Forget marketing - focus on PR

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Magazines © by Hector Alejandro (2009)

Whether in architecture, dry cleaning, plumbing or legal services, it is critical business owners understand the importance of marketing their brands. Marketing, after all, is a central mechanism for business growth.

Too often entrepreneurs get lost in the decision of which marketing channels to choose. Direct mail may be effective for local businesses, while national television ads tend to suit large corporations well. Most recently, online marketing tools like websites and social media have taken center stage.

Entrepreneurs with limited budgets must choose which marketing mix best suits their particular businesses. If implemented well, any marketing channel can be effective. Unfortunately, high costs are usually associated with strong campaigns.

The most powerful and cost effective marketing tool is publicity. Publicity, the art of attracting media attention, directly increases a brand’s target market visibility, which directly boosts sales.

While advertising is paid for, publicity is prayed for. This is easy to understand. As an entrepreneur, would you rather pay $100,000 for a Forbes back cover ad or be featured on the front cover editorially at no charge? Would you rather purchase a $40,000 commercial ad during the Daily Show or be an invited guest on the show?

Unlike the paid science of dollar-per-inch advertising, publicity is an art of skillfully presenting and persuading journalists to cover stories. Ad space is sold, while editorial space is earned. Getting featured depends solely on newsworthiness and compel, not payment.

The publicity appeal is clear for young entrepreneurs, whose greatest asset is often business savvy and greatest hindrance is usually cash availability. Since advertising requires tremendous monetary investment and publicity requires only time investment (and sometimes minor costs), the latter is clearly preferable.

Passionate entrepreneurs who lack cash can successfully market their ventures with publicity. And those who do so will find additional benefits that no advertising campaign can deliver:

  1. Credibility. A cover story in TIME magazine or interview an on CNN brings tremendous credibility to you and your brand. Being featured in the media establishes prestige and an implied sense of endorsement from the network that covers your story.

  2. No tune-outs. With the advent of online and social media, consumers have learned to tune out ads and focus on content. People are more likely to remember an article on your firm than an advertisement. Marketing campaigns that focus on content (publicity) attract viewers, while those centered on ads experience high tune-out rates.

  3. Ability to use as marketing collateral. Once featured in a media outlet, you can incorporate the coverage into your marketing package. Whether reprinting a magazine article to include in your marketing presentation or embedding a television interview on your website, showcasing your coverage in the media can be a great marketing tool for impressing potential clients, investors and other stakeholders.

  4. Tremendous cost savings. Being featured in the media is free. While there may be minor costs associated with a successful publicity campaign, the overwhelming required input is time.

Zach Cutler is a dynamic entrepreneur and communications expert that founded Cutler Group in 2009. He has expertise in helping high-tech companies achieve major media attention. He is also a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.

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