Seven Deadly Sins of Publicity

...with some general marketing 'sins' thrown in for good measure

1) Let’s call the local paper – they’ll run a story on us.

Almost a knee jerk reaction from many businesses when the subject of getting media coverage comes up is ‘Why don’t we get something in <name of local rag>?’.

Here’s why the local paper isn’t always the best place to start. Local papers (in Australia at least) can be up to 80% advertising and syndicated content, that is generic items on eg weather/horoscopes/car reviews which are shared across many titles by the newspaper publisher.

That can leave sometimes only 10-15 pages for the local editor. Once you take away local politics, police reports and the local sports pages, that leaves very few other pages to fill. Now factor in the fact that many local businesses will be thinking the same way (‘Let’s call the local paper’) and you can understand that the editor is likely to be besieged by local businesses wanting coverage – some even demanding it!

And if you do succeed in getting coverage, how helpful is that to your business? Is your market really only people who live in the local area? And do your prospective customers read your local paper? Do they expect to find your type of business mentioned in it? (see Sin 4)

There can certainly be times when coverage in the local paper is beneficial. Just ask yourself the questions above and also bear in mind that, for a story to be relevant, it has to have a strong local theme, which you will need to emphasise. And if you have a good photo opportunity, so much the better.

2) Yes – we've had media coverage (it was three years ago).

How many times have you visited a restaurant and spotted a press clipping stuck on the wall or counter. You bend down to read it and, seeing it’s a bit dog eared, look at the date and realise it’s several years old. Who knows, the whole kitchen staff might have moved on since then!

Many businesses think that once they’ve got an article in the paper, that’s it, game over. Instead, think about whether there are stories you can get out every month, not just every few years.

3) We didn’t get any calls from our media coverage.

With all of your marketing efforts, including media coverage, you have to see what works and what doesn’t. But remember that most newspapers (unlike magazines) are skipped through and binned the same day. Unless the person reading the item is very interested indeed in your product or service at that exact moment, you’re unlikely to get a call.

So is media coverage useless then? Not at all. Firstly, those people that read the article (assuming it’s positive coverage) will remember what they read and may talk about it with other people.

Secondly, if you let your existing clients know that you were covered in the press (with that press cutting in the shop/restaurant or perhaps on your website or in a newsletter), they will think more highly of you and be more confident in their choice of your business as a customer.

And they will be more willing to refer people to you. That subtle shift in attitude is very helpful for you – you are in their eyes a more ‘credible’ business!

4) Who’s our target market? Anyone with a pulse.

When you’re big game fishing you don’t stick a maggot on the hook. I don’t know much about fishing, but the same principle applies to marketing. Until you know who your ‘perfect client’ is, it’s incredibly difficult to work out how to promote your business effectively.

Once you do know your perfect client, you know what they read, what they watch and listen to, what sites they visit on the internet, which newsletters (email or otherwise) they subscribe to, you know where your marketing efforts are best spent.

You know where to advertise and you know where you should aim to get editorial coverage. You also know which other (non competing) businesses service your target market and who you could perhaps joint venture with. So pick your niche, find your perfect customers, and market to them, and them alone.

5) You’re from which media outlet? And you want to speak to the CEO? He’s not available right now.

When the media wants to talk to someone in your business, this is an opportunity to establish your business as a leader or expert in the field. If it’s a ‘bad news’ story, it’s a chance to put your side of the picture. If a journalist can’t speak to the person they want to speak to, they’ll move on to another business (perhaps your competitor) where they can talk to the right person or, if it’s about your company and it’s a ‘bad news’ story, they’ll present only one side of the argument, with a pointed comment that there was no comment from you.

Wised up CEOs are happy to talk the media at any time, and their support team are under instructions to pass media calls straight through to them.

6) Why would we want to send our customers an email? They know what we do.

One word. Engagement. It applies to your current customers, your future customers, your past customers, your employees. If people are ‘engaged’, you have their attention. If you don’t, somebody else does. And in the context of your service or product, that somebody else is your competition.

You need to stay in touch with all of your business contacts – associates, suppliers as well as customers and prospects, as a guide, at least once a month. If you have enough useful and informative content, perhaps even once a week. Not to sell them anything, just to keep them informed of any new products or services you have, pass on some of your expertise in your field, celebrate successes, ask their opinion.

Just letting people know on a regular basis that you’re still there, still offering the same (or new) things, still happy to help them by selling them your service/product, increases the likelihood that, when they do need what you sell, they’ll come to you, not go elsewhere. Leave it too long and you’ll lose them.

(we have a number of client examples where the client sent an interesting email update we helped them draft - either their first one ever or their first in quite a while - and they were contacted almost instantly by people in their list needing their services. In one case it was a $50,000 contract)

7) We operate in a very price sensitive market. We can’t put our prices up.

You have to put your prices up. Unless you are a large established business, it is almost impossible to survive in a commoditised market. Larger businesses have the buying power and the resources to enter a price war and win.

A smaller business generally cannot compete on price (unless it has a completely new game changing model) and so must compete on service or quality, eg speed/attention to detail etc.

Find out what your perfect client wants (ask them) and give it to them. Offer a standard service plus a premium service. Price the premium service at least three times higher than the standard service.

Pricing sends a message to the consumer of the likely worth or quality of an item (irrespective of its actual quality!). Individuals will pay premium prices for perceived better quality or rarer items. Anecdotally, two different research projects a few years ago showed that:

  • putting prices up by 20% results in no/minimal loss of existing customers

  • ~6% of any customer base is prepared to pay up to 5 times the standard price of an item for a premium version

To echo the advice of Seth Godin (and many other marketing commentators), you have to pick your niche and focus on giving a service to that niche that no one else can give.