Publicity and the chaos effect

Getting publicity in print media is a precarious, creative, exciting, frustrating, fascinating process.

Not only are you dealing in the exhilarating power of words – the credibility of authentic content – but you also come up against the challenge of the ‘chaos’ effect.

ButterflyIf anyone reading this has studied physics you will know what I’m on about – in fact, if anyone has worked in the media, you will also know what I’m on about.

The classic example of chaos is a butterfly fluttering its wings in one part of the world leading to a tornado occurring in another part of the world due to a complex knock-on effect, which is effectively impossible to measure or predict.

In the media world, the chaos effect is largely due to the unpredictability of news stories popping up from all over the shop, some with strings attached.

If only it were as simple as writing a damn good story, sending it to an editor and having them say – ‘wow, hey, a good story – I must run this story because my readers will like it’.

OK, this does happen – and we have evidence to prove it – but there are other factors contributing to climate change throughout your publicity campaign.

Suppose two or three other stories come in that are linked in some way to your story. There’s a pretty good chance of this, assuming the stories are all carefully targeted at a publication that specialises in certain topics or issues.

As an editor, I would often put two or three news releases together to create a bigger news story or feature reflecting a trend or theme.

Or suppose you had a great story, but the editor was aware that your main competitor was one of their most loyal advertisers. Running a story about you might not be diplomatic, so they contact your competitor and get the ‘other side’ of the story.

Like it or not, editorial that is perceived to be ‘balanced’ might mean you getting merged with your competitor(s) in a more general overview. This isn’t necessarily bad. Being listed as one of a few options is better than being ignored. Now you need to work on differentiating yourself more clearly from your rivals.

Without putting down the opposition, you can persistently put out stories to the same editor, stressing your points of difference, new products or services not provided by your competitors, events that highlight your unique position, and so on.

There’s also the possibility of what we call the Warney Effect. A story we were expecting would run in a metro Sunday paper was bumped at the last minute to make way for news on Shane Warne’s latest exploits.

Nothing can be done about the chaos caused by the likes of Warney, but it doesn’t mean that our story wasn’t good.

Persistence is one of the most important qualities of a publicist. And it pays off in the end.