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Publicity: Should You Pursue It?

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As someone who has worked in publicity and media for close to 20 years, it’s obvious to me that publicity can be one of the most powerful tactics of your marketing plan.

But I realise it’s also a great unknown for many small business owners, so today I want to lift the lid on the role publicity can play in your business and the power free press coverage can have on your profile and bottom line to raise your recognition and revenue.

What is publicity?

At its most basic, publicity is when a media outlet (TV, Newspapers, Radio) share news and information about a company’s products or services. In today’s digital world, this extends to websites, podcasts, vlogs, blogs and any platforms that share content to a wider audience.

The main difference between publicity and other marketing tools is that when done correctly, publicity is free. While you might pay a professional to help you secure the press coverage, you shouldn’t be asked to pay media to run the story.

If you do, that’s not publicity. That’s advertising.

What are the benefits of publicity?

Aside from the obvious cost benefit (it’s free), I recommend publicity when you are seeking to:

  • raise awareness of your brand / being discovered by the ‘public’
  • increase your profile as a thought leader or go-to expert in your field
  • reach a wider audience
  • gain credibility that comes from a third party endorsement
  • tell a story to form new relationships and grow your business

The way I like to explain it to my clients is; publicity is about reaching your desired audience through well placed, strategic stories in various media outlets to build relationships and communicate news about your business.

What publicity doesn’t do:

  • Buy media placements, adverts or a reporter’s positive coverage (that’s a bribe!)
  • Control the final article or determine when and how media will run the story (yes, there are exceptions, such as you writing a guest article which I will dive in to further later in this post)
  • Design graphics, write social media posts or sales copy for your new product (while a good Publicist could potentially do it, it’s not their main gig).

The main role of a Publicist or a PR Consultant is to:

  • Tell and share stories on behalf of their client / brand
  • Craft compelling messages that resonate with their audience
  • Write and distribute press releases
  • Build relationships with journalists / influencers
  • Manage the external reputation of the business
  • Provide guidance, support and advice on how to handle negative comments, situations or challenges that might arise on social media, in the news or similar to protect relationships, reputations and revenue streams.

How is publicity different to advertising / marketing?

There is an old saying: “Advertising is what you pay for. Publicity is what you pray for.”

The essential difference is the return on investment free press coverage has on your business as it is ‘earned’ where as advertising is ‘owned’ because it is paid for.

In addition, publicity is perceived as more credible than advertising because your business is being promoted through a third party – which is like saying, “Hey you need to check this woman out!”

For example, a client of mine once paid $16,000 for a full page ad in a glossy national magazine.

She was expecting a wave of calls, insane website traffic and her business to go through the roof. Unfortunately, she got nothing… Zip. Zilch. Nada.

However, when this client was quoted in an article in another magazine a few months later, her website traffic went nuts with people searching for her brand and she was invited to speak at a conference because the event organisers had read the article and liked her perspective.

How awesome is that!

How do you measure publicity?

Traditionally, publicity is measured as 3X more than what it would cost to buy the same space via advertising.

So if you secured a full page feature in a newspaper, your editorial story would be worth 3X more than the cost of a full page ad*.

Why? Because everyone knows they can flip across an advert and not look at it twice (think of my dear client from the story above) but when you’re involved in an article, the media outlet is actually validating your brand.

For example, if you’re not in the market for cheap furniture, then you may not even register the ad from Fantastic Furniture in your paper. However, if you saw a piece of furniture featured in a design article called “How To Style Your Child’s Bedroom For Less Than $100” you’re more likely to pay attention, because that piece included in the article is recommended by the writer and the article comes across as more genuine.

*There is no one-size-fits-all method to measuring PR and each agency or Publicity professional will have their own way of valuing coverage.

What is deemed ‘newsworthy’?

If you have ambitions of being a guest on the couch of a major morning TV show or profiled in a big name magazine, the first thing media will want to know is “what’s in it for me or my readers/viewers?”

So your job is to either a) craft a killer story that their audience will love; or b) follow the news/trends of the day.

To help you craft a killer story, consider these questions:

  • Why does the audience need to hear about this?
  • What makes this new, fresh, interesting now?
  • Why should anyone care?
  • What’s the story in 1 sentence: Who, what, where, when and why?

More often than not, your ‘news’ will be about something ‘new’ – see how that works?!

It could be your new innovative product, a new book launch, a new team member, a special industry award, significant investment / funding or similar.

Luckily thanks to endless blogs, podcasts and new media platforms, there are also opportunities to provide articles and help the media out. These could be guest posts, interviews, opinion articles (on topics related to your industry but not about your business) and content you produce others can share.

When you follow the news or trends of the day, it’s keeping across what’s happening and pitching a comment or perspective to weigh in on the topic. For example, media might be seeking an expert’s opinion on mental health as a result of COVID – you could be there to help them out. This helps you position yourself as an authority in that space but you’re not responsible for generating the article.

Is publicity a promotional tool you’d like to pursue for your business? Anyone can secure media coverage with the right support and story. To discuss opportunities or whether PR is right for you, book a free no-obligation chat with me or download my quick guide to secure free and powerful publicity here and get started today.

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