Power in Marketing

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In fact, today one can speak of public relations not as a fringe item, but a power in marketing-a source of energy that makes everything else in the marketing machinery work smoother and more efficiently, and produces greater results.

Marketing management no longer regards public relations as a competitor for budget allocations with advertising and promotion. Rather, public relations is recognized as basic in overall marketing strategy and a useful adjunct to promotion, but it also performs certain functions all its own.

Let's examine some of these unique functions more closely. First, public relations is the market maker. It builds new arenas of demand for advertising and promotion to sell within.

Think about that, what is it that convinces women that they just must have a certain length skirt, a certain cut neckline, a certain styled shoe next fall or spring? Is it advertising? Is it displays in the store windows? No, these come after something else: the showings in Paris, Rome and New York- duly covered by the fashion version of foreign correspondents and by cameramen-appropriately displayed on television, in women's magazines and on fashion pages in the newspapers.

Or take the automobile industry. Did you learn about Mazda's rotary engine first in a television commercial or a display ad? No, you learned about it through your newspaper, or possibly in a so-called men's magazine. Remember that feature story with the cross-cut diagrams?

Sometimes public relations can expand the market for a product by creating a use for it that never existed before. We did just that for the California Avocado Advisory Board, a marketing group.

A few years ago, it was predictable that the prices of avocados, considered somewhat of a connoisseur's food item, would rise. To assure the maintenance of high demand, despite price levels, we recommended taking advantage of the current interest in natural cosmetics by turning the nutritious avocado into a formula for facials and hair treatments. This, we felt, would also cast the avocado as a heroine of inflation because the prices of cosmetics and beauty preparations were also climbing. A 59-cent avocado would be a tremendous bargain for four luxurious beauty treatments- or, as our publicity pointed out, for even one beauty treatment plus a free salad.

Beauty editors from top women's interest and general publication magazines were invited to a luncheon in a Garden of Eden which we had created in Manhattan. We covered a model with avocado cosmetic preparations and developed dozens of other story angles. A well-known skin expert spoke on the health benefits of this natural cosmetic. We selected Gunilla Knutson, author of two books on natural beauty, as a spokeswoman and arranged for her to demonstrate what was called the Green Grocer Facial on a syndicated national television show-for 50 minutes!

We prepared illustrated features on the avocado facial for women's pages of newspapers and homemaker shows on television. We made a radio transcription, using Beverly Garland. And, we developed a set of syndicated beauty recipes for suburban newspapers. Among the notable results were take-out features, which appeared in the same month in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Seventeen also carried a feature, as did Woman's Homelife. Our syndicated television show appeared on 37 stations. What were the results of all this? It built a rising crescendo of avocado demand over the six months before the related advertising appeared.

Marketing Credibility

Public relations establishes marketing credibility. It validates the claims being made for a product or service. When a salesman calls-on the picture tube, on the radio, or in person-you can't help being something of a skeptic, can you? Of course, he's going to tell you that his product works best and he knows nobody but satisfied customers. If he didn't talk like that, he would have no chance of earning any commissions.

But when you read about that same product-or see it documented by one of your favorite television personalities or syndicated columnists-your skepticism is diluted.

When you come across an advertisement that interests you, you may well believe its claims enough to respond to it. But you will respond a lot quicker if you have just heard by word-of-mouth or in the newspaper how convenient or how reasonable or how delicious this product has proved to be for someone else.

Even if the publicity isn't signed, there is an implied endorsement by the editor who, you feel sure, would not allow anything unverified or incomplete to occupy editorial space or time in his media. To earn this confidence, publicity must be handled with a professional sense of journalistic integrity, with a concentration on facts and on news-making qualities that meet the requirements of the editor. Recognition of this has made product and service publicity almost as accepted a source of editorial material for publications as a wire service or a crew of reporters.

I went through the Atlanta Journal recently to check for examples of marketing public relations and found quite a few. The marketing of oysters profited from a full page picture feature on oyster fishing. There was a three column picture marketing some new unisex trousers called baggies. Wine marketing was the real purpose for running a feature story on an auction. There was a two-page feature marketing pork-how to buy and serve it. And all these other marketing subjects drew one or more citations: automobiles, parsnips, airlines, frozen foods, cookies, pickles, potatoes, pancakes, poultry, cheese, chocolate, cabbage, almonds, yogurt, bread, computers and a television set special.
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