CAMPAIGNS: Unique inventory plays major part in the sales pitch

PR Team: Government Liquidation (Scottsdale, AZ) Campaign: Promoting online military actions Time Frame: July 2001-ongoing Budget: under $100,000

PR Team: Government Liquidation (Scottsdale, AZ) Campaign: Promoting online military actions Time Frame: July 2001-ongoing Budget: under $100,000

Selling secondhand military trucks, machine tools, kitchen equipment, and camouflage clothing online would hardly intrigue a news editor, especially when online auction giants eBay and Sothebys.com have nothing to do with it. That's why when in June 2001 Liquidity Services won an eight-year contract for the exclusive sales of over $23 billion worth of surplus coming directly from the US military, the company decided it needed a solid PR campaign if it wanted to get local and national coverage, and start selling. Government Liquidation (GL) was specifically formed to fulfill the contract, and Hunter Hoffman was transferred from Liquidity Services to be the new company's PR manager. Strategy Hoffman had to reach to potential customers - companies and people looking for cheap military products for resale. More importantly, he had to raise awareness that for every military item it sells, GL sends half the proceeds to the US Treasury. He had to publicize every single auction and item, targeting the regions where the company has offices and warehouses, reaching from Hawaii to Alaska, and from Puerto Rico to Guam. Tactics Hoffman had two major plans. "I was going for trade magazines that were hitting our vertical market - aerospace, metal working, vehicles, clothing, marine equipment, woodworking, medical equipment, auctioneers," he says. He would let them know about this online resource for getting good equipment at cheap prices. Then, Hoffman went after local media in the regions where the company is active. "The geographic spread of our locations has allowed me to work in a wide variety of markets, and I tailor the pitch to make the story local in each city and state," Hoffman says. This, he adds, has meant "getting in early to pitch East Coast media, and staying late to pitch Guam." Locally, Hoffman pitched the auctions as events. "I would emphasize that if you participated, you would help the military and the government, and it's real cheap," Hoffman says. In some cases, the items themselves were odd enough to make a feature in a local paper. Hoffman pitched the sale of a 1941 GE Locomotive in Point Pleasant, WV, as "have your own life-size train set in your backyard." (Conveniently, GL also sells railroad tracks and switches.) With the sale of 77 pairs of Bunny Boots, which are "popular in Alaska because they're good to wear in the snow," Hoffman went for a business-story pitch. And when GL sold two huge yellow submarines, he thought the story would garner mainstream interest. He even went to USA Today's lifestyle editor with the offer of an exclusive. Results In no time, the yellow submarines surfaced on the front page of USA Today's Life section. The 1941 GE Locomotive chugged from the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, WV, through the Charleston Daily Mail in Charleston, WV, to the local AP bureau. The Bunny Boots stomped onto the front page of the business section of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. In print publications, Hoffman says, GL reached a circulation of more than 6 million over the last year. On TV, it got exposure in 13 markets around the US where it has properties. More importantly, Hoffman says, "the company is expanding, revenues are increasing, and the distributions we make to the US Treasury are also increasing." To date, GL has revenues of $45 million for the last year. Future Hoffman's efforts will not end anytime soon. As his next step, Hoffman plans to pitch op-ed articles written by Tom Burton, the company's president, to trade publications in GL's key categories in order to enhance the dialogue between the company and its customers.

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