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Sandman Public Relations talks about making your dollars count by leveraging advertising for maximum value…

There’s an old saying in advertising – 50 per cent of it works, but we don’t know which 50 per cent.

In this day and age, a lack of accountability is simply unacceptable. When you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on advertising per year, you can’t afford to not know what your money is doing.

This is not saying advertising is a lost cause. Managed correctly, it can be accounted for to a degree… and managed strategically, you can get a lot more for your dollar.

Cash for comments
How many times have you been told that news, reviews or stories can’t be published in a magazine or on a website without “support”? As a PR company, it’s a daily occurrence for us – it’s known as "cash for comments".

For the most part, in a small industry like ours, there simply aren’t enough readers to sustain all of the magazines with sales, so it’s natural that magazines must be supported by industry advertising to a large extent.

But it’s also not necessarily the case that the price of an advert seems commensurate with the distribution. That said, niche magazines are, by and large, extremely targeted so you should be getting your advert in front of the right audience, whether now or in the future.

So – you’ve paid your dollars, submitted you professionally-designed advert (if it isn’t professionally designed, it should be!)… now what? You hope the customer sees it and is suitably inspired to pick-up the phone or send an email enquiring about your product. Doesn’t always work like that, does it?

Your advert has a big job to do – it has to showcase your product and brand visually, convey values and essence; your reason for being; and maintain a strong presence against the competition. It has even more on its shoulders than that – it has to interrupt the
customer from their interesting magazine, capture their attention sufficiently to stop them turning the page and make them pause to consider your product. Tall order.

Information not interruption
Display advertising is sometimes referred to as "interruption marketing". It interrupts you to grab your attention away from where it was. Creative, professionally-designed adverts that talk to your target audience will do this extremely effectively.

But when a customer reads a story about your brand or product, whether a feature article or a column of news, they are not interrupted. They choose to read it in the context of the magazine’s area of interest, viewpoint and reputation. This has incredible value.

In the PR world, editorial is generally valued at a very conservative four times the price of equivalent advertising space. This is because professionally-written stories carry weight of objectivity and credibility – if written well.

If you’re spending advertising dollars to promote your product, it’s important to leverage this expenditure to ensure the story of your product and brand is being told. This doesn’t mean a journalist will contact you and write a story every edition. Often it’s up to you to supply the copy for the story. Either way, if a magazine or website will not cover a story unless it’s “supported”, you should damn well get your story told if you are supporting the magazine.

There are some publications around the world that maintain separation between church and state (advertising and editorial) but it’s sadly few and far between these days. If the publication is upfront about this as a direct policy, then that’s fine – cards on the table. Otherwise it’s just confusing and annoying. Cash for comments, though, should be backed-up by credible distribution, a highly-targeted readership and projected growth in readership.

Professionalism at all times
Badly written news and articles do not garner credibility. Nor do bad-looking adverts that were not professionally designed.

Media releases about your products or brand need to be well written to make it onto an editor’s busy desk. Things a good editor won’t tolerate include bad writing, grammatical errors, sales talk, derogatory comments, lies and copy that’s too long and boring.

Stories need to be compelling, accurate, well-structured, styled and concise – and they must have a point. Get that right and you have a chance of being published. Whether cash for comments or not, an editor will not publish rubbish, nor will they necessarily care about editing what you supply – which means it will be filed in the bin. Even well-written stories are no absolute guarantee.

Editorial is an opportunity to communicate a crafted message to your customer in a way that resonates, doesn’t interrupt them and puts your brand in a credible light. After that, it’s about consistency. You have to keep turning up so the name is consistently in front of them.

Video killed the radio star
But the iPad, it turns out, might actually be doing magazines a favour.

A recent report in the US said more magazines opened in 2011 than closed. Special interest magazines have a place in the publishing world right now and the iPad is playing its part in helping them survive – and thrive – in some cases.

With the onset of digital magazines there is a huge demand for new content. This means that magazines are working harder to create new, original and compelling content for the growing digital readership and the competition for market share. This, in turn, is giving renewed life to the print version of magazines as the content is keeping loyal readers interested and winning new readers that don’t want the digital version.

It goes to show that quality original content really is king. Niche magazines that are on a specific topic or area of interest will be read and the readership should increase if the content is compelling.

Make it count
So we’ve come full circle. With the onset of digital magazines and a potential revival in readership, your advertising no longer needs to be a 50 per cent game. Digital magazines are interactive – web address links are live, video can be embedded, Skype links can be added… and all of that will show up in your website and inbound analytics which means you will know for sure if your advertising is working or not.

It’s important to consider a strategic advertising plan. It’s vital to establish a credible and strategic editorial plan. These things combined will allow you to maximise the value of your marketing-communication investment.

Sandmanpr.com.au

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