Polishing Futon Image - A New York Media Event
Futon Media Backgrounder
When the Futon Association International hired Mona Meyer McGrath & Gavin (now Shandwick, Inc.) two years ago expectations for making futon a household word were high. The FAI Board saw an opportunity to hire a world class PR firm that was interested in futon furnishings and was also willing to work with tight budgets and a team of entrepreneurs who had full time commitments to their own futon businesses and only spare time for anything else. The first two years of the program have been a major success. We saw stories on futon furniture in hundreds of newspapers across the country and even several stories in national consumer magazines like Better Homes, Woman's Day, Woman's Day Decorating Ideas, Bedrooms and Baths (published by Country Decorating Ideas) and Home writing about futons. All told, the program's first two years garnered over 33.3 million impressions. With this increased attention pushing the visibility envelope open, the trade media also gave futon furniture a closer look. This year major stories on the futon industry appeared in both HFN and Furniture Today.
Of course all this attention wasn't due to the PR effort alone. Sales of futon furniture, now a legitimate home furnishings category, have made a quantum leap in the last three years. Sales within the futon category's supply side have seen twenty to forty percent growth during this time. Mass merchants now carry the futon category and traditional home furnishings stores are beginning to see the light too. All this activity has helped make the futon category more visible.
Futon Key Messages
Futon specialists and waterbed stores have known for some time that futon furniture is a winner, offering real value to consumers looking for an alternative to the traditional sofa bed. But all this growth has come with its own set of problems. Many new futon retailers have taken a low-end, promotional approach to the futon category, an approach this publication and many industry leaders see as destructive to long term viability. The issue of the day is, "How do we keep the curve moving up and at the same time convince consumers that futon furniture is high in quality and value?," and for the futon Association, "How do we get direct impact for our members in a world where all boats rise with the tide?"
The answer to both questions is public or media relations. PR firms use their contacts with editors (the people who write newspaper and magazine stories and articles) to get the futon word out for their clients. Even the best story and article writers need news and trend information from the industries they cover. The PR firm helps them get that information. Being writers themselves, the PR account people understand what the editors are going through. The symbiotic nature of the relationship helps wed the client's story to the editor's need to inform and educate subscribers of their publication.
These editors are a very busy lot. Deadlines are a constant, in a futon industry where news is hot for an hour and trends are born and then die a few months later. The editors, with limited time in a very busy world, use the PR firms as a source for hot news and information. The better and more reliable the PR firm the better the chance for a working relationship with an editor. Since a multitude of consumer magazine offices are in Manhattan it seemed logical to go there for a media reception. But why PR anyway?