Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Marketing versus Publicity

In a conversation I had with my boss a few days ago, he remarked, "It's a fine line between publicity and marketing," and whatever he said after that was lost on me as I wondered if that is really true these days. When I first entered the job market a VERY long time ago, I worked for an advertising agency (and it wasn't like "Mad Men" at all). There, the division was very clear-cut. We did Marketing, which was what you paid money for, and the publicity was what you got for free. Print ads, radio time, television ads; all that was marketing because you had to pay for it, and there was usually a disclaimer beneath the copy that identified what you were reading or watching or listening to as "an advertisement." As I moved on through the '80s and '90s in publicity, we got publicity for a movie or a book or an actor or writer the old-fashioned way — by begging for it. We pitched our product, be it an actor's time for an interview or a book for a feature story, to a writer or a producer, and then they produced their product: a review, an interview, a feature, a mention. We didn't pay anybody anything.

Now things are very different. Marketing and Publicity have not only held hands under the table, they've pretty much moved in together and merged their CD collection. With the advent of social networking sites, what I used to call "publicizing a project" has now turned into "marketing your brand." Our authors, bless them, are incredible self-starters in this arena, creating blogs, Twittering, posting on Facebook, and joining each other on LinkedIn. There is a dizzying array of ways to market oneself, and it's all free. It costs literally nothing to post an event, have people attend, and reap the benefits of that audience in book sales. It's something that I marvel at, even as I wonder whether it's really a good thing that it's become so easy.

The other day a friend put a post on Facebook asking if anyone knew of a gardening book specific to her area. I mentioned one of our books that I had found helpful in my own reading, and then someone else posted a comment underneath mine that read, "I hate it when people MARKET their stuff disguised as help." Wrong as she was, I still felt sort of guilty, as if I looked like a sleazy guy on the corner with watches inside his coat. Are we marketing? Is publicity still a separate corner of the world? What kind of child does the marriage of marketing and publicity produce? Why don't you tell me, readers? I think both can coexist in our do-it-now world, but I'd love to hear what you think.

- Amy Greeman, Director of Publicity


Kylez..aka...Mrs.P! said...

Hi Amy,
I am the Special Sales Manager for your Australian distributor, Capricorn Link.

I think the lines are completely blurred these days. I prefer to think of it all as 'promotions'!.

In some ways I think the marriage is a good one, getting free advertising is always good. But then I also think that there is a need to be careful that we don't get so swept up in the 'free' stuff that we end up turning people off our product! Like Demi & Ashton...there's just so many inane tweets you can read before you have to stop following them and can't stand the sight of them!

I think blogs are the way to go...for example...when you guys posted about The Naturally Clean Home being featured on the Etsy blog, I thought that was pretty cool, as all my craft-account ladies talk about it, so I re-posted it to my blog and I actually made a sale to one of my readers! She read my post, clicked through to your's, then through to the feature and emailed me to ask where she could get a copy!

Got me I mention more of our books on my blog or will it seem like 'free-marketing'? I don't want to put people off reading my blog, thinking it's just a free marketing tool, but I really do like the books we sell and will let people know about them when I like them.

I think the most important thing is to be honest about what you're doing. There is nothing worse than 'deceptive' advertising or publicity.

Having said that, I hope that facebook comment was being tongue in cheek, otherwise 'how rude!'. Just because you happen to work for the publisher that printed the book doesn't mean that you shouldn't reccomend it if you really think it's good (coz let's face it, there's always one or two books we shake our heads in wonder at when asked to promote them!) My friends know that if I reccomend to them a book we distribute, it's because I believe in the book and that it's a good buy/read, and not because I want to make a sale!

Kate G. said...

Very interesting post, Amy. New media has changed the marketing landscape. Blending and form-breaking is natural when marketing is no longer done just by specialists. The same is true for journalism, photography and even encylcopedia editing. I'm still coming to terms with the change. I could grow to like it, but don't quote me.

I appreciate your dilemma. The posting was to a friend on Facebook, after all. If a book is helpful who doesn't want to share it? Still, I can see where another visitor would think you were stealth-marketing.

I always learn something from your posts on this blog. Storey is doing a great job of mixing useful commentary and personality with the need to move their products into the marketplace. I'll continue to visit with interest and shop the Storey line.

Amy Greeman said...

I'm so glad this post sparked some discussion. Having been in the pre-internet world and now working in the age of dissonance, I really appreciate what you all have to say. Let's keep the conversation going.

Sarah Buttenwieser said...

as you know, i'm struggling with the whole self-promotion thing too as i push my blog into the world (go viral little blog, go viral). i think the bottom line: you back what you like & believe in, makes the blurry lines okay.

maybe what we're seeing is a generation/era of self-starters & this comes with the territory?

Tinky said...

I love this discussion! I absolutely agree about blurry lines being just fine for most of us, although I don't think of the blurryness (is that a word?) as just stemming from new media. I think it also comes from a healthy merging of the personal and the professional. We aren't just what we eat; we're also what we write.