"And the Survey Says": On Generating Affordable Widespread Publicity

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"If a company can generate widespread publicity via cost-efficient, informative mat news features, ultimately they will generate sales," according to P-O-P-S.com president Myrna Greenhut. Two recent surveys pertinent to the newspaper industry suggest why targeting the Internet with free feature columns is still sound, effective marketing strategy now.

The product or service will get plentiful publicity and the dollars will follow.

"And the survey says" is a key phrase identified with TV's "Family Feud," a show that polls its audience reaction to everyday choices. The family that guesses the popular response gets the points and the dollars. "So too, if a marketer can figure out what online newspaper and other editors want in the way of feature columns, they've got it made," states Myrna Greenhut, president of the mat feature service Points of Persuasion Syndicate (P-O-P-S.com). "The product or service will get plentiful publicity and the dollars will follow."

Two recent surveys -- one on feature formats, and the other on how journalists use the Internet -- are extremely telling, if read between the lines. Points of Persuasion Syndicate began with the mission of shoring up newspapers to compete with the Internet as a source for news. Currently, it has become increasingly obvious that the newspaper is losing ground rapidly to the Internet, so in the process of reformulating our own primary focus P-O-P-S decided to poll our grassroots editorial audience about exactly what type of feature format is the most functional. The results have been scarce, while at least 225 newspaper editors have visited the poll.

What this indicates is that the print newspaper does not believe that free feature material in any format can keep it in business. Further, we can surmise when comparing results with a second survey that conducting polls or surveys on your own web site are perhaps less effective than if a professional service is commissioned to do it, especially when they are offering a giveaway incentive.

The second survey, the "2008 Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices" which was summarized recently in Bulldog Reporter, indicates that a broader survey across all media conducted for the second year in a row by SurveyMonkey.com as the data collectors had a far greater response. The object of this survey is to track journalist usage of the Internet by almost 2500 journalists who responded for the second year. The survey indicated an increase in Internet usage to research, follow and report news and features materials. Online media rooms gave them access 24/7, and journalists also report a significant increase in usage of blogs, social media and RSS feeds to stay on top of the news.

While editors/publishers are not gung ho about free features, journalists from every beat themselves rate local newspapers and the New York Times as their print outlets of choice for staying on top of the news, as well as Google News and Yahoo! News as their online sources. Even CEO Eric Schmidt of Google, the print papers' competition, expresses his sorrow if the newspaper industry goes down. "To me this presents a real tragedy in the sense that journalism is a central part of democracy. If the newspaper industry goes down…"then that's a real loss in terms of voices and diversity. And I don't think bloggers make up the difference." (Eric Schmidt Wishes Google Could Save Newspapers - Jan. 7, 2009.)

The Internet is a consumer driven tool and the newest features conceived on our "Read Our Columns" link at http://www.p-o-p-s.com are designed to be found when the keywords they search on get pushed. The journalist who does their job right is a consumer advocate as well, and is much needed to sift through the great mélange of choices we are fed in our global economy. The mat feature or free content article originally invented to fill print newspapers and long a corporate publicity staple is still useful when targeting the Internet. It delivers a company's marketing advantage succinctly and unobtrusively, helping to point the consumer toward an educated choice - and once published, it lasts and lasts, and lasts.

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Myrna Greenhut
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