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DIY Marketing and Communications; Do You Have What It Takes?

Do-it-yourself is so popular, it has spawned an industry! Some people engage in DIY projects for fun or as a learning experience. For others it’s a necessity in order to save money. When it comes to DIY for one’s business or livelihood, however, logic and caution should be top of mind. Your company’s reputation and bottom line are at stake.

I recently had a meeting with a business owner who was recommended to me as a potential client for public relations services. I’ll call him Dan, but I could call him Mike or Diane just as easily since he’s not the only business owner I’ve met in my career who acted like Dan.

Because Dan had wanted to meet with me, I assumed he was ready to discuss how I could help his business become more known in his target region and bring him more customers.   However, it soon became apparent that he was more interested in picking my brain for ideas. He also used our meeting as an opportunity to vent.

You see, Dan had hired an agency in the past, but the experience left him not only with a sour taste in his mouth but with a negative impression of public relations, as well.

“They didn’t do anything to help me, just took my money. I can do what they did,” he said.

Upon further discussion, I realized he was right. The agency DID do what he can do. Why? Because he treated the agency staff as if they were his employees. He gave them an assignment, told them what to do and how to do it instead of allowing them to use their expertise and experience to create and develop a strategic program suitable for his type of business, his goals and the target market. The end result was a costly failure.

Why the agency agreed to this arrangement, I don’t know. Perhaps they felt they could win his trust over time or they came to realize he was a micromanager and stuck it out simply to fulfill their contract obligation. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t a wise decision because Dan was now badmouthing them every chance he got.

With the proliferation of do-it-yourself tools such as computer programs and free templates, clip art and photos, and the popularity of social media, it has become common for business owners and managers trying to save money to think they or an employee can do the marketing, advertising, public relations and other communications. It seems everybody’s a copywriter, graphic designer, web developer, and even a journalist.

Truth is: it shows. Good grammar and writing, whether for print or electronic, have gone out the window. Many print materials and advertisements are cluttered, full of errors, pointless and not creative. Websites, too, look alike with some not getting across the appropriate or complete brand message of a company. Not only are the results a waste of money and time but they make the companies look bad.

For example…one of many examples I could give…I’ve seen for months print ads for a service business that not only are very busy which muddies the message and confuses the reader, but also the name of the city in which it’s located is misspelled.

Would consumers trust the quality of service from a business that can’t spell the name of the city in which it’s located or doesn’t check their work to be sure it’s accurate?

Don’t Be Like Dan

In today’s world we easily can reach diverse, multigenerational audiences who obtain their information from many sources, or communications channels. Therefore, no one channel or means of communicating is king. It can take a combination of disciplines to disseminate a company’s message: public relations, marketing communications, advertising, promotion and more. Further, each of these disciplines utilizes a host of tools and tactics to reach and inform desired audiences.

Do you as a business owner or manager have the time to read newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs to stay up on news, changes, trends and other information? Do you have the time to conduct planning and brainstorming meetings to develop a strategic plan and creative ideas, as well as do research?

Do you have the expertise to write and issue press releases, and create and produce literature, advertisements, a website and other communications vehicles? Can you identify, stay in touch with, and keep updated on the resources and outlets necessary for creating and delivering your messages and materials?

If your company’s running like a fine-tuned machine, your employees are well managed and happy, you have no need to improve, expand or create new products or services, and you have lots of spare time on your hands and the expertise to do marketing and communications, or you can put together and manage a team to do the work, then go for it! But if not, it’s wise to engage the assistance of experienced professionals.

Outside professionals, whether a consultant or an agency, will meet with you and others on your staff to learn about your company’s business, history, products/services and market, as well as your goals, needs, and, yes, problems in order to develop an appropriate strategy and creative ideas to best fulfill your needs and help you resolve your problems and achieve your goals.

What’s more, they will look at your business objectively, from a customer’s or the target audience’s viewpoint. Owners and managers are so close to their businesses that they sometimes don’t see their company or its products/services as others do. As a result, they misfire in the message they send and/or image of the company they end up creating.

I can appreciate a business owner’s difficulty with letting go of the marketing and communications responsibilities, especially to a stranger. He or she established the business and has spent years not only growing and operating it, but likely has invested personal funds, and shed much sweat and some tears, as well. It’s his or her baby, identity, pride and joy. Besides, who wants to share their problems and past mistakes.

On the other hand, don’t go completely in the other direction by making the mistake of blindly turning over all responsibility to a consultant or agency. Select a person or agency with whom you feel comfortable, one who will work with you as a team player, keep you, or an employee you designate, in the loop throughout the process.

Be sure the consultant or agency requests your approval for any changes to the initial plan and has you sign off on final written drafts and creative work before proceeding with production and distribution. The same goes for any additional expenses not given in the original quotation which you had approved, before the money is committed.

As for Dan? I assume he’s still trying to do his own marketing and communications. I respectfully declined the potential opportunity to assist him.

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