Social Media Case Studies: Integrating PR & Social Media

We’re often asked, “Are you a PR agency or a Social Media agency?”  We suggest that that’s immaterial.  We do both.  The disciplines are merging.  SHIFT offers a hybrid approach in which a Facebook Group Admin is treated with the same respect and thoughtfulness as a New York Times reporter.  It makes a difference.

How about a case study to illustrate how “PR” and “Social Media” can work in tandem?

Alice.com_logo2On June 23, 2009, online homegoods service officially went live — and before long ranked as among one of SHIFT’s favorite and most successful launches. is the fourth start-up cofounders Marc McGuire and Brian Wiegand created together.  Having had great success with their last venture, — which sold to Microsoft after little more than a year — we determined to make an even greater triumph for the young entrepreneurs.

Adopting the Forrester POST Methodology for our planning purposes, SHIFT first advised McGuire and Wiegand to build a community of loyalists; in this case, we all agreed to target mom- and frugal bloggers, whose input during the pre-launch phase would help bring improvements, attention and grassroots credibility to the service.

Post_1492155_1247163166_medUnderstanding the reach and influence mombloggers have achieved over the past few years, SHIFT worked with our internal contact, the inimitable Rebecca Thorman (@modite), to send invitations to several pre-identified bloggers, offering early trial of the site and inviting honest feedback.

The Alice team also offered extra discounts and coupons to select bloggers, so they could extend incentives to their readers to try the service.

Finally, SHIFT consulted on a series of contests and giveaways via Twitter, which continued on a weekly basis.

On the traditional media front, SHIFT accompanied the Alice co-founders on a press tour the week before the launch, briefing tier-one targets such the New York Times, BusinessWeek, Financial Times and Reuters. The journalists published their stories the day of the launch, along with hundreds of blogger Picture1loyalists — causing a media storm online, in print, in blogs, and on Twitter.

In one week, Alice received 110 pieces of unique coverage and nearly 70,000 tweets.  As of this writing, Alice also garnered nearly 70 broadcast hits in local markets such as CBS Boston, NBC Phoenix and ABC Philadelphia.  Better yet, national broadcast coverage included segments on CNN, the TODAY Show and Rachael Ray!

In early June, the pre-launch site had 170,000 site visits — before anyone could even use the service.  At launch time in July,’s traffic jumped to nearly 400,000 site visits.  Today, according to, boasted over 2.5M visits as of October 2009.

Alice does not invest in advertising — this was all grassroots Social Media and PR efforts, operating in tandem against a carefully orchestrated plan.

Note how the shape of this launch mapped to the Awareness Scale discussed last month.  A grassroots Social Media effort significantly boosted — and subsequently amplified — the success of the mainstream media effort, which fed back into the netroots.  Moving into the future, as revenues and strategy allow, might consider an advertising strategy to solidify and defend their lead in consumers’ minds.

It’s not either PR or Social Media or Advertising.  It’s a continuum.  It’s all of the above.  It’s about “force multipliers.”  The successful plan requires a host of partners, skillsets — and of course, savvy and trusting clients like the folks at

P.S. – If one of the folks on your Xmas list is always complaining about making yet another trip to pick up something at Target, etc., letting them know about a free account might be the best gift you could give!

Posted on: December 15, 2009 at 8:45 am By Todd Defren
122 Responses to “Social Media Case Studies: Integrating PR & Social Media”


  • Sosyal medya says:

    That’s really good case study. Thank you! Congrats!

  • Erika Potter says:

    I think this is a perfect example of how one can “measure” the benefits of using social media. I think it’s amazing that the launch got amazing publicity but didn’t spend any money on an advertising campaign. Also, I think it’s great that social media provides virtually free instant consumer feedback — something that companies spend millions of dollars for. Great case study — Thanks!”

  • Erika Potter says:

    I think this is a perfect example how one can “measure” the benefits of social media. I think it’s amazing that was able to achieve the results that it did without even spending any money on advertising. Not only are publicizing tactics virtually free with social media. but instant feedback is available — which many companies spend millions of dollars trying to research. Great case study — Thanks!

  • Todd- great case study. It is amazing how much play and hype was generated. I’m excited to see some sort of update or follow up to the story. Thanks for the post, keep up the quality work.

  • Social Media says:


    Great case-study!

    I agree with some of the other comments. I would like to see “what happened then?” – What happened after the launch.

    Magnus Lundin – Sweden

  • Akash Sharma says:

    Hi Todd,

    A quick read,filled with great statistics making it a great case study.A lot to learn and great merger can be seen easily here between PR and social media.
    As Jeremiah Owyang says intentional web is the future, I don’t think there is going to be a better mode of maintaining good PR then social media.

    Thanks For Sharing !!

  • JEFF bENANTO says:


    This is great stuff. Obviously, SHIFT is an innovator in social media/PR integration, but it is refreshing to read a case study that lays out the social media tactics employed, and how these work in tandem (not in place of) with traditional media outreach.


  • I think this is an argument for working with a hybrid firm – one that offers both PR & SM capabilities. It’s fairly often that I hear of firms looking to hire a social media agency and a PR agency. To me, there is so much overlap in these audiences, so the right hand needs to know what the left hand is doing. An integrated plan makes sure all bases are covered, and all influencers are touched. The results, as evidenced above, can be amazing!

  • Kelly Rusk says:

    Great case study and very inspiring! I’d be interested to see a follow up on how you ‘maintained’ the hype after the launch.


  • stephanie says:

    wow that’s amazing! can you explain your process a bit more?

  • Laura Newman says:

    Excellent case study. Thank you for sharing. We are all working and exploring ideas in real-time, so case studies like these are really valuable to the industry. Great work and congrats on your success!

  • Hi Todd,
    Great post. I think it’s evident that the intersection and integrated structure is always the best way to go. It’s interesting to see how the different facets can build on and reinforce each other. More case studies!

  • Joe Ciarallo says:


    Great case study. A few things:

    I’d shy away from calling media “tier-one targets.” Kinda creeps us out.

    I wish you told us more about and what they do in the intro!

    Do you have other numbers besides I’m sure’s internal numbers are even higher. (That tends to be the case in my experiences.)

    That being said, thanks for sharing.


    • Mike mcgrath says:

      I’ve found the traffic numbers to be higher than the server log shows. In one case, Compete was off by a factor of 10! Quantcast seems a little more accurate…

  • Loved the Alice launch. Did not know that you guys were a part of the force behind it.

    Props :)

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