My Top Ten Marketing Mistakes – And Why They Worked Part 2: The Time I Snuck into The Mailroom Of a Major Publication
In 2007, I was working for a popular Santa Fe nonprofit when the Executive Director announced that we would be hosting an art auction to benefit our programs. There was only a short amount of time to promote the event, which was to feature the donated works of 100+ local artists.
In my role, I needed to attract the attention of the most prominent local newspaper in the hopes they would cover the event. None of their arts and entertainment reporters, however, were returning my calls. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Now what?
Ever mindful of our buck-fifty nonprofit marketing budget, I discovered some small, branded coffee cups in a storage room and had an idea. Perhaps a weird idea, but what the heck. I had to try something - the clock was ticking!
I placed event tickets with an invitation into the cups and decided to take matters into my own hands. I was going to stop by their office to introduce myself, drop off the (albeit somewhat cheesy) gifts, and tell them all about our event.
Well, when I got to their offices near the Santa Fe Plaza no one was there!
As I looked around for human life forms, I stumbled upon a wall of mailroom inboxes. Bingo! I squeezed the cups into the cubbies of the reporters and snuck out the same way I had come in. FYI: As I was wearing my customary 3-inch heels on the brick floors, I wasn’t exactly stealthy.
Why This Was a Mistake: New to the PR game, I didn't know that reporters are often told to refuse gifts to avoid compromising journalistic integrity (although some publications and media outlets are more loosey goosey about this than others). My little gifts could have easily offended the people I was trying to reach, and, even worse, they could have called my boss to complain!
If you don’t know a publication’s policy on accepting gifts, be sure to inquire first to avoid putting a journalist in an uncomfortable situation. At the very least, ask permission before handing a journalist a gift.
Why this Worked: I’m honestly not sure if this little stunt was the reason why, but the publication DID cover the auction, and the quickly thrown together event was a success. They became interested in our other functions and from that point forward the publication was more receptive to my pitches.
The (Marketing) Moral of this Story: When you are not getting through to a media outlet, or even a potential client, try a different approach. This will help your business or nonprofit stand out from your competition. Be creative. Be different. Be memorable.
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