Youre the Product Manager or Marketing Director responsible
for marketing a brand new widget, lets say for sake of argument,
a new high tech device.
You have a limited budget to promote the new product, say $20,000,
and you wonder what will give you the better bang for your buck,
media relations or advertising?
Your strategic planning to date has definitely satisfied the "new,
better, different" criteria, has an identifiable niche, has
clearly defined target markets, has a strong point-of-difference
from your competition. In short, offers strategic merit.
You wish you could do both media relations and advertising, and
have seen the effectiveness of integrated campaigns with ten times
that of your current budget.
You have research data that clearly indicates which media your
target markets consume. You realize you cant even come close
to getting enough repetition on the broadcast segments highlighted,
and that even purchasing print advertising in the frequency and
size you think is needed may be quite limited.
So what value can media relations bring to the table?
First of all, a seasoned media relations practitioner will help
you see the product from the news medias point of view. Your
strategic thinking should be focused in the direction of what an
editor and/or freelance journalist will see. In short, where is
the real story? In what context does it fit? What does your product
offer their audience? Development of this kind of strategic key
messaging is imperative to give your products key messaging
a chance to get through the journalistic gatekeeper to the desired
end audience, your ultimate target.
Media relations is one of the few marketing communications disciplines
that has to go through such a gatekeeper exclusively. But in that
end lies its true value. Because the gatekeeper is charged with
the formidable task of informing his or her audience with third-party,
relatively unbiased information, the value of that information is
considered far more believable by an audience than it would accept
the advertising. And as the pace of technology development explodes
logarithmically, journalists realize the value of helping their
audiences with making crucial technology acquisition decisions.
In many ways, the opinion of the journalist is that of a trusted
family member, neighbour or friend.
The ultimate goal of good marketing communications is generating
favourable word-of-mouth advertising through product trial. Good
media coverage is that: word-of-mouth from a trusted source, comparable
to a family member, neighbour or friend who has tried the product
and says its good. So make the media an integral (if not primary)
part of the product trial/word-of-mouth advertising process. (Just
make sure to provide an adequate supply of the new product for news
Many marketers equate news media coverage with an equivalency to
what it would cost to fill a similar amount of airtime or space
with an advertisement. It is very important to remember one cannot
buy editorial coverage. Its not generally for sale. Because
of that, its believability with an audience is far greater than
the content of an ad. How many times more believable requires a
lot more space than here to deal with properly, and frankly, a lot
more work by the PR industry to develop academically endorsed, empirical
paradigms to determine the true value of an impression. Just remember,
media relations, unlike advertising, is more than counting impressions,
it's a major step in building long term relationships with the gatekeepers
who have access to your target markets.
Mark LaVigne, APR, owns and operates Hunter LaVigne
Communications Inc. and is President of the Canadian Public Relations
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