Augment shrinking advertising budget by capitalizing on public relations

July 7, 2009 - 9 minutes read

What’s your favorite advertising campaign of all time? Go ahead, take a moment and I’m sure you’ll come up with something.Now, name one of your favorite public relations campaigns.

Somehow, I bet the first question was easily answered, while the second one really made you think; hard. Did you come up with an answer? My guess is that most of you could not. And it’s not your fault. Advertising simply gets more attention than PR because it’s blatant. It’s funny. It’s clever, It’s in your face.

But ‘behind the scenes,’ there are powerful public relations campaigns that are garnering companies phenomenal brand recognition, awareness, traffic to their websites and most importantly, sales. Almost every business-owner and marketing professional I speak with shares his or her frustration about having to cut their incredibly creative and effective advertising campaign. However, far too often, they never mention anything about PR because they are simply not using it, or certainly not using it to its fullest potential.

So just how powerful is PR? Have you ever heard of The Body Shop, Palm or Google? These brands were built with public relations. It’s been only in the past few years that they have implemented aggressive advertising campaigns to maintain the strong brands they built with PR.

Advertising is finite. You get exactly what you pay for, no more, no less. So this means to really reach your audience, you’re going to need a fairly sizeable budget: something most companies simply do not have right now.

So for those of you with a shrinking marketing budget and a growing need for awareness and sales, my recommendation is to take a close look at the power of PR.

I often tell our clients that public relations is the most underutilized tool in marketing today. A research study by Erdos & Morgan for the American Advertising Federation found that among 1,800 corporate executives surveyed, PR was ranked third in order of importance behind product development and strategic planning — and advertising came in sixth. This is not to say that advertising isn’t important, because it is: it’s simply to illustrate the power of PR.

So, how can you tap into the power of PR? 

First, get to know your local media. Nothing annoys an editor or reporter more than someone who pitches her a story that has nothing to do with her beat. You need to not only have a good understanding of who and what you’re pitching, but clear objectives as to why that editor’s or reporter’s audience would (and should) be interested in you or your story. If you can’t answer that question with a confident and compelling response, it’s time to go back to the drawing board before making the pitch.

The easiest way to get to know the local media is to partake. Read the local paper (if it’s still around), community papers, magazines, newsletters and blogs. Watch the local news and listen to your local radio stations. Find out who is writing or covering stories in your industry and then read them. Get to know what that editor or reporter enjoys writing about and then send a story idea to her.

When you’re reading an article and you say to yourself, “That should be me,” stop wishing and get to pitching. Email the editor explaining why your story is perfect for her column and readers.

Second, just because you think your story is “news” doesn’t mean it is “newsworthy.”

To make your story newsworthy, tap into the news. Here a few tips to help you craft your story:

Holidays: If your company makes a great gadget, pitch it as this year’s hottest holiday gift. If your retail store happens to carry the latest holiday gift or gadget, offer yourself and your store to the media as a resource. If you run a restaurant, why not share a few holiday-themed drink recipes and a quick and easy entertaining guide online? There are literally dozens of ways to tap into the holidays, so get creative.

Articles: If you’re an expert in your field, offer to write an article pertaining to your profession. Whether your articles get published weekly, monthly or only once a year, the return on investment is invaluable. People want to buy from, and do business with, the best in the field, and this is one way to position yourself as just that.

Pop Culture: Celebrity news, cell phones, reality shows, Crocs, Twitter, anything “i”: iPods, iPhone, iTunes and even “IMs.” If you have a product or service that taps into anything related to pop culture, it can be newsworthy.

World’s First: Whether you have a product, service, book or technology that is the world’s first (or simply the first locally), tout what others can’t. Consumers and the media love “firsts,” new, exclusive, patented, etc., so tap into it.

Surveys: There are always surveys and “top 10” lists available to the media, but they’re usually not conducted locally. Local is what matters, so do a survey that is of interest to your community. Make it general enough for broad appeal, but specific enough to “hint” at your subject matter. This is a great way to not only gain publicity, but also become a resource for the local media.

Associations: How do some people always seem to get invited to the best events, be featured in local news stories and be chosen to write articles? They join associations, which enable them to broaden their network of friends and professionals. In doing so, it allows them to tell their story to more people, which often has a compounding effect. If you want to get your story out there, you need to start by getting out.

Human Interest: Make it about people. If you make a heart monitor and want it covered in the news, don’t tell the media what it’s made of, how accurate it is and how long it took to get it patented (yawn). Instead, talk about the little girl whom without it might not be with us today, about the grandmother who has enjoyed that past three years with her grandchildren because of this incredible technology or the father who is enjoying playing baseball with his son for the first time in two years. It’s about people. Whether you’re selling a product or service, remember, it is emotion that compels consumers to buy, and it is emotion that the media like to cover.

Blogs, online forums, seasons, how-to’s, public speaking, newsletters … there are literally hundreds of ways to generate press coverage for your company. 

So, while your advertising budget is invariably shrinking, start thinking about how you can begin growing your public relations activities.  Often times it’s more efficient and effective than any other form of marketing communication.  And most importantly, unlike advertising, it’s really infinite.  There’s no telling where one good PR pitch might take you. 

If you want a little attention, run a clever ad campaign. If you want sales and long-term success, tap into the Power of PR. 

 

Sacramento Professional Performance®  Magazine: Vol 17 No. 2

Printed with permission by Sacramento Performance®  Magazine: http://www.theperformancemagazine.com/ 

 

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