Adams Hudson
Adams Hudson

Literally, hundreds of millions of dollars in sales are generated mostly by the stealth marketing tactics of publicity. That’s a huge return on investment (ROI) because publicity is free. That’s right; publicity is available for no charge. You can’t buy it. Think about that. Hundreds of millions of dollars in sales generated for free.

While publicity can’t replace direct-response advertising as a way to generate leads, it can certainly increase your company’s name recognition, image, brand, and serve as a powerful reinforcement to your customers.

Publicity sells, boosts image, and is deemed real. It gets through the skeptical filter of paid advertising and is regarded to be three times as valuable in credibility alone.

The Value of Publicity

Credibility — If the media writes an article about you or your contracting business, it boosts your image.

Differentiation — There are dozens of contractor choices in your town. How many are positively featured in the news? What impact would that have if you were? Last question: How many contractors can earn this spot? One, and if it’s not you, it’s going to be
your competition.

Expertise — Get quoted about energy savings, water heaters, insulation, and carbon monoxide. Once this occurs, you are now a source of authority. I like the word “anoint” because that is what the media is doing to your reputation.

TOMA Recognition — No one knows when you’ll be needed, right? But we do know you won’t be called if you’re unknown. Therefore, increased presence is an increase in Top Of Mind Awareness (TOMA), period.

Customer Confidence — Customers feel good when their contractor is in the news. Like, when a movie or book you liked gets a positive review or a restaurant you enjoy earns a “best of” ranking. Same thing here. People want reassurance of their choices. What better way (without blowing your own horn) than for them to see you mentioned in the media? It reaffirms that they really do have an expert tending to their HVAC needs.

Coworker Confidence — Everyone wants to be part of the winning team. Media attention reminds your employees they’re on this team. If the media coverage includes them, so much the better. They get a chance to strut their knowledge and expertise, and your company gets to bask in the limelight as the employer. And, as you’d imagine, those other company employees see the same thing, and the best ones gravitate to be on the winning team too.

Inserting Yourself in the Headline

Publicity is not — as many of you have expressed — accidental, lucky, or coincidental. Hear me on this: Publicity is as engineered as a flame chamber and about twice as hot.

So, it’s free; therefore, it can’t be bought, and it’s not accidental. Then, how do you gain publicity? Well, there are a number of ways to get the media looking at you. Consider these recent examples and look for the common element:

There’s the West Virginia HVAC contractor who planted a particular phrase in his classified ad for an employee that got him in the newspaper, and then on the city’s most popular radio talk show, which resulted in a landslide of applicants. One tiny paid ad got him the equivalent of pages of media — mission accomplished.

There’s the Michigan HVAC contractor who sent out a few media releases responding to contractor scams. He got a couple of those published, which landed him on radio, then on television… twice a week. Zero cost resulted in $181,000 of media and No. 1 TOMA.

There’s the California HVAC contractor who found a unique angle in a government-backed energy program. Though all his competitors were running the “normal” ads, he got tons of publicity and sales as a result.

For the reasons of sheer persuasion power at a price point that’s hard to beat, engineering publicity has been a coveted, protected secret, hoarded largely inside the media halls or crafted by those who’ve jumped ship. Fortunately, we’ve been able to gain access to these circles, and, I must say, I’m impressed with the strategies and the results.

Publicity Myths and Truths

My friend, publicity expert, and editor of Distribution Center magazine, Tom Peric, let me interview him for our Coaching Club recently. He shared a list of publicity myths, two of which are worth getting over right now.

You Must Have Contacts and Experience — “Baloney,” said Peric, who has landed radio, television, and newspaper spots as a complete stranger to that media. Further, his clients were unknowns, which, he said, can occasionally be an advantage. “I tell some of my contractor clients to just call the media and tell them you’re a first-timer. They’ll open more doors with that than I can as a so-called seasoned veteran.”

You Need a Gimmick to Get Exposure — “False. What you need is something interesting,” said Peric. “To me, contracting is too serious for gimmickry and stunts. Just be informative.”

So, when industry-related news is in the air, make sure you’re the source reporters seek when they need a comment. If the story is about rising energy costs, for instance, you can offer simple steps for keeping your house energy efficient. If the story is about scam artists, you can offer important insight into finding a reliable contractor. These are both very hot topics, every single year.

The resounding truth about publicity and media releases is that you cannot promote your company flagrantly. Let this be done by your mere presence. In other words, let the fact you’re being interviewed or quoted be enough. The biggest failure with media releases is that if it even sounds like an ad for your company, they’re going to put an ad rep on the phone with you.

Class is in Session

Another publicity approach is to extend your expertise to the classroom. You can accomplish this by going to the public (through colleges or continuing education classes); to local technical schools (hopefully attracting top talent in the process); at home shows, inviting the public and the media to attend an informative session; and during open houses for the same reasons as above (and, well, to show off).

These presentations could cover home improvement or do-it-yourself topics, such as selecting energy-efficient appliances or how to save 31 percent or more on energy bills. It may be helpful to ask people to preregister, even though you can still accept walk-ins.

An open house will let prospects and media see day-to-day operations and reinforce your service mission. It’s also a good idea to give them something they can take home with them — a paperweight, refrigerator magnet, discount coupon, or whatever. Just remember, it’s not a time for selling — it’s a time for welcoming. Once they feel welcome, buying follows.

Bottom Line

Making your name in the news will also improve your ad results. You get the additional bounce of being known, and that aids your ad results. Look at all the celebrity endorsements, famous newsmakers in business, and celebrity status among business leaders.

Publication date: 4/6/2015 

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