According to Len Saffir, a PR industry veteran and author of the best-selling book Power Public Relations, the basic progression is to do in-house PR “until a company becomes either big enough or smart enough to seek expert help.”
In the following ten circumstances, a manufacturer would be wise to consider getting expert marketing public relations help:
- When your product is largely unknown. Like launching a rocket into orbit, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to launch a company or product from obscurity to a state of recognition. Both editors and potential customers will have a healthy level of skepticism that must be overcome through a series of credible published articles. That means discovering how your product or service is superior to the competition, credibly highlighting these features in an article, and then properly approaching editors to get it published in quantity. By comparison, once your product is known (“in orbit”), it naturally benefits by word-of-mouth and takes considerably less effort to publicize.
- When there is no acknowledged leader in your market category. A good PR firm with product publicity expertise can help establish a new market category in the mind of a target audience. This isn’t possible by placing an occasional article or two. It takes a sustained volume of credible articles, usually in a variety of story types including features and case studies, before an acceptable level of mindshare is captured and a new market category established.
One caveat: it’s dangerous to create a new market category, without establishing clear leadership in the area. A “go slow” approach in fact may allow nimble competitors to take over market leadership in a category you established. That’s why it’s critical for a volume of credible stories to be systematically created and published to keep up momentum. This will simultaneously rev up sales and discourage competitors from taking over any new market category you may establish.
- When you aren’t generating enough qualified sales leads from traditional sources. In many cases traditional forms of promotion and advertising, including direct mail and telemarketing, may be adequate. But if this isn’t working to your satisfaction, then product publicity should be explored.
- When your gross income is flat or down. To improve on a bad situation, more aggressive steps are necessary than what you’ve done in the past. A carefully crafted product publicity campaign will increase momentum and create new sales channels while enhancing those you’ve already established.
- When sales reps spend more than ten percent of their time cold calling or trying to get past gatekeepers. For efficiency, the sales staff should spend the majority of their time on bids, quotes, and proposals – not making cold calls or circumventing gatekeepers. Proper product publicity will not only bring in a volume of leads, but also improve the quality of lead – so the sales staff spends more time with prospects inclined to buy your product or service.
- When your product sells in a national market. Given a national market for your product, it makes sense to target the tremendous number of trade publications in both vertical and horizontal markets. Local angles can also be implemented for regional newspapers and TV, for example, as necessary.
- When your product is newsworthy. The strength of PR is that it is placed as content in publications, and inherently has more credibility than advertising. But newsworthiness must be highlighted and developed. If you’re unsure if your product is newsworthy – even if you’ve been told it’s not – it’s a good idea to consult an expert in marketing publicity to see if an appropriate angle can be developed. For example, successful case studies can often be developed around custom products, since each application is unique.
- When at least 25 trade publications serve your market. Some markets have a hundred or more publications that speak to the needs of potential prospects. A small number of publications, such as three to five, may be competently handled by in-house PR staff. But the logistics and follow-up of dealing with the editors and staff of 25 or more publications areoften too complex or time-consuming for in-house staff. This is where the expertise, focus, and follow-up of a product publicity PR expert can help.
- When you have excess production capacity. When staff or facilities sit idle, it’s critical to the bottom line to get them working since any sales past the break-even point can substantially increase profits. A critical volume of product publicity stories crafted to entice specific markets can keep production and profits at all-time highs.
- Where credibility is an issue. Because articles are vetted by editors and published as content, they’re typically much more persuasive to readers than advertising. Ask yourself, would you be more likely to read and believe a published story or a paid-for ad, when searching for a solution to a problem? Publicity, of course, can also be powerful in healing any past issues of credibility.