Marketing On A Limited Budget: What We Can Do

by admin on October 3, 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.

What We Can Do

We can do things that professional marketers cannot do. Public affairs professionals with an aggressive marketing strategy are very good at the following tasks. They:

  • Understand that they can get on the front page of major newspapers, often with compelling photographs. My organizations have been on the front page of the Metro section of The Washington Post with a positive story where a third of the page was taken up by verbiage and photographs. This is not unusual.
  • Know that they can be a primary story on a television broadcast reaching hundreds of thousands of homes.
  • Realize that a good story can receive multiple radio plays on targeted radio stations at the best possible times.
  • Are aware that they can do any of the above multiple times, and generate hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars of positive marketing.
  • Fully understand that they can accomplish feats of advertising that professional public relations firms can only dream about. Even the best advertising firms in the world cannot buy access to the front pages of major newspapers or be lead stories on television or radio.
  • Know that they and their executives can be regulars on the talk show circuit.
  • Are constantly on radio station public affairs shows.
  • Know that with donated radio studio time and with a minor expense of copying CDs they can create a radio network and reach audiences throughout their target area.
  • Realize that cable access or university television stations will often create shows for a very reasonable cost and distribute them throughout their markets. With my current organization, we get 600 television airings a year. We have over 50,000 views on YouTube. We have had as many as 1.4 million page views on our radio and television website.
  • Create their own audio and video programs in-house and place the products on your website or distribute to radio and television stations. I create 30-minute radio programs in my own studio. We are in the process of creating green screen videos to complement the television shows we record in a public access station.
  • Have excellent contacts with reporters in their market. They know the interests of news people and editors and pitch stories that will likely get attention.
  • Know that the story you pitch does not necessarily have to be “favorable.” If media examines an aspect of your operation, and you wind up on the front page of the local newspaper with a story that is neither positive nor negative, then you have won. As strange as it sounds, it does not have to be a positive story to produce a positive result, especially if media connects it to your website and materials you control.
  • Develop lists of employees or volunteers that have unique skills or knowledge that will be useful to reporters when a particular story breaks. Pediatricians at your hospital could be very useful in helping media understand child health issues in another country. Amateur historians can be a good resource in helping local reporters grapple with a subject. If one of your executives worked in Bosnia, and that country happens to be back in the news, then he or she may be of assistance to journalists, and at the same time reflect favorably on your organization.
  • Understand that sometimes we market to the media and not the public. The press release may have limited public appeal yet it’s in your best interest to make sure that media are notified of the event or accomplishment. Awards to your leadership fall into this category. Sometimes you want to reinforce the fact that you represent honorable people doing an honorable job regardless of its public merit.
  • Acknowledge that the issue or item they are trying to promote will not work now, yet it may be successful later if you promote it during times when the media needs stories (like weekends). The summer months or the weeks immediately preceding or after major holidays such as Christmas or the Fourth of July may be prime times for advancing stories that would not work during busier times of the year.
  • Acknowledge that timing is everything. A promotion that went nowhere is suddenly a big hit because of related national news. Always be ready to act on new events.
  • Know that there are major differences between markets. What you cannot get in a major regional paper is a delight for the smaller publication. Market your opportunities where they will have the greatest effect. The “smaller” paper can still place your story on the Associated Press wire. You may get lucky with your “local” story and suddenly get regional placement.
  • Understand that they can have considerable influence regarding a particular issue. The Fire Marshall in Maryland will demonstrate the burning of Christmas trees in different parts of the state to warn people that they need to exercise caution with lights and to water the tree frequently. They obtain tons of publicity because of the timely nature of the event, a dynamite visual plus a dose of news.
  • Know that versatility can have a tremendous payoff. You may pitch a story to a television reporter yet it does not work because your proposed visual is less than compelling. Your willingness to return to your executives and brainstorm alternatives to an interesting photo opportunity may take a sow’s ear and turn it into a silk purse.
  • Approach their website (more on this later) as the perfect opportunity to market an organization. Regardless of your fellow bureaucrats who see the website as the perfect opportunity to place a long and boring overview of the history of widgets, you see your website in terms of its service and marketing potential.
  • Are wizards in finding people to assist marketing efforts. Tom Sawyer would be envious of their ability to find helpful people. You discover that Fred in Accounting is a crackerjack amateur photographer. Sue in Accounts Receivable has a bachelor’s degree in English and is a good writer. You find an electrician who once majored in advertising. It’s not unusual to find all sorts of creative people looking to use their former or present talents in other ways.
  • Establish a dollar figure for their proactive efforts. An advertising firm estimated that my Department of Public Safety efforts generated between two to four million dollars each year in proactive marketing. I never hesitated to advise my superiors about the amount produced to gain support for future projects.

Finally, you understand that the most important aspect of all your marketing efforts is to be seen as a willing participant in the public discussion of your organization and its issues. You’re constantly “out there.” Even in large and cumbersome markets, individual members of the media will notice your efforts. They hear you on the talk shows. They will see your media releases. They will be aware of your public affairs radio shows. They will see your organization on the 6 o’clock news.

They will read about your efforts in the local newspaper. They will come to understand that you and your organization are not afraid of larger public policy issues. They will admire you and your executives for your willingness to be part of the public debate. They will assume that if you’re so willing to be so accessible, then you must be honorable people doing an honorable job. They will take this into account when your detractors come knocking. They will remember your efforts when you and the organization fall upon hard times.

The media has a way of coming to an understanding about who you and the organization truly are. You want to be seen as actively engaged and unafraid. This tactic will afford you a considerable amount of credibility that will protect you in the future.

Next Up

More on building relationships and marketing.

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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