust retail programs benefit the company and distributor—PR can create demand and thus create a larger market for distributors to sell products and services and grow their organizations, which increases the revenues of the companies they represent.
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, and 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 or 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 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 on how to create, enhance, or nurture your company’s direct selling PR efforts. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the Vemma case, PR programs can help create product or service demand as well as establish, enhance, and improve a company’s reputation, all of which benefit the industry as a whole.