Publicity has turned big time in the past several decades. Agency and media mergers, along with new technology, have sparked numerous modifications in communications, including publicity. Even the name has been modified. Most publicists now prefer the more professional term “Public Relations” or PR.
The larger, grander firms have gained extensive media exposure for
their various clients. They’ve added celebrities, politicians,
sports heroes and other notables to their stable of clients. They’ve
helped promote and market brand names of big and small firms—everything
from apparel to window coverings. Of course, in the process, PR
firms and staffs have reaped enormous profit from client fees.
PR people have also learned new ways to manage and exploit the press
and other media. Releases about their clients often utilize new
and questionable techniques to catch public attention. Here are
some common PR terms and definitions for these methods:
• color—to expand a dull news report into a more colorful
• hype—to build up news, making “nothing” items
• slant—to alter the focus or meaning of a report or story.
• spin—to change the image (good or bad) of a client or
STRESS ON SENSATIONAL
At times, reputable media moguls have even adapted the half-truth,
melodramatic news approach of the tabloid press. These techniques
and concentrated media coverage, combined with massive advertising
campaigns, have helped shape major markets for people, products
Now, leading PR news analysts, or “pundits,” have become
celebrities, too, with their own TV shows and editorial columns.
They continue to color and slant their comments and predictions
for clients and special interest groups.
Many believe such controversial PR tactics have harmed the image
of the profession. Pollsters (also an important part of Public Relations)
report that fewer people now believe what they read, see or hear
on the various media sources. They realize that PR blitzes have
become Show Biz entertainment, more views than news.
RETAILERS HAVE DOUBTS
As a result of all the changes in publicity methods, many small
businesses, especially independent retailers, have backed off on
preparing their own personal store releases. They question any possibility
of media interest in their own personal and store news. They presume
that their local media will pick up and use only the more dramatic
national celebrity and political news. So why bother with the expense
and time needed in preparing releases?
If you’re one of those skeptics, you may be overlooking a good
bet. Making use of local media is just another challenge for a small
retailer. Many have learned how to compete with some success against
big discounters. Window coverings people have used publicity releases
about their store events in various local media. Many use these
same messages on Web sites to reach the entire world on the Internet.
Each issue of D&WC carries articles by various editors and contributors
about industry retailers who are competing in these other areas.
Your local media includes newspapers, magazines, print materials,
radio, cable TV and other electronic media. The list grows longer
every year. Most of these publications and stations are no longer
locally owned. They are probably a small part of some huge national
or global media network.
However, their local managers, reporters and editors rely on news
releases just as much or more than always. Naturally, they like
to use national PR news about celebrities. Their readers worship
the stars and are anxious to know what their stars have done lately
to captivate them.
LOCAL NEWS IMPORTANT
But, local media need local news, too. Years ago, when business
was more concentrated, reporters and editors covered area events
personally. Many still do, at least for major breaking news, but
hands-on, legwork coverage is down considerably from past years
for several reasons:
1. Population sprawl into rural areas has been followed by businesses
of all kinds, too. It would be almost impossible for a reporter
to “beat” all such areas, even by phone.
2. Media conglomerates cut staffs to increase profit margins. That
includes those handling the news. Even with larger, more populated
areas, there are fewer reporters and editors to dig out and follow
up on news and features.
So, media staffs rely on PR release more than ever. Editors need
news releases, national and local. They depend on these outside
sources for the honesty and accuracy of their information.
Media coverage is a two-way street. Retail stores and companies
need to tell people and prospects about their goods and services
in order to build markets. Editors need reliable press releases
on a regular basis to attract readers and the advertiser support
they must have. So, it’s a good deal for both, a mutual fellowship
born out of respect and necessity.
MORE MEDIA AVAILABLE
Even with the mergers of various media and the growing impact of
the Internet, your local area probably has more news and specialty
publications than ever. A recent national survey totaled the following
approximate national count:
• 11,000 newspapers and periodicals
• 9,000 radio stations
• 11,000 TV stations
• Thousands of newsletters in every area
• Millions of Web sites
Newspapers may change owners and staff; radio stations alter formats;
TV news stations cater to celebrities. But their basic purpose doesn’t
change. They still rely on news and PR releases, local and national.
That’s why it’s difficult to understand why so many small
business people hesitate to use publicity as a marketing tool.
REASONS AND REBUTTALS
Of course, retailers do have obvious reasons for this reluctance,
mainly time, cost and “lack of any writing ability.” Other
reasons? The question of any possible media interest, as discussed
above, and the general impression that publicity is just not worth
PR experts can cite good rebuttal opinions against all of these
reasons, especially the last one. They are convinced that, other
than specific referrals, publicity can be one of the best ways to
reach potential prospects and attract business.
Their final recommendation: Enhance your own reputation greatly
and increase store sales with a good publicity campaign. Many businesses
and individuals value such exposure. They pay PR firms many dollars
monthly to get their names in news and feature reports.
If created and followed properly, publicity can help just about
any small retailer. It need not be costly and it is possible to
do it yourself without breaking your budget. I’ll tell you
how in future articles.
J. Lichty is a consultant and senior editor for Draperies &
Window Coverings magazine. He has more than 30 years experience
in the planning and administration of various consumer, trade and
retail advertising programs.
Window Treatment Advertising is a regular feature in Draperies &
Window Coverings examining many ways in which retailers can make the
best use of their time, efforts and resources to create effective
marketing and promotional campaigns. Past articles dating back to
1996 can be found on D&WC’s online archive categorized by
author and subject: