Summer is no time to slack off

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By Leo Valiquette

Here we are, a few days from the Canada Day long weekend, with Independence Day in the United States not far behind. For many of us, it marks the beginning of a two-month stretch of general slacking as many workplaces downshift in response to mass vacation taking.

Or … maybe not.

I am heading into what promises to be one of the busiest two-month periods I have ever had as several clients ramp up various public relations and marketing efforts. Why? Because these clients understand that, while business may slow over the summer months, it certainly never stops.

It’s a disconnection between perception and reality that we haven’t focused on in a while, but I think always warrants a revisit this time of year.

Five years ago almost to the day, an esteemed alumnus of our shop, Linda Forrest, recapped a presentation by Veronica Engelberts of Vector Media that tossed to the curb the belief that marketing and public relations efforts are wasted between Canada Day (or Independence Day) and Labour Day.

Veronica’s argument is as valid now as it was then: “If every one of your prospects took a vacation at some point in July or August, it would amount to an average of 11 per cent of prospects in any given week. Can you afford not to advertise to the other 89 per cent?”

Linda added that it also creates a ripe opportunity to steal some mindshare from competitors who may have wound down their own efforts for the summer. And if you are a B2B technology company pursuing coverage in key trade and industry press, it just doesn’t make sense to put the brakes on a PR program considering that these publications often work on content for upcoming issues several months in advance. If you go on hiatus for the summer, you are throwing away the chance to secure coverage in fall issues.

“Effective media relations is a consistent effort that is cumulative,” Linda wrote. “It’s important to maintain regular contact with our targets through myriad tactics as you can never be sure when the tipping point will be that will secure the most impactful coverage available with that outlet.”

In a subsequent post, I recounted my own related experience while serving as editor of the Ottawa Business Journal.

In the 2000s, the paper migrated away from publishing specialty magazines and supplements between Canada Day and Labour Day. Many advertisers were reluctant to put money into advertising during a time of year when they believed substantially fewer readers would be paying attention.

But when OBJ publisher Michael Curran and I reviewed the summer traffic numbers for the OBJ website and the pickup rates for the print edition of the newspaper over several years, we found that this perception wasn’t warranted. Instead of declines in readership, there were increases. More people were coming to the website and picking up the paper from curbside boxes than they were during other months of the year considered to be prime advertising periods.

I concluded then and still believe now that because many workplaces do slow down for the summer, people have more time to consume media content.

When it comes to marketing and public relations efforts through the summer months, there is a measureable slowdown, but it is not the one that many people assume. Sales prospects who make purchasing decisions and key media contacts are going to take their own vacation time. But they will be back in their offices in a week or two, or will have a backup who can respond in there stead.

The likelihood that you will get an “Out of Office” from 10 to 15 per cent of your contacts at any given time throughout the summer is certainly no reason to avoid reaching out in the first place, or investing in campaigns intended to get their attention. Ultimately, all you will end up doing is losing momentum and traction for the fall. The only thing you should avoid, as you always should at any time of year, is trying to get anyone’s attention the day before, the day after or during a statutory holiday.

Image: The Freelance Retort

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