PR for the rest of us: Frequency

Do you ever wonder why advertisements are played ad nauseum on TV and radio? Why you get 95 pleas for donations from the same organizations every month? Why magazines you subscribe to start sending reminders for renewal two minutes after you’ve signed up for the first issue?

Doesn’t it seem counter intuitive? I mean, aren’t you just sick of all of them?

We’re constantly marketed to. We’re bombarded with messages. And I’m sorry to say that if you pound people over the head long enough – and consistently enough — with the same message, that message will stick.

Welcome to the wonderful world of frequency.

My trusty Webster’s New World Dictionary of Media and Communications (1996) defines the frequency as “…the number of advertisements, broadcasts, or ‘exposures’ during a time period…”

It sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? And yet it’s the driving force behind marketing, communications and PR campaigns all over the world.

Why is frequency important? Because it makes your product – whether it’s a book or an organization, a business or a beach rental — “top of mind.”

Quick . . . When I write, “hamburger,” what do you think of?

McDonalds? Burger King? Wendy’s Carls, Jr.? Even if you prefer the little joint down the street, I bet you didn’t think of it first. It wasn’t top of mind.

So all you have to do to be successful is to spend megabucks on advertising. Simple, right?

Not quite. Who has the kind of money to buy several ads an hour, several days a week, several weeks in a month, several months in a year, to achieve name recognition?

Yep. I know. That’s why I’m writing this blog.

To me, advertising alone for name recognition makes little sense unless you’ve got the bucks to do it. I hate when I see people fall for the idea that if they just buy and ad in the New York Times they’ll be successful.

That’s a stupid approach. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Don’t even get me started on all the things that are wrong with it.

It’s almost as stupid as buying a single ad on television during a really popular show – like the Super Bowl – and then never airing it again.

People have Telflon ® minds, folks! Chances are they won’t remember the ad past the next one they read or see.

Rather than waste your money and time on one big blow-out, why not use a bunch of methods that don’t cost anything – or just a little – and can get your message directly to the people who might actually care about it?

Every one of us has so many of these options. We can pick and choose the ones we enjoy doing the most. Here’s just a partial list: Fliers, posters, press releases, press kits, bios, guest articles, announcements in targeted newsletters (church, neighborhood, community organizations), phone calls, web sites, public presentations, business cards, postcards, deliberate word of mouth campaigns, personal letters, electronic calendar announcements, op-ed pieces, blog tours, invitations to events, radio interviews, web interviews, business blogs (writing and commenting), online social networking on FB/Twitter and others, sponsorship of events (perhaps by providing volunteers), public service announcements (if you’re promoting a nonprofit organization), public access television, networking meetings…along with strategically placed ads when appropriate

Here’s an example of how you might use these to achieve frequency among similar audiences: Let’s say you’re promoting an event—a family fun run to raise money for a zoo. Your audience base is broad: families, kids, people who like animals, current zoo members. You’re main goals are to raise awareness and to inspire people to sign up for the event, to donate or pledge money.

Don’t just send a press release. Even if you get on the news, it’ll probably be too late to make a big difference for the event. Even if you’ve convinced a media outlet to sponsor the event, you can still do more. Put the event on all the community calendars – print and electronic — in your area. Announce the run in your church newsletter and all the meetings you go to, talk about it at your kid’s soccer game. Visit local community service groups and do a short presentation to drum up enthusiasm. See if you can distribute or post fliers in local elementary schools, libraries and pet stores. Offer to write an article about the importance of the zoo in your community for a specialty publication/website dedicated to kids. Where else can you find your audiences: maternity stores? Child care centers? Pediatricians’ offices? How about online listservs, someone on a social network who’ll help you spread the word?

I’m not saying you have to do all of these. But you can do more than just one.

Just remember . . . The more times your target audiences hear the message; the more likely they are to make your goals their priorities.

Until next time,



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  1. #1 by Sally Gwylan on October 25, 2010 - 4:34 pm


    Four weeks you’ve been posting this blog about public relations, and you don’t tell us about it until now? A whap to the back of the head for you, young lady!

    Looking forward to more.


    • #2 by parinoskin on October 25, 2010 - 5:02 pm

      I hope it’s useful. Please tell folks you know who have small businesses — or nonprofits — because this isn’t just geared toward authors. The principles are valid for everyone trying to PR on a limited budget.

      • #3 by Sally Gwylan on October 28, 2010 - 8:30 pm

        You bet.


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