Saturday, February 21, 2009

Public Relations versus Advertising

Our guest "Phlogger" this week is Mary White, MA, SPHR.

Many people have the misconception that publicity and advertising are the same things. While both publicity and advertising can play important roles in an organization’s overall marketing plan, they are very different. The three primary differences between publicity and advertising are (2) control, (2) cost, and (3) credibility.

Control: Advertising is a controlled form of communication, whereas public relations is uncontrolled. When you run an advertisement in a print publication, you purchase a specific amount of space on a page to run in a particular issue of the publication. You may even be able to specify that your ad be placed on the top left corner of the sports page. You control the content of the ad as well.

With publicity, you don’t dictate when, where, or if your promotional messages ever see the light of day. You can send a news release to a print publication, and the editor or journalist who receives it might see value in it and print it in the next issue. He or she might really find the information appealing and interview you for a cover story. However, your news release might just as easily end up in the garbage can, depending on its relevance, timing, or a number of other factors.

Cost: The control that you get with advertising doesn’t come without a price. The reason that you can specify when and where your advertisement will run is that you pay for the space, airtime, or bandwidth that it occupies. You are able to control the content because you also pay to have the advertisement itself created. Some advertisements can be produced inexpensively, and others are very costly.

When you are trying to generate publicity for your business through public relations efforts, the only cost is the manpower that it takes to create the documents that you send out to the news media and the costs of delivering or shipping. It is much less expensive to send a photograph and a news release to a magazine editor than it is to create a 4-color, camera-ready magazine ad.

Credibility: With advertising, you are able to make sure that the exact message that you want appears in the media exactly as you have specified. When consumers see an advertisement, most of them are aware that it is a paid promotion. Some consumers tend to be a little bit suspicious of advertising messages for this reason.

However, when your local newspaper runs a feature article about your business as a result of a news release that you sent to the editor, consumers generally don’t stop and think that the story started with a promotional message from the company. A story in the newspaper is generally considered to be much more credible than an advertisement in the newspaper. The reason for this is the third party endorsement effect associated with having someone outside your company saying good things about it.

The best marketing plans include a mixture of advertising and publicity. It’s important that you understand the differences between these two forms of communication so that you can make sound decisions about the ideal mix for your organization.

About the Author: Mary G. White, M.A., SPHR is the Training Coordinator for Mobile Technical Institute & MTI Business Solutions (, where she specializes in human resources, management, and marketing training. She teaches open enrollment classes for MTI, provides on-site corporate training, and frequently speaks at conferences and association meetings. She is also the author of 101 Successful PR Campaign Tips in the LifeTips book series. MTI provides a variety of consulting services, including IT Training, certification testing, HR consulting, and custom database development. For free career and business development tips, see and

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Why should you have a website?

At the end of last year, about 153 million people were online in the United States and about 10 million are expected to adopt the Net this year. (eMarketer)

More and more people are looking for services and products on-line than every before. Peoples' habits are changing. People move to a new area and very often rely solely on the Internet to learn about the new area, research and find out who to go to for what. Many people research and find their homes and jobs over the Internet. Most people are coming to expect that any professionally run business will have a web site. With a well-designed site your small business becomes a real player both on and off the net.

Add your Web Address to your stationary; business cards, other advertisements and you'll have visitors knowing exactly where to go for answers to their questions and where to send their friends to for great service.

The more people know about you and your company the greater the chances you have for attracting new customers. More is generally a good thing when running a business, unless you're talking about expenses!

Why should you have a website?
1. With a website, your business is open to the public all day, every day. Limited office hours and different time zones won’t hinder your customers’ ability to visit your business through your website. You can reach those people at any time of the day or night.

2. It’s a marketing piece that you can change instantly. A website can be like an online brochure or catalog to promote your business. But, unlike printed materials, you can change your website anytime to reflect new developments, featured service or product offerings, or just give your business a new look.

3. A website presents a professional image. A professional-looking website can help instill confidence in your customers and give the impression that a small business is a larger one. A website is a necessity by today’s standards – your customers expect you to have one, and they expect your web presence to reflect the kind of company you are.

4. Give your customers instant gratification. Customers and clients don’t always have the time to wait for more information – they want to get answers right away. With a website, they can find out the basics about your business, but you can also offer them even more – like downloads, samples, photo galleries, videos, news stories, links, or other content that will give them more information and keep them interested in you.

5. Promote your business and make yourself known to your customers. A website can help give your business more awareness among your customer base, locally, nationally and even globally. More and more consumers use the Internet as a research tool when searching for the best product or service. Without a website, you miss an opportunity to promote yourself and let your customers know who you are, what you do, and why you’re the best choice for them.

Imagery Marketing & Research Consultants designs and maintains websites for small businesses and non-profit ogranizaationsat affordable rates. Contact us today if you need our services!

(Resources: ClearTech and Jireh Communications)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Undertaking Market Research

(We've borrowed a bit here... but we think it's stuff you should read)

You have a great idea and are anxious to get your new business underway. Make sure you take the time to find out if your "idea" is appealing to others and if it can stand on its own two feet. It may take time that you don't want to spend now, but doing research early on can save you grief further down the road.

Who is your ideal customer? Who do you want to buy your product(s) or utilize the services that you are offering? This is important to know because it will shape how you identify and try to reach this market group. If you are not sure about who your customers should be, consider factors such as: your product(s) cost, your geographical location, knowledge necessary to fully benefit from your product or service. Answering these questions should give you a good start to your market research endeavor.

You may also want to look at the buying trends of potential customers before you begin to finalize your plans. Look at the time you spend doing market research as an opportunity to "fine tune" your product or service for the best possible result (business and money to you).

Market trends and demographics can be found in many different ways. For information on the kind of people who live in a particular area (age, race, income bracket, family size), also called demographics, it is best to consult the U.S. Census Bureau ( Finding lifestyle trends is more difficult... You may have to conduct your own market surveying to learn whether or not your business will be successful.

In designing your custom-made market research instrument, decide how much time and money you want to spend. This may make your selection easy. Do you want to do it all alone? Can you find friends to help you out? (Note from Imagery: Hire professionals for the best results)

The best way to find out what people want and what types of products or services they would consider buying is to ask them. This can be done in a number of different ways:

Interviewing: Put together some standard questions and go out and ask people in the market you are targeting. Know that people often avoid this type of experience because it is long and inconvenient. It is, however, inexpensive and relatively easy to implement.

Survey: This may be your best bet. Putting the survey together can be tricky and how well you do it will determine the quality of your results. Again, see if a marketing professional would consider helping you to design your survey form. Once completed, hit the streets and ask people to complete the form. This is usually received better if you offer some type of incentive to the survey taker. Consider candy, cookies, or lottery tickets. You may want to enter their name into a drawing for some type of prize. Everyone loves a contest.

If the services you are providing are via the Internet, consult your database (you are compiling one, right?). Send a survey out to everyone and offer free t-shirts to the first 50 who return them on-line. This method can be time and cost efficient.

Surveys are not very expensive in and of themselves. Depending on your own creativity and knowledge base, the costs can add up when you figure in printing the surveys (if necessary), paying the survey administrators (if necessary), interpreting the data.

Focus Groups: Basically, this is a group discussion where 4-8 participants are asked a series of questions in a facilitated setting. This approach is expensive because you have to hire a consultant to facilitate the group and move the discussion forward, plus you have to compensate the participants in some way. Due to the nature of the questioning, responses tend to be more complete and give more accurate information. The number of people questioned is lower than other methods due to the time it takes to perform the questioning.

The most important thing to realize is that the outcome of your market research may change the course of your business plans. In some instances you learn that there is not a need for your product or service. Often times, you need to change your focus or marketing plan. Be open and be flexible. And remember that market research is an ongoing process that really does not end. Be sure to always be in tune with your customer base so as not to be caught off guard by sudden market shifts.

~From, a free networking and information website

Imagery Marketing & Research Consultants can create a survey, set-up focus groups and do demographic and trend research for you. If you spend a little money on the front side, you actually save money in the long run and avoid costly mistakes. Because we are a "virtual agency", our rates are affordable; our performance is professional! Contact us today!

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