"Harnessing the Power of Publicity"
by Pauline Bartel, M.A.

If your dream is to have people flock to your business or clamor for your product or service, you need to do more than just "build it."

You need to, first, raise the public's awareness of your enterprise and then create a favorable impression in the public's mind about your offering. When you do this, "they will come." But how do you start?

Your Tool Box

You have a variety of tools that accomplish these dual goals, including advertising, sales promotion, and public relations.

Advertising involves placing paid promotional messages about your product or service in newspapers or magazines, on radio and TV, and on Internet Web sites. This tool offers customers solid reasons for purchasing your particular offering.

Sales promotion consists of short-term incentives such as coupons, rebates, premiums, discounts, contests and sweepstakes. This tool encourages customers to make their purchases within a certain time period.

Public relations includes strategies such as announcing news, distributing written materials, and holding special events. This tool educates customers, inducing them to understand your company better and to feel goodwill toward your enterprise.

At the heart of public relations is an activity called publicity. Publicity includes any message about your company that is communicated through the mass media -- print, radio, television, the Internet -- at no cost to your organization.

Benefits of Publicity

Publicity is free. You can't buy a full-page newspaper article, a 15-minute radio interview, or a two-minute television appearance that showcases your company. For that reason, such no-cost exposure could be worth thousands of dollars to you.

Publicity has more credibility than advertising. When customers and prospects are exposed to an ad, they know that the advertiser paid for the newspaper or magazine space, the radio airtime, or the television broadcast time. Thus, customers and prospects know that the ad may not be accurate when it claims that the company produces the best widget in the Capital District.

When an item appears as news -- a newspaper review of your latest widget or a tour of your widget company on a television news broadcast -- customers and prospects perceive this as unbiased information. They know that the media provide critical appraisals of products through reviews and that the media are neutral in disseminating information about newsworthy items.

Thus, publicity offers third-party credibility -- the implicit approval of the medium in which the information about a business, product, or service is presented.

Publicity builds your brand-name image. Besides bestowing third-party credibility, publicity educates your customers and prospects about your company in a non-sell manner. This approach cultivates perception of and creates favorable opinion about your enterprise in the public's mind, which contributes to the crafting of your company's brand-name image. With your company's brand-name image in the minds of your customers and prospects, they become more receptive to the advertising that you subsequently do. Thus, brand building begins by harnessing the power of publicity.

Harnessing the Power of Publicity

You can harness the power of publicity for your company by giving the media what they need. Print, broadcast, and Internet media crave news and information. For example:

  • A newspaper would feature a story about a real estate company's home relocation management system that takes the hassle out of moving.
  • A business periodical would announce that an attorney has been appointed chair of a Bar Association committee.
  • A radio station would broadcast a segment on tax-saving strategies suggested by a certified public accountant.
  • A television news program would cover a demonstration of massage therapy for race horses that is offered by an equine massage therapist.
  • An Internet Web site dedicated to business would include an article on succession planning for family or closely held corporations.

You give the media the news or information they crave by writing and sending a media release. A media release is a one- to two-page, double-spaced document that presents the details of your story.

The first paragraph contains the most important details -- the who, what, where, when, why, and sometimes the how of your story. Subsequent paragraphs present supporting details in order of descending importance. Include your name and telephone number, so that the media can contact you if they need further information or if they wish to interview you.

Send the media release to a specific person. For example, if you wish to direct the media release to a daily newspaper, telephone the newspaper office, explain the nature of the story, and ask for the name of the editor who oversees stories of that type. Find out whether the editor prefers to receive submissions by regular mail, fax, or e-mail then send the media release by the preferred method to that editor's attention.

Create and distribute media releases on a regular basis, so that you can raise the public's awareness of your enterprise and create a favorable impression in the public's mind about your offering. Soon "they will come," mentioning that "You're always in the news!" and bringing increased business your way. Now that's the power of publicity.

Author Bio:

Pauline Bartel is the owner of Bartel Communications, a Waterford, NY-based company that builds the image of companies with words. Pauline specializes in corporate communications, including writing and editing, public relations and marketing, training and professional development and in commercial writing and publishing in the magazine and book fields.

Copyright © 2002 by Pauline Bartel
All Rights Reserved

Contact Details

Bartel Communications Inc.
12½ Division Street
Waterford, NY 12188
Telephone/FAX (518) 237-1353

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