As a marketer, under APAR/PR, and as a private citizen, I come across promotional efforts by local organizations and individuals that cry out for help. Of course, non-profits count on donations and other groups solicit support of all kinds. What I mean in this case, though, is that the marketing materials themselves could use some help to improve the desired results.
To that end, let’s start a community conversation, of sorts. Every so often in this space, starting now, I’ll share casual observations about local marketing, intended as friendly advice. To keep it simple, each column will focus on one form of marketing at a time. Feedback is encouraged, so feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.
Most towns offer qualified organizations and businesses the use of public outdoor space to advertise their events or services, usually on local billboards strategically placed for optimal exposure. In certain circumstances, the space is free of charge. More typically, the space can be purchased for a set period, such as a month at a time. Check with your town hall or chamber of commerce to find out what might be available to you, and for how much.
In addition to printed text signage, there’s a steady move toward electronic billboards. You see them more and more in front of schools, police and fire departments, and other public institutions. Digital signage is infinitely more efficient and dynamic than static printed signage. Instead of an outdoor signpost accommodating one or two messages at a time, the electronic version can display a steady stream of messages and ads 24/7.
What’s the best way to use a billboard, whether it’s printed or digital? Think KISS: Keep It Super Simple. The reason itself is simple: The audience is in a moving vehicle—or one stopped for a few seconds at a light or stop sign. Either way, figure that, at best, you have less than 10 seconds to capture their attention and make an impression.
If it’s an event you’re promoting, list only the event title, date(s), phone number, website. Full stop. Given the space available on typical town billboards (print or electronic), if you go beyond listing the most essential information, you risk your message not getting through.
Remember, you’re not closing a sale. You’re reminding someone of an event or a brand they already know—or you’re directing them to a contact point to get more information.
As tempting as it is to create an attractive graphic design to go with the words, resist the temptation. The most common sign-design mistakes I see are graphics that distract from the words, and too many words, which are so small, they are unreadable from more than a few feet away. You have a moving target audience. If they cannot quickly absorb the message as they drive by, you’ll end up with a lost opportunity, not to mention lost dollars if you paid for the message.
You sometimes also see yard (or lawn) signs placed within view of motorists on public thoroughfares to advertise a yard sale or fundraiser, or to recruit players for a sports league.
As with political yard signs, this form of “grassroots” marketing usually is regulated by municipalities, as well as by some homeowners’ associations that frown on the signs’ intrusion on an otherwise pristine landscape.
For commercial businesses, which benefit from putting forth the most credible and professional image possible, yard signs, or fliers posted on telephone poles, are not the way to go. Besides, there’s a good chance that, unless you’re a 501(c)(3)-certified not-for-profit, the use of such signage is restricted by your town. Best to stick with established, proven forms of advertising.
Bruce the Blog on Stage
If you happen to be near one of the following libraries on the listed dates, I’ll be performing in a show that packs four very short plays into one hour, at no charge. See more information in ad elsewhere in this issue.
• Yorktown John C. Hart Library (in Shrub Oak), Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.
• Ossining Library, Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.