Some call it ‘free advertising’. As someone who’s spent the past 20 plus years doing it, I’d say there’s no such thing as free advertising. Publicity is a trade-off – a complex and intricate negotiation in which either party can either endorse, encourage, enrage or expose you. Treat it with the kid gloves it deserves. There, lecture over.
Alan Chapman, writer, producer and musician with Rude Angel, a band with a mission to raise suicide awareness since losing lead vocalist Lianne Ashberry in 2015, is a firm believer in getting yourself and your product out there by creating relationships with the press:
“Get your creative offerings out there as much as you can – they are doing you no good sat on your shelf or in a garage.
Free editorial is wonderful but you need exciting news, stories and pictures – and to cultivate relationships with journalists. To do that you need to be different.” This is a key point – you’re one of hundreds and hundreds of press releases. You don’t have a hope of yours being read unless you have something to say – something newsworthy. A new product or service will never be enough – if your news angle isn’t strong enough, then think about presenting it in a newsworthy way. If you can’t, wait until you have something to say.
On a lighter note, use the media to sample and review your product/service. You have various options, from print and online journalists to bloggers to radio and TV producers. It’s essentially sampling and requires free products and services, of course. Sometimes with limited return, sometimes with priceless endorsement: nothing speaks louder than editorial endorsement and recommendation. Into this category falls media drops.
Word of caution: be creative with it – these people are offered freebies every day. Do something worthy of tweeting or uploading to Instagram or mentioning on air.
Also think through all of your marketing assets – people, pictures, videos – and ask yourself if any of them lend themselves to publicity. Amy Christer, Theatre Programmer and Producer at Leicester’s The Y Theatre, shares how The Y realised that even something as simple as an American accent could be used as a publicity tool! “At the first 14/48 festival we also had the benefit of having one of our American partners over here so we popped him on the radio. An American accent on Radio Leicester helped prick people’s ears up a bit,” she says.
I’ve talked endlessly about social media in this blog but it’s worth revisiting it here as an example of publicity. I have a confession to make. I don’t think social media is all that. There I’ve said it. Although it has a place for mass sharing of information, getting an offer out to the masses or creating a buzz, I find it too throw away to be of any real value. Bear with me on this one – have you ever spent more than a few seconds flicking through your timeline?? Do you read every post?? This is a controversial view in this day and age, I know, but I’m not the only one who thinks it…. Charlie Hinesh, founder of ID1/The Print Design Co, has my back on this one: “Social media in this day and age can make or break a creative company.
I feel companies don’t truly understand the need as well as limits of social media. I have always felt social media should complement a marketing strategy rather than be the relied upon source of marketing.
With thousands of tweets and Facebook posts crowding our walls daily, it’s VERY easy for a message to be missed or ignored through a crowded platform. I feel social media can be used positively to update existing and potential customers, and used for lead generation purposes if done well. The companies that constantly rely upon social media to promote offers throughout the day can sometimes be posting what we refer as “overkill.” A post that has solid engagement and activity is more purposeful than regular posts that have become and disintegrated part of that gigantic social media wall.”
Editorial publicity and social media have one crucial thing in common – you’ve absolutely no control over it. As with editorial, the result can be they love or hate you… publicly. And they may not always be the ‘right’ kind of customer…remember Daniella Westbrook and Burberry?? #justsaying.