Take it easy; own an editor

We continue to receive marketing letters telling us to visit the senders’ websites and find new product releases to place for them. Some of them have no relevance to our business, whatever. While I appreciate the value people see in electronic communication and data storage, including no postage and no separation of prints and text, there is a huge downside, and it is affecting your market reach.

To stay close to our interests, let’s take a look at the recent Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (K/BIS), held last January in Las Vegas. When I walked into the press room, it was the most barren I have seen. Ever. No news releases, no coffee pot, no chairs or tables. Just three attendants passing out badges. I asked about media kits, and was told, as if I had never heard of the internet, “all that is done on the web these days.”

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

Well, it’s not. Let’s take a peek inside another industry, where I engaged a group of editors in conversation on a bus in Europe. All had been up early, and had clearly been working since well before dawn. They were exhausted. I asked what they had been so busy at, and was told they each had to put fresh content on their websites, update their company’s Facebook account on daily show news with photos and send assigned “show tweets.” Once on the show floor, they were responsible for still and video photography, as well as arranged “interviews” with assigned advertisers. Naturally, as print editors, their primary purpose was to come up with features and updates for their respective magazines, but, they said, the old days of learning and reporting on your industry are dead.

Of course, your business is not to worry about poor, overworked journalists. But it could be, if your real goal is to advance sales.

Going back to the beginning of time, just for kicks, we can see that communication sets people apart from all other species. Yes, I hear that dolphins can write symphonies. Unfortunately, they cannot prove it and we can. We can document and archive communication for all subsequent generations to review and use. And that ability to communicate across time and space was advanced by mass communications, whether the Gutenberg Press, radio and television and digital. Each is a medium of archiving and dispersing. Communication.

There has been a huge push by mainly unemployed dot-com salesmen to claim their mode, digital, is superior to all others. It is not. It’s great, as is in evidence by this being an e-letter. However, unless you consider content, all they are talking about is format. Magazines used to be tabloid-sized, journal-sized and digest-sized, among others, yet nobody would consider sending Playboy to a convent just because they were alleged to prefer journals.

Now there is a new format called digital. And because it’s free and relatively unregulated, anybody that can’t sell something real is selling digital. Not digital content, but digital format. They can steal (curate) content from others.

Essentially, “digital” is a code, much like pig Latin. Anybody that knows the code gets the reward of group association, and anybody that does not is not cool. And that is a topic for another day. The idea that digital is better or cheaper needs analysis.

My point is that you need sales, and mass marketing is one way to get them. Mass marketing can be done by advertising, but it can also be done by what is loosely referred to as public relations. In our own industry, public relations is generally seen as free advertising. And that, too, is a topic for another day.

However, if you want to take advantage of the reach of public relations, you should develop a public relations program. Easy said, and often. Here is how it’s done.

1. Identify your market. Let’s say it’s Brandon, Man., and you are selling grandfather clocks.

2. Research the market. Just find out what you can — population, education and other statistics are available from the government.

  • a. Some very specific information may need a study, if you have the time and money.
  • b. Let’s say you don’t.

3. Identify the media. In this case, you don’t want a national magazine or a Superbowl ad, but you should at least identify the local radio and television stations, the local mainstream media and any special-interest media that might include your target market. In that case, the local tourism magazines won’t likely help, but the cottage market may. (Not that cottages need clocks, but the owners may be able to buy one.)

4. Educate and stimulate the market.

  • a. Buy ads if you have the time and money.
    • Let’s say you don’t.
  • b. Prepare a news release.
    • Start at the top with the date, your contact info and a catchy, short title written as a sentence. Blastoff Savings is not a news release. There are formats for news releases on the ‘net. Use them at your own risk.
    • News can be news. Have you expanded? Have you added staff? Changed ownership? Added lines? New to Brandon? Anniversary? Helped a scout troop? Aided the government? Thwarted the government?
      • Write up (or have written) a very brief release saying who you are, what you did, where you did it, when and how it may affect the market.
      • Direct the reader to your website.
      • Add a photo
    • News can be products.
      • Write up (or have written) the name of your company, the name of the product and the product’s applications, specifications and options, if any.
      • Direct the reader to your website
      • Add a photo.

Remember where we started in Europe. Journalists are overworked. As more and more independent titles are bought up by conglomerates, the management sees “economies of scale” in making one person do the work of two or three on related titles. Economies of scale work with robots, not with people.
However, the journalists’ loss can be your gain. You can sell a journalist the same way you can sell a customer. Tell him or her you can make life easier. If you can supply information in a clear, concise form, complete with pictures and contact info, your release goes to the top of the pile. If the journalist has the option of going to a website, clicking on products, clicking on new, clicking on a product only to find it is three years old (the last time most OEMs updated their website) and having to call and request a new release, versus opening your e-mail, seeing all the stuff is there, interesting and complete, you win and the overstaffed press room loses.
Since the staff does not want to do the work of organizing and providing useful releases, nobody else does, either. This causes a communication gap, and people have never tolerated one. People want information, and they will work to get it. You, however, have to do the minimum to provide it.
A few miles south on The Strip, another trade show, The International Surfaces Event was running concurrently. What a difference. There was breakfast, lunch and drinks for the media, attentive staff and useful information. It appeared to some exhibitors that the media have it soft, and they tried to take advantage of the resources. Lunch, to be specific. The staff sent them on, but in the background you could see some of the same journalists as were on the bus in Europe, rushing from place to place with cameras, recorders, notepads and sweat, eating on the run and hoping both to get a break and have a job next week. The conglomerates are keeping tabs.

Meanwhile, the folks in Brandon can see you care, and that you have taken the time to communicate with their local media. They see you make nice stuff, and, while they may not be in the market for an heirloom clock, now that they think of it, they might be.
The internet has driven society into a frenzy. Folks are driven to pay before they receive and sign away all rights before they pay. Conglomerates are killing all that was alive in newspapers and magazines and smirking because they get paid for the job. Offshore suppliers continue to win the marketing battle because they can pull the price card. In all, it’s a rush in manufacturing and installing, just as it is in media and marketing. The sight of a nice, well-done, oak or walnut grandfather clock may be just what somebody with too much money and too little time could use.
In fact, now that I think of it…

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