by Marcia Yudkin
Got something you want to use as bait for prospective customers? Publicity can be a great way to spread awareness of the availability of your giveaway item. Write a press release announcing it and highlighting its usefulness to your target market, and often the media cooperate in getting the word out. It also works to send a sample of your free report, audio, video, spreadsheet or whatever to media outlets with a cover sheet describing where and how people can request it.
Things get tricky, though, when you hope to restrict your bait to a certain population. It would be rather silly to put out a press release on the newswires saying, "Anyone who owns a vacation home can go Main Page - Internet Communcations to download a free energy efficiency report." By making such an offer public, it would become known not only to vacation home owners but also regular homeowners and those who rent. Anyone reading the press release or the resulting coverage could request your freebie.
It might seem that you could avoid opening your publicity offer to the general public by mailing, emailing or faxing your release about it to your preferred media outlets, such as to Vacation Home Magazine, instead of distributing it on the newswires. However, once your offer gets published anywhere, you lose control over it.
In the early 1990s, I had a giveaway offer published in the newsletter Bottom Line/Personal. People could get a free copy of my booklet "6 Steps to Free Publicity" by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to a certain address. The free booklet offer was a wise investment on my part, because Bottom Line/Personal's subscribers were all paying $39.95 annually for the publication and thus were good prospects for follow-up publicity services.
What later happened, though, was that several downmarket publications picked up the offer and reran it without asking me. I was extremely annoyed to learn that a book with a title like "Best Free Things" had apparently reprinted the offer. Anyone who would buy such a book was not likely to hire me to create a publicity campaign. In fact, I continued to receive self-addressed stamped envelopes for 10 years after the Bottom Line/Personal notice ran, mainly from various aftermarket announcements.
Sometimes you can prevent such problems by making the content of your bait relevant only to your target audience. For instance, if you offered a free report called "Maintaining Your Kubota Tractor So It Stays in Service for More Than 10 Years," few people not owning Kubota tractors would bother to request it.
In the end, the very aspect of publicity that makes it appealing can undermine its usefulness when you are trying to accomplish something very specific. Publicity is an affordable method of getting the word out because the news media have a constant need of stories. But the media are in charge of the process after you hand over ingredients for their work. It's up to them to help you, ignore you or go against your wishes.
For the individual or organization hoping to target only affluent customers, I suggest using direct mail rather than publicity to deliver your offer. Direct mail stays under the radar. It's controllable. Mail your offer only to high net-worth households, and the chances remain very good that only high net-worth households will see it and take advantage of it.
Publicity expert Marcia Yudkin is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity, third edition, Publicity Tactics, and 13 other books. She has engineered coverage for herself or her company in the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Success, Women in Business and dozens of newspapers around the world. Get free access to a one-hour audio recording in which she answers many common questions about using press releases and obtaining media coverage at Publicity Ideas from Marcia Yudkin, Author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity .