Explicit Instructions: Your PR Campaign made Easy —
By Jeffrey Dobkin
Click Here for Part I of this article
So, now’s the time to mail press releases to your target market.
It’s best to begin your campaign by writing and sending press releases instead of starting a paid advertising campaign right away.
When your press releases are published, they’re published for free. If your press release is published and draws a profitable response from a particular magazine or newspaper (or better yet, market segment) and you sell a lot of product, then consider paying for a ad space in that publication. The ultimate goal is to find publications where you can consistently and cost-effectively place direct response ads.
Keep tight track of the magazines that feature your release.
Keep track of the magazines that ran your press release and you sold a good amount of product from those write-ups. These are the magazines that you’ll consider for an ad. That’s the value of getting press releases published: Free publicity, and the knowledge of which magazines or groups of magazines where have the greatest chance of successfully and profitably running an ad schedule.
If the magazine serves the ideal target market niche for your products (or services), my first recommendation is to pitch an article derived from an article you’ve written (or had written for your firm) about how their readers can solve a particular common problem – and how your product is designed to do this.
If you’re a known industry figure, an interview with you by the editorial staff is also a great way to publicize your business. Write a one-page query letter to the editor about an interview with a few proposed questions and your pithy answers. If you’re trying for article placement, include a great query letter and bullet points you’d include to show how helpful your article would be to their readers.
If you like the telephone (I don’t), simply call the editor and pitch. Some people are great on the phone. Of course, you’ll need to follow up diligently with something in print so they can see your writing style. They may want to see a sample of your product, or a copy of your book. Anything you can include in this package that will increase your credibility will help at this time.
When you find a magazine you’re almost certain to advertise in – or one that you want to examine closely over time for advertising potential and to see if they run competitors ads on a continual basis – ask an advertising sales rep to start a complimentary subscription for you. Almost always, like 99% of the time, they’ll agree.
Alternatively, you can simply pay for the subscription. If it’s a free trade magazine, fill out the reader service card in the sample copies they sent you and check the “Start my subscription” block. Don’t fall for the “pay-for” subscription card in the magazine unless it’s a consumer magazine: 95% of all trade journals are sent free to qualified recipients. Check the audit statements you receive in the media kit to see how many free subscribers they have vs. paid subscriptions.
If your press release campaign is successful, you may want to test some ads.
But be careful: it can be tough to make a $25 product pay for itself with a space ad. Since this is a long shot, don’t test the waters with a heavy ad schedule up front. Place ONE ad in the best magazine you can find and see if the revenue is anywhere close to break even. If it is, you can always go back and place more ads. If it isn’t close, I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE even the repetition of several ads will NOT bring you up to profitability. See the article on this site: The 3 Ad Myth.
Figuring the pay-out is simple. If your product retails for $25 (and costs you $5 to manufacture, and $5 to ship — so you net $15) and the ad costs $600, you need to sell 40 pieces to break even ($15 net x 40 units = $600). Is it realistic that you sell 40 units from a single ad? Only you can answer that. Be realistic.
Analyzing and Evaluating Magazines
Call each magazine to request their media kit. In about two weeks you’re going to have about 60 media kits and 150 magazines on your desk, or worse, on your kitchen table. As they arrive, sort them into primary, secondary, and tertiary market piles or boxes. Then, evaluate them all at once.
Glance through every media kit; remove the circulation statement, the rate schedule and anything else that seems useful; keep at least two copies of each magazine and the annual or directory issues and after a brief look-over, throw the rest of the contents out. Now, have a glass of wine. I’ve found magazine analysis goes best with a light Merlot.
Many of the magazines will show two circulation figures in their literature — their actual circulation, as found on their audit statements, and what publishers usually call their “pass-along readership” or “pass-along circulation.”
Remember that the first circulation figure represents the number of magazines sent out, the number of people who actually read each issue is smaller (especially in warm summer months where outdoor activity is high). Take the pass-along number with a grain of salt. Every magazine touts a pass-along copy audience, but there’s no way to measure it accurately. So, in other words, it’s bullshit the publishers make up to show larger figures.
Read the magazines that serve your primary markets not only to evaluate them, but also to look for similar products and competitors’ ads. If it’s a glossy, four-color coffee table magazine with lots of four-color ads, will the black-and-white ad you can afford look lost or reflect poorly on you, your products and your company?
If you find ads for a competing products, ask the magazine sales rep how long and how often they’ve been running in the magazine. If those ads have been appearing for a while, they’re probably working, and this magazine should start to look more attractive to you for your own ad because now you know at least it’s working for a similar product.
If you have any doubts about the editorial content aligning with profiles of your own customers, call the editorial department and ask who reads the publication. If the market isn’t a good match for your products, you have a better chance of finding out from an editor than from a space salesperson. In fairness, some space salespeople are truly honest and capable of supplying you with an excellent in-depth industry media assessment, even if their own media mix isn’t right for your advertising. On the other hand, they’re called “Salespeople” for a reason.
Lots of magazines will fit in with the products or books you are marketing to some extent. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to determine the markets and magazines within those markets with the absolute best fit: the ones that make it “most likely” you’ll get the greatest number of qualified responses and sales from an ad or press release.
Still have those sample magazines? Good. On the cover of each one, in big black numbers with a big boldface marker, write the cost of whatever ad you think you might buy (full-page, color or black-and-white, half -page, one-third-page, one-fourth-page, whatever) and the circulation.
Also, note whether the magazine accepts press releases and, if it does, write down the name of the column that prints releases that you’d like to be in, and the writer or editors name for that column. Put a post-it note sticking out of the top on that column’s page and post-it notes on pages with competitors’ ads.
If a magazine isn’t right for an ad or press release, write the same info on the cover, but keep just the cover. In six months, when you’re wondering if you’ve reviewed that publication or not, you’ll have a record of it. A thin record.
Now separate magazines for advertising consideration and magazines for press releases or editorial pitches only. If you need an ad, most magazines will layout an ad for you if you contract for placement of the ad, but I don’t recommend this. It can be too hit or miss, depending on who makes up your ad: a seasoned pro, or the intern they just got for this semester at school.
Your ad objective: generating the highest amount of qualified leads or sales, is different than theirs: sell you ad space. Your ad objective is to generate maximum response, their objective is to make an acceptable ad quickly and hope it works.
Seriously, you can’t be sure the ad composition isn’t given to an intern. ABSOLUTELY NEVER RUN AN AD YOU HAVEN’T SEEN… AND APPROVED by you, even if you’re up on deadline. There is ALWAYS, always a next issue — and a next month. Even if it isn’t the Gala “Show” issue. Or the big “Christmas” issue. Next month: SSDD. Always.
Now you can mail your press releases.
The results will tell you how well you did your research and how effectively you wrote your press release. If you’re successful, at the conclusion of your campaign you’ll be counting the product sales units you sold, the inquiries your press release brought in, and the money you made.
Jeffrey Dobkin, is a fun speaker and a specialist in direct response copywriting, offering press release planning and campaigns, direct mail, letters, brochures and booklets. He has written 5 books on highly effective marketing methods. Call 610-642-1000 for samples of his work, or for a free 20 minute consultation.
Good luck, and let me know how you make out with this mini-marketing instructional piece. Thanks.
Jeffrey Dobkin, is a fun speaker and a specialist in direct response copywriting and has written 5 books. For free samples of his work, call 610-642-1000.