Executive Rewind: Defying the Retail Ice Age

This is an instructive example of  several important elements you need to consider before interacting with the media.

First, be sure you know what story you need to convey. Next, what’s the angle, or news hook. Now, identify your target audiences ahead of time. That’s critical to developing your messaging. And finally, make sure your body language (non-verbals) is in sync with your statements.

Now, a good example for all these interview elements:

Ace Hardware CEO John Venhuizen is overseeing a bloodless rebellion, of sorts. His business is fundamentally online-shop-at-home-proof.

So, in what some are referring to today as the Retail Ice Age, Ace Hardware is one of the remaining bricks and mortar success stories. After all, don’t you usually need to GO TO a hardware store for what you need?

And business at the more than 5100 Ace stores worldwide (4000+ of them in the U.S.) is better than good, it’s booming:

Note who Venhuizen is talking to. In this case, the anchor, Fox Business Network’s Stuart Varney and his channel are simply the conduit. Venhuizen has recognized exactly who he needs to be focused on: first and foremost, his franchise owners.

So, when addressing the question of taking his privately-held business public, even if reporting rules were liberalized, Ace franchisees need to get the word from the top:

Two key words at the end of that sound bite: “local neighbors.” That’s how Venhuizen and Ace store owners refer to their customers. It’s a nice little sublime technique, projecting some intimacy and emphasizing the local identity each store has with its customer base.

Then, another important message both for store owners and their “neighbors” on Ace’s product competitive advantage:

That statement also recognizes and honors Ace Hardware’s vendors, another important audience.

Venhuizen touches all the bases:

  • he has a unique story: Ace is the anomaly resisting the trend of online retailing;
  • he can quickly state the news value of his story: despite the Amazon’s of the cyber world, his business is growing impressively with in-store shopping;
  • he knows exactly where to aim his messages: franchisees, their customers (aka “neighbors”), and vendors;
  • finally, everything about him non-verbally reinforces what he says: his body language is active and positive, he’s smiling and he’s enthusiastic about participating in this interview.