Monthly Archives: February 2011

Your Best ROI

Advertise Or Publicize for a Better ROI

You are a small business owner looking to find new customers.  Perhaps you’re a professional services provider and need new clients.  Or you’re heading a non-profit development department and need new donors.   You know that marketing is necessary, but how do you really know where to put your dollars for the best return on investment?

Marketing is the umbrella term that covers a number of options to reach the same destination – get new customers/donors/clients — but each option takes a slightly different road.   This blog contrasts advertising and publicity.  Both can be part of a marketing plan to help raise visibility, get your message across and help to establish and build your reputation.  A reputation for good quality and service eventually leads to a sale,  donation or new assignment.  Other marketing techniques include creating events, seeking speaking opportunities, using direct mail and promotions.

Advertising 101

Advertising is paid for by the advertiser.  Readers, viewers, visitors and followers know that.  Thus, the advertising message has less credibility than publicity.  Advertising often has broader reach and definitely greater frequency if it runs as part of an ongoing campaign.

Good advertising is professionally designed to 1) attract attention quickly amidst the clutter of messages seeking attention and then 2) to communicate and repeat a clear message to motivate action.

Publicity 101

The term “free” publicity is a misnomer because, to be effective, publicity-seeking is done in a professional manner by trained professionals who specialize in media relations.  Keep in mind that a company or firm does not obtain publicity simply by sending news releases to media personnel.  The process is more circuitous than direct, and it is not instantaneous.

The art of obtaining favorable publicity involves knowing:

  1. what makes news
  2. which medium will be receptive to a story idea
  3. what will appeal to a particular editor, reporter, columnist or TV producer, and
  4. how to approach that person in the way he or she prefers to be approached.

Media relations professionals cultivate relationships with journalists in order to increase the odds of placing a story on behalf of a client.

Publicity is not controlled by the seeker, not paid for directly, but instead must be obtained by persuading the editor or reporter that the message is one that his/her readers, viewers, visitors or followers want to know about.  Because we have a free press, publicity is never guaranteed.  Traditionally, the “persuasion” is done via a professionally-written news release or “pitch” in the form of a letter, text or phone call.

Publicity is sometimes actually perceived to be the opinion of the medium in which it is seen or heard.  Thus, publicity creates a valuable third-party endorsement.  Publicity coverage can also be “merchandised” to increase its reach by, for example, distributing an article that contains a quote to a target audience via e-mail and calling attention to the quote.

It’s important to know that “hard news” from the point of view of the media is not about selling a product or service.  The media covers changes, human interest, controversy, noble gestures, recognition, et al.  They also selectively cover “soft” or “created” news, which can be achieved by staging an event.   Many times the primary purpose of an event is to create an opportunity for publicity that would not otherwise exist.

Last but not least, the more prestigious the medium, the more difficult it is to obtain publicity.  In other words, if your goal is to be in Business Week, and your business is a start-up, you may have to advertise.

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