Why Direct Response PR Should Be Part of Your Marketing Plan

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

Janice, a freelance writer, had self-published a book on eating out and was trying to promote it . . . with little success. Then, out of the blue, she hit the jackpot: Oprah’s people called and asked her to be a guest on the show.

Janice was on cloud nine — and already counting the money from the huge numbers of book sales she figured her appearance on the show would generate. But when I spoke to her a week later, she was in a down mood. “What happened?” I asked. “How many copies did you sell?” The shocking answer: “Not a single one.”

Reason: The book was not available in bookstores. (Many self-publishers have difficulty getting bookstore distribution.) You could buy it only from the author, Janice. And, in her excitement over being on television, Janice neglected to make sure that Oprah’s people would mention her toll-free 800 number.

They didn’t. So anyone who wanted to buy the book had no way to do it. (Oprah didn’t give Janice’s address, either.)

Result: Her appearance on Oprah’s show was an exciting event in Janice’s life — but a total waste as far as selling her book was concerned.

Lesson: Whenever you do any type of self-promotion, always make sure it includes (a) a specific offer and (b) your complete contact information — address, phone number, fax number, website, and e-mail address. When, years ago, I started sending out press releases for my own business, some editors would publish my offer and contact information. And when those editors ran articles about me and my business, we would get anywhere from a few leads or orders to several hundred per article — depending on the publication and the size of the article it ran.

Others editors refused, feeling that publishing my contact information interfered with their journalistic integrity. This made it impossible for their readers to contact me — and, as far as I could see, I never gained any benefit from having those articles published.

The Internet has eliminated the editorial objection to including contact information with an article — and editors now routinely include website addresses in the articles they publish. Why? Because including the Web address is actually a service, enabling the reader to obtain a greater depth of information than can be included in the article.

For this reason, every press release or article you write should end by sending the reader to your website for more information. For turning those Web visits into leads, you need some kind of mechanism on your website for capturing the reader’s contact information — maybe a box where they can sign up for your free e-zine by giving you their e-mail address.

Let’s compare Janice’s unproductive Oprah appearance with the appearance of my friend Jeffrey, another self-publisher, on a financial cable-TV show hosted by Ken and Daria Dolan.

When Jeffrey was invited to appear on the show, he told the producer that they had to periodically display a “super” — a line or two of text showing his name and toll-free phone number. (This was pre-Internet.) The producer indicated that he wasn’t sure if he could do it. Jeffrey told him, “I will not do the show unless you agree to it.” They did — and he received thousands of dollars in orders as a result of his appearance.

I’m not sure I would have been as pertinacious about this as Jeffrey. “Weren’t you afraid you would turn them off and lose the opportunity?” I asked him. Jeffrey, a clear-headed marketer, replied that unless viewers had a way to order his products, there was no opportunity for his business — and, therefore, no point in spending his valuable time doing the show.

This is a lesson I’ve never forgotten: The only measurable, profitable PR is direct response. If you can measure a positive ROI, you know it’s worthwhile. All other PR is questionable and immeasurable.

For instance, an expert from Trillium Health Products, a maker of juicers, was the guest on a 20-minute segment of a radio talk show on WBZ in Boston. Callers were invited to call Trillium’s toll-free 800 number for a free information booklet on juicing — which, in addition to containing information about juicing, was a promotional piece for the machine.

Approximately 50,000 listeners called for the free booklet. Of those, 10% (5,000) bought a $350 juicing machine. That comes to gross sales of $1.75 million for a single 20-minute radio appearance. Without the mention of the free booklet and the 800 number, sales would likely have been a tiny fraction of that amount.

(Ed. Note: Bob Bly is the editor of Mailbox Millionaire, ETR’s program to help you start your own successful direct-mail business.)