Branding campaign in Clute, Texas: 'We Know Where You Live'

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Sean Ireland

For years, newspaper publishers and other industry leaders noted a lack of self-promotional work as one of their biggest failings.

It was a subject brought up at virtually any gathering featuring executives discussing the industry and its future. And for years, outside of the efforts of a few individual papers, little was done about it, with no one taking the lead.

But finally, the tide seems to have turned. Concerted efforts are being made in several states – whether through press associations or by individual publications – to develop and implement promotional materials that remind readers and communities how important newspapers are to their well-being. Public relations are no longer a foreign concept to the publishing industry. No one's just talking about promoting newspapers now; people are taking action, and one newspaper that has developed an especially strong plan is The Facts of Clute, Texas.

"We all need to do a better job of promoting ourselves and our products, and we were right at the top of the list of not doing a good job of that," admitted Publisher Bill Cornwell of The Facts, a Southern Newspapers Inc. publication located on the Texas Gulf Coast. "We were our own worst advertisers in the world."

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That's changed. In 2013, as The Facts celebrates its 100th year in business, it has undertaken a comprehensive branding campaign using house ads, paid advertising in special community publications, and other advertising and outreach. The campaign has been built around a slogan, "We know where you live," that is fun and flexible enough to be used in house ads for news, sports and lifestyles coverage, in the newspaper's niche publications and through other advertising.

The campaign was developed with the help of Wendy Smart, an outside consultant. "She's a contractor that looks at us from the outside to give us advice on how we can present ourselves to the public," Cornwell said.

"The push to launch a PR and marketing campaign is to increase revenue through new reader subscriptions and new advertisers as well as show appreciation for those who already do business with the paper, either as a subscriber or advertiser," Smart said. "While the ultimate goal is to increase revenue to maintain a healthy and prosperous newspaper, it's important the paper strengthens its relationship with the communities in Brazoria County."

At Smart's suggestion, last fall the newspaper had a contest for employees to come up with a theme for the campaign, which resulted in the "We know where you live," slogan. Said at first tongue-in-cheek in a meeting, Cornwell said the staff soon realized that it could be used several ways. "That formed the basis of the ads we did. Wendy took it from there, and it was a great segue into our 100th year anniversary."

Over three months, Smart, a photographer and graphic designer, developed the slogan and logo for the campaign, which launched Jan. 1. It was a comprehensive process. To start, the paper's small classified, retail and editorial filler ads were updated to include the new slogan and logo and given a completely new look.

Wendy Smart's key to successful promotional campaigns:

Presentation: Non-traditional, sharp-looking ads that demand attention.

Presence: A regular schedule of house ads in both the daily paper and special sections.  Presence in the communities either through football program ads or a float in a local parade.

Consistency: Keep ad styles consistent.  Establish a regular schedule for house ads.  Consistently look for new ways to promote and advertise the newspaper.

Commitment: Understand the importance of community newspapers and share that belief with your community.  Stay committed to your message.

A series of quarter-page and half-page ads were also built with the new logo and slogan and published two to three times per week. "These specific house ads currently publish two to three times a month as we are now concentrating our efforts on ads that promote the paper itself – the benefits, services and products such as Q Magazine, Business Journal and Fall Football Preview," Smart said. "It's important to note that a house ad is included in each of these special sections.

"Other house ads spotlight the organizations and charities The Facts supports and advertising opportunities, and there are a series of ads celebrating The Facts' 100th anniversary."

The Facts also bought advertising in several high school football and community theater programs, which not only promotes the paper, but also lets the community know that The Facts is involved in the community. "Beyond print advertising and monetary donations, we hope to increase our participation in community events such as parades and festivals," Smart said. "This month, The Facts will have a float in a local parade. This type of marketing helps maintain a healthy connection between The Facts and its readers, and, it's good for employee morale."

Smart said a series of ads introducing readers to newspaper employees and explaining each department's duties and philosophies is still to come. "We're also looking into merchandising beyond pencils, koozies and key chains. Although these items are important, the paper is looking larger: t-shirts, beach towels, ice chests and boxer shorts.

"The ways to promote The Facts are endless, from advertising on ball field scoreboards and lending a hand to something like Habitat for Humanity to partnering with county libraries to promote literacy and simply being aware of small, inexpensive ways to advertise," Smart said.

"It's been really successful," Cornwell said. "Newspapers have been doing a lot of whining about business and we heard a lot of doomsday talk. We wanted to tell our community that we've been here 100 years, and we're going to stay here."

For more information, contact Bill Cornwell at (979) 265-7411.

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