"The best definition of public relations is to do something good, then let people know you did it." -- Larry Willis IGA president and chief operating officer
Larry Willis has come up with about as good a definition of public relations as I've seen lately, and it's an important reminder that a retailer can sometimes find it useful to base some element of a marketing strategy on publicity.
Larry's observation is part of the news feature on IGA's 70th anniversary, which starts on the front page and continues on several others inside.
Here's more on his PR outlook: "Recognition is not automatic, and we've got to make people more aware of what IGA is doing, so we can benefit from the goodwill."
He's quite correct. There's little reason to keep good news a secret. So, at IGA, the idea is to get public recognition for its efforts, such as an in-kind contribution to the Special Olympics, a co-sponsorship with Coca-Cola USA in support of the Amateur Softball Association and the coordination of an effort that led to a large contribution from IGA stores to the Food Industry Crusade Against Hunger.
In short, IGA wants to find ways to do well through doing good, and that's great.
More than that, the reach of IGA affiliates' newspaper advertising, plus the corporate flight of national cable-television advertising, together provide a ready means to get the word out about IGA activities.
But what about smaller banner groups or independent operators who might want to leverage some favorable publicity out of a worthwhile activity? How is it possible short of setting up a public-relations apparatus?
In many instances, there are ways to get this done. The most obvious way for independents to get the word out is to develop a relationship with a local newspaper. This can most easily be done at a general-circulation weekly, since such newspapers frequently lack a news flow sufficient to fill pages.
The best strategy is to approach the newspaper with good story ideas, especially those that may be store-related but still relatively neutral, such as the arrival of a new product that fills an obvious consumer need, unusual recipe ideas or a new meal solution.
The whole concept is to offer useful news leads from time to time, recognizing that's the coin in which newspapers deal.
Then, when an operator has established the value of store-related ideas, it won't be too much of a stretch to ask for news coverage of, say, a parking-lot fair, a special sale, an expansion project, the sponsorship of a sports team, a donation or what have you.
This same technique can be applied to daily newspapers and broadcast outlets too, although the more complex a news outlet, the greater will be the investment of time required. But in many cases, dividends can be well worth the effort.