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The Publicity Handbook: How to Maximize Publicity for Products, Services and Organizations.

Mortgage bankers have been at the forefront of a major news story throughout most of 1992: the refinancing of a record $410 billion of home loans. Fortunately, this year's mortgage lending boom has provided mostly favorable opportunities for mortgage lenders to gain positive exposure in the media.

Yet it's likely that relatively few companies have tried to capitalize on this opportunity.

Many mortgage companies - including some of the largest in the country - do not have formal public affairs or media relations units as part of their corporate structure. This undoubtedly is due to the fact that the industry has traditionally marketed itself to real estate agents and builders, but not directly to consumers.

Public affairs and press relations are often delegated to the marketing department or a senior loan production official. Activities in this arena are usually reactive - responding to inquiries from the media rather than trying to initiate news coverage for the firm.

The Publicity Handbook is an excellent addition to your bookshelf if you've been assigned such duties and you haven't had any formal training or prior experience in this field -and perhaps even more so if your company has no public affairs strategy at all.

As its name suggests, the book provides a lot of solid how-to guidance on doing public relations work, from writing press releases to handling a publicity crisis.

The layout of the publication makes it easy to find the help you might need for a specific task. Each of the 12 chapters in the book takes on a general public relations topic, such as "Getting on the Air." Chapters are subdivided into sections that address more specific aspects of the topic; in "Getting on the Air," for example, the sections discuss dealings with public service directors, working with newscasters, approaching the networks, satellite media tours and other matters.

Each chapter ends with an exhaustive checklist of questions to ask yourself if you're about to undertake a project in that area, such as trying to get someone from your company on a local real estate talk show. These checklists serve some of the function of an executive summary by giving the reader a thorough overview of what's in each chapter. This summary-in-question format will stimulate even veteran publicity professionals to think about their activities in new ways.

Each chapter is also full of examples from real life, including numerous quotes from people in the media describing what they look for and value in a public relations effort. These insights are invaluable. The Publicity Handbook also gives you examples of public relations efforts that went awry or were poorly planned, many of which are presented in fictionalized form to protect the guilty.

All the examples are well made, they all illuminate the author's points and they make for easy reading. The cost of this technique is that the book is somewhat longer than it absolutely has to be. If you favor terse, to-the-point business writing with no side excursions, this publication may seem a bit slow-paced. This makes all the more valuable the book's logical organization by topic and subtopic, and the end-of-chapter review questions.

It's worth noting that this is a generalist handbook on public relations activities, not specifically geared to mortgage lenders - or even business interests. Many of the anecdotes and examples are from the nonprofit sphere. As a basic instruction on the topic, however, it's perhaps better that the book takes a nonsectarian approach since this gives the reader a more complete view of the topic.

If your company has virtually no public relations strategy, this is a good source to use to get started on one. The first chapters are devoted to the principles of developing publicity campaigns, dealing with the media in general, the individual's responsibilities as a publicist and what the media sees as newsworthy.

For the mortgage banking company that does little or nothing in the way of public relations, these early chapters describe the broad range of publicity activities - in effect, they are a guide to possibilities.

The Publicity Handbook is also useful for firms that oiled publicity machines up and running, both for its interactive summaries of the various topics as well as its analyses of publicity issues from the media's perspective.

If your company doesn't need to think about publicity because you only deal with real estate brokers and builders, you should bear in mind that these primary customers also read the newspaper, listen to the radio and watch television. What they learn about you and your competitors through the media may have a good deal to do with how you handle the next cycle in the lending environment.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Mortgage Bankers Association of America
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Bancroft, John
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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