Nearly Everyone Uses It, and So What?

    August 8, 2003

Occasionally a prospective client comes to me very gungho about getting publicity and declares that they envision coverage in every major newspaper in the country and on every network broadcast. After all, their logic runs, our product is something everyone uses — we have close to 150 million customers a year in the U.S. alone.

“Whoa!” I reply. “That’s not enough of a reason for the media to do a story. Nearly everyone uses a toothbrush and a wallet of one sort or another, but how often do you see stories about either of those items in the papers or on the nightly news? Prevalent doesn’t mean interesting or timely. So let’s brainstorm about what would entice the media to consider something about your item newsworthy.”

By putting a spin on something ordinary, or identifying some unusual aspect of something ordinary, you have a good chance of getting major media hits. For instance:

* Create a controversy. E.g., claim that 90% of Americans use each toothbrush far too long.

* Give an award. E.g., a prize for the world’s rattiest wallet.

* Offer surprising facts about your product. E.g., how long ago people were using toothbrushes surprising similar to today’s.

* Show an unexpected clientele using your product. E.g., wallets for toddlers or for nudists.

* Piggyback on the news. E.g., play up the connection if there’s a toothbrush scene in a new feature film or a popular sit-com.

* Do a survey. E.g., what percentage of people never leave the house for any purpose without bringing their wallet.

* Compile a set of useful tips. E.g., ten ways you should never use a toothbrush.

* Donate your product or a gift certificate to a good cause. E.g., a new wallet for every high school graduate in your home town.

* Offer a freebie. E.g., a free call-in line for questions about dental hygiene.

* Invent a new use for your product. E.g., wallets designed for efficiency at security checkpoints.

* Tie your product to economic trends. E.g., what toothbrush sales reveal about recessions and economic booms.

* Do something anachronistic. E.g., create wallet carriers, which a butler can hold out for the man in the house when he comes home from work.

* Sponsor a charity event. E.g., the Toothbrush Ball.

* Do something about your environmental impact. E.g., recyclable wallets.

* Celebrate an anniversary. E.g., your 10 millionth toothbrush sold.

* Create regional variations. E.g., the Tall Texan wallet, the Seattle Surprise, the Plains Packer.

* Get offbeat endorsements. E.g., from a punk rocker, a bartender, a has-been politician for your toothbrushes.

* Feature employees with stories. E.g., an over-80 wallet designer, marketing vice-presidents who are twins.

* Run an event for kids. E.g., develop a show that travels to day-care centers on how to brush teeth.

Once you have a newsworthy angle, then the ambition to get your story into every household in the country makes more sense!

Marcia Yudkin is the author of 6 Steps to
Free Publicity and ten other books hailed for outstanding
creativity. Find out more about her new discount naming
company, Named At Last, which brainstorms new company names,
new product names, tag lines and more for cost-conscious
organizations, at