Using Public Relations to Connect with Prospects

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If you're the CEO or marketing executive of a catalog company, why should you consider public relations? Because you can't afford not to.


Imagine the bustling outdoor market in Cairo filled with the tantalizing smell of hundreds of exotic spices. Colors and textures of goods swirl in a tempting display as vendors shout over each other to be heard. You just pictured what it's like for today's consumer, who has never had so much choice in how and where she can make purchases.


As one of thousands of catalogs in today's marketplace, you need to consider public relations activities that can help you connect with your prospects before they make a connection to the Internet, with televised home shopping or some other convenient, easy way to find and buy products.


Here are three big bang public relations ideas that can spark your prospect


connection:


If you've got it, flaunt it. As we approach the millennium, people are increasingly interested in finding special or customized products that allow them to express their individuality. Whether it's hand-crafted Native American jewelry or whimsical kid's furniture, identify products exclusive to your catalog and get the word out in a variety of media. There are newspaper columns devoted to catalog coverage that will print your toll-free number and dozens of magazines and TV programs searching for unique items to bring readers or viewers.


Take a stand. Position yourself in the marketplace and make it easy for prospects to understand what you stand for by developing one consistent message. For example, "Hard-to-find wines at reasonable prices" or "The most flexible organizational and planning tools." Because you compete with so many others in the catalog universe, it's key to position your catalog with a simple message and stay true to that message as you introduce new products. This positioning must appear on everything your prospects see, read or hear about your catalog, i.e., it's part of your press kit, appears in every printed story about your catalog and is a component of all direct prospecting correspondence.


Build editorial relationships. Identify editors, reporters or producers who may be interested in using your catalog's products in photo shoots or TV segments.


Prospects get to see your product within a real life context and often the product sells itself. You would be surprised how far a simple credit line or listing in the "Resources" section of a magazine can go toward generating prospect inquiries, catalog requests and most importantly, product sales.


Buying from a catalog through a toll-free number is one of the easiest ways for consumers to shop. But it's your job to make sure that prospects, not just your current customers, know how to find you and what you offer. Implementing a public relations effort can build your catalog sales and extend your message to hundreds of thousands of prospects simply by showcasing your products in various forms of traditional offline media.


Jeri Cohen is managing partner at Big Bang Communications, New Tripoli, PA.
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