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The Value of Human Contact

February 27, 2013

Is there anyone who doesn’t believe that our society is getting less personal in terms of human contact?   You can go to a restaurant or bar and see everyone staring into their cell phones even when they are supposed to be interacting with their friends.  We shoot off dozens of emails and text messages so we don’t have to pick up the phone and call someone.  We send stuff through the mail to important people hoping they will take the time to read it.

When distributing our client public service advertising materials to the media, we made the same mistakes for years, believing that we could not get through to the decision-makers.  Then we tried a little experiment.

We hired a person who actually enjoys picking up the phone and talking to strangers.  We call her “Marvelous Margaret,” because what a difference she has made for our client campaign values.

Margaret came from a media background herself, so she understands the deadline pressures that the media work under, and how much they do not want to get a call from her.  However, she is one of those rare individuals who just has a way of getting in, where others fear to tread.

We first used Margaret to call broadcast and cable networks for a TV PSA campaign we handled for Volunteers of America, featuring Joan and Melissa Rivers.  The topic was the importance of beginning a dialogue about aging among family members.  To date, 19 networks have used this PSA generating over $21.3 million in value.

The next thing we did was to create a separate network report that is posted to client portals we create for each of our clients so they can actually see the network values, separate from all other exposure.

Soon after the VOA campaign noted above, we launched another campaign pertaining to the importance of exercise for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.  Once again, Margaret’s efforts helped to generate just over $14 million in network value for AAOS.

Following these successes, we distributed a campaign on local youth volunteerism for Volunteers of America, which has become the most successful PSA campaign we have ever distributed.  This time Margaret’s magic has resulted in usage on 65 national networks and a total value of $66.2 million in ad value, two thirds of all their exposure.

When we first saw these results, we began thinking of other ways that we could use this gifted outreach specialist to help our clients get more value from their campaigns, perhaps focusing on other media.

We picked the hardest sell to test our theory – using Margaret to try to get some placements in the print media – large magazines and newspapers.  We have all been reading about how the print media is slowly eroding away or going online.  Add to that the fact that several different people make decisions about PSA usage which can mean dozens of calls to try to find the right person to speak with.

But if print is dead, why are the magazine racks at newsstands jammed with new printed titles? And why has the Wall Street Journal become the nation’s most widely read newspaper, reaching 1.3 million people every day?

Since we had so much success in working with Margaret on TV network outreach, we tried a little experiment.  We decided to have her contact some of the largest magazines and the Wall Street Journal to pitch a couple of our client print PSAs, the hardest thing to do in our business.

Results to date:  we have gotten 26 four-color quarter page ads in the Wall Street Journal, as well as full page PSAs in Forbes, and Endless Vacation magazines for one client, and 378 four-color print PSAs in the Journal for another client, including quarter, half and even full page print PSAs.  The combined value of this exposure is $11.3 million and the combined circulation of the PSAs was 76 million readers.

So, what are the lessons learned.  First, human contact still works.  Hearing a warm, empathetic voice on the other end of the line who is trying to improve the human condition is still a viable outreach tactic.

Secondly, no one should give up on print media yet.  Maybe the old model for print will be replaced by some other model, but there are still millions of people in America who love to wake up in the morning and reach out for their old reliable newspaper.  While we do not claim to be miracle workers, we found someone who is.  Why not let us put her talents to work for your next campaign?

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