SPECIAL SERIES-Post #4: Minding the Media

This is the fourth of a “back to basics” review series  of the marketing process.  For series introduction, see 4/5 post

After your integrated marketing plan is nicely in place, the ACV assured and the complete program ready to roll, there is one area often neglected but which can mean sink or swim for you or your client. 

That area is media relations and, judging by the recent events with Tiger Woods and Toyota (see our previous posts on these hot subjects),  never make the mistake of assuming you are too “big” to learn this discipline… Importantly, good media coverage doesn’t just happen:  it requires careful planning.

Thankfully there are some experts willing to help us, like agency colleague Dee Munson, who is in the forefront of all this, having recently squired Olympian Apolo Ohno on a media tour. (Lucky lady!)  She shares her valuable insight:

“Much has changed in the several decades I’ve been doing marketing communications in the food area –especially the media.  But I do think some basics still apply now, as when I first started.  These basics are the foundation of successful communication.  It’s still the what, who, why, where and how.

First, what.  Know exactly what you want to say.  Call it ‘messaging,’ staying on point, focus, strategy, whatever.  Spend some time to really distill your message so that it becomes automatic.  You can add some subpoints and additional messages, but not until the key point has been made perfectly clear.

Second, why.  Why do you want consumers to know about you or your product?  Obviously, to increase awareness and sales.  But you have to commit to more than that.  Consumers today want you to be serving them, so determine what it is about your company and your product that will answer that “why” question.

Next, who.  There are two parts to this question.  Who is your target?  Knowing who you want to reach helps answer the remaining questions.  That target audience will be a major factor in determining the where, when and how, including the spokesperson, as well as the media for the spokesperson to deliver a message. 

For example, most food products have a common target – the woman who selects and purchases the food, and most likely for a family.  Research will help you determine more about this woman – her age, her education, where she and her family lives, what her media preferences are, how frequently and where she buys your product and more. 

The investment in research goes beyond value – it helps you know exactly who you are trying to reach.  And, in most with produce, the target audience who buys your products is not you!

If you’ve lots of bucks and can get directly to the consumer, advertising works.  Reaching consumers through channels that they use for information is less expensive and has the additional benefit of implied endorsement – from magazines, social media, broadcast.

Who can best deliver your message?  Here’s where spokespeople come in.  If you are going to use a spokesperson you need to vet that person as completely, if not more so, than a possible employee. 

After all, the spokesperson is speaking for you, standing for your product or your brand and will be the most visible representation of your product or brand. You can use focus groups, either formal or in-formal.  Or check out Q Ratings.  Q Ratings is a form of research that rates the popularity of spokespersons. 

 Also look at other products this person is representing and get recommendations, or warnings.  There’s always considerable financial investment, but the investment of your reputation with the spokesperson cannot be measured, except in harm done if you don’t do your due diligence. 

And here’s an important tip when budgeting for a spokesperson – remember that, in addition to the spokesperson’s fee you have to have enough money in addition to cover how you want to use that spokesperson: point of sale, media events, advertising, appearances and more.  Figure on at least double the spokesperson fee, or better yet three times or more.  This is investment spending.

Be perfectly clear about your expectations for a spokesperson.  You’ll be involved in a contract and working with an agent.  Be sure you have some legal guidance as well.  It’s good if you can be in love with your spokesperson, but it’s also good to have a “pre-nup”…

And it’s very good if your spokesperson is in love with your product.  Sincerity shows.  It’s important for your spokesperson to tour your operation, use your product, become familiar with your communications and be down pat on your messages.  Most professional spokespeople know that this is their responsibility, but it’s also yours, so don’t be blinded by fame or celebrity – make sure the spokesperson is yours.

Now, where.  This is where a media event comes in.  The event is an opportunity for you to bring your spokesperson face to face or computer to computer with influencers who will amplify and multiply your message. 

As you recently read in this blog, you “fish where the fish are.”  The media these days are overworked, understaffed and besieged by invitations to events.  They pick and choose, so your event has to be meaningful, attractive and convenient for them. 

Your invitation has to be specific about time and place but also about what the media will get from attending.  Familiarity with the blogs of some well-known editors can tell you just how selective they are. 

Remember that the media get many, many invitations to press events each day and yours has to stand out from the crowd.  An attention-getting delivery helps, but the substance of the information from the event has to be there.

When:  If your products are seasonal, you want to reach the media either in mid-season, or, in the case of magazines that prepare their features six months or more in advance:  far enough out that they can include our information during our season.  Broadcast, news and bloggers want immediacy.  You must decide which is more important for your product.  Ideally you’ll do both.

How.  Spend time to create a complete media kit.  It can be on a drive or disk or even the old-fashioned printed kit, and must have all the information you want to communicate, but concisely and in a format easy for the media to access. 

Photos? Absolutely!  Depending on the event, you’ll want a professional photographer there to capture as much as possible.  Following up with a photo for the editor gives you one more point of contact.

A few other pointers: 

  •  Don’t under-budget for an event.  You want enough staff there to handle all the details, to meet with the media, to assist the spokesperson and to make things go smoothly. 
  • Plan the event minute-by-minute to avoid any last minute needs and surprises, and get some professional help.  This is what we PR folk are for – we know what’s needed, what to expect and how to handle last-minute situations. 
  • Don’t assume you and a few company people can handle it; and there’s no need to be lavish, but don’t skimp.  Cheap looks cheap and reflects on your product and your company.  Again, here’s where a professional can help make a difference. 
  • Finally, it’s a positive personal relationship that can make a difference.  Make an effort to meet the media and to understand their wants and needs.  NEVER say: “We want you to run a story about our product.”  Provide the information based on all the points outlined above and trust that your planning and hard work and the right spokesperson are going to get the message across.
  • Always follow-up with more information, photos or just a thank you.  And continue to do so.  Produce people know that a successful crop starts with seeds, working the soil, ongoing attention and a thoughtful harvest.  It’s the same with media relations.”

(Dee Munson, is president of Seattle-based The Food Professionals, Inc.,  and is a veteran marketing communications professional, with experience as a magazine editor, commodity board marketing director, agency executive and spokesperson.   She can be reached at dee@thefoodprofessionals.com  (206) 463-5677.  Or visit her web site: www.thepfoodprofessionals.com )

NEXT SERIES POST:  Measuring performance!

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