THINKPIECE: Forget the publicity stunts. The best way to get great press for a dot-com is cause marketing

As they are becoming more prolific, many dot-coms are finding it increasingly difficult to garner the individual media attention they once enjoyed. The challenge now is to generate publicity without the intense media fervor that once surrounded dot-com IPOs or the latest product launch.

As they are becoming more prolific, many dot-coms are finding it increasingly difficult to garner the individual media attention they once enjoyed. The challenge now is to generate publicity without the intense media fervor that once surrounded dot-com IPOs or the latest product launch.

As they are becoming more prolific, many dot-coms are finding it

increasingly difficult to garner the individual media attention they

once enjoyed. The challenge now is to generate publicity without the

intense media fervor that once surrounded dot-com IPOs or the latest

product launch.



One way dot-coms and traditional IT firms are generating awareness is

through cause marketing. The concept, which was made famous by American

Express’ ’Share Our Strength’ campaign a few years ago, helps build

brand awareness while creating support for a good cause. It is a natural

fit for the players in the new economy. In fact, AOL and Cisco Systems

have been leaders in this area with their respective Helping.org and

NetAid.org sites, which drive traffic and resources to worthy

causes.



To use cause marketing effectively, any initiative should have certain

synergies with the dot-com’s service or mission. Monster.com has

developed ’Virtual Job Shadowing,’ where students can shadow ’career

mentors’ via the Internet. This gives students access to the company’s

job services, which allows potential users to become familiar with the

benefits of Monster.com while learning marketable skills.



Dot-coms operating in a cause-marketing vein should also consider

working closely with non-profits to generate publicity. A good cause is

made even better when a non-profit is part of the mix. Additionally,

there are reporters who are more open to a pitch coming from a

non-profit company.



On this note, dot-coms should not assume non-profits lack PR talent.

Many non-profits are multimillion-dollar enterprises and have top-notch

PR people.



When working on a cause-marketing project, it is important to provide

access to company spokespeople. Sending out a press release without

having a senior-level spokesperson available for interviews sends a

message to the press - and to partnering organizations - that the cause

isn’t really that important. More specifically, the CEO of a dot-com can

not only be an effective spokesperson for a cause but a chief executive

who is willing to be interviewed, which opens myriad doors for

placement.



Additionally, such interviews give CEOs a great opportunity to build

their name recognition.



Finally, set realistic expectations. Building a brand takes time and is

influenced by various factors. Dot-coms investigating cause marketing

should consider committing to an effort for at least two years, but

preferably longer. Cause marketing can help build positive brand

associations in the minds of end users, which can ultimately increase

site traffic, revenue and, in time, stock value.





- Edward Grocholski is VP of public education at Ogilvy, Washington, DC.



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