A much more effective way of promoting yourself may be through public relations. When you translate your efforts into what the traditional media of magazines and newspapers considers “news,” you create the possibility of free publicity – and we all know that “free” is a very good thing. While coming from a family of public relations professionals may have contributed to my non-traditional way of marketing my own design business, there is no reason why it can not be done by any other designer.
What is Newsworthy?
About 12 years ago, I decided to no longer spend my marketing budget on print advertising or direct mail pieces. These advertising dollars are now primarily directed to entry fees for design competitions all over the world. Over the past decade this strategy has resulted in winning a substantial number of awards, as well as in examples of my work having been included in dozens of books on identity, graphic design and marketing. Each of these situations naturally leads to what has become my most effective self-promotion tool: the press release.
As often as twice a month, I send out press releases to the business editors or writers of the major daily newspaper in my area. The releases are also sent to business newspapers and magazines, local community weeklies, various related web-zines and sites, and design publications. If the news involves a client in another city, I also send the information to the media of that market.
Winning a design award or being profiled in a book are, perhaps, at the top of the list of subjects considered newsworthy by such publications; however, there are other situations arising in the course of a designer’s day-to-day business that create publicity opportunities. Being retained by a new client is one of them. You may have seen newspaper notices from advertising firms announcing they have been retained as the agency of record for a particular client. Why should a designer or design firm be any different? To that end, I usually send out a press release whenever there are three or four new clients to announce.
The completion of a project is another perfect opportunity. Press releases containing information on a few completed projects – and accompanied by camera-ready black & white prints of the finished products – have been particularly well received by the smaller local papers in my area. It’s always nice to have a graphic element to include with the news item.
The advantages here are obvious. This incredibly low-cost marketing method gives you the opportunity to “toot your own horn” and get your name seen by thousands of potential prospects. More important than the quantity of such exposures is their quality – these local papers that can put your name in front of the people most likely to hire you. Finally, it thrills the clients to see their companies’ names and logos in print.
Preparing a Successful Press Release
Format. For some, the most difficult part of using this manner of marketing is the actual writing of the press release. There are solutions to this hurdle. Many libraries have marketing and press release books with examples of press release formats for you to follow. On the other hand, you can hire a PR professional or a writer to establish the initial template specifically for you and your business – one you would then use to simply plug in the pertinent information. You can also attempt to trade your design services with a PR person or company needing that type of work. These options eliminate most of the excuses for not using this method of self-promotion.
Content. In preparing each release, the most important thing to remember is to include all of the necessary information in the first paragraph. Most editors or writers receiving your announcement don’t have the time to read any more than that paragraph. The rest of your release should just be background supporting your first statement. You should close the release with your precise contact information, should the editor or writer wish to reach you.
Contact. Be sure you are sending the press release to the person who should be receiving such information. It should be sent to the person editing the most relevant column, such as small business or business marketing. You will have a better chance of having the information published if the person who actually makes the editorial decisions receives the press release personally. The names of such individuals are readily available in each newspaper or magazine. However, if you are unsure to whom it should be sent, a phone call to the publication should produce the desired result.
Strategy. You may also want to have some kind of a gimmick to attract additional attention to your press release. It may be an attention-grabbing envelope design or paper color. In my case, the heading on the press release page is “Toot! Toot!” This ties into my company’s name, Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, as well as its logo, which is a stylized train locomotive. It also references to the fact that I am “tooting my horn.” But don’t get too carried away with trying to attract attention. For the most part, business editors are fairly conservative and serious creatures.
Delivery. In this age of technology, it may be tempting to send of your press release via only fax or email; however, most editors and writers appreciate receiving the information the old-fashioned way – by snail mail. In fact, they usually receive fewer press releases by regular mail; your information may get a little more attention than that sent by other means. I will usually also send my press release out via mail and broadcast it to my email address list of clients, vendors, previous clients, publications, potential customers (those who have previously contacted me for project information), industry peers, friends and family members as well. I also post my press releases on distribution sites such as PRWeb.com and PRLeap.com. In addition, the press missives are now posted on my web site and my blog. The idea is to get your name out there. You have no way of knowing who is going to come into contact with someone needing a graphic designer and maximum exposure is desirable in reaching potential clientele.
Time and money. My press releases are most often sent out to a mailing list of about 20 publications. I will often have three or four sets of pre-addressed envelopes on hand to save time. The writing of the release, printing, envelope stuffing and stamping does not take more than about 40 minutes. The postage for the mailing is less than $8.00 - an inexpensive investment considering the potential results.
Reaping the Rewards
Don’t be surprised if your first few releases have limited results. For the most part, it is a process of cultivating a relationship with publication editors. It might even be worth your while to arrange to introduce yourself personally to specific editors at some point in time. After receiving several press releases from your company, the editors and writers begin to realize that you are a “real” business with serious intentions, and that you are likely to see your information in print.
A good case in point is the success of my efforts. Nearly every one of my press releases has been printed in at least a few of the publications on my list. This has created tremendous exposure for my business, generating name familiarity, interest and new clients. Repeated releases to one of the local daily business papers resulted in them doing a feature story about my business, with my photo on the front page directing readers to the story inside. Another feature story was written a few years ago for the largest daily newspaper in my home state of Oregon. It also included my photo and four examples of logo designs. Twenty new clients were the direct result of that story, including businesses in Wisconsin, Colorado, Alaska and California. And there are always other stories in the works.
In addition, my efforts have attracted the attention of numerous authors currently writing books on the topics of marketing and self-promotion. Several have included my business as a case study or listed my company as a recommended identity design firm. The opportunity to write my first book, The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success: Ideas and tactics for a killer career, evolved out of publisher contacts having repeated exposure to my business promotion press release efforts.
Any designer or design firm can benefit from using press releases in promoting and marketing themselves. For many, it involves getting over the self-imposed label of being a “freelancer” and acknowledging that they are, in fact, a “business.” As businesses, all designers should be making use of creative marketing techniques used by others in the corporate world, not to mention making use of their own creativity to take those concepts one step further in the quest for personal success.
At the end of each release is the notation “If I don’t “toot!” my own horn, no one else will.” That statement represents the most important lesson I learned in the marketing and promotion of my own design talents and skills through the use of the press release.
Note: This article has also appeared on Creative Latitude and Marcommwise.com. It was also posted in its original format on the former sites VisualArtsTrends.com (February 2000) and Commpiled.com, and appeared in an issue of the American Society of Media Photographers publication, ASMP Bulletin.
© 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives