The strongest justification for an editor or commentator to carry information about a product aimed at his audience is that it is new. Or that a new situation of concern to his audience involves his product. If it is an original product, such as a replica of an Indian suit, leather covered with bright beads and a feathered matching head band; "being-worn by businessmen to their offices in California" the publicity would originate in trade publications (published in New York) and it would be given to local Western media and the wire services.
To illustrate the technique behind the foregoing, here are some business-stereotypical facts that are the common background for hundreds of new products, services and events launched annually in every field.
A product may be adorning a long time within its ultimate producer's advance research; concurrently in market research. Finally it is ready for design engineering, still feasible: that comes next. Then it is developed for production. By then the top decision maker has reviewed all possibilities and approved it for production, saying: "at least we will get some publicity out of it."
As in the earlier described use of a new steam iron, the leather suit's producers are in a field selling branded lines and their marketing function involves every aspect, including the publicity support. In the first planning meeting PR gets the nomenclature, styles and all other trade data, including" some results of market studies. In fact, almost every new product one sees has been in a test market from six months to several years before it goes national. Let us say that test markets bought, and repeated. Now PR is working to put together the publicity for a national introduction.
Subject: Apache (Indian suit)
Theme: "It's original, American, and comfortable."
Objective: Blitz coverage every major point in August
Products to be shipped for 350 store-point showings
Aug. 1 May 1: Publicity kits to men's magazines (consumer) for Aug. 1 release
July 1: Release trade kit to men's and merchandising trade publications for June 1 release
That simple two-level advance activity is uniformly available to every new product or other innovation. The early consumer media send-out is the normal advance scheduling time for monthly magazines. The trade publicity covers the 90-day period during which the sales people and buyers' services are taking orders.
Going After the Broadest Market
For publicity generally a product's designated market should be broader than the manufacturer's actual viewpoint and tests show. Actually, for merchandising purposes dealers will advertise to youth, young outdoors or any other market: but the national or other than local market publicity (or other forces) will have to establish a buying trend before general stores and metropolitan dailies will push a farfetched innovation.
Product introductions for apparel normally meet the trade at New York with other showings in Atlanta, Dallas and the West Coast. Until the products are shown nothing more will happen to the market acceptance, so these meetings would be held in July: big newspapers attend, or special press showings are arranged concurrent with shows for buyers. These same steps apply to new appliances, cars, boats and everything the consumer uses that can be dramatized, including beverages, liquor and all package goods.
The broad economics of an industry's promotion/profit ratios determine the scale used in product introductions. Should a big-volume men's clothing concern bring in the innovation involved here, they might invite the trade to an Indian-name community and use the item as a news peg for their new season's line. That would not replace the established buyer relations in the industry pattern; but it would supply a strong publicity base.
In sending the publicity materials to newspapers the kits are timed to arrive a few days before August 1 with that as the release date. In product publicity to metropolitan newspapers the viewpoint of the receiving editor is important.
For the largest papers it is hardly necessary to designate a specific editorial department. Mail is distributed to departments according to their own editorial patterns.
The product publicity kits usually include a background story describing past adaptations of Indian gear and an old Indian photo showing a forerunner suit. The major story would be on product, describing target market, types and styles and price brackets. Two or three "in use" photos should always accompany new product or new models.
In most cities the business editor handles all types of male-oriented news except sports and obituaries. A brief letter to these may be useful.
Dear Mr. Jones:
As you probably have observed, there is quite an upswing in Indian type men's clothing, including a trend out this way in men's suede Indian style suits for general wear. We devoted a year to researching the depth of this interest and found it justified our producing a "business type" suede suit for general wear that will be at Wallach's August 1. Our tests here and at Louisville, Miami and Detroit showed a rather wide market; the age appears to be in the 30-year range and the average price is SI50. As pure sports and outdoor suits the volume response was strong in every market. Of course, promoted as outer-wear in coats suede has been coming on strong for several years.You might want to call and take a look at this innovation at Wallachs. Best regards,
Although most manufacturers' publicity offices have their editor lists on the computer, it is well to place the store name at the end of paragraphs for Robot typing, in case it is long.
PR Tied to Buying Position
In large retail companies PR is usually alerted as soon as a buying commitment is made on any new product or model with publicity possibilities. In general, bigger retailers have standing relationships with general editors, departmental news heads and columnists on the newspapers in their communities. While the new product may stir up a story on a business page, its best chance for a product story locally is related to what the store says about local men buying it.
Product publicity for stores is converted into events. When it has decided which type of use the product will be aimed at, the store may plan a day-long event to dramatize it. The stereotype for men's items is the athlete. He draws autograph seekers as well as prospects. If the garment is to be promoted for general wear, a local celebrity would model it for the papers and for a TV clip.
Where an innovation has considerable potential, models would be shown at crowd events wearing them. For a garment with strong youth appeal and suited to outdoors, the sports pages probably provide the best exposure. The practitioner would discuss his innovation with the sports editor who might suggest how he would be able to use the story. That might be an "in use" story and photo of the outdoor scene such as fishing; or using a known sports personality linking the interest to his advanced style wardrobe. Modeling fees are generally uneven. Some cost stability has begun to develop with the establishment of fee patterns for professional athletes.
Developing Publicity Kits
Meanwhile, we left the factory after the trade press showings. Actually, the trade showings to specific buyer groups are invariably made at the outset of order-taking. By the time consumer press is given the material, the trade interest is mainly social: they have already made their commitments. In product introductions the manufacturer describes the advertising and publicity plans: all such information is concurrently sent in kits to the respective advertising and PR offices of stores.
The long lead-time between planning announcements of product characteristics and the various release dates gives PR time to do some research on its own to lend depth and texture to the publicity. In older companies the files of merchandising and publicity stories and photos are usually the research starting points. When some guidelines are established, the public library or a commercial photo service may be the next stop.
For trade publicity the materials should give a clear indication of the product's or line's place in the market. It should tell if the company has, or is making, similar products. If germane, the company's position in its industry should be given.
Normally companies do not issue publicity on products entering test markets except within the test areas. In these they may include some TV and radio spots as well as factory copy for dealer newspaper advertising. Product publicity is of little value until the reader can become involved: either for profit or use. But most industries are served by frequent-issue news media that want to tell all the news they can get. Rather than hassle over release dates, product publicity administrators should get out a test-market release. Each should be special to each paper in the trade:
San Francisco-Norman Wilson, Inc., menswear maker based here, is starting test-marketing of an Indian-motif suede suit aimed at the general outdoor market, Edwin Nelson, marketing director said. An undetermined number of California points and stores at Miami, Detroit and Louisville will participate in the tests which will include support for limited local TV and radio spots. "The company has not announced plans for producing the garments," the official said. "No period of test duration has been determined."
When product publicity offices supply such skeleton information trade publications have little interest until results show. When publicity refuses to reveal its test plan, some trade media visit test locations and reveal data that often is comforting to competitors.
Coordinating Product Publicity
When manufacturers reveal new products or models great care must be given the timing as it relates to other news such as financial reports. When a product announcement appears to be scheduled less than one month before a major (annual) report, it should be called to the attention of the legal department.
The need for product publicity coordination can have a strong bearing upon dealer relations. In many industries dealers keep full inventories of products that would decline sharply in value if they were not aware of the dates for new model publicity. As a rule, in normal relations the marketing organization alerts dealers months ahead on successor models. Often buyers calculate replenishments to control current stocks when new shipments are coming. In industries where advance product publicity requires 90- or even 30-day lead time, information, including photos, sometimes gets into consumer channels.
Still another pitfall is the situation where a company's low-volume lesser line is announced ahead of major lines that require all of the trade attention they can get. This is not excusable in offices where projects are administered by the department head for PR.
In industries where new products are announced to the trade in a span of 30 days or so at a seasonal time of year, the burden of avoiding head-on conflict with a major competitor's announcement is the product man's responsibility. It may be wise to check dates in advance so that both lines will not share attention. In some industries all major lines are introduced at annual or seasonal shows, and they share new model issues of the trade press. Woe to any publicity man who misses the deadline on these.
Product Opportunity Checklist
The best-priced sure-fire activity for innovations is the strategic business letter. In general, all announcements are signed by a marketing executive: the director may write to major dealers or distributors and departmental or section heads to their respective special markets. For almost any industry, a letter from the manufacturing company's chief officer to his counterpart in any or all interested institutions can give a big boost to the publicity program.
Regardless of signers, here are some strategic targets for letters (not including the regular marketing channels):
Suppliers for all lines the company makes
Banks and other financial institutions, nationally Heads of big store companies at corporate headquarters Vocational target audiences (ex. for the Indian suit these might be outdoor equipment makers) Heads of Sportsmen's clubs Here is an example of how such letters are tied into vocational and other interests:
Dear Sportsman's Club President:
Being aware of youthful viewpoints and strong outdoor seasonal programs of your organization, I am writing to tell you of an innovation in wearing apparel that I feel will interest your members.
We are introducing a suede, medium weight, general wear line of suit models, The Apache, designed in the Indian motif so popular in sports apparel this season. As the first authentic all around Indian fashion suit, we are receiving a heavy response to early announcements from dealers in other sportsmen oriented areas. Enclosed is a card, addressed and postage paid, that will bring you color circulars on models to be shown and the dealer's name and location in your area.
In the event that we have not received his order when your card arrives, we will act promptly to get a shipment underway so that your people may sec it. Of course, receiving the circulars involves no obligations.
Yours for better and more sports, Mailing-list brokers have available all kinds of lists of people with common interests of almost every description. For example, there appear to be approximately 10,000 outdoor-interest clubs: one for every 100,000 or so population in cities, suburbs and cities above 25,000 populations. It need hardly be mentioned that members of such groups devote considerable time and make heavy investments in merchandise and equipment related to their hobby or vocational interests.
Product publicity, for an editor, must be new. Get all the trade data before writing your story. Always include "in use" photos. Discuss your story with the appropriate editor in newspapers, or place with appropriate magazines.
Timing is most important to avoid conflicts and to coincide with special interest shows or displays.
Where do you place store name in publicity for special designs?
How is a test-market release arranged? Why?