Mattson's efforts help the Crocs brand hit its stride

While in the delivery room waiting to give birth to twins last December, Tia Mattson, senior PR and communication manager for Crocs, was busy writing a press release. Given her dedication, it's not surprising that the Colorado-based shoe company hit 1 billion media impressions last year, a number it will likely surpass in 2008.

While in the delivery room waiting to give birth to twins last December, Tia Mattson, senior PR and communication manager for Crocs, was busy writing a press release. Given her dedication, it's not surprising that the Colorado-based shoe company hit 1 billion media impressions last year, a number it will likely surpass in 2008.

Though Mattson “stumbled onto” her position while working in marketing for companies that didn't have big marketing budgets, she quickly “fell in love” with PR.

“PR helped drive the results my companies expected,” she explains. “When I started with Crocs, we didn't have a marketing budget or even a marketing person. The onus was on me and the PR campaign.”

Crocs was founded in 2002 with one product – the rubber-like clogs that have become nearly ubiquitous. Mattson joined in 2004 and built a communications team of five, along with a global PR program. In 2006, Crocs went public in what Mattson calls the “largest footwear IPO in history.” (It raised nearly $240 million). Now, 200-plus Crocs products are sold in more than 100 countries. Last year's sales were $847 million.

Mattson oversees all external and internal communications. She has “day-to-day interaction” with the C-suite and notes that PR and marketing are tightly integrated.

Ed Wunsch, senior director of marketing at Crocs, says Mattson has done “a terrific job in putting PR around everything we've done.”

Mattson grew up in Denver and her husband, who is from Boulder, CO, has known the Crocs' founders since childhood. She says the company's “primary communications strategy is to hit traditional print and broadcast media with product placements and stories.” She adds that product placement on TV shows, such as Grey's Anatomy, and in movies, such as Transformers, is also key.

While most coverage is positive, Mattson recalls a “scathing” Newsweek story in early August – a long rant (1,400plus words) about the author's dislike of Crocs and those who wear them. The journalist then wrote a follow-up about the thousands of e-mails he'd gotten in response to the story – some were death threats, others marriage proposals, but all proved that people feel strongly about the brand.

“It was interesting from a communications perspective,” Mattson says. “We didn't have to do anything. It went from brand lashing to [reporting about] brand loyalists.”

Mattson is currently busy promoting the fall product lines. She says a September 9 placement of shoes from the You by Crocs line on Rachael Ray's daytime talk show spiked Web site traffic 500% compared with the previous week.

Attention PR is helping Mattson tap social media – Linhart PR is the company's AOR – in a campaign that includes product placement and blog reviews. The team is also building Facebook and MySpace pages, and Mattson hopes to set up a Twitter account soon.

Social media outreach has worked so well that Mattson will expand it across all Crocs' brands. The company is also adding retail stores in the US (there are more than 25 international stores), including an October opening in Chicago.

“One of the challenges is to change the perception that we only have a few shoes,” Mattson says. “[The] stores are a great opportunity to do that, and we'll be allocating communications resources to growing these big retail stores.”

2004-present
Crocs, senior PR and communication manager

2002-2004

Bally Total Fitness, marketing manager

2001-2002
24 Hour Fitness, marketing manager

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