The Three Retail Influencers You Should Connect with in NYC (and How to Do It!)

By Andrew Petro

The retail industry is undergoing a major evolution. Online shopping continues to grow in popularity, complacent retailers continue to shut their doors and Amazon continues to redefine consumer expectations across the board.

But retailers aren’t the only ones undergoing radical change. The reporters who cover these trends are, too. Newsrooms are shrinking, reporters cover more beats or single beats for shorter periods of time, and social media is transforming the way that publications break stories and receive tips from PR pros like me and you.

With the holidays quickly approaching and NRF 2020 on the horizon, there’s a great chance your retail client’s CEO or subject matter expert will take a trip to the Big Apple in the next three months. And although NYC is home to many retail influencers, they’re all getting bombarded with the same pitches to meet up with so and so at XYZ company to discuss the next big thing in retail. To capitalize on your trip, you’ll need to be creative in your media outreach – or risk falling to the bottom of your favorite reporter’s inbox.

For instance, every journalist has different preferences for how they work with PR pros. Some like all the details upfront, some like a 50-word blurb. Some like attachments included, some will close an email if there’s as much as a link – let alone a full press release. These elements are largely out of your control, unless they’ve published their preferences online or you have a personal relationship. What you can focus on is who you’re reaching out to and the substance of your pitch.

Here are three retail influencers you should connect with while you’re in town and the best ways to reach them:

Lauren Thomas, retail reporter at CNBC

Twitter handle: @laurenthomas

Lauren is a reporter for CNBC based in New York where she covers retail and its retail real estate. She joined in 2017 after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has quickly made a name for herself. A power user of social media, she was named the No. 1 retail voice on LinkedIn in 2018

Best ways to work with her:

  • Organically engage with her outside of your email pitch; try “liking” her Tweets or commenting on her LinkedIn posts with a unique perspective. This isn’t the place for an unsolicited pitch but can be a good relationship builder.
  • Offer her unique data she can’t find anywhere else; this can be in the form of a survey or propriety data from your company’s platform. Lauren is notorious for using company-owned data, especially around the holidays.

Melissa Fares, retail reporter at Reuters

Twitter handle: @faresmelissa

Melissa covers the world of retail, fashion and shopping. While Melissa has been with Reuters for over four years, she recently took on the retail beat starting in March 2018. Before Reuters, she attended Columbia Journalism School.

Best ways to work with her:

Similar to most reporters, Melissa is always interested in hearing from retailers – not only the well-known retailers, but also emerging retailers with an interesting, relevant and global story to tell.  Customer requests are never easy, so if they’re not open to being quoted publicly, try inviting Melissa to attend a customer-driven networking event. Especially around events like NRF, when many retailers are in one place, this can be a low-pressure way to introduce media to your retail customers.

Not all reporters like getting phone calls from PR people, but Melissa is one of the few that is open to it. Whether it’s an email or a phone call, she wants to be connected with people who can help her form a meaningful story that hasn’t been told.

Tonya Garcia, news editor and reporter at MarketWatch

Twitter handle: @tgarcianyc

Tonya Garcia is a MarketWatch reporter covering retail and consumer-oriented companies. She is one of the best in the business at cranking out the latest news before anyone else and regularly publishes 5+ articles per day. 

Best ways to work with her:

  • Speed is of the essence. Tonya regularly accepts issues response commentary, but you need to work on her deadlines, which come and go quicker than most.
  • Like Lauren, Tonya is also a power user of social media. If you respond to her Tweets with unique insights, she’ll be likely to recognize your name when it comes through her inbox. One warning though: Your GIF game will never match hers

The retail media landscape is constantly changing and it’s no longer enough to engage reporters with a simple email or phone call. If you want to get your client on their radar this holiday season or during an upcoming trip to NYC, consider starting the conversation on social. While not all reporters are open to this kind of interaction, the above reporters welcome it. If done right, it can be the first step to a mutually-beneficial relationship.