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Product Public Relations – Benefit Theme

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The practice of product public relations, according to a products division director of Procter & Gamble PR department, means applying the basis of public relations to one specific area. As with financial PR and corporate PR, the purpose is "to create public understanding of a given situation by disseminating as clearly and broadly as needed and desirable the true facts about that situation."

  1. Present truthful, newsworthy, helpful stories to editors keyed to their own interests. No warmed-over material. Nothing phony. Where possible give technical support to your story. And keep it factual.

  2. Think of the final audience for your story-the reader-not only as a potential purchaser for your product, but also as a voter, a potential stockholder, a potential depositor for a bank, and a potential donor to charity. He is, in short a composite of all the audiences to which public relations speak. Make your story useful to him.

  3. The story must impress the consumer with the product and what it will do for him. How then does Public Relations differ from advertising? Advertising depends on repetition as well as circulation. A product public relations story is never repetitive, and it is news. A product piece read by the consumer in a magazine or newspaper, or heard on a radio or TV news program, backs up advertising, commercials on the air, and in-store promotions.

  4. A product campaign must be carefully planned, and handled with precision, whether as a team effort involving an outside PR counselor, or within the company. In a large company, knowledge and advice of all departments are drawn on-Research and Development, Manufacturing, Market Research, and Advertising.
A more detailed checklist of ways to do better product promotion has been compiled for Industrial Marketing. Here again, as in the case of the low-priced household product, the rules apply to any product.
  1. Take a complete set of photos, including over-all shot and close-ups of important features. Photos can be used for publicity, catalogues, sales presentations, trade shows, etc. File negative and a few prints for immediate use.

  2. Gather specifications and all product information for publicity release. List of suitable trade journals for product releases should be developed in advance from such standard reference books as Standard Rate & Data and Working Press of the Nation. Because of the number, releases should be mimeographed or offset on special release letterheads or standard company letterheads (double-spaced to allow editing by editors) and sent with captioned photo.

  3. Send release and photo to sales personnel with covering letter to keep them informed of new developments.

  4. Develop sales literature to answer inquiries from trade journals.

  5. For direct mail purposes, send literature with sales letter to selected mailing lists.

  6. Check sales department on items for possible use as case history feature material for publicity. Contact customers to see if they will allow their names and material to be used for publicity. Request any information on reaction to product, advantages, etc., and whether photos can be taken. Be specific with photo service on type of picture required.

  7. On feature articles, some editors prefer submission of an outline with pertinent facts so they can determine what features should be stressed in the creation of an article. Others prefer submission of a complete manuscript with photos. This can only be determined by experience.

  8. Prepare a feature article with a specific magazine in mind. Review the magazine to determine the type of editorial approach. In many cases, a slight rewrite will make the story suitable for other journals.

  9. Determine whether better results can be achieved by mass circulation of the article, or by submitting the story to one editor. The latter procedure results in a better story with more space.

  10. Article reprint may be used as a news release to scientific trade journals, or may be sent out as a direct mail piece.

  11. Suppliers of material or parts used in your product often have company house organs. Your literature will be of interest to them.
"You can't sell a product by selling it as a product." It is the potential benefit of your product to the buyer that can be sold. This benefit can be cash, status, health, beauty or comfort. Whatever it is, your chance to get news of that benefit to the consumer is in the first announcement release. How is your product different? There is a difference of opinion as to how much creative selling is desirable in a release, and what is "puff" or idle praise. The answer is that the real benefit to the product buyer must be stated convincingly and backed up with facts.

The use of the benefit theme in practice is shown by the story of industrial-type steel shelving. It is made by many manufacturers, all to the same specifications. One steel company public relations counselor developed a new buyer benefit to use in promoting the product of one company. The term "storage engineering" was invented. Defined as "the science of intelligent and economic planning and supervising of storage areas," this term transformed an unexciting product into a source for newsworthy approaches and stories. Storage area lighting, ventilation, safety factors, aisle widths, inventory control, labeling and color-painting all contributed to the promotion of the sale of this one company's steel shelving. In other words, service was brought into the picture. Dozens of stories in the trade and business magazines resulted.

The benefit theme is almost universally used nowadays. It is impossible to read a publicity-inspired story without being conscious of it. To develop a benefit theme unique to one product among many is the constant challenge to the product publicist.
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