Publicity: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Two days ago, I received a phone call from a structural engineer.  She had read an article on the Web about lightweight studcast precast concrete walls.  She wanted to propose them for a project, at a meeting in 24 hours.  She wanted to know where she could get the walls, and since the article had our name and phone number on it, she called.

The article was published in 2007.

The company, Ecolite Concrete,  invested in publicity in 2007, and that investment is still paying dividends.  It might get them a project with a major big-box chain.

Publicity – getting news outlets to give editorial space to your story – has always been a marketing bargain.  You pay to create the publicity materials and interface with the editors, but the page space or air time is free, and you get to tell your product's story in great depth and often at great length.  This is in stark contrast to advertising, where you pay (usually big bucks) for very limited space or time.

In the digital age, publicity has become a better bargain than ever, as this incident dramatically demonstrated.  When newspapers and magazines were still only in print, and TV and radio news were only available as they were being broadcast, the shelf-life of publicity was pretty limited.  Magazines tended to hang around for very long after issue, but the likelihood that any particular article would be casually read - months or even years after it wass printed - decreased with every month, and searching for something in an old issue was cumbersome or impossible.

In the digital world, every communication potentially lasts forever.

Things stay on Web servers a long time.  They get copied from one website to another.  They get posted on Youtube. They get linked all across the globe.  And they can all be searched in ways that would boggle the minds of analog-age index-writers.

I guarantee that the engineer who called me would not have found this information by Googling – three years later – if the information had been in an advertisement.  I'm not even sure you can google the content of ads in the current 'digital editions' of magazines.  The article, which appeared on about seven pages of the magazine, cost a little more to write than one full page ad would cost in some of the major trade magazines.

By an extraordinary coincidence, the inventor of Ecolite was sitting in our office when the phone call came.  Everyone was floored by that bit of serendipity.  Later over dinner, though, he commented that his being there at that moment may have been coincidence, but the engineer finding his product by searching and reading that article was not coincidental at all.  It was exactly the way it’s supposed to work.