OpenSky: social commerce network

OpenSky is a social commerce network that recommends products based on recommendations from friends and celebrity experts, such as Martha Stewart and Serena Williams.

Mission

OpenSky capitalizes on the trend of social recommendations to drive purchase behavior – a space that longer-established networks such as Facebook have yet to master.

The New York-based startup, founded in 2011 by CEO John Kaplan and Kevin Ambrosini, began as a platform for bloggers to sell products before relaunching as a network, making its money as an end-to-end retailer. The network has grown fast, with 2.5 million users and a staff of 75.

Comms

Communications director Emily Lawi was hired in the early stages of the startup as Kaplan has “always been a believer” in the power of storytelling. There is now an in-house PR team of two.

The greatest communications challenge for OpenSky is getting reporters to understand the product, which is neither a flash-sale site nor celebrity-endorsed shopping experience.

To overcome this, the network has built strong relationships with the press and made sure they have a chance to sit down with Kaplan. Its celebrity insiders who are “very active” help build the site’s profile.

So far OpenSky has received coverage across the major tech titles, Forbes, and People and was named by Fast Company as one of the world’s 50 most innovative companies last year.

Future
While Lawi says she believes in the power of agencies, OpenSky currently has no plans to hire one. Its strategy is to maintain and strengthen media relations in-house. “Things change so rapidly, it makes sense to keep communications in-house at the moment,” she says.

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