earned media coverage

Cheap Ways to Make a Marketing Impression

Influencer marketing, using bloggers and social media promotion, is one way to stretch a scrawny marketing budget.

Influencer marketing, using bloggers and social media promotion, is one way to stretch a scrawny marketing budget.

If you have a scrawny marketing budget, all is not lost. There are inexpensive ways to make an impression. Here are three suggestions:

Influencer Marketing

Find people who influence buying decisions for others. Bloggers with substantial followings are a good example. Their followers pay attention to what they say about food, technology, travel or all kinds of other subjects. Approach a few bloggers who connect with your target audience. Ask them to sample your product, use your service or review your offering and then write about it in their blog.

Writers who monetize their blogs may ask for compensation, but what they charge is far less than advertising and their reach is more targeted because bloggers have created a community filled with your potential customers.

If tracking down bloggers relevant to your marketing pitch seems too daunting, there are services that can help, such as Find Your Influence, which is effectively an automated dating service matching advertisers with bloggers.

YouTube and Other Video

Short, catchy videos are popular, and thanks to advances in technology they have never been easier and cheaper to produce. YouTube presents a perfect open-air theater to post them.

Most videos don’t go viral, but many of them get a good number of views. The key is to make videos worth watching, put them in an accessible channel and let the right people know they exist.

Instead of thinking like a Hollywood movie director, ask a teenager to help you. Videos are second nature to young people, as are the increasingly simplified tools to produce sophisticated video content. They might even be able to show you how to make the next video and you can pay them with a gift card at Taco Bell.

Once you have produced your video and posted it on YouTube, you can encourage people to watch by emailing friends or people on your customer list. You also can promote the video on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other networks depending on who you are trying to reach. Email marketing, assuming you’ve collected emails, is basically free. Promoting a video on social media can be cost-effective, too. The video also can be featured on your website and in your blog.

Street marketing requires a creative costume, something appealing to hand out and a willingness to throw inhibition to the wind.

Street marketing requires a creative costume, something appealing to hand out and a willingness to throw inhibition to the wind.

Street Marketing

Some of the most creative marketing ideas ever have involved street marketing. KFC once hired hundreds of people to dress up like Colonel Sanders and roam around New York, ending the day by sitting in a large bloc of seats at Yankee Stadium. The caper attracted gobs of media coverage and sparked lots of curious conversations.

You don’t need a 1,000 Colonel Sanders to create a stir. All you may need is a few volunteers willing to hand out your product on street corners while wearing logo-bearing T-shirts and funny hats.

KFC got major headlines and earned local goodwill by dispatching a Colonel Sanders look-alike to fill potholes in Louisville. You could identify a good cause – with or without involving asphalt – that connects with your product or service and convinces local TV stations to cover it.

Street marketing is an untapped source of nearly free advertising for those willing to throw inhibition to wind, dress up in a costume and do something kitschy or compassionate. In addition to some exposure and community buzz, you also will be giving your brand an injection of personality.

Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at  garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

Rethinking the Press Release

Thinking of fresh story hooks and communications channels is better use of your time than word-smithing a press release, which won't run verbatim in major publications anyway.While some organizations waste time word-smithing a press release, wiser hands think of creative ways to entice coverage of their story by reporters and bloggers. Others just publish their own stories.

This doesn't mean the press release is dead. It just means there are a lot more options to look at besides grinding out a faux news story, with the obligatory and often gratuitous quote by the CEO.

Here are some options for story pitching:

PR Matches Strategy to Need and Budget

Advertising can build awareness, but its days of building a positive reputation are numbered.Public relations bests advertising as a way to build a corporate reputation, according to new data from the Harris Interactive Reputational Quotient study.

Advertising didn't succeed in improving positive perceptions of corporations, says Robert Fronk of Harris Interactive. "Media recall is playing a dominant role on the impact of reputations for both good and bad."

The findings are based on online responses in December from 17,000 people, between the ages of 18 and 65. Some 64 percent of respondents recalled seeing an advertisement, while 40 percent said they read about a company in print or heard about it via word-of-mouth. Only 6 percent recalled reading a blog.

Fronk cited Johnson & Johnson. Its reputation took a hit in 2011, he said, largely in response to negative media coverage and online comments about the company's product recalls and quality-control issues. The venerable company's advertising failed, he added, to prop up its reputation in the shadow of bad news.