When it comes to generating publicity/media exposure for a product or service, trying to determine the amount of time it might take to launch and maintain a successful media exposure campaign is a hard nut to crack. What is the optimal length of a campaign and how much effort will it take to get the job done effectively?

In my PR career, I have launched campaigns that needed the blast of just a few weeks of publicity and I have also maintained lengthy campaigns that generated media exposure for years. I can tell you that a single distribution of a media release is rarely effective. Most times, editors and reporters are working on multiple stories at once and need some time to consider your pitch. Although your release may indeed be interesting and newsworthy, the editor may simply not have the space to use your pitch at that point in the media outlet’s editorial calendar. So make sure he/she sees it again when that editorial calendar opens up a few weeks down the line. Keep in mind also that because media outlets receive so many media releases and story pitches these days, it can sometimes take them weeks before they actually get to something you may have sent their way. That’s why it’s important to conduct extensive media follow-ups over the course of several months to ensure media reception, proper media digestion and hopefully media acceptance of your release or pitch.

I always tell my clients, “No PR agency or publicist can FORCE the media to use their releases, but they CAN make sure that by the end of the campaign, the media has seen or heard about your message in one form or another – which will lead to solid media coverage.”

One of the keys to determining the length of a successful campaign is knowing when you have fired all your publicity bullets; when it’s time to re-pack the chambers with new ammo; or when you should move onto other marketing targets. Over the past several years, here’s how the campaign lengths have broken down for my clients:

1-2 month campaigns:   9%
3-6 month campaigns: 38%
6-9 month campaigns: 37%
9+  month campaigns: 16%

A) 1 – 2 month campaigns are most often timely, date-sensitive campaigns — a release or message tied to a current event that may be outdated in 6 – 8 weeks.  We can launch a campaign a few weeks before the event and generate some great spot coverage in newspapers, TV news shows and internet news sites nationwide — the campaign are finished in about 6-8 weeks.

B) Most new product publicity campaigns are best suited for the 3 – 6+ month time frame — allowing for the often drawn out lead-times of some media outlets. Having said that though, some product campaigns can be extended for several more months based on media reaction and subsequent consumer interest. For instance, a recent consumer electronics product publicity campaign started out as a six-month program, but that was stretched out over a year because of the sales fervor and popularity of the product.

C) The longest campaigns are for those clients whose businesses or expertise are “evergreen and regenerative” – meaning they are not tied to the shelf life of a new product launch; aren’t linked to a specific date; and can be re-stoked for a new round of media interest every few months. One of my longtime clients is a “tradeshow specialist”. Her expert advice is newsworthy anytime of year and can be covered editorially year after year – especially in business and trade magazines. That lends itself to multiple articles and features month after month in a wide array of media outlets. Remember — creativity and media pitching ingenuity can help add months of success to your publicity campaign.

A large number of hours will be spent planning and shaping your publicity campaign for the media market. The preparation of the media market research and the polishing of the media release may seem painstaking, but when done right, they are well worth the effort. After the initial launch of the campaign, be prepared to spend at least a few hours each day maintaining it: conducting numerous media follow-ups and making new media pitches, (emails, faxes, mailings and phone calls); fulfilling media requests (forwarding product photos, media kits/product samples, arranging interviews) and tracking/clipping articles and features.

If you have the time, staff and expertise to launch your own campaign, then take advantage of the media and get your message to them. But if your expertise lies in another area, and you or your staff lack publicity generating skills (or have little or no experience in dealing with the media) it might be best to hand it off to someone who can make sure its done right – the first time. Ask yourself these questions when deciding whether you can handle your own publicity campaign:

Do I have the expertise and time to get it done effectively without hampering my current workload or that of my staff?

Do I have the writing capabilities to put together a media release or feature pitch to which editors, reporters and producers will respond?

Do I have the resources to conduct the media research and distribute my release to those media outlets?

On a timely note… with all the uncertainly surrounding the economy recently, many entrepreneurs and companies have been challenged by shrinking marketing budgets.

I believe that we entrepreneurs need to band together as much as possible to help as many as we can through this rough patch and back to solid growth.

To that end, I am now offering to discount my media exposure campaign service fee for the entire 3rd quarter of 2011 to help entrepreneurs with their tighter budgets and help them prosper once again into the 4th quarter and beyond.

If you or any entrepreneurs or businesses you know would benefit from this discount and national media exposure please feel free to contact us.