Although we are a consumer-driven economy and the competition for customers is fierce, most of us probably don’t know what is actually entailed in reaching a customer base. There are two major umbrellas that serve this purpose, and they are huge industries: Marketing and Public Relations.
Many things fall into these two camps. According to the American Marketing Association, Marketing is defined as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” Hmmm. The one I found on Yahoo is somewhat clearer: “The strategic functions involved in identifying and appealing to particular groups of consumers, often including activities such as advertising, branding, pricing, and sales.”
For people who are trying to sell product, especially intellectual property which includes books, there are several ways to go about digging in to the marketing functions. Let’s break the definitions down and identify what each piece is intended to do.
“Appealing to particular groups” or Finding your audience. Who is going to buy what you are selling? Be interested in what you have to say? What are these people talking about now, and where can you find them?
“Branding”: Deciding what you or your product represents. How do you want to package yourself? What packaging is appropriate? What kind of image are you and your product presenting? How can you directly appeal to your audience? Answer these questions and create the right language and visuals that go along with the brand.
“Pricing and sales”: You don’t want to charge too little, but also not more than the market will bear. Research what comparable services or products are going for in the marketplace and set your price accordingly.
“Advertising”: In my experience, advertising only works when you are working with something or someone who is already a known entity in the target market. Otherwise, unless you have a major budget for an ad campaign, you are trying to create awareness about something that no one knows about. This is better suited to publicity and the public relations industry.
Public Relations is “the art or science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public, ” again according to Yahoo. I love the thought of it being an art or science. In layman’s terms, pr is about getting the word out through appropriate messaging across many channels. First you create the story or message you want to broadcast and then, via traditional and digital media, you propagate the information.
Messaging comes in many different forms including press releases, original articles, podcasts, and videos that you can market across the media world. Again, knowing your audience is key because you have to find a way to communicate with them that will get them to take notice of what you are trying to say/sell.
Publicity is all about media and comes into play after the message is ready. Here there are similarities to the way advertising works, except that publicity incorporates or generates stories. Advertising can be very one-dimensional and static (like a full page ad in the NY Times).
Generally, given the number of outlets there are to promote things and the many different ways you can reach people through social media channels, you are likely to need a combination of some or all of the above. In order to meet the changing needs of clients and authors, I’ve become a hybrid publicist who is well versed in public relations strategies and marketing. It’s a lot more interesting to know how all the pieces fit together and hugely gratifying when you can be successful and see results.