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Communication Tools: Advertising

There is an old saying in public relations: “If you really want good press coverage, buy an ad in the newspaper.” And there’s some truth to that. Using paid advertising is an effective way to deliver your message in the exact manner, time, tone, and place that you desire.

Out-of-pocket costs are highest for paid advertising, but can be very effective for reaching specific audiences with targeted messages. In general, TV is the most expensive and newspaper the least with radio in the middle. Magazine or special publication ads may be effective if well targeted to your audience. As part of a comprehensive campaign, these advertising strategies can be very effective. Most importantly, match your ads to your audience to ensure best use of your advertising dollars.

Take time to plan the placement and distribution to meet the demographics of your target audience.

The Two R’s of Advertising
For advertising to be effective, you need to have the two Rs—reach and repetition.

  • Reach refers to how many people will see an ad. Advertising rates are based on circulation, viewership, or number of listeners. Super Bowl ads, for instance, are incredibly costly because of the high viewership.
  • Repetition is the number of times the same ad is repeated. People need to hear that message several times before it resonates.

Dotting the I’s and Crossing the T’s

  • Issue: Is the issue of interest to all readers, listeners, or viewers of the intended media? Developing an ad with too narrow a focus will confuse more than enlighten.
  • Imagination: Does the subject matter have the ability to capture the imagination of the intended audience? Make the issue personal as well as societal. This will be essential for an ad to capture people’s imaginations.
  • Impact: Will the ad make a difference? Ads are designed to matter. They should bolster the enthusiasm of supporters and help advance a product, cause or event.
  • Topic: Have we selected the right topic for an ad? Advertising is not something you will do every day. The right topic should relate to the key message you want to convey. The topic must be focused for an ad to make sense. Take oral health for instance. Availability of providers, access to care, cost, quality, and insurance are just some of the many issues around oral health.
  • Timing: An ad can be placed in conjunction with an event or other activity to boost the event or attention given to a topic. Ads can be follow-ups to planned releases from other organizations. Similarly, an ad can be used to boost an upcoming event and convey an important message at the same time. As an example, a series of ads appearing in Lansing, Michigan newspapers and radio stations helped to increase awareness around minority health and to boost attendance at the first-ever local forum on the topic.