Product Giveaway Techniques That Get You Media Coverage

Read these tips before you give something away free to get new customers and media placements.

E! Entertainment Television recently devoted hours of programming to the high-end goodie bags celebrities received for presenting Oscar awards to the stars. In a variety of interviews, promoters said that despite the huge salaries stars garner for their movies, celebrities still love free stuff. It appears to be a win, win situation for both the stars and the companies touting their products. Media coverage like this is expensive (companies have to pay to deliver their goodies to the stars) and this kind of television coverage is more the exception and not the rule.

It seems easy — give something away free, gain customers and media placements.

Before you start shipping free fruit to customers and the media, read what really works and what doesn’t.

According to Richard Laermer, co-author of “Full Frontal PR: Getting People Talking about You, Your Business, or Your Product,” and founder of RLM Public Relations, most people are too busy to be interested in free stuff anymore, unless, you give them something that has relevancy for them.

A good example is a promotion used in a press release sent by an Xpress Press client about a Beatles festival called “Abbey Road on the River.” In addition to listing value oriented ticket prices in the release, the client offered ticket buyers some “extras” if they booked before a specific date. The “extras” included VIP access and “meet-and-greet” sessions with musicians throughout the weekend-long event — in effect, a backstage pass for the weekend’s events. What music fan doesn’t want a backstage pass? The press loved it, and all the reporters mentioned the base rates plus the specific incentives offered to book early.

The promotion was relevant and was something highly desirable to its audience.

What can your company or client do to push that story along? Laermer says one of the most reliable promotions is offering books and brochures — because free information matched to the interest of the consumer or reporter is appealing to almost anyone. With a bit of creativity, he says, even a small business can create a 6-page informational brochure that can be distributed for free. He also feels it is important to educate the recipient and uses giveaways as a way to educate and entertain potential buyers and reporters to whom he is pitching stories.

“It is completely inappropriate to send a reporter a gift as a thank you for writing a story about your client. It’s their job. However, our firm has had great success sending press releases to reporters that incorporate our client’s product in a way that entertains, informs, or demonstrates its usability. Reporters have a tough job; they are human and appreciate a good laugh.”

Seven years ago RLM represented an inflatable furniture company. They sent inflatable trash cans to reporters with a copy of the press release. A message was enclosed suggesting the company knew the reporter would throw the story in the trash anyway, so a can was provided for them.

“In another example, we printed our press release on a sample of our client’s plastic product and challenged the reporter to tear it up. Of course, they couldn’t and we made our point. We got them to take a look at the product and taught them something about its strength and durability. The idea was relevant and tickled them a lot.”

Think about this the next time you send out a press release. What kind of “extra” can you give to your customer that matches their desires? How can you make a reporter laugh-out-loud even though you are not in the room? Perhaps a bit of self-deprecating humor? Your client’s product with a clever message imprinted on it? Whatever you do, don’t send fruit.

“Don’t give out perishables. Folks don’t like receiving food from unknown sources. Send items the person doesn’t have to think twice about why they have received it because it is relevant to something they do.”

Tina Koenig is the co-founder of the Xpress Press News Service ( which specializes in distributing press releases to reporters via email and satellite services.

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