Apr 02, 2007
by Kirk Ermisch of Central Oregon Community College
Do you want your business to experience the recognition and growth that it needs and deserves? Work on publicity and public relations. Both are lower priced than mere advertising, and they can be especially crucial to a struggling new firm.
When my company, the Southern Wine Group, first set out to conquer the wine media with its portfolio of wines from Argentina, I came across a number of opinions on the subject. Some people insisted that the enjoyment of wines is an individual experience. That argument contends that when one well-known media person rates wines, all wines start tasting alike in order to please that one important palate.
The distributors and retailers who resell wines, on the other hand, tend to favor wine scores and positive reviews in general, because those factors make the job of reselling to consumers easier. The one thing that seems to ring true from this debate is that while we may not agree with negative press on a wine, positive press is always welcome.
This is a principle that applies to any small business. From the standpoint of a small business engaged in building a market for its brands, any sort of positive comments about what your business is doing is something you should seek out. You should find ways to utilize such publicity to fuel your company’s growth.
Where should you start? There has been a lot of debate about the growing concentration of media ownership in this country. Two useful points have emerged from that debate. First, access to the media may be more difficult as more people try to influence a shrinking number of opinion makers. Second, it is possible that unless you represent a large brand, you are actually better off being “discovered” by regional or even independent media. These folks have comparatively fewer people beating on their door and are generally more appreciative of the work you are doing.
With publicity and PR, as with any realm of marketing, you must keep in mind your target market and the market segment it represents. For example, if you are selling skateboarding equipment to teens, then general, broad-based national media will not be as helpful.
You should be targeting industry magazines, and should even be considering supporting the music scene that surrounds this group. The idea of “street-cred.” is important here. Your market segment and the media they pay attention to must feel that your product was discovered by them.
A very nice Central Oregon lady who helped my company get going on its first press campaign told me that PR was much like a Chinese water torture. The regular “drip, drip, drip” of your presence in whatever media you choose must be ongoing and consistent.
Her reasoning was straightforward: the likelihood that the media will simply take up the cause of your business without your regular prompting is nearly nil.
Finally, all of your good planning on whom to approach will go down the drain if you fail to respond effectively when you are contacted.
You must have a decent package of information for the press that tells them about your business with enough details for them to write a meaningful press release that contains the “five Ws” of who you are, what you do, when you started, why you are doing what you do and how you do it. Your response to inquiries must be immediate; 24 hours is usually the standard.
Many of you might say, “But I don’t have enough time to do all this.” If this is your case, then check references and ask around for a specialist in your industry with access to the press. Often, a basic retainer can be arranged, but be prepared; the fees aren’t usually low. On the other hand, the good use of publicity and public relations at any level can have measurable effects on the growth of your business. The creative use of media sources is often acknowledged to be cheaper overall than advertising—and its effects can be much more powerful. Best of luck!