Why use publicity?

While most business people make use of various marketing activities, publicity is one aspect of marketing that is still commonly misunderstood and underused. While terms like online marketing, social media marketing, e-mail marketing, direct, and interruptive marketing conjure up fairly clear images for people, when it comes to publicity, a lot of business operators draw a blank or see it as another name for paid advertising. While marketing strategies can and do include paid advertising, there are in fact many different marketing activities that fall under the umbrella of marketing, publicity being just one of them.

So, what exactly is publicity?

Publicity is the deliberate attempt to manage the public’s perception of a subject by obtaining free editorial coverage or commentary in the media, whether it be print or online magazines, or live media such as radio, television or in newspapers. What makes publicity so attractive is that publicity campaigns can gain media exposure valued at 3x that of paid advertising at a fraction of the cost, and is much more credible than paid advertising.

The subjects of publicity can include people, goods and services, organizations, and works of art or entertainment. However, in order to get interest from the media to publicise your subject for you, you need to present an interesting angle, something news worthy or controversial, have a point of difference or be relevant to the audience.

For example, a mortgage broker may offer to the media a statement about a much-awaited interest rate increase. Since newspapers usually cover important interest rate changes, there is a distinct likelihood that a strong stance, opinion or controversial statement would add extra ‘spice’, and therefore get a mention. Such an inclusion in a news story is invaluable, as it adds credibility to the person making the statement, and puts them and their business in front of potential customers – all without paying for advertising.

The difference is that people read and assimilate information from newspapers, magazines and other media, while they only tend to glance at adverts. This is because people know what an advert looks like and that it is paid for by the advertiser. However, if the same message is included in the editorial content of a publication, the reader perceives it as news facts endorsed by the publication. For this reason, editorial content is valued three times greater than advertising because it has a much greater readership impact.

Often it does not matter whether your business is small or is not the industry leader, as long as you can find an angle that will generate interest from the media. And therein lies the art of publicity.

However, just writing a press release and sending it to the editor is not going to get you the results you want. It does take a little more effort than that, considering that a newspaper receives hundreds of press releases and media pitches every day.

Finding these angles for media pitches that promise successful outcomes is not always easy, and dealing with editors and journalists can be challenging, which is why it is probably worth investing a portion of your marketing budget with a PR agency.

The nature of publicity is that there are no ‘guarantees’ that your particular story will get covered. However, if you spend money on a publicist and they get you a ‘run’ or mention in a publication that is read by your target market, the reader perception of the publicity will be of much greater value than any ad you could pay for.

In sum, it does not matter what industry your business is in, how big it is or how long you have been operating – there are publicity opportunities everywhere. If you cannot find obvious ones or come up with suitable media angles, you can always create an event, occasion or initiative that will get you some media interest.

And, if you feel challenged by the prospect of doing your own publicity, then I suggest you work with someone whose business revolves around getting publicity for businesses. The extent of media exposure and value in terms of readership impact created by publicity simply can’t be bought any other way.

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