I Finally Found Out What Makes the World Go ‘Round
By Rodger Roeser, CEO, Eisen Marketing Group
Admit, you love game shows. The Price is Right, maybe? Bet you like pro football or baseball or basketball? NASCAR your thing? The fact is almost our entire day and I’ll even argue most of our waking moments of our entire life is surrounded by advertising in some form. Now, I own an “ad agency” so clearly I’m happy about this, but I’m not sure business executives and certainly not the average Joe understand how much advertising allows us to do, the industry and jobs it creates and why, quite simply, you can’t live without it.
Our poor NFL players would still have to have summer jobs without advertising, and the Super Bowl would be far less entertaining. What would they give away on The Price Is Right? And pretty much the entire cartoon industry, home improvement show and reality TV (Master Chef, anyone?) would all but crumble – basically all media of any kind would simply cease. Next time you’re watching your favorite TV show or even the news, keep a lookout for product placement (Psych is famous for this).
You need those ads to keep the shows on. Everyone knows why afternoon dramas are still called “soap operas” right? And, while I do love advertising – the creative aspect and watching it “do its thing” are thrilling to me, the lines have clearly crossed into the media relations world. And again, while I own a “PR firm,” business executives and consumers need to know a few things about how that “works.” A crappy story is still a crappy story. The news media is not entirely influenced by advertising, but increasingly, as part of a smart marketing mix, you can definitely grease the palms. And remember, not that you “should” but you “can” say anything you wish on your social media channels.
So, Joe Consumer and Mr. Business, when you’re watching the news – think for a few minutes if that may have been part of a larger “buy.” Why was that product featured? Why did they use that expert to discuss that particular topic? It is altogether possible or even likely that it is part of a much larger advertising spend. Think about it – the media knows they have something of value (ears and eyes). But, why are so many businesses so keen on getting media relations and “publicity” and backing off on advertising? It’s “cheaper,” right? Often, particularly now, you need advertising to “get” publicity.
Remember the part about the crappy story? Well, chances are the vast majority of “news” you think you may have is of little to no value to the news media (regardless of how good or well-connected the PR agency is). And, often times I have to assume that most business executives have never read a newspaper or watched the news, because what is asked to be pitched bears no resemblance to anything that has appeared in the news media. And, media relations is and never will be a replacement to good advertising. They are not interchangeable parts. They work completely differently, and perform completely differently. They are complementary pieces, not interchangeable parts – because often one greatly affects and influences the other, particularly given the current media landscape.
Many are starved for ad dollars. Often, media relations and articles are offered as a value add as part of an overall advertising buy with a given media outlet. In fact, in some outlets that is the only way you’ll ever receive coverage and this number is greatly increasing for two reasons: most businesses continue to try to pitch lousy non stories, and the media outlets need the revenue. So, this is clearly starting to bias “news” and could even start to become “news for those that can afford to make news.” Which, for most businesses, your social media outlets will allow you print anything you wish – you can make that as uninteresting and self-serving as you’d like. Same with your ads, you have control over the message, the location – everything. And, increasingly, with a big enough spend, you can start to control some editorial as well.
But, if you’re looking to be part of most legitimate news sources, you need to look at your business from a public relations perspective. For starters STOP saying public relations when you mean publicity or media relations. Secondly, agree that what you and your business does is rarely of news value. So, from a public relations perspective, what is our organization operationally going to “do” to relate to our publics that also “could” be newsworthy? Light bulb anyone?
Many people in media relations actually work to fend off the media, and can be very selective about the interviews and media outlets they work with – and in some cases can virtually control the interview. Since chances are you’re not Bruce Wayne and your business is not Wayne Enterprises, this approach may not work out so well for you. Know that in media relations, failure is very high even with a “good” story. There are only so many outlets and so much room for news. Watch the local news or grab the local paper (while it still exists). Another case in point, less advertising, less room for “news.”
A press release won’t do it. Sadly, and very recently, I’ve seen dozens of cases of businesses (and clueless PR “professionals” who put a press release out on those “free services” and were just dumbfounded that they were securing no actual coverage. It would also have helped had the press releases not been long form advertisements or, website copy. No Mr. Businessman, that’s not how it works. Media relations should be a part of your overall marketing mix and should include advertising as well as social media and marketing activities to balance the work and make placement a bit easier.
They play off of one another well, like a great meal from an award winning chef or a perfect mixed cocktail. PR is your operational image and actions and brand conversation, while advertising and media relations, among others, are tactics to share those conversations. They are different. They are both good – and used together, make a powerful punch. Be mindful they can influence one another, and in some cases, advertising can beget publicity. Start with doing something that could be a great story that would be of interest to the eyes and ears of that given media outlet – not that you think it’s important, but rather would those reading, listening, watching give a hoot about what you’re saying.
Advertise more, it can be a media relations person best friend. After all, do you think your agency or your internal pro “doesn’t” want to get you in the paper? Think they’re not “trying hard enough?” Media relations is by far the most difficult job at any agency or internal marketing team – which makes it funny because most media relations work is delegated to junior practitioners or the admin – so it’s okay to utilize additional tactics to help spread the work. But, a mix is always the best approach.
Besides, think how dull life would be without great advertising.
About the Author
Rodger Roeser is the CEO of Greater Cincinnati based Eisen Marketing Group, a group of four branded marketing consultancy organizations – The Eisen Agency, Nexphase, Manly Marketing for Men, and Argo PR. Roeser is the national chairman of the Public Relations Agency Owners Association and is a national speaker and presenter on various marketing communications topics. He served as Cincinnati PRSA Chapter president in 2005. More information can be accessed at www.EisenMarketingGroup.com.