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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Effective public relations marketing in action

Today, I returned a call from Angie Gurley of Ketchum, a PR/marketing agency representing Georgia-Pacific. Angie and her colleagues have made several calls to me over the past few weeks; their messages reside in 'voice mail jail' because (1), I was exceptionally busy, (2), I failed to observe the courtesies I am supposed to apply regarding returning phone calls and (3), because I sensed this was a public relations ploy for free publicity in our newspapers.
Angie didn't give up; reaching our office administrator, signing up for a subscription to the newspaper, and leaving a real live message with a real live person. With that kind of persistence, I knew it would be wrong not to return her call.
I suppose I was right about point 3. And so I explained our policies. We don't publish self-serving articles or stories generated by public relations specialists for the interests of commercial businesses, unless these businesses are our advertisers.
Our policy is probably more stringent than most publishers; it relates to my background -- I own the publications, and have a purely editorial background. I know that editorial publicity is much more effective than advertising. Therefore we have a paradox. Is it right for us to give stuff away for free to commercial businesses who don't support us?
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and I could see that Angie was looking to find them. For example, she asked if we are publishing themes or stories on relevant topics -- where Georgia-Pacific could provide an expert for commentary. I said that wouldn't work -- if someone from Georgia-Pacific for example served as a volunteer on a community association or non-profit construction group, we would certainly work with that individual in the non-profit capacity; equally, if our editors found interesting stories about local people and businesses, commercial, advertisers or not, they could find mention in Community News, but we wouldn't likely publish a news release from an out-of-town commercial organization in these routes.
We of course would be happy to work with any business on advertising-supported editorial features and project reports; these are our bread and butter, the core of our revenue, and provide the correct trade-off (for us) between editorial publicity and advertising revenue.
However, despite her 'failure' to place stories with us, Angie still succeeded. You see, I recommend to our advertising clients that they focus a large percentage of their marketing budget on public relations and communications rather than conventional paid advertising. The cost/benefit analysis for the business owner is immense. So if you want an effective, hard-working communications specialist, consider visiting or calling Angie at 416-355-7415.

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