A couple of weeks ago, I did a talk on how to buy media, and how to sell the value of your organization when you’re asking for free media. It was a lot of fun and I got great questions. I also saw people taking fervent notes, so I’m going to break up my talk into a couple of posts so that there’s a record of it.
I first talked about how my experience as a media planner warped my sense of money and what equalled “a lot of it.” I would buy national magazines and television and plan millions of dollars and think to myself “wow, that was spent rather quickly on a couple of things.” I then moved into the position I am in now and, when working with smaller businesses, the question is no longer “do they have a set advertising budget and what have they allocated to media,” it’s “if we were to sell them an advertising program, what would they be giving up on having because the money is being reallocated?”
For a local business, every dollar out of pocket is a dollar it’s not keeping in profit, using as a reinvestment, or paying for something else that may be crucial. With the money going out, a business has to figure out what or how it needs that dollar to be profitable. But without knowing what the money is doing to help grow the business, a business is helpless to learn how to use it better or more wisely.
So before any business can think about advertising, it has to consider how it would be able to measure any kind of success that would come from it, and would they be able to handle that volume of success once the advertising starts? If the business doesn’t have enough people to handle the phone calls or sell to the bodies coming in the door, even if the advertising was successful the business couldn’t grow because it couldn’t handle the demand. And if the business doesn’t use website analytics and keep track of how people heard about their business, they’ll never know which parts of the advertising was successful and would never learn how to make their media mix or messaging better.
Next time: So if you have solid ways of knowing if your money in advertising can work hard for you, how do you go about buying it?
So if you had solid ways of knowing if your money in advertising can work hard for you, how do you go about buying it?
First, I have some general thoughts about media buying.
Diversify your media portfolio. It’s called a media mix because you should never put your eggs in one basket – different vehicles can help convey different messages as well as help move a customer down the “conversion funnel.”
Message vs. Medium. Think about the different media out there and consider whether your message can hold up to each of them. Each medium has certain pros and cons for how to deliver a message. If your company needs a lot of disclaimers, certain media can be more useful than others.
Know your target consumer. It’s not everyone under the sun. Figure out what group of people give you the most money the most easily. That’s your target audience. When a sales rep comes into your business, they’ll be more helpful to you if you can tell them whether your target audience is male or female, their age range, and their assumed household income. And when you’re narrowing this target audience down, keep in mind that if you have other types of customers that also bring you money that’s okay. They’re probably going to see your ads, too. You are just not necessarily having to specifically pay to reach them.
So now you think you are ready for advertising and a radio or TV rep walks into your office. Usually, they’ll come with one of two approaches: 1) “tell me about your business and I’ll come up with something I have on the fly that may work with what you need,” or 2) “here’s my big idea. I’ve done my homework on your business and let’s see if I’ve gotten the idea right.” The second is definitely better than the first, but not every sales rep has read “The Challenger Sale” yet, and they should.
Anyway, things about the proposal they bring to you that you should consider.
They may very well focus on the number of spots you’ll be getting for the money your spending. That’s all well and good, but make sure you ask and get the answer for how many estimated number of listeners/watchers of your target audience those spots will actually be reaching. Also, when are those spots running? Midnight to midnight? 6a to midnight? Drive time or Prime time? That really matters if you have some idea of who your consumers are and when they might be listening to the radio or watching TV the most. If you buy midnight to midnight spots, they’ll be really cheap, but I guarantee you that some will run at 3a in the morning. Are your customers even up then? You’ll pay more for buying specific dayparts, but your likelihood of actually reaching your audience will be much higher.
Reps can actually be helpful and teach you things. You can ask the TV rep to pull information together that shows you when and what shows your customers watch the most on their station, and even how their station ranks against other stations. Your radio rep can do the same thing and help you find when your customers actually listen to the radio most often.
In my humble opinion, side tips. They may want to try to correct me, but I really feel like the TV and radio online sites are still a little over-rated and pricey when you buy it directly from them. (There are ways to buy a bunch of sites collectively online – another blog post, perhaps.) Unless they’re offering it as a promotion and a way for you to collect leads if you give something away, stay away from it for now. (Any sales reps want to refute this?) Also, some reps are being charged with getting businesses to fill space at their events. If you don’t have a product to sample or it requires a lot of detailed discussion, stay away from radio remotes and booths at events.
Newspaper. Are your consumers older? Research is kind of indicating that they’re more likely to read the newspaper than any other kind of consumer. If a rep comes to your business selling newspaper, continue to think about when, how, and why your customers might read the paper. If the rep is selling you something that doesn’t seem to fit, don’t buy it just because it still sounds like it’s a “good deal.”
Out of Home. Billboards are not just for directional signs anymore. You can buy them basted on either where your customers live or commute. When do you need to reach them? On their way home from work? To work? Or when they’re running errands around their their own neighborhood? The sales reps can find which boards are the right fit for you.
Online. This is actually one of the most difficult things to buy because there are so many ways to do it. There are some hyper local sales reps that may come visit you if you’re a big enough fish, but most of the time you’re on your own (or hiring someone to do it for you). And it’s not just about buying the impression anymore. You have to have things set up on the back end of your web site to know if the impressions you are buying are converting to visits and to actual sales. Do you use a vanity URL for each ad versus your own to track success? It depends on how awful your normal web site address is or how recognizable your brand already is. Did you know you can use Google generated 800#s in your search results that would also populate your web site to bridge the gap from people researching online to calling you? Besides this, you should use every little thing that Google offers, most importantly their Analytics package. It’s free and there is no reason to not have it attached to your site. If you’re a local business, take advantage of Adwords, Places, Yelp and Facebook to help concrete your presence in the community. If you don’t show up on these things, people may not think you’re really there!
If you ever need any more advice on this, review my other posts that I’ve written on these categories or feel free to just ask me. I’m happy to help.
Now that you have some knowledge of how to buy media, now let’s learn how to get it for free for your 501(c)3 organization.
Why do you want it? Having media exposure for your event/organization provides you with larger exposure of your message to people who aren’t already on your mailing list or a Facebook fan.
When should you ask for it? When you have a major fundraising event of the year, like a gala, a walk, or a benefit concert. You shouldn’t just ask for branding or general exposure that can run at any time; some media might be okay with that, but you’ll get way more free media when you actually have a specific reason.
Why would media give anything away for free? There are specific people in each media outlet that have the job of working with public service organizations. So the real question is, why would they give you anything for free? Usually it’s because they’re interested in your cause AND they have the ability to justify giving away the media. How do they feel justified? If you GIVE THEM THINGS, too. For example, leading up to the event, give them “thank you” exposure for being a sponsor through your communication tools that will help them reach your people who may then “thank them” for sponsoring by buying media for their own company. During the event, make sure there’s enough “thank you” exposure and possibly a way for them to pitch to the attendees why they should buy media for their own company.
How do you show the value of what you have to offer the media? Questions to ask yourself about your communications and the people who receive them:
-Who is on your e-mail/direct mail list? Do you know from their email addresses that they learn more about you through their company’s address or their personal? Have you gathered additional information when they asked to be on your list, like what company they work for?
-Who are your major personal donors and do they own local companies who might regularly buy advertising?
-Who are your corporate sponsors and do they become actively engaged with your program so that bigwigs would potentially attend your event?
-Who have been past attendees at your event? Are there any recognizable local celebrities/socialites who usually are seen at other events and therefore probably wouldn’t mind getting mentioned as a possible future attendee?
-Who are your friends on Facebook? Do you have friends that are major companies that might see a post on your timeline from their newsfeed?
-Who is on your board? Usually, they are major players in the community and have pull in their own organizations and are usually a part of other organizations/events that can help get the message out.
-Do you have a marketing committee? You want to find advertising/marketing savvy people who already have connections where they can leverage their media relationships to make asking for it so much easier.
Before you ask for free media, you have to do a little homework.
First, look to other organizations like yourself and other major organizations that you’d like to emulate and see who their media sponsors are. They’re usually listed on their event web page. Then, find out who handles the Public Service Advertising for the major media companies in town (usually the front desk person will know.)
Based on which media you’re interested in, you’ll know what kind of free things to ask for. For print, review their media kits prior (you can normally find them on their web site) so that if you want a full page or a half page you’ll know how much in media value to ask for. For TV/radio/OOH/online it’s a little more tricky. They can adjust rates to fit needs and, most of the time, use the open rate to calculate the value. But, most of the time, reaching a minimum of $5,000 in media value is pretty easy for them to do.
How much to ask for. It’s always a better bet to come up with levels of donation than to leave it open for interpretation by the media outlet themselves. If you just say, “can we have things for free” it’s a lot harder for them to actually come up with something than saying, “can we have x and y, please.” So I’d recommend having levels of media sponsorship that they can select based on how much availability they have at the time you need it and on how gung-ho they are for your organization. The first level should be really easy to hit for the media you’re going after and shouldn’t make it uncomfortable for print to find space or for broadcast to over-commit. The next level should make the media company put a little more attention into what they’re giving you and when, but only rise above their comfort level enough to get you more of what you want. The final level should be close to the pain point of giving free stuff away. Here, you would call those media sponsors who reach this level as signature, platinum, premier, etc and get all of Gives and Gets.
What are Gives and Gets, you say? Next week’s post will explain. So stay tuned. 😉
Last chapter of the Value Talk! You made it!
So, if you didn’t pick up on this in the last post, the reason why media gives away free media isn’t because they’re altruistic, it’s because they do think they’re going to get something out of doing it. They give you the media, they want the exposure of your valuable audience in return. In a couple of chapters back, you learned how valuable your people were, now how do you expose them to the media outlets to make it worth everyone’s while?
-Logo placement! On your website, on your Facebook wall, on email blasts, on mailers, on posters, and ON OTHER MEDIA YOU GET.
-Bag stuffers – Are you passing out gifts to attendees? Let the media put something in it, too. Remember that some media can do this better than others, so while radio stations will think this is great, out of home may yawn.
-Booth space – Will there be booths at the event. Give them one to hand out things and talk to your people.
-Signage at the event – banners at the gala, or on the fence during the walk, or around the stage where the presentations will be.
-Tickets to the event – So they can see and be seen and rub elbows with your bigwig attendees.
-Special seating at the event.
-Maybe even a moment to talk at the event. They’ll be happy with 2 minutes (and may take 4) to give their spiel about what they actually do.
You can see that there are some things that all sponsors could get, but you wouldn’t want every sponsor to get all of them. So match up these Gets to the Gives of your tier sponsorship levels, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a great way to get free media.
Last tip. Don’t forget to follow through with all of your Gets. If they give everything they said they would, and you don’t hold up on the Gets, don’t expect their sponsorship next year.