Thursday, 15 December 2016

Free Publicity: A Guide

We looked at how to create a fact ridden ad last time!

In this article Evan Burgess explains why you shouldn´t be cheap with free publicity.

Free Publicity

Would you like to gain attention for your business or product? Publicity is a great method. Though it doesn’t always involve money, to get the most out of publicity you need to spend some thought dollars!

Free Publicity is Not a Free Ad
Many businesses that are starting rely solely on free publicity. In my view, free publicity is a double positive, because publicity is free. It can be argued that a lot of back room deals are done where stories appearing in newspapers and other media are somehow bought or engineered. Often the stories are so vapid, like “Star seen with new dog” you would realise there’s something under the surface. It would be wise to understand however asking for a free advert is not the same thing as seeking publicity. The only reliable way you could get a free ad is if you do some kind of contra deal.

Though publicity does have the intention of selling a product or service, publicity is not advertising. Sometimes, advertising can lead to publicity, but publicity is not the paid advert itself. This phenomena is when the advert gets people talking, or for example, a catch phrase from an advert becomes a day to day phrase. This turns into word of mouth publicity. Some people do shoehorn advertising into the spectrum of publicity, but to me, this is like saying everyone who walks into a shop is a customer. It doesn’t meet the definition that I go by, that they have some kind of intention of buying something! I am not talking about browsing or window shopping. Rather, I am referring to some people being free riders, wanting something for nothing.  Someone using a cafe’s toilet when there is a sign saying “Customer Use Only” is free riding. I feel there’s a subtle difference between that mentality and to the one which gains free publicity. The key distinction is a media outlet can only justify giving free publicity if it feels the audience will want to know about it. Make sure your press releases contain interesting, targeted material!

Have you factored everyone into
your publicity drive?
Wikimedia commons image.
Story Value
The activity of a business can lead to publicity. Such as when Marks & Spencers lingerie became popular in France. This was seen as humorous, French lingerie was long seen as superior. But publicity is never when you send in an advert and say “I am releasing a product, can you put something in for free?”

Some people are so attached to their product they don’t realise other people don’t see it the same as them. Some people are even a little delusional over its appeal. When I was 19 I was doing a business workshop at the Prince’s Trust and a man who wanted to make computer games was asked about his target market. He said “Everyone.” The man in charge said, “Right, but what we’re trying to ascertain is how many customers will realistically buy your product. That will help you budget for what to spend on its marketing.” “Well, I would say about 4 billion people.” There was some confusion. “Do you really think that grannies will be playing your computer games?”, “Yes, I can imagine that.” “Right, but what we’re trying to get at is how you will actually launch this product, those people who your product is directly targeted at.” “Computer games are for everyone!” It is true back then lots of people had computers, but the desire of an elderly lady to play a computer game was often to recreate a real life game like chess, solitaire or bridge. His games did not appeal to that generation. So before you start your publicity drive, start with a focused approach.

Even with products that have a wide appeal, you need to start with a wedge in the door that hits trendsetters. That wedge is often an appealing story directed at the type of people you wish to reach.  Our products can be like our own children, we love them! But divorce yourself from your product for a second and think what is really in it for a media outlet.

Imagine a cola company sent out a press release stating “Here is a picture of our new can of cola, a picture of a can of our zero cal alternative, and a lemonade. Please tell people about that.” There is no incentive to publish. There is no story, it doesn’t have a beginning, middle or end. There is no narrative. The product is not new, the offering is not new, and the benefit behind it is entirely one sided.

Compare that to a new company that is offering a free trial of its product or service. It could be a new product, or an old product done in a new or different way. This offers interaction to the reader (they can choose to take part or tell a friend), it means the reader appreciates the magazine or outlet for bringing this to their attention and it informs them of something. And if there is a response to this trial, the company will probably make money! This can be seen as a synergy of positive activity, a virtuous circle if you will.

When you are making a new product, you should be building this kind of idea into it from the design. This could be known as forward compatibility. There is a strong argument that you can build failure into your product by having too rigid a focus, meaning the paradigm you create limits its success. Does your current paradigm have any scope for publicity?

What has Story Value.

A story that really works ought to have at least one or all of the following components. It should be unusual, mysterious, good natured, intriguing and/or allow interaction. When the Beatles released a new record, it was a story because everyone wanted to know about it. When you release a new product, it isn’t a story in itself. But if you for example released a new product and held an event to launch it, where you offered demonstrations, a display of your skill, a lesson in your skill or some entertainment, this could well get coverage.

In general, as a test of the solidity of your idea, perhaps write down your plan and blank out your name and your product. Imagine if it was someone else’s unknown product, as foreign to you as your product is to others. Does this story motivate you? Could you imagine a conversation where you said “I read in the paper about this” to your friends? If it seems like it can generate buzz, submit a press release. If you are unsure, go back to the drawing board.

The Media Outlets Perspective: What Not to Do and What to Do

For the media outlet you are submitting your information to, you must consider what value your press release offers. Be ruthless with yourself. Do you offer anything worth knowing about to the media outlet’s audience? This must be as interesting as the money value the space would otherwise generate. This is not the same as thinking “They have readers that would buy my product”. As Alan Sugar liked to say, anyone can sell £10 for £9, that isn’t what a media outlet wants to do. The media outlet has paying customers, they don’t need to give you something for free. Imagine if their clients found out they had paid and you did not! For a media outlet, there are far more people who would like something in it than can be sustained. If you are trying to make money, remember other people are too! Not only that, you must have a take it or leave it approach. If they can’t fit it in, that is the way it is.

For our magazine we had a bizarre experience where someone sent an e-mail with some pictures of their product and saying they were selling it at a location. We are happy to put in pieces where space allows that have a local interest element, but pictures of products and a location is not local interest. This was clearly an advert. We couldn’t fit in any more content unless we bought more space from our printers, and we weren’t going to buy more space to fit in someone’s free advert. 

For some reason the person took it upon them self to mislead their friends on Facebook by publishing our reply to their cut and paste e-mail, in which we directed them to our prices. They omitted their original message, which would have explained our reply, and claimed they had simply been seeking publicity. They claimed we gave poor customer service, in the same breath of saying they would never buy from us. I believe many people would agree, if you are trying to get something for free, you aren’t a customer. If you aren’t offering anything in return for free, you are not offering value and can’t justify publicity. It is always wise to offer something with a request, no matter how small. This does not mean money, but at least something in return. Which company can divert their attention from paying customers to people asking for free coverage? Not only that, but the implication you are happy to use something for free and give it a punt, but not pay for something will get you nowhere. A trick or treat mentality is unsustainable in business. This whole situation could easily have been avoided if there had been some thought put into the gaining of publicity.

The same person wrote later on Facebook, from an event they had a stall at “25 minutes in and I already hate the general public.” Imagine we had given this person a free advert! Personally I can’t think of anyone less deserving, it would have been what Stephen Covey would call a “lose lose” situation. In all likelihood, the free ad would not have triggered much response as it was short sighted and niche, selling expensive products. The magazine would have given away space for free, so the people who did respond to it would be insulted online. There must be some give and take. The free element of publicity is referring only to the money, but ingenuity must be spent in order to obtain the service of a media outlet. The publicity piece must generate at least as much interest as an article!
Exhibiting Your Product or Service

If you have a product, and wish to market it with publicity, the best way to do this is to think of how your product is used. How can you put this product into a great situation, and then have a story about this? For example, if you made websites, could you make a website for a charity or local community cause and take that story to the newspapers? If you are a fitness coach, can you take part in an event for charity or do well in an event, so that the local community will be impressed? If you are a financial adviser perhaps you just had a windfall?

Some great examples of this include when CrossFit Cirencester raised money for charity by running an ultra marathon and raising more money than their target, or when Elite Health & Fitness had obstacle course lessons where the fee went to charity. Tough Mudder was coming up, so it was fresh and relevant. This is good spirited and synergetic thinking. It shows that the PTs can perform in a way clients want to be able to. Who better to get training with?

Once you have mastered this synergetic thinking, it is time to make sure your publicity piece is targeted at a media outlet whose audience would use your product.  Facts and figures in the story are also massively useful in making captions that readers can easily digest! Readers always read captions and quotes before the article.

Ways to Add Value

Men’s Health magazine has a target audience of people who most likely shave, want to look good and smell good. Is it any surprise razor companies, fashion companies and aftershave companies give free samples out with the magazine? This adds value to the men buying the magazine. Buying into a media outlet's audience is why people pay money to advertise. A good ad campaign should bring in more money than it cost to run. In the same way, you must try and get more money back from your publicity campaign than it cost to run. If this means hours putting it together being worked into a wage, so be it! If you put 10 hours in and expect to get paid £10 an hour, make sure the campaign gets you more than £100! This may take time to come back to you, but a seed must be allowed to grow. If you turn any publicity event into a data capture, you may well have a compounding effect that goes beyond any one publicity drive. This works very simply, anyone who responds to your publicity is asked if they would like to know more in future, and their contact details are kept.

In the case of our magazine, we have readers in a geographic area. This means that the people attracted to us should consider who those people are. These people need some things, plumbers, handy men, trades people are in constant demand so only need small ads. But to capture someone’s imagination can be much harder.

Adding value is key to achieve this. There are essentially three parties involved in a publicity campaign. The trader, the media outlet and the audience. How can you add value to all three parties? A very simple way is that you as a trader will get some trade, the media outlet will have something nice for their audience to consume and the reader may get a discount, free trial or learn something useful.

Your product(s) or service(s) may have a wide appeal, but our magazine has an appeal to only those living in our area. So choose from your array of items on the market what applies best to the media outlet you are engaging with. As Stephen Covey explains wonderfully in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, there are “lose lose” situations! Often, this is when we believe in only win or lose. We see someone losing and believe this must mean we are winning, when in fact we have both lost. A “lose lose” publicity drive is very simple, the outlet gives space at cost, triggers no response, has the audience thinking “Why is that there? I didn’t need to know that!” lowering the status of the outlet. 

This has the end result that the trader makes no money and says “don’t bother with that outlet, it doesn’t work anyway”. I would argue if the trader had to pay for the same space, they’d have spent more time thinking of what would get a response. The very fact they wanted something for free meant they didn’t put something of quality into circulation.

This doesn’t have to happen if thought is put in first about how everyone can gain. People who see publicity as an afterthought because it doesn’t cost money, will often see negative results. 

Always write down the three parties, and work out what each has to gain from the deal. Check it with another business person or colleague to see if it makes sense. If so, proceed! Whilst there is no guarantee this will work, it stands a far better chance, and will help you gain insight for future.

Always be prepared to rewind and adapt your original idea! You will soon find something far better than you imagined possible.

If you wish to advertise with the Cirencester Scene visit here. If you have a publicity piece, submit it! Although we cannot guarantee inclusion in the magazine, we have unlimited space online!

Corinium Radio Baking Star Rises to the Challenge

The Corinium Radio crew, lining up for cake!

Radio Baking Star Rises to the Challenge

Cirencester’s Corinium Radio discovered its own ‘Star Baker’ following a recent function.

It happened after the local community radio station laid on a special ‘thank you’ event at its town-centre studio.

The event took the form of an afternoon tea party, and although there weren’t any Mad Hatters among the guests, there was an Alice.

And it was this talented 7-year-old who took a bow for her baking skills after she produced a delicious lemon cake for the function.  Young Alice Stevens, a pupil at Minchinhampton School, was star baker of the day and was also one of those being given a big ‘thanks’ from the radio station.

She and other helpers had been part of a recent project undertaken by Corinium Radio.

That project involved the adaptation and broadcast of a radio play based on a book by local author and graphic designer Simon May. 

Also, central to the adaptation was actor Moses Hardwick.

The book in question was ‘Siege of the Hares’ in which Simon uses talking hare characters along with factual events relating to Cirencester.

Invited to the party were those who had taken part in the play and helped to make it the success it proved to be.

In addition to tea and chat, there were plates of delicious, delicate sandwiches and, of course, Alice’s cake!

Said Corinium spokesman Tony Coleman “The project was a first for us but it went really well and this was the station’s way of saying ‘thanks’ to all those who contributed towards its success.

“I know Simon has been writing more and there is talk going around that we could be working on another similar broadcast at some time in the future.”
7Year Old Alice Stevens, receives
the gratitude of Corinium Radio

The tea party was hosted by Corinium Radio chair Carole Boydell, who gave her own personal thanks to those involved as well as speaking on behalf of the station in general.

All those who had taken part were given a memory stick containing a recording of the broadcast as their own personal reminder of the project.

If you missed the original broadcast you can catch up on the Corinium Radio website where there is a listen again facility featuring “The Siege of the Hares.”

Talking about the tea party, Tony added, “Alice and her cake were stars of the show.  Next time we need cake I’m sure we’ll be knocking on Alice’s door.”

The play was something of a family event for Alice since her grandad, Corinium Radio presenter Charles Stevens, was also its narrator.

Corinium Radio wishes all its listeners a Happy Christmas and New Year.  If you want to make it your resolution to get involved with us as a volunteer, just get in touch with Carole Boydell on 07776 144033.
Keep watching our website at for programme information, and of course, to listen in.

Reliance Taxis Come to Cirencester

South African born Jan Coetzee, owner of Reliance Taxis, Cirencester, is using all his transferable skills from his ten year military career to run his company and is building up a good reputation through the quality of the service he provides.   

He prides himself on offering a professional taxi service to his customers throughout Cirencester and the Cotswolds.  All of his drivers are friendly and helpful and registered with the local authority.  They are always willing to go that extra mile (sometimes literally!) to ensure their customer’s journey is safe, smooth and punctual. They will help load or unload your belongings and do their best to accommodate any special requests.

“We will always show up at your chosen pick-up point in good time, to ensure you reach your destination relaxed and stress-free. And we charge a fair price.” says Jan, proudly.

“We are recruiting more drivers now, so if you are interested, and have the same high work principles as we do, please call me to apply, on 077 877 906 44.” he added.

Jan’s clientele are both residential and commercial, and as well as weddings, school runs, social activities, holidays and business trips, his drivers also work for local authorities, schools, hotels, hospitals and corporates, as well as doing regular airport transfers.

Currently, Jan is working on plans for developing his business in the future, including guided tours of the Cotswolds.

Following his second Afghanistan tour, and having been in the forces since 2005, Jan moved to 29 Regiment in Cirencester last year, but decided to leave the army following changes to the pension scheme in April. He then spent several months working for a private security company protecting valuable cargoes from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean!

However, Jan felt his work commitments were keeping him apart from his wife Janie, and young family for far too many months at a time. He wanted to see daughter Alexis, four, and one year old son Logan, on a daily basis, instead. So he thought long and hard about a future career based at home in Cirencester, and decided to retrain and set up his own company, Reliance Taxis, founded on army principles of reliability, punctuality, organisation and hard graft.  At 34, Jan feels the mid-thirties is a good time to start a new career as he has the benefit of experience and time is on his side. He’s glad he made the break and says it’s working out pretty well so far.

Reliance Taxis will be open over the Christmas and New Year period, so please book early on 077 877 906 44.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Win Tickets to A Winter Wonderland Sunday 18th at the Bingham Hall!

MJUK are kindly donating two tickets to their talent packed show this Sunday!

Though tickets are only £10, MJUK are giving you the opportunity to enjoy two tickets to their talent packed show. Featuring dance and song, this show will display some of the wonderful talent who have come through MJUK and learned in Cirencester.

Because it is Christmas, we couldn´t make it easier! Simply show your interest in winning two tickets e-mail and you will be entered into the draw.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

How to Advertise: For Facts Sake

Greeting the town for years, the Cirencester Scene
can deliver your ad to 12,000 homes.
Evan Burgess of the Cirencester Scene is a keen fan of David Ogilvy. With evidence for everything Ogilvy did, these are the core lessons Evan learned from Confessions of an Advertising Man, Ogilvy's excellent book on the subject. If you are thinking of advertising, or want to increase the yield of your advertising, check if there are any missing pieces in your strategy.

In a very basic sense, with advertising there are two ways of seeing things. One is you let people know what you do. Another is by making yourself look better when people already know what you do. Advertising is paid for, either by service or money. Publicity on the other hand is free. It is another subject that I will cover in further blogs. Do not confuse the two!

There is a famous saying about advertising, only half of it works, but no one knows which half. To put this into perspective, in the days where people bought CDs, how many listens did it take you to like a song on the radio, work out who the artist was, and then actually buy it? There is a lot of maƱana associated with buying after seeing an advert. You like something, but you’ll do it tomorrow. Sometimes it can be a very long road from introduction to purchase. Some purchases are on impulse, and these are often regretted or forgotten. But if you have a quality product, you need to advertise solidly.

So if you have a good product, how do you advertise it in such a way it triggers a response?

David Olgilvy was a master in persuasion and advertising. He was a self publicist, and he had many tales that sounded good, though perhaps not the whole truth. They were however true! He had a famous story about how his huge business, Ogilvy and Mather started. He claimed it began with only $600 and a dream. This was the most amusing aspect of the truth, and a good focus for conversation. This is a good lead in to the way you should think about advertising. In reality a few details were omitted. Ogilvy was trained as a spy at Camp X in Canada during the Second World War. He had extensive work with Gallup in research, and worked in propaganda. Having been a diplomat stationed in Washington during the war, he knew how to communicate, and who to communicate to.

Ogilvy could back up everything he said. In fact, in one of his books to make the point he was good at business, he published a picture of his French mansion. That he omitted so many great facts about himself should be noted. You want your product to continually surprise people, not disappoint!

He was highly resourceful and based his strategy on researching proven facts, rather than guessing. This led to a potent and yet simple policy of never confabulating in an advert. The truth may be rather spectacular, but never, ever lie!

What he found worked best was facts. Simple, undeniable facts. This meant that readers would never see anchorless claims from advertisers like “This is the best car on the market” or “We are going to change your life” (if your claim can be tested or anchored with a fact, it is different). Instead, quotes like “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock” dominated his ads. If you are at the stage where you can’t come up with honest facts, you must consider whether or not your product is any good. If it isn’t, you will save a lot of time and effort in the future by making the product good before you start trying to advertise. Remember this, it is far better to offer more than an advert states, than to deliver less. This cannot be illustrated better than the following example.

Selling Olympic coins, it was discovered an advert that only advertised the silver coins brought in more sales of gold and bronze coins. This is a clear indicator if you deliver more than you advertise, the public respond better! Many products go hand in hand. The pub that sells the most nuts probably sells the most beer, because people already have their foot in the door for another product.

If you are a buyer, beware if the seller can’t explain their product with facts. If you purchase and it isn’t a good product, it’s your fault!

In Ogilvy’s experience, facts and statistics as headers helped gain interest in long text ads. They sold quality products that were held in high opinion by the target market. Very little was left to the imagination. The research was based upon what the target market did, what it wanted to do and its habits. It was not based on the seller’s expectations or hopes. Many people believe they have the best product on the market, but in reality, this is impossible to test. Make sure that any claims in your advert can be tested!

Sometimes ads did just need to be awareness raising. An example of this was when the executive of a huge business to business company went to a shop. He hadn’t brought money with him. “Put it on the account of my business.” The shop assistant had never heard of the man’s business and wouldn’t let him take the goods. This caused the business to advertise to the general public for reasons of prestige. The advert didn’t need to do much but say who the company were.

In summary: If you want to advertise, make sure your money is well spent by an ad dominated by facts that are relevant and testable by the consumer. Confabulation, opinions or generalisations will consign your ad to the scrap heap. If you advertise without any facts, and you don't know what to say, think of one solid truth that no one can deny about your product or service. It doesn't have to be glamorous, but it has to be true and relevant.

We appreciate your time.