On any given day up to seventy percent of all the articles, feature stories and blurbs published in newspapers and magazines or broadcast on radio and television were released, pitched, or in some way influenced by someone outside of the media.
These news releases and story pitches often come from Public Relations firms, Publicists and corporate communications departments. However the majority come from business owners and entrepreneurs looking to attract media coverage for their business.
In the case of specialty newspaper sections and such as Business, Travel, Lifestyle and Community, the number of published articles that are pitched to the media is almost one-hundred percent. Publicity is such a powerful compliment to traditional advertising that most large corporation's staff entire departments with people whose only job is to get their company in the news.
With all the advertising and marketing options available today why should a business owner implement a publicity campaign? Because no amount of paid advertising can match publicity for its commercial value, credibility and nurturing of consumer confidence.
This positive response to media exposure by the public stems from a lack of understanding of how news stories and feature articles are produced. Most people perceive that a company, product, or service that is featured in the news was specifically sought out by the press because of their reputation, quality of work or industry expertise. This perception is called an "implied media endorsement" and no amount of advertising can produce a similar affect when it comes to influencing behavior and driving sales.
Media exposure serves another purpose besides just spotlighting your company, product or service features. It demonstrates and even defends the benefits your product or service provides and often does so by eliciting a level of emotion advertising cannot create.
In other words many consumers may not yet know they want or need your product until the mainstream news media tells them they should. And by reporting on and extolling the benefits your firm offers can actually expand your market size, reduce the time prospects take in making a purchase decision, create urgency for your product and all while giving the perception you are better qualified than you competition.
Unleashing this phenomenon is not the intent of the media, they are here to report news, not promote your business. The result however is very real and can have impact on your firm for years to come.
What kind of impact?
Some years ago my family owned a company that installed removable mesh fences to prevent toddlers from drowning in the family pool.
Although the threat of accidental drowning is real and the product performance was stellar, direct mail and print advertising generated only a modest response despite the lack of competition. While the number of homes with pools and young children in our market was sufficient to sustain the business, it was difficult to fully convey the severity of the problem and explain the features and benefits in the limited space traditional advertising allowed.
I decided to take the message to the media. I sent a single press release to most of the news outlets in central Alabama where the business was located. The result was astounding.
Within weeks we received two feature newspaper stories, coverage in a regional magazine, five radio interviews, (One lasting an entire hour) and were interviewed during the most widely watched morning television program in the state, with the recently crowned Miss Alabama Scarlotte DuPree present on the set. From that point on every time there was an accidental drowning or near drowning event our company was in the news.
Just fourteen months after we began our campaign we sold the company for a substantial profit. While the results of this PR campaign were better than average, it demonstrates the powerful role publicity can play in growing a business.
Although publicity itself has great commercial value, as a stand-alone marketing strategy it has little chance for growing a business. Prospective customers need to be exposed to your message with greater frequently then periodic publicity alone can provide. But what publicity can do that no amount of advertising can, is intensify the impact and credibility of your firm's current advertising.
Many consumers are skeptical of advertising. They distrust claims they feel are overly promotional and view commercial ads with a degree of suspicion. However the majority of people trust, sometimes blindly, the news media. When your company is in the news your traditional marketing is considered truthful and accurate.
But before you approach the press with your story ideas there's some things you need to know first.
The media has no interest in promoting your business. Tell a reporter you want some free publicity and you'll be talking to air in no time. Reporters are looking for the story behind your product. As with the pool fence, the story was in preventing toddlers from drowning not the fence. We presented them the problem, they let us solve it. That's how publicity works.
Reporters and producers are overworked and usually responsible for developing their own stories. Editors are burdened with the task of reviewing stories from reporters, filling column inches in a newspaper or "air" in the case of a television news broadcast. It takes a lot of "news" to keep things running.
Although a press release is the most common way to contact the media it is not the only way. Reporters also need reliable sources for quotes, local angle opinions on national stories and industry experts.
Becoming a source for your local reporters and producers is a great way to build a relationship and the best way to attract a feature story. Call the media in your town that covers business or human interest topics and introduce yourself. Call the media and offer to be a resource in your field of expertise. Call the media with compelling story ideas.
And remember, all news has a story, but all stories are not news.
Find the story behind your news and call the media!
Michael Hart is a speaker, author, talk radio host and shameless publicity hound. His marketing, publicity and advertising strategies have been featured in: Selling Magazine, Sales and Marketing Executive Report, Creative Selling, The American Salesman, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Closing, and Presentations Magazines, - as well as hundreds of business journals, newspapers, trade magazines and private business publications. Michael is also regularly interviewed for radio, television and podcasts around the globe. He can be reached at Michael@MichaelHartSpeaks.com or through www.MichaelHartSpeaks.com