With apologies to humorist Dave Barry, "Shrinking News Holes," as headlined recently in Advertising Age, would be a great name for a rock band-but not as a leading indicator of the state of the public relations profession ("News hole shrinks for PR opportunities," AA, March 31).
As Ad Age reported, the "news hole" (the space around advertising in a publication for editorial content) has been filled with war coverage, leaving less space for other news stories. Some think this poses a threat to the economic well-being of the public relations industry. However, print media, in many cases, have widened the news hole to accommodate Iraqi war coverage. But the analysis also demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what the public relations profession is all about, and a misunderstanding of the art of media relations, which is a valuable tool among a large array of public relations disciplines.
The first misunderstanding is based on the stereotypical image of the public relations professional solely as a press agent. Public relations professionals do practice the art of media relations. But this is just one facet of the work that we do. We build strong strategies and execution tactics for reshaping institutional profiles around the globe. We also are branding experts, marketing-communications specialists and coordinators of events-whether designed to attract media attention or not.
As to the second misconception, the shrinking news hole has not doomed efforts to generate publicity. Most publications and broadcast media, particularly those that are local or regional in nature, have maintained at least some coverage of other news. Media-relations professionals have been adjusting their communications plans for decades to accommodate breaking-news events. Today, the myriad of niche outlets, direct-to-audience and other media vehicles enables communicators to deploy a range of tactics to support or supplant media coverage.
In fact, world-altering situations like wars and terrorism have created a greater demand for public relations-for strategically minded communications counselors who can help organizations deliver their messages to employees, customers, communities and stakeholders to nurture key relationships.
Reed Bolton Byrum
Public Relations Society of America
Retail store medium can boost ad effectiveness
It is terrific to see Advertising Age acknowledge the progress made by marketers with regard to improving the productivity of trade promotion spending ("Warning sign for brand ads," Viewpoint, AA, March 31).
While it is true that brand-building advertising is now viewed as perhaps "the less-efficient tool" relative to trade promotions, it must also be noted that the retail store is now a medium second only to TV in its ability to create brand awareness.
If, as your editorial states, it is now incumbent on package-goods marketers to find a way to improve their ad effectiveness, the solution could scarcely be more obvious.
The retail store, as a medium, must be at the center of any plan to restore advertising's abilities to build brand awareness and equity-not to mention sales.
Mel R. Korn
Collaborative Marketing Worldwide
Why some agencies fail at integrated marketing
Re: "Integration still a pipe dream for many" (AA, March 10).
I want to point out two factors, rarely identified as causes of integration failure, that agencies have to overcome. The single most critical issue is the recognition that traditional ad agencies are not staffed properly to foster this type of [integrated] thinking. They may have brilliant creative staff, insightful account planners, etc., but most often there are very few academically trained and client-side experienced marketers. The result is that agency staff come with their own backgrounds and biases towards a certain discipline (or lack the necessary knowledge), which inhibits them from thinking holistically about their clients' marketing needs.
The second key reason agencies fail to properly provide integrated-marketing services is that most only concern themselves with communicating to the end customer/consumer. This permits various marketing-communication disciplines to be considered but is still restricted and myopic.
Recognizing the need to develop synergistic and consistent communications to end customers/consumers and sales-channel members automatically forces one to consider non-advertising marketing tactics (sales/training materials, POS, displays, sales-incentive programs, etc.). The result is consideration of a fuller array of marketing tactics as well as better, integrated marketing communications above and below the line.
Why did some clients in the Ad Age survey feel the responsibility for integrated marketing rests with them? It's because few agencies demonstrate the skills or knowledge to back up their claim of "offering integrated-marketing services."
The solution is easy.
Agencies must hire strong marketers (who also have the requisite skills for agency and client management) and realize that they are in the marketing-communications business to solve market-ing problems, not just in the advertising business. This is what we do at True North and it's likely one of the key reasons for our success.
True North Advertising Group
* In "Scotts buys abandoned spots" (April 14, P. 3), the name of Scotts Co. VP-Marketing Lee Reichart was misspelled as Reichert.
* In "Fitch:Worldwide buys out Cordiant" (The Week, April 14, P. 18), Fitch:Ann Arbor was misidentified as Fitch:Worldwide. Fitch:Ann Arbor is the Ann Arbor, Mich., office of Fitch Inc., the U.S. operation of London-based Fitch:Worldwide, a unit of Cordiant Communications Group.
* In "WB wins big in Pepsi-Cola $1 bil sweeps," (April 14, P. 6) Suzanne Kolb, WB exec VP-marketing, was incompletely identified.