Which One? A Press Release, A Feature Article Or A High Impact Direct Sales Letter?
by Alfred Lautenslager

Marketers on or offline are always looking for that panacea. Some find it and are very successful, earning thousands of dollars seemingly at will. They sometimes are very talented promoters that use a variety of classic marketing techniques that are complex yet simple, but sometimes they are the small online netrepreneur without years of marketing experience. Any marketer can use the classic, simple marketing techniques and be just as successful.

In determining the effectiveness of various marketing vehicles and techniques, it's always good to look at the low cost, simple items. Getting the highest return on investment is obviously important and starting with low cost, high impact items will increase the rate of that return. Today, netrepreneurs are chasing the high rankings in search engines and the best e-zine advertising. While these methods are very effective, they can be time consuming, costly and not necessarily for the beginner or smaller company. In due time they are both necessary but budget sensitivity must be considered, and of course the return on the investment. Remember, the talented promoters us a variety of techniques that, at times may seem complex, but are really simple.

It's often said that Publicity is free advertising. The true part of this statement is, the space that publicity is placed in, is usually free of charge. Some public relations campaigns can be costly from the standpoint of development and execution. For the smaller businesses and the online marketer, these costs are low compared to national consumer brand awareness publicity campaigns.

When looking at publicity and direct customer contact, there are three vehicles often considered: the press release, the feature article and a high impact, direct sales letter. Which one is the best of these three? What are the different types of effectiveness that can be expected from these vehicles?

First, it has to be assumed that all marketers are different. The answers to the above questions may be generalized to address the masses. It is realized however that the effectiveness of PR depends upon how well your development and execution is carried out, who your target is and what your message is.

For instance, someone might be good at writing high impact, direct, hard hitting sales letters, that really ask for the order but really bad at writing press releases.

And the exact opposite might be true for someone else that is not used to a sales intensive environment. The writing of sales letters takes a high level of creativity to get the selling message across to the reader in high impact fashion. It typically is not written as if we were speaking, thus a different writing style is required compared to other marketing.

Some marketers, in companies on and off-line, primarily use press releases, and they are very successful doing so. Press releases generally are newsworthy. News and announcements entail a different writing style than sales letters. Newsworthy press releases are almost considered reporting in the journalistic sense. Many a reporter has stated, " I am a reporter, not a writer".

Press releases can give you publicity in the various media that you could never buy for money. It also seems that good publicity is often much more reliable and trustworthy, these days, than advertising.

There are drawbacks of course, just like anything else. The problem with press releases and "free" publicity is that you can't control when and where they are published. Some editors work well with publicists, others ignore them. Developing editor relationships is a long and arduous task. Leave it to the professionals. It can pay off.

Other marketers primarily rely on the feature article approach to getting their name visible. Feature articles are the most prose like of the above-mentioned vehicles. This is the style we all learn in our development years and a style that we are all used to. Still some people are creatively challenged and still need the help of a professional service.

Feature articles can be a fantastic tool for getting "free" publicity for products, brands people or businesses. Whether an editor chooses to accept them, publish them or discard them is beyond the control of the writer or publicist. Of course, here again, relationships with the editors help, but control truly is limited. One of the indirect benefits of an article is the gracious reception that can be received from current customers and targeted prospects when the article is sent to them. Customers like to feel informed and appreciate the attention you pay them by sending them information. Usually in the bio paragraph at the conclusion of the article is a way for readers to contact the writer. Sometimes even a very subtle sales message is included.

But why worry about which one is best or most effective? Why limit a marketing campaign to just one of these vehicles, especially if they are categorized as lower cost?

The most effective campaign is to let press releases, feature articles and sales letters (direct response advertising) complement each other. This three-pronged approach is not only lower cost than paid advertising, it is considered by the experts to be of high efficiency. The key to marketing, besides the fact that it is made up of many many little things, is that those little things happen on a consistent basis. A consistent program of hitting the media with press releases, filling the content of publications, (e-zines, online and offline newsletters, etc.) with feature articles and crafting direct sales letters for website content and direct mail and email programs is almost ideal. This consistency goes a long way in creating identity and awareness with a product, brand, company or person and will provide the highest return on this low cost investment.

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