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Lisa Schofield on why a company must be the latter.
July 16, 2014
If the lifeblood of any industry is the new—products, R&D, companies—than an industry's heartbeat is its trade media. Media and media companies devoted to industry are wellsprings of data, commentary, and news that help businesses lead—and sustain---successful ventures.
Among businesses, some are media passive; others are media aggressive. Media passive are those execs who simply read and learn. Media aggressive types are those who actively take advantage of opportunities to have educational and promotional presence in print or online. They do this via a strategic mix of advertising and editorial relations.
Mitch Skop, senior director, new product development, at Pharmachem Laboratories Inc.,, has been working closely with trade media since the company’s inception.
"Working with the trade media, whether through advertising, or responding to article inquiries, has been an extremely important component of our ingredient branding program," he says. "Our manufacturing customers need to know about the latest research of our ingredients in order to make informed buying decisions. Retailers likewise need to understand what separates our ingredients from others, and their health benefits in order to educate the consumers. Ongoing advertising and trade media relations are crucial to making sure communications are consistent through the entire distribution chain."
The natural industry trade media have successfully integrated digital communities with print product. This means more opportunities for strategic exposure than ever before. If you always politely declined a call from a media advertising executive because you felt you didn't "have the funds," there are digital packages that are now more affordable. No longer simply "ad salespeople," media sales execs work to create wholesomely integrative packages designed not only for your budget, but to enhance your overall marketing campaign goals.
Editors are consistently seeking sources who can lend insightful commentary and discuss the impact that their newest products and ingredients, newest science, or newest technology has upon any given product category. Mind you, editors are besieged daily with various email inquiries, so ensure that your marketing exec/coordinator understands how to communicate with each. When your company and product are mentioned in appropriately targeted editorial, you vastly increase visibility and generate interest among your key audience.
Consumer media is also a significant part of the press mix. If you have substantial investment in your retail brand, or a branded ingredient, educating and motivating consumers is a must. This is the "pull" approach.
What's particularly challenging is that supplement marketers are hampered by language allowable on labels, points out Amy Summers, president and founder of New York, NY-based Pitch Publicity. Labels and advertising, by law, are vague, "and most consumers just don't understand exactly what 'supports a healthy heart' really means simply by reading the product label."
Many brand marketers invest in educating retailers to sell their products properly, but, asserts Summers, they really need to invest in educating mass media—specifically, putting out story "pitches" to TV, radio, and print (e.g., newspapers and special interest magazines).
"It's a responsibility to educate the media, who in turn educates the public, about why an ingredient or product is helpful, and how and why certain people can benefit from it,” he says. “You cannot rely on producers, editors, and writers finding you and calling you up because, most often, they don't do that. You must reach out to them to get their interest, so they can produce and write informed segments and articles. Doing so will gain consumers' attention and when interested, they will be driven into stores or online to buy your products."
Summers adds pointedly that traditional media is often trusted by consumers much more over social media and most bloggers where there is no oversight. Traditional media is mostly governed by a vetting process and thus has strong credibility among the reading and viewing public. "Further, the energy spent on traditional consumer media fuels what's happening online; there are many trends spawned by the news."
It behooves branded-product manufacturers to engage with media. Media tends to capture and amplify the buzz, and if you're part of the noise, you will reap the benefits.
Lisa Schofield is a veteran writer and editor who got her start interviewing rock stars for national music magazines. She now writes and edits content for B2B media and suppliers in the natural health product industry. She has served as editor for Vitamin Retailer and Nutrition Industry Executive, and prior to that as associate editor for Whole Foods.
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