Our guest blogger Murry Shohat is back with Part 2 in the series, Understanding Publicity. Let’s get to it.
In Understanding Publicity, Part 1, I mentioned that with advertising, you pay for space and time. With publicity, you mostly PRAY for space and time. The reason is simple: there is a sort of “church/state” separation or wall that is firmly in place in western journalism. You can buy ads but you can’t buy a news story. You can pay for a TV or radio commercial but you can’t throw dollars at a reporter for coverage, not in any media that’ll help your business. Online, you can pay for incoming links to increase your page ranking in major search engines, but many experts, and even Google frowns upon this type on insincere and inorganic form of website publicity.
If you study the media, you’ll learn that good editorial content receives five to twenty times more attention than advertising content. On the web especially, content is king. We sometimes mute commercials, or skip them, right? We do the same for interruptive flash banner ads. We usually read a newspaper for news and features, barely noticing the ads. Thus, if you can get editorial attention, it’s worth the effort because the attention provides leverage. Sitting on top, like whipped cream, is the endorsement value of publicity.
On your website, you’ll feature the editorial attention using tactics designed to influence surfers and motivate them to become loyal customers or blog subscribers using things like social bookmarking, subscriptions to articles, newsletters, whitepapers, press releases, case studies, free tutorials, and so on. These tactics could be the deal clincher that causes site visitors to open their wallets or become loyal subscribers to your blog.
But first, you must fulfill those online and offline tactics. It’s fair to note that advertising salespersons jump over the wall all the time. “Steve, that new furniture warehouse on Airway Drive is doing some unique things you might want to report,” says the salesperson to the editor, knowing that coverage will bode well for an ad contract. And Steve the editor may actually check it out, perhaps after doing a little research on your website before hand. If he discovers some news worth reporting, and that your site provides exciting (or atl east noteworthy) opportunities for potential customers and potential advertisers, he’ll assign the story or do it himself.
More likely than not, Steve won’t visit the store. He’s got plenty to do, little time to go running after vague leads from the sales department. Is there a story worth reporting? The website can be telling. This is where WHO comes in. The WHO is YOU. As the owner or manager, you know what the business is attempting to accomplish. You know how your approach differs from the competition. You know why it’s important, why investors are putting money in. More than anyone else, YOU can articulate the chief reasons for the business and, in 30 seconds or less you can tell a stranger about it. Your website’s written content also can tell y0ur story quickly and conveniently without you having to utter a word.
You can’t rely on a happy accident where a salesperson promises to get the attention of the editor or news director of your local newspaper or radio station. YOU are the one who will pray for space by contacting the media. But don’t pick up the phone just yet. You need to organize the story starting with WHAT.
Let’s deal with WHAT. Let’s say you are a dentist, opening a new practice after 10 years in a team office. Your decision is mostly based on technology. You’ve watched the march of dental technology and now want to offer the latest and greatest. Your business plan calls for the use of several new clinical tools:
- A remarkable 3D X-ray system that is extremely accurate — no distortion — as well as very lose dose, for better treatment planning and clinical precision
- A marvelous laser and ultrasonic based drilling system that is fast and quiet and produces far less chance of pain;
- Brand new space age adhesives for temporary and permanent crowns;
- You also have an in-practice lab that produces crowns and veneers in minutes;
- Capping things off is a new hygienic treatment methodology that uses ultrasonic and lasers tools to rapidly improve periodontal (gum) health, and a fully trained staff.
Very little of this technology was in use at your team office, and the owners didn’t want to invest. Here you are on your own, well financed by a forward-looking investor. And everything above is the WHAT in your publicity effort. Look at those five news hooks. Imagine the creative ways to present them at your website using some or all of the tactics mentioned above. Given the advances in web technology and user interactivity you can create a dynamic web presence that highlights how knowledgeable and “with it” you are with technology.
Next is WHY. You know why. You must fill the new floating treatment chairs with patients to make a living. Sure, some of your patients from the team practice may follow, but you’ve opened the new office 45 miles away. You need new patients. That’s WHY you need marketing, including publicity and advertising.
The WHEN is easy; it’s about timing. You need to fill those chairs beginning Day 1, so you’ll want to step back at least 60 days before the opening. More lead time is better! Plus, you’ll need that much time to get a great website designed, developed, launched and optimized for search engines to find.
WHERE is easy, too. Your publicity will be focused on your physical practice. You’ll bring reporters with their notebooks and cameras right into the practice. Since that could be hectic if everyone shows up at once, you’ll set aside time to see reporters for one-on-one briefings at the office. As for your web presence, you just point to your website (that’s been search engine optimized for anyone to find).
Now we’ve reached HOW. I saved it for last because it’s the most professional issue. Just as our dentist has to be trained to make use of all that new space age equipment — the HOW of dentistry — our publicist has to know HOW to do publicity. In my next installment, I’ll concentrate on the HOW of publicity. In fact, I may stay on topic for more than one installment, since HOW varies according to business type. For many businesses, not only is there plenty of HOW — the dentist is a good example — there are repeated opportunities arising out of each project.
And your website becomes the presentation vehicle of your HOW. Figure out the HOW, and you’ve got ammo to keep the site fresh and interesting.
And that leads me to the conclusion of this installment. Publicity is not a project at all. It’s a process. Once begun, you’ll want to think of publicity as an ongoing endeavor. After all, if you succeed in getting attention from the media, why squander your success through neglect? Publicity is a process. I will begin to tell you HOW in my next installment.