By Eric Wamanji
Nothing drives the capitalist juggernaut, as is publicity. Politics, which borrows heavily from the marketplace economic framework, believes that there is nothing like bad publicity – hence all publicity is good publicity.
There is no doubt that to successfully squeeze a dime from a purse you need first to create awareness and then engineer consent for supportive behaviour that will lead to purchases or buy-in.This explains why the commercial mass media are thriving.
Those with money are busy placing a product here or there on all manner of platforms to capture the public’s eyes. But of all the publicity we engage in, the most simplistic, fairly expensive, drab, and ineffective is the newspaper supplement – a beloved of Ngos, UN agencies, state parastatals and county governments.
CONTROL OVER COPY
But to give the devil his due, the supplement is good in that you have control over copy. You are not relying on a journalist and an editor who would cut your story if not giving it a completely different meaning. But that is where the beauty ends.Still, everyday I suffer mini-heart attacks when I see organisations and companies pour money on the supplement. Folks, no one reads these boring pieces of write-ups, sick photography and lackluster design and layout.
Its not that the public cannot read them, its only that those who produce supplements are perhaps the most non-creative chaps I have come across in my many years of communication practice. Supplements are art. The form and content must be seductive, appealing and of course rewarding. We have instead elected to publish field reports that are unfathomable in form of a supplement.
Our ignorance has told us that it’s cool to pour lots of information squeezed in tiny fonts. No one reads that crap! It mesmerises me the lack of creative rigor across the country where all over we churn out bogus supplement after another then we toast to ourselves for a good job done. Mary Mother of God, have mercy on us!
Let me share my two-pence worth of advice. First, avoid the supplement like you would run away from a rogue gynaecologist. I know your board of directors and some managers would really want to appear in the press the following day. They will pester the hell out of you in desperation. And, Allah forbid, you forget to include one of them, the whole office will go ballistic. You may even be fired. Poor PR folks! But tell them that sometimes not even the employees read the supplement.
I swear, only your closest relatives would admire you on those supplement pages. Instead, find a way of communicating the story of your organisation in a brilliant way. If you have a bogus communication technocrat who cannot win free space in the press, then get a smart supplement producer who will work out captivating articles that would hook readers. Folks, there is no period in mankind’s history where there is a deluge of information as is today. There is competition for the reader’s attention and therefore this calls for creative production and distribution of information.
But if your bosses are dying to appear in the press the next day, try this approach:
- Write compelling stories. Readers want to see something new and how it all affects them. Get a seasoned writer to develop your story. Remember, not everyone can write, perhaps not even your communication person even if he has PhD. Writing is something else.
- Less is more. Say the most important things in your supplement. And like what Stephen King advises, “ Kill your darlings. Kill your darlings.”
- Choose active pictures. Your pictures must convey a story, some action and some life. They must also be sharp. There is nothing as self-defeating as using a smudged, out-of-focus, and grainy picture to sell your ideas. It will attract contempt instead.
- Write captivating titles. Titles must be seductive enough to attract your reader.
- Use white space intelligently. Space communicates class, elegance, and generosity work out with the newspaper’s creative guys. At times you may need to spend hours on end at the desk to make sure the design carries your signature, your touch.
- If you are not sure, call experts in supplement production.