Over the last several years, the mall industry has been under scrutiny, with e-commerce sales on the rise and consumers looking for an evolved shopping experience. But PREIT – a real estate investment trust that owns and operates 23 million square feet of retail space – was undergoing a major transformation to strengthen its portfolio, and in doing so, aimed to change the conversation and demonstrate that its malls, and the industry at large, are still thriving.
PREIT set forth an ambitious plan to redefine the company and reshape its portfolio, inclusive of an aggressive asset disposition program, redevelopment strategy and remerchandising initiatives. As the company marked a key milestone in a multimillion-dollar reinvestment program, it needed to quickly make its mark in the media and turned to Brownstein Group for rapid turnaround of support. Within hours of engaging, BG communicated the results of the ambitious strategy and helped manage PREIT’s reputation in a media environment ripe with a negative attitude toward the mall industry.
BG looked to:
- Demonstrate the effectiveness and success of PREIT’s disposition program and its strengthened portfolio
- Position PREIT as an industry-wide leader in strategic portfolio reshaping via asset dispositions
- Debunk the industry myth of the decline of malls
Shifting the Narrative
BG led a robust media relations program focused on national and regional business media, as well as real estate and retail trades, to announce PREIT’s asset sales and illustrate the company’s financial successes. In 72 hours, BG secured 19 pieces of coverage, with 89 percent of articles featuring PREIT in the headline and a 100 percent positive skew. Highlights included an article in Wall Street Journal’s “Property Report” in both print and online, as well as the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s business section.
Since this announcement, PREIT has sold three additional properties – completing its disposition program – and has announced multiple redevelopment projects and remerchandising initiatives supported by the capital from property sales. BG has supported PREIT with critical company milestones, securing more than 200 articles with a 96 percent positive skew in a 12-month period. As malls continue to battle the perception of a weakening industry, BG and PREIT have made significant strides to help change the conversation.
Turning Challenges into Opportunities
Black Friday, the mall industry’s busiest day of the year, also represented another opportunity for PREIT to shift the industry narrative. For the past few years, the retail industry has received negative backlash for opening stores on Thanksgiving and even staying open into Black Friday, taking employees away from their family and friends on the holiday. Given criticism from the media and the public, many malls and retailers have taken a stand against opening on Thanksgiving, yet others have remained open due to consumer demand for early holiday shopping.
In fall of 2016, PREIT made the decision to open some of its malls and close others for the first time – balancing mall and retail associates’ time with shopper demand and retail tenants’ operating decisions. The company turned to BG to support its message in a challenging media environment to:
- Highlight PREIT’s balanced approach to Thanksgiving retail
- Promote PREIT’s positioning as unique to the industry, with an overall positive impact for its investors, tenants and shoppers
Headlining the Holidays
BG strategically supported PREIT’s positioning with focused messaging and a reactive response, securing favorable attention in both regional and trade media. Yet the biggest opportunity to turn this issue into a positive story occurred through national broadcast response.
Producers from The TODAY Show and NBC Nightly News reached out to BG, looking for a human-interest story of a retail associate who would not work the holiday for the first time in many years. Within hours, BG turned an opportunity into multiple stories – identifying an associate at a local PREIT mall; organizing interviews; and sharing additional content with producers.
In less than two days, producers received all of the content they needed, and the swift response paid off. NBC Nightly News featured two segments the eve before Thanksgiving and on the holiday; and The TODAY Show aired a segment on Thanksgiving morning. The timely stories shone a positive light on PREIT and its mall right before the busiest retail season of the year. Even greater, they helped raise PREIT’s position to the national level, elevating the company’s strategy and reputation in the retail marketplace to new heights.