Winning Over a Hostile Market with Smart PR

There is a very strange neighborhood in Brooklyn named Williamsburg. It’s sort of like the old East Village was plunked down over the river in an industrial area sandwiched between one of America’s largest communities of Hasidic Jews to the south and Polish immigrants to the north. And then there’s the thriving Latino community in the middle and the old Italian community just to the east. Everyone in the middle is a “hipster,” part of the neighborhood’s ongoing gentrification. And when new businesses move into this kind of hostile market, it can be a public relations minefield.

The neighborhood breeds a certain amount of distrust for “the man.” The young artists and such hate corporate America. Say the word “Starbucks” and you’re asking for a beating. Of course, these are the same people who shamelessly buy everything they can at Ikea and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, which is now brewed by Miller, which is owned by a South African corportation.

One of the targets for this distrust among the masses has been a wireless store that opened up a few years ago. This is a nice little operation owned by some Brooklyn boys. They sell various cell phone services, phones, and accessories, and unlike a lot of similar stores in New York, these are good fellows who try to steer their customers towards quality services and equipment. And even though everyone — from the Hassids to the hipsters — has a cellphone, some people think the store is a harbinger of evil.

One of our local magazines recently ran a piece that told tales of people vandalizing the store. Someone even came in one day and yelled at the owners and spit on the floor. That’s just about the definition of a “hostile market.” The article was actually pretty positive, recognizing the fact that these guys are just businessmen adding a valuable service to a neighborhood overrun by trendy bars, Thai restaurants, and fancy boutiques selling overpriced trinkets.

I like the fact that the store owners tried to boost their public relations profile by printing out copies of the article for customers to read; they also posted the article in the store. The public relations material in the piece itself is pretty good, but the owners were smart to let their customers know what they’ve been up against and how they’ve succeeded. It helps build customer loyalty. (I’ve bought two phones, two service plans and numerous accessories from these guys.) And it reminds people that when you walk by a little store, there’s always more to the story.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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