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Postal Receipts - Do They Prove Circulation?

Mail_box It's a question I often get when visiting with a client about various types of magazines and newspapers. 

The short answer is, "No."

The much longer answer, and the reason for this blog continues:

When we buy space for a client in a print publication we always explain to our client "why" we choose one publication over another.  One of the criteria is "circulation".  Or, "who" is getting the magazine and "how many copies" does the publication company distribute.

Pretty fair questions...right?

Publishing companies who offer "free" publications often point to "Postal Receipts" as "proof of their circulation or distribution".  But it can be misleading.  How so?

Postal_truck Let's say you want to buy space in a magazine or paper that offers as "proof" of  circulation a postal receipt.  You look at that receipt and think to yourself.  "Wow, they mailed 50,000 copies to Bucksaw County Kansas!  Good enough for me."

But, who got them?  Did they read them and then use them at the bottom of a bird cage?  How many were returned because of bad addresses? 

Not enough information.

I know several farm publications that do not audit their circulation and when asked about circulation and readership they will say, "We'll send you our postal receipts." 

Mailboxes_003 Got zip code information on the receipt?  "Nope"

So, where did they go?  "To farmers, trust us."

I know of at least one company that printed 5,500 copies of a magazine but told their advertisers they mailed 50,000.  And, they would provide postal receipts to prove it.  In this case they did. However the advertiser decided to double check.  The postal receipt was forged.  The publisher went to jail.  But it had been going on month after month for several years.  Who knew?

Oh, they would mail out a couple of copies of the printed piece to advertisers to "prove" the magazine was done.  And, they did mail out 5,000 copies.  It was just a matter of adding a zero...making a photo copy and PRESTO!

There are better ways to assure circulation numbers like audit statements from companies that actually match up the records or paid subscription numbers that are also audited.  Remember, these audits cost money...which does drive up the cost of advertising space.  The question you have to ask:  "Is it worth it to know the facts?"

Or, you can simply..."Trust us."

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we always have our clients they can trust us.

Help Along A Friend...Mike Sansone

Trust_doctor By now everybody in the BLOG WORLD knows that my friend and mentor Mike Sansone is in the hospital here in Des Moines.

Drew McLellan tells me it is a "kidney thing" and the doctors have Mike admitted so they an poke around and get if figured out.

So, let's help along a friend and say a prayer for a full recovery.

Besides, Mike, we miss your poking and prodding us about correct blogging!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communincations where we are busy praying for many different things...daily.

So, How Is Your PR Campaign Going?

Man_shock Somebody asked me one day, "Where in the world do you get all this material to BLOG about?  Is there really that much going on?"


And what is way cool is...I couldn't, even if I tried, make up stories like this. 

Today's story is about making sure your public relations campaign and your marketing campaign and the people that you hire...or don't hire...are in sync.

In the Des Moines Register this morning there was an article about a woman who appeared in a direct mail piece promoting a local option sales tax increase of one penny.  The campaign is called "Project Destiny".  As you can imagine there are two sides of the argument and it's causing a big stir in the area.

Woman_tax Donna Lockwood is prominent in the four color piece and says: "I'm voting YES to Destiny so I can pay lower property taxes."  The problem is...she does not own any property.  She does not pay property taxes.  This is the second direct mail piece done by "Project Destiny" and the second to bomb.

In the first flyer, sent to homes, said, "...tell the politicians to cut your property taxes."  The mailing never said anything about the increase in sales tax.  Opps.

I called the Project Destiny folks and asked if they were using an ad agency or if it was in house.  Jay Byers wrote back and said they are using Link Strategies, LLC and StrataVizion Consulting Group. (I couldn't find a website for "StrataVizion"...But, if you Google the name...they are VERY busy people.)

Somebody must be sleeping.  Or worse...just being stupid.

So, let's get back to YOU!  Who is looking out after YOUR public relations and marketing?  Is everybody in sync?  Are you being honest with your target market?  Are you sure?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we simply couldn't make this stuff up!

Does Your Customer Service Stink?

Nose_dog If it does...congratulations!!  You are among the majority!  Pretty Sad huh?

I was reading a piece the other day that claimed on-line customer service responsiveness has declined annually since 2002.

"No way!"  Was my response.  With more and more people using e-mail as their preferred method of communication and with the dozens and dozens of Quality Assurance seminars being done.  Truly there must be a mistake in the survey.


The Hornstein Associates annual e-mail responsiveness survey continues to show declines in customer service responses.  In fact, only 33% of companies respond to their customers within a 24 hour period.  And what is worse only 51% of the companies responded in ANY time period at all! 

It's no wonder then when a company actually DOES RESPOND in a timely manner we are shocked.

The report has this quote:  "Based on the dismal results of this year's survey, I think that the operable phrase is - It would be a great business if it weren't for all those annoying customers.  And, it begs an important question - how responsive is your company?"


Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we sure hope we are not stinky about our response time.  If we are ever...promise us you'll call us on it!

Circulation - Living & Dying By the Numbers

Jgs_newspaperstacked Magazines and Newspapers have a couple of methods of measuring the reach (and perhaps effectiveness) of their products.  Two of the most common are "readership" and "circulation".  Are they important?


Goofy answer?  Not really, because it depends on the answer you get from the question, "What is your circulation?"

Some print salespeople will launch into a discussion of "readership".  I'm always sceptical of that.  "Readership" can be a fuzzy number.  Often, based on a thread of scientific rational, it is just a multiplying number.  Circulation times potential readers = Readership.   So, let's say the newspaper or magazine "circulates" 100,000 copies of their product to 100,000 addresses.  Then they decide, based again on sometimes questionable data, the number of people in each household that reads the product.

Abicuss I've seen multipliers as high as 7 and as low as 2.5 per household.  In a way it's  kind of funny...because often as circulation drops (which is the case today with most newspapers) the "readership" number starts to climb. 

The bottom line here is buyer beware.  If the question is about "circulation" but the conversation gets steered to "readership" be careful.

Back to "circulation".  Sometimes print media actually publishes their circulation.  For example, The Des Moines Register regularly makes public their circulation numbers in a several ways as do most major dailys.  You simply need to check the numbers and then decide if your are getting real value for your investment.

However, some companies refuse to discuss circulation or readership.  One that I'm familiar with is a very successful company, Sandhills Publishing out of Nebraska.  They have a number of trade publications and when we ask about circulation we are told, "We don't publish those numbers we just promise results."  Ahhhh...OK.

Mike_web_small Mike Winter, a friend and sometime client, from Worthington Ag Parts published a blog about one of the divisions of Sandhills Publishing...but he didn't name them. (It is Tractor House).  The Blog is a pretty scathing review of not only circulation issues but also their method of increasing prices to their advertisers.

So why this discussion?  As with everything it is "buyer beware".  You simply need to do the research and KNOW what you are buying.  Sadly many companies don't and they can get "hosed".

Oh...and if the publishing company you are considering says they can prove to you their "circulation" by offering you "postal receipts".   Have we got a story for you...but that will be another post down the line.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations where we can help you crunch the numbers...if you want.

Rural Lifestyle Radio - June 24, 2007

Hwy61_image Man...what a storm we had Friday afternoon between 3pm and 6:30.  No clear idea of how much rain...just that that everything took a beating.   It is past now...and "red sky at night, sailors delight" is on us.

This is just a quick post for those of you in the Central Iowa area who tune in each week to our rural lifestyle radio show, Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country.  It's heard each Sunday morning at 8am on 98.3 WOW-FM.

So, what are we talking about this weekend?  Plenty of news out there about all kinds of things.  Including...did you know that in the United Kingdom they are banning the use of electric fence on farms.  Tell me it ain't so!  We'll have that story and more of the issues that effect or at some point may effect those of you living on small farms and acreages in and around Central Iowa.

Gary_2 We'll also have Gary Kubicek as our guest.  We're going to be talking about pet foods.  Unless you've had your head in the sand over the past six months you know about the pet food crisis.  Gary has some inside knowledge about the industry it promises to be a great morning.

All that and more on Sunday morning at 8.  For more about this show and what we do here head over to that blog site and enjoy.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications where we are just now drying out!

Our "Village" Found Its "Idiot"...

Village_idiotThis week his name is Marc Nicola of Angelo's Pizza of Des Moines  and Urbandale.  Webster defines "idiot" as "An utterly foolish or senseless person".  It seems to fit in this case.  I don't know Mr. Nicola but I'll introduce you to him.

But before we start, part of our job as an advertising and marketing agency is to help our clients from making themselves targets.  Angelo's Pizza is not a client.  But they should be.

Recently there was an article in an "alternative" newspaper here in Des Moines.  The paper, "Cityview" mentioned Mr. Nicola's restaurant  and that there is on the menu an item called the "Illinois Nazi".  Go ahead read the article...we've got time.

In short, the reviewer, Jim Duncan, said that to: 1) Have an item on the menu that was "baked in an oven" and had the Nazi name attached to it was a bit shocking and, 2) the response of Mr. Nicola to an article in the Des Moines Jewish Press which raised concerns about the name lacked an understanding of a horrific event (The Holocaust) and that Mr. Nicola dismissed it because, " It happened 60 years ago and people should just get over it" was a little over the top.  That is the "short" of the April 12, 2007 food review.  If you would like to read the entire article go ahead...we've got time.

Then our Idiot, Mr. Nicola, fires a back a letter to Cityview. Saying that this menu item has been around for, "almost thirty years" and that it was named for, "two fictional characters in the movie The Blues Brothers".  To my knowledge the resturant does not have a "movie theme" and I didn't remember any "two characters" being named the "Illinois Nazi's".  So, I checked out the script from the movie...and you can too. far we can forgive our Idiot.  He just may not know and besides, the story has been passed down from Idiot to Idiot for nearly thirty years.  It's Oral Tradition by now.

Nazi_deathcamppic However then he goes one step further and writes.  (Are you ready for this?)  "Quit trying to read into something that isn't there.  If it makes you feel better, look at it this way - this time the Nazi is going into the oven."

This now becomes the damning statement.

Segregation Gee...Mr. Nicola...why not come out with the "Segregation Sandwich"...I'm sure we can help you figure out some historic references that might help you market  the tender "white meat".  On second thought...forget it.  Nobody would "get it". And, it would be disgusting!

Oh, in case you think we are holding this up because of some "Jewish Issue" you need to know that even the German Consul, Mark Schlenker was offended by the use of the word "sauerkraut" even being teamed up with the word "Nazi". 

It's just stupid and poor Mr. Nicola.  He has no clue.

Tell you what "Pizzoni".  It's people like you that give folks like us hope.  We've said many times that in every village, there is somebody who needs some help in their public relations efforts.  Thanks for proving our point.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we like to think that Urbandale and Des Moines might not "cotton" to idiots.

Nice To Have Somebody Watching Your Back

Flooding The e-mail arrived early in the morning on Tuesday.  It said, "I'm not sure if you heard but the office for the National Tractor Parts Dealer Association flooded on Sunday night.  People were being lifted off their roof-tops it was so bad.  I couldn't get into the office on Monday.  Headed there today we need to alert the members.  Thanks Phyllis"

Phyllis is Phyllis Cox the excutive director of the National Tractor Parts Dealer Association (NTPDA) and a client of ours.  She was telling me about the recent flood in Gainesville, Texas which is blamed for the death of at least five people.

The Power of the Blog:  We built their website a couple of years ago and just this year the association decided to start a blogging process to enhance communication among members and visitors interested in new and used tractor and agricultural parts.  We, right away went to their internal blog site, logged in and within a few minutes mass e-mailed the membership and posted a blog so folks would know the status of the office.  It was that simple.

Our thanks to our stratigic partners at DWebWare for their assistance in getting things rolling.

Our hearts go out to those who died in the flooding and our prayers are with their family members and the people who are now putting their life back together.

Sometimes advertising agencies get involved in more than just selling products and services for their clients.  Phyllis wrote back and said "thanks".  No Phyllis...thank you for the opportunity.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we attempt to understand there is a difference between a job and a relationship.

Do What You Do Best & Leave Advertising to Us

Jason_board_2 Some of you know that I do a couple of radio shows here in the Des Moines Market.  The photo on the left is our call screener and board operator Jason Cochran.  Both shows, "Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country" (a rural lifestyle radio show) and "The Iowa Sportsman Radio Hour" (an outdoors show) originate at the same station 98.3 WOW-FM.  The broadcast radius is about 70 miles or so...roughly 750,000 folks in the market.

I enjoy doing radio.  I've been doing either radio or TV in one form or another since I was 17 years old...That was a LONG time ago!

Dsc02341 So, why the background?  Because I want to set the stage for a lesson.  If you use radio (or TV) less is often more when it comes to your produced message.  In other words, you've got 29.5 seconds to get your marketing/sales message out.  Use that time wisely.  The other part of the message is, "Your job is to make the product or service, our job is to help you make it great."

Here is a story about a national company that doesn't get it.  I'm trying to help.

The company, Hoyt, is a major manufacturer of bow-hunting equipment.  They are located in Utah.  These folks really know how to make superior bow hunting equipment.  World class stuff!  But, they, it seems, don't have a clue regarding "how" to market using the broadcast medium.

Time They have a co-op program for radio.  So there is an "official" or "Pre-Approved Radio Script".  It says it is for 'thirty-seconds".  However there are (without putting in dealer names and addresses) 82 words in the script.  Along with this line: "...innovative Stealthshot String Suppression System and much more!"  Go ahead, try to say that within two seconds.  The words tend to get mangled pretty well...and wouldn't you think that the main point of the entire ad should be carefully spoken?

There are way too many words and not enough time.  I tried to ask them about this.  I called Hoyt and asked for the person whose name is on the radio script.  However, Dave no longer works there.  I then left a message with another person in their marketing department.  That was over a week ago.  Kevin never returned my call.

Here is the bottom line:  Folks who make world class products or provide world class service don't always know how to market the products or services they produce.  Often they think that by employing an "in-house" advertising agency they are saving money and getting things done "the way they want".  But in the costs more.

We're not looking to take over Kevin's job or the Hoyt account.  Not interested.  We want to share with folks who are reading this blog to know the difference between creating products and services and then having the ability to market and advertise them.  It ain't the same thing.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we need to disclose that most of us have failed the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Class.

I Got Your Respect...Right Here!

Woman_shock Here is a shocking story for you from this morning's Des Moines Register:

According to the 2007 Iowa Employment Values Study, conducted by a local Clive firm, workers want just a few things from their employer.  Chief among them is...


That's it.  Workers want to be "appreciated in the workplace".  Next came something very similar.  They want to know their life has some sort of "achievement" level.  That all of this isn't for "nothing".  That they have made a mark in society and will be remembered as a good family person.

The survey tells us that 16% of all Iowa workers plan on quitting their jobs in the next year. However, if the worker makes more than $100,000 that number jumps to 25%.

I've not had the opportunity to read the entire study.  And while there are many things we can take away from this brief report.   I'd like to focus on just one thought...value.  Actually the value of yourself.  How YOU, not your boss or employer, look at yourself.

If you are waiting for your employer to step up to the plate and begin lauding you with affirmation and'll be waiting for a long, long time.  Most simply don't care.  And, you shouldn't either.  It's up to you.  Nobody else.  You.

Business_loser It doesn't matter if you make $20,000 a year or $200,000 a year if you don't have a positive opinion about yourself it's over. You'll be moving on soon and no amount of money, no plaque for the wall, no moving speech at a company picnic, no picture on the company website, no handwritten note from the boss will make it you.

I've known individuals who have quit their professions, their jobs, and given up on their careers trying to milk some "respect" from society.  And, when it doesn't come...they move on.  Usually more battered and bruised then when they started.  It isn't "society" it's them.  They have lousy self respect and it clouds everything.

But, it's not politically correct to point this out.  Especially to folks who are "victims". 

Dr_king One of my favorite Martin Luther King quotes touches on this thought of building yourself respect by doing your best.  He said:

"If a man is called to be a street-sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street-sweeper who did his job well."

And if your boss doesn't notice...who cares.  You know better and that is what matters.

Oh, and if you are one of the 25% of the folks making over $100,000 a year and are "unhappy" because you just are not getting the "respect" you think you deserve.  Call me.  I know some positive minded, bright, creative and thoughtful people that will pick up that job in a heartbeat.  The employer will be happy, the new employee will be happy and'll be moving on.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you (and I) have to be asking ourselves, "Where in the heck did THAT come from?"  "Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me sock it to me...Respect, just a little bit, respect, just a little bit"  Got ya!  You'll be "singing" that all day.