Talking Heads

The Cost of Free Publicity

Media outlets are always on the hunt for new content, and consultants are a ready source of fresh topics and perspectives. But, committing the time and energy to cultivate media relationships, prepare newsworthy material, and train for and make appearances means that being a talking head is anything but free.

And contrary to conventional wisdom, in this era of 24/7 news, there is such a thing as bad publicity. Just ask 2004 presidential hopeful Howard Dean. One overzealous speech after the Iowa caucuses-replayed and talked about over and over again—damaged his image at a critical time in his campaign.

What Is Publicity?

Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines publicity as "the measures, process or business of securing public notice." Consultants might define publicity as free media exposure for their practices.

If you want notoriety, any publicity will do. But like all marketing tools, the purpose of publicity for guerrillas is to grow their practices. Guerrillas look for results, not glitter.

WHAT'S THE POINT OF YOUR PUBLICITY?

Your publicity program could include the following objectives:

Developing your firm's market identity Building your networks—of potential clients, collaborators, industry contacts, and media representatives

Identifying leads for new projects ^ Winning new clients

^ Giving something back to the community

TO capture a worthwhile return on your investments, your publicity campaign must have a well-designed strategy and be skillfully executed. In keeping with the "One Size Fits None" principle of guerrilla marketing, consultants must first decide what role, if any, publicity will play in their marketing plans, and they must decide on the objectives of publicity for their practices. Both will vary from firm to firm.

Some consulting firms make publicity the center of their marketing efforts; others just react when a media request is lobbed over the transom. For some firms, it makes sense to have a small publicity program running at all times. Or, you may decide that you don't want any media exposure. Part of the decision involves cost, in both time and money. But the role of publicity may also depend on the type of consulting you do—whether the business you are in lends itself well to media exposure and if you stand to gain from it.

If you decide to pursue publicity, developing objectives for your program is critical for two reasons: first, so that when you're in the spotlight you can remind yourself why the heck you agreed to an interview; and second, so you'll be able measure results.

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