Marketing On A Limited Budget: Don’t Ask for Favors

by admin on November 7, 2017


We can do things that professional marketers cannot do.

Marketing:“It’s your job to make the story come alive.”

“Success With the Media”

I wrote, “Success With the Media, Everything You Need to Survive Reporters and Your Organization” (available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon at because I believe that organizations need to look inward to get better media results.

I use contents from the book for this article.

Some believe that we should not talk to reporters. I maintain that not talking leaves you without influence; you are committing yourself to a negative story. The trick is to know how to talk to the media.

See the entire series at  LeonardSipes.Com.


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of supervising award-winning media relations, radio and television; over fifty national and regional awards. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Post-Master’s Certificate of Advanced Study, Johns Hopkins University.


“It’s your job to make the story come alive.”

Up to this point, we’ve focused on media relations strategies that involve reacting to requests or events and personal survival skills. Now it’s time for an entirely different perspective.

In the Introduction, I said, “The most important aspect of taking a long-range view is building relationships. We cannot succeed unless we build meaningful and productive interactions with the media and the public. Everything we are and all we can be must be built on trust.” I tried to convey the need to create relationships throughout my book, but marketing takes public interactions to a different level.

Marketing may be one of the most important things you can do to keep your organization safe and goal-oriented. Constant self-initiated contact with reporters and the larger community sends a message—we’re ready for discussion; we’re ready to engage; we’re not afraid of our issues.

Media interviews work within the context of knowledge and trust. You cannot do a good job responding to media inquiries if the media know little or nothing about you. To do well, you have to market. Many on the receiving end of constant negative media inquiries are the opposite. They never engage. They never invite the public in for a dialogue. They give the impression that they have something to hide. To survive, news organizations need to see you as honorable people doing an honorable job.

To do well, you have to market. Many on the receiving end of constant negative media inquiries are the opposite. They never engage. They never invite the public in for a dialogue. They give the impression that they have something to hide. To survive, news organizations need to see you as honorable people doing an honorable job.

Not all Stories are Suitable for all Media

You have to decide the kind of story you are trying to promote. If you’re advertising a new product, and you visit the factory where it’s made, you may notice an environment that is rich in sound. Or the principal person responsible for your new achievement may have an easy-to-understand yet extremely interesting manner of speaking. These examples are radio stories.

One of the three prison systems in the state of Maryland is the Patuxent Institution. Out of a multitude of prisons built in the mid-1950s throughout the country that were designed to rehabilitate criminal offenders, the Patuxent Institution is the only one left. Under Maryland law, Patuxent is completely separate from the mainstream prison system and has its own authority to release and supervise inmates.

For many years, the person running this facility was an extraordinarily interesting professional who started his career as a psychiatric nurse. He was from Ireland and continued to carry a considerable Irish brogue. People love to listen to this man. Needless to say, because of his interesting background and his melodious use of words, he was the perfect radio interview. Whenever we promoted his institution, radio was on our minds.

When I represented the state police, I thought of television. Nothing was more visually intriguing than a police car roaring down the street with lights flashing. The state police have all sorts of interesting visuals including mobile command centers, helicopters, bomb squads, and SWAT teams. Often the mere offer of placing a reporter and cameraperson inside of a police car was enough to carry the day.

Equally as obvious is the fact that some stories can best be told in print. Some issues are complicated to the point where you want the public exposed to easy-to-read descriptive statistics. Some individual stories are so compelling that they cannot be told in a minute’s worth of television coverage.

A front-page newspaper photo can provide gripping evidence in support of the item or issue you’re trying to promote. And as previously stated, the Associated Press or other services are more likely to pick up a newspaper story and spread it statewide or nationally.

Asking for Favors

Try your best never to ask media to cover a story as a favor. Although you are under tremendous pressure to advance the issue, it is rarely worth the trouble. Asking for consideration under these circumstances is no different from begging. This is beneath you and the organization. I will freely admit that I sometimes daze those within my organizations through aggressive promotions, but I will not beg for news coverage.

It’s your job to offer compelling reasons to entice coverage. If it’s not newsworthy, doesn’t present a compelling visual, or lacks human interest, then don’t promote it. I understand that this is easier said than done when executives want publicity. Many of us are under immense pressure to gain publicity for an endeavor deemed important by management. We’re told that it is vital to the organization for the event to receive widespread publicity, but some of our executives have unrealistic ideas about what’s promotable.

It’s vital for you and your organization to be seen as honorable people. Public affairs professionals who ask for coverage of non-newsworthy items compromise that sense of honor. The other obvious difficulty of asking for favors is the fact that they will ask for something in return. The price paid to satisfy their request may be more than you are willing to pay.

Successful promotions are based upon a willingness to seek a newsworthy aspect of the story and its creative placement. It is up to you to find the right mix of elements to produce a successful promotion.


As stated, a brand could be a corporate logo, the company flag, unified website, company colors, a slogan or anything that reinforces the public’s perception of who and what you are. There are endless books on branding, so the goal here is to establish some basic principles. Do you have an honest perception of who you are and what you do? I would submit that most have trouble answering this question.

Boil your organization’s mission down to a sentence or two. I’ve seen bureaucracies take days of seclusion trying to establish basic principles. When done, everything you create should be supportive of these basic goals. A mission statement is part of this process, but mission statements are often endlessly wordy and confusing documents that few pay attention to. Brands need to be brief and clearly convey what you do. The question is, what conveys the message seamlessly? What’s your slogan? What symbol conveys that message? What will you incorporate into everything you do?

Big corporations will be relentless about establishing a brand. Can you imagine Apple or Google without their corporate logos? Both immediately convey quality, innovation, and success.

Sit down with trusted advisors and establish a brand and logo. Test them with interested audiences. Go to Creative Commons for publically accessible artwork. Review stock photography. Work with volunteer artists. Ask a graduate marketing class at the local college or university for assistance.

Establishing a centralized brand can be useful to the well being of the overall organization. The same can be true for your marketing efforts.

You want to be seen as a concentric whole with one message and one brand because it’s easier and much more effective to do it that way. Multiple messages within the same organization are confusing to the public and the media. They should be avoided.

Competing News Events

I once publicized an affair where the Governor was handing out awards to citizens and police officers engaged in anti-crime efforts. A lot of work went into publicizing the recipients and the event. We assumed that major media within the Washington/Baltimore market would not be as interested as those representing smaller communities where many of the individuals lived. We did everything possible to alert the smaller markets and community newspapers that had individuals from their area receiving this honor. We tried to develop as many human interest stories as possible with local angles. The great bulk of our coverage came from these efforts, but I was determined to try to bring major media into the main event when they received their awards from the Governor or Lieutenant Governor. I worked very hard to establish something interesting about an affair that many in the media saw as rather boring.

On the appointed day, I had promises from four television stations in two markets that they would attend my event based on compelling human interest stories. I did not expect anything more than 30 seconds on the evening news, but I would be very happy with that.

Approximately one half-hour before the event, a single-engine plane crashed in the Chesapeake Bay approximately 10 miles away. Needless to say, they abandoned my affair for this “newsworthy” and visual event.

All of us live with the disappointment of aggressive marketing of non-hard news items only to be superseded by the events of the day. It’s an unfortunate reality that comes with the territory. Some of your executives will insist that you call the station and demand promised coverage. This attitude is naïve. The media will do what is in their best interest.

At 11:00 a.m., they felt your dog and pony show (or lunch) was preferable. At 11:30, it changed to a plane crash. There is nothing that any of us can do but smile and chalk it up to experience. Soft news will be superseded by hard news every day. It’s something that we all need to learn to live with.

Next Up

More on building relationships and marketing on a limited budget.

Success With the Media

For more information on good organizational and media relations, see “Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization,” available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon at  Your reviews are appreciated.

See my website at

Contact me at


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