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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I suddenly had an epiphany at work last week when I read these words on a website article:

“Advertising evaporates immediately, but publicity tends to live on with searchable placements on the Internet…  Publicity is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Henry DeVries wrote this in an article in Forbes called “How To Measure The Value Of Publicity”. When I read it, I immediately had to copy it and send it to my boss. His response was “From your lips to God’s ears.” 

As the person in charge of advertising and public relations for our company, I always seem to find myself trying to justify an ad campaign that did not immediately deliver new customers. My boss is typically understanding and always looks for the bright spots in the campaign. I work for a truck dealership that has seven locations. Surprisingly, the company did not do a lot of marketing and advertising before I started with the company. There was some direct mail, but digital marketing was non-existent. 

After I read the words written by DeVries, I came to the realization I was indeed on the right track. Although the customers may not have come to the business during the duration of the advertising campaign, they now know the company’s name and that could bring them back to us at any time. In addition, because of the COVID-19 pandemic the company began offering disinfecting services for free which led to several media interviews. We have planted some good seeds, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I still struggle sometimes with continuing ad campaigns when I don’t see immediate results even though I know better. It is the need to see new customers emerge from the promotion that makes me invest in these campaigns over and over again. But while I may not see the actual customer faces (or their money), I can see some tangible results. With all the analytical tools available to strategic communication professionals these days, we can track almost any metric. This allows us to prove that the advertising is working. It also allows us to pinpoint exactly which part of the campaign is doing best for us. That way, we can focus more attention by putting more dollars towards it. More importantly, we will also see what is not working for us and pull dollars away. Afterall, we don’t want to waste any money or time marketing to a segment that is not interested in our business. 

There is this constant battle among the different advertising avenues. Consumers are bombarded everyday with ads on television, radio, billboards, social media, websites and even promotional items like pens and notepads. Everywhere you look, there is an advertisement. Advertisers are constantly vying for the attention of consumers. Technologist JP Rangaswami spoke during a 2012 Ted Talk about the similarities between food consumption and information consumption. He hilariously compared the two and discovered just how similar the two concepts are. You can click here to watch it for yourself below but I’ll never think of food and information the same again!

For example, he described how the consumption of too much food is unhealthy. I think this was a no-brainer. I think we can all agree about that. But did you realize the same is true for information? What happens when there is too much information consumed by a person? It could manifest in unhealthy ways. And that is why it is important to be aware of your information intake. So how do strategic communication professionals effectively snag some of that advertising attention for their clients so that they can process it in a healthy way? 

Delivering information to consumers can be tricky because you don’t want to be annoying and cause consumers to ignore you. That could adversely affect not only the results of your ad campaign, but eventually your company’s reputation. So tread lightly. I realize it is my job to know my audience so that I am able to create a message that my customers will find beneficial. I have to know who they are and where they are located in order to create a campaign that will have the best chance at being successful. That is why it is so important to deliver timely and relevant information to consumers. 

From my experience as a marketer, ads that are targeted to specific groups and locations seem to be more effective. I don’t want to deliver an ad about 18-wheeler truck repairs (which is one of the things my company specializes in)  to a 16-year-old high school student hanging out at the mall. There’s no benefit to either of us and it will result in wasted money, ad space or website impressions. I need to find that trucker who is traveling near our business. More targeted ads are likely to give me the tangible results I am planning for, like web visits and conversions. Those types of tangible results are ones that I can take to my boss. 

There are benefits to publicity that are intangible and these are ones that I find the most rewarding. Those are the results that I love to share with the management group. Sure, we have been featured in newspaper articles, business magazines, and even interviewed for television. And that’s great! But nothing beats hearing things like, “I heard your company gave a donation to a family whose house burned” or “We’re so thankful to you all for sponsoring this scholarship for our school”. It’s those intangible results of publicity that are gratifying. Those are the types of results you literally cannot buy but are extremely valuable. 

One of the things I’ve learned during my time studying how to become an even better strategic communicator, is that word-of-mouth is so powerful. And when it can be used for good, it’s even better! Developing and maintaining a good reputation will take an organization even further than just an average advertising campaign. Good publicity can easily lead to brand recognition which turns into new customers and additional business. I believe I would take that any day over a statistically and analytically successful ad campaign. It’s just like Henry DeVries said, “Publicity is the gift that keeps on giving.”


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