and PUBLIC (MEDIA) RELATIONS
The use of the media as a vehicle for promoting a company's goods and services is universally accepted as essential - although not necessarily the "be all and end all".
It is a wise Marketing Manager who ensures that media exposure in all its forms is a planned component of the overall communications strategy of the company.
In other words, never expect the media to do all your promotional work for you.
While media varies from country to country, the principles outlined here are universal in their application.
It is important to understand the essential differences between types of media and the avenues available within media for publicity, or exposure.
This is space you pay for.
Advertisements in most corporate situations are supplied by the advertiser or their agency direct to the media in digital format. The "finished art" should be produced to a very high standard to ensure that reproduction is very clear. Newsprint does not tolerate fine art subtleties very well.
Most media offer an "in-house" service to prepare advertisements for advertisers. Except in an emergency, this service is to be avoided. The risks are that advertisements end up looking "generic" and because art departments in many newspapers and magazines are not as efficient and professional as consultancy art studios, mistakes and misinterpretations are often made.
This adds time, money and frustration to the advertising program. If time pressures are such that advertisements can't be checked by the client, there are no second chances once the advertisement has been published, or "gone to air".
A great deal of corporate damage can be done by publication of a wrong phone number or address. When it's published, it's already too late and a great deal more money will need to be spent to recover lost ground.
A company will protect its corporate image or logo to the end. This is why copies of the company logo and its advertising slogans are supplied to distributors and agents. They must never be altered for any reason. Never allow enthusiastic newspaper designers to "mess around" with corporate material.
It is important that customers, wherever they are in the world, are able to instantly recognise your company logo.
These comments apply equally to radio and television advertising. If you want to stand out in the crowd of commercial pap which pours forth from the electronic media, go to an innovative design studio or writer. Remember that the best talent can often be found in a small consultancy.
Pure editorial (as opposed to Advertorial which will be covered next) is sometimes difficult to define and can be very subjective. Assessments of "news value" for a particular item or event will vary greatly from one news media to another.
For example, a story about a new building method which will speed construction may be ignored by the day to day print media, but make front page news in a building industry magazine.
Remember that the daily news media, press, radio and television, are not particularly interested in corporate news unless the corporation is already in the news through company takeovers, an accident involving a company product, a claim by environmentalists against a company activity or a corporate collapse.
These days, it is more than likely that if the daily media are interested in the affairs of a corporation, the news may indeed be negative, rather than positive.
There are many methods used by corporations to try to avoid these events, but this should be handled by media savey public relations advisers.
Having said that, the day to day media need to balance their flow of material by looking at innovation, the bizarre, the unusual, the great idea or sometimes, just a great picture.
How this is judged is entirely subjective and will sometimes hinge on the whim of a pictorial editor or indeed the reporter who answers the phone.
The general rule for ordinary citizens with interesting angles to their daily work, is to make contact with the newsrooms if they feel they have something to say.
This can more often than not result in a "not interested".....but the secret to success is "persistence, persistence and persistence".
Media thrive on receiving ideas and phone tips from large numbers of people in all walks of life. Don't be disappointed by knock-backs, but try always to ensure that the information you are giving to the media is accurate (you'll be found out if it is not and the company will then have more trouble than it bargained for) and that it is interesting or unusual.
In summary, information given to media needs to have a "point".
This form or exposure (editorial) is totally uncontrollable.
If the media choose to give you publicity, it will be free, but you will have no say in its content or how it is used, if at all. Media are not obliged to show you copies of what they have prepared prior to publication. Most will refuse point blank.
So, in the free world of editorial media, you can play the game, but you take your chances.
Those who strike a good rapport with media can achieve great publicity for their product or company just by being "media wise".
It is not something you can learn - it is more of an instinctive thing.
However, everyone can learn by trying, by taking note of the things the media publish and by being conscious that media can play a significant role in the goodwill of your company if you play it right.
It is disappointing to miss an opportunity for great publicity for your product or service, simply because time ran out or you didn't think of it.
Editorial in magazines or trade media is handled differently.
Remember that they often have long lead-times before publication. Therefore, if you have an interesting story to tell about a new construction which is happening soon, remember that some magazine media will need anything from three to six months to plan to cover the event or publicise the event.
This form of editorial is usually better planned and discussed between client and media.
Some magazines, newsletters or indeed "lower level" newspapers such as the weekly free papers, will often try to capitalise on an event or a piece of news by trying to sell advertising to the company involved in some vague promise that "if you advertise, there's a good chance your story will run."
This sometimes works, but professional advice usually is - "don't fall for it".In a professional news organisation, there is no relationship between editorial, or the news content of the media, and advertising. They are entirely separate departments.
In most professional daily media, any suggestion by you that you will consider taking out big advertising if the paper runs a story for you will be met with derision. In many cases, this is a good way to ruin your chances of getting a story published.
By the same token, demanding that a newspaper run your story because you are a big advertiser, is a sure way to be ignored.
As you learn to deal with the media, you will find many grey areas in this regard as you move down through the heirarchy of media.
At the other end of the scale, there are many magazines or trade media today which make no bones about the fact that editorial and advertising go hand in hand. That's fine as long as everyone understands the rules of the game.
It is up to the company then to make a rational decision on using that magazine if indeed it reaches an appropriate readership which is useful to you.
On the electronic side, talk-back radio is a form of free editorial. Many companies have achieved great - and instant - publicity by being able to give some relevant comment on a issue over the phone to the station while a debate is on talk-back radio. This of course takes time and immediate energy, but it's well worth while keeping in mind.
Television is an excellent medium for instant editorial, but keep in mind that television needs pictures - not talking heads.
As strange as it seems, a television news program would rather run a mediocre, but highly visual story, about a house being dropped by helicopter onto a building pad, than the head of a corporation making a major announcement about the availability of a new building material which will save the country millions.
Unless they can see it and film it - they lose interest very quickly.
Advertorial is a blatently commercial phenomenon popular on television in some countries and used in many newspapers and magazines for many years.
It developed from the notion that "editorial" was more credible, and achieved greater readership than "advertising". Therefore, advertisers began experimenting with their "advertising" to make it look like "editorial" to the casual and untrained observer.
In general terms it means - media information which looks and feels like "news" or "editorial" (despite how corny some of it appears), but is in reality "bought space" or the subject of some kind of media commercial deal.
Many newspapers have commercial pages, separate to the general run of the news pages, where they offer businesses particularly an opportunity to run some "news" or make a company announcement provided they buy space for a minimum size advertisement.
Many magazines run advertorial as a major part of their content.
These magazines, however, may have diminished value for your business because they lack the credibility which comes from media with strong and independent editorial policies.
Television advertorial has reached new heights in America and Australia particularly, with whole programs devoted to promotion and sales of everything from saucepans to gym equipment.
They are produced under the guise of legitimate documentary programs, but they are glorified advertisements.
Beware the Supplement
In an effort to boost advertising revenue, most newspapers have perfected the "supplement" approach. It works like this. Summer is about to strike, so the local newspaper believes it has a duty to inform its readers of the avenues available for cooling down their houses and vehicles.
It then prepares a hit list from the Yellow Pages of every company dealing in air conditioning, insulation and fans. These suppliers are approached on the basis that this supplement will be the sole referral document for this summer for the community and "you cant afford not to be in it."
Ego tripping or mob mentality drags many an advertiser into the supplement but usually, the only corporation who makes money from supplements is the newspaper which promotes it.
Supplements LOOK like puff and nonsense. The people can see through it. Usually, the editorial is poorly prepared by contributors or freelance journalists looking for a spare buck. Theres little money in it for them, so the research is sparse and the information basic.
Anyone with an internet connection could learn a great deal more about cooling down a home and car by spending a few minutes on line.
Companies these days dont have spare tins of cash just waiting for that great opportunity being presented by the local newspaper or radio station.
The only sensible advertising is planned advertising, to a strict budget. You can waste a lot of money and achieve precious little by falling for one-off directories, supplements and other gimmicks. Draw up a well considered program at the beginning of each year or season and stick with it, measure it and adjust it where necessary.
In other words, you take control of your advertising and marketing don't let the local newspaper, radio or TV station do it for you.
...and the final word. Using the media is only one small part of a company's presentation of its product or services to the buying public.
Some companies Newton's works for use advertising sparingly, preferring to put all their money and effort into direct marketing by mail, email or newsletters to their customer base. They follow the principle (which we applaud) that you need to concentrate on building your company loyalty with your existing customers who know who you are and where you are, before you spend money looking for new customers.
The internal culture of the business needs to be perfect. Things like counter presentation, signage, customer service are essentials, long before you consider spending a dime on advertising.
Too many businesses turn only to advertising or advertising agencies for their total marketing. This is not wise. Businesses need a broader strategy than that - and one that is not governed by commissions.
How to present media with publicity or a news idea
As mentioned earlier, judgement of news is very subjective and can vary from reporter to reporter.
There are several ways of getting information to media:-
1 The pre-prepared handout emailed or faxed to all media which you feel might be interested. This is called the "shotgun" approach and is useful to ensure that all media in your region are made aware of a specific event or happening.
In all handouts, never assume that the reporter on the receiving end knows who you are and what you are about. Even if its at the end of the story, provide a little background on the company, its size, competitive edges or what they are famous for. It all helps.
If you supply written information to media, ensure that the information contains nothing which might be construed as libelous or defamatory.
For example, don't refer to a competitor's product as shoddy - in fact, it is good advice to remember that you don't have any competitors as far as media is concerned.
2 The pre-prepared handout targeted particularly to one outlet or one journalist - and usually accompanied by a phone call either prior to or immediately after the dispatch of the written information
3 The direct phone call to a targeted journalist or media, accompanied by no written information (although if it's a complex issue, some written information may be sought by the reporter).
4 The indirect contact - where the media approach you as a result of something they have picked up elsewhere. In this event, you have to quickly determine if the news they are chasing is likely to be negative or positive - or somewhere in between.
How this is handled depends very much on what the story is and how the company can respond.
In very general terms, if there is an accident concerning your company, and the media make contact DON'T hang up in their ear. As upset as you might be over the event, you must be very open and positive. It is to the benefit of the company's long term credibility that it be seen to be a good corporate citizen - that it admits it may have made a mistake but it is doing everything in its power to rectify the problem. A media will make judgements on the genuineness of the company to address perceived wrongs.
The media will crucify those who pretend to fix things or give lip service to addressing the issues.
Copyright 2000 (c) Newtons Pty Ltd