"What's The Message?"

Good advertising.

It’s an interesting phrase.

To some it is an oxymoron. That is, a contradiction of meanings.

Much of the debate centres on the adjective, the word “good”. It can be hard to be objective about an adjective. The noun, advertising, merits an academic treatise in its own right.

For local government entities and associations, elected officers and professional appointed people often engage in considerable discourse on who exactly is the target audience. The term stakeholder can be all embracing. However, by its very nature any generalisation about whom one is communicating with, compromises the impact among and the relevance to the selected audience or limited audiences.

Good advertising has a sharp focus, a discrete target audience and a captivating message.

There is widespread, but often reluctant acceptance of the need to advertise and promote the virtues, roles and true nature of local government. Dispelling negative, stereotypical images of those in local government networks is a real need, a significant challenge and a compelling undertaking.

Advertising alone will seldom achieve the desired and aspired goal or goals. Contributions are necessary from public relations, promotions and merchandising, which can and should precede, complement, supplement and reinforce the expenditure invested in “good advertising”.

Public relations, for example, is an appropriate tactic to project and establish a positive predisposition about the subject of the advertising. This is becoming an increasingly important input for an integrated communication strategy. With our over-communicated society and busy lifestyles the process of “selective perception” screens out, filters or impedes many essential messages.

Likewise, promotional activity can and often does create a sense of urgency, which increases the relevance of an advertising message to a specific audience at a particular point in time. In short, such initiatives influence the agenda among those in the target audience which in turn enhances the reception of the advertising, regardless of medium used.

Merchandising is an imperative for effective, efficient “good advertising”. Without a strong call-to-action and the capacity to convert latent potential into real, beneficial outcomes, advertising dissolves into a well-meaning but superfluous undertaking.

No matter how well the feel-good aspects of an institutional advertising campaign are executed with emotional, personal and local imagery, it amounts to nothing if those who are in the target audience take assertive action in response to the message only to be confronted by ignorance, indifference and dismissal among local government officers.

For example, as the effects of the economic turmoil spread throughout society and employment centres, the appeal and allure of the security, convenience and corporate cultural attractions of local government will resonate with more people than was the case over the past five years of a “boom”, resources driven working environment.

Imagine the dismay and disappointment of the respondent to “good advertising” which declares that members of the public should “consider a career in local government”, when making contact with his or her local government entity only to be told that they are not hiring at present, or that their needs for new staff members require specific training, qualifications and experience.

As a consequence the good money expended on good advertising is wasted or, at best, enjoys limited return or dividends.

Appropriate advertising must necessarily nominate a point of contact, a name, a telephone number, an email or mailing address and the specific features, benefits and advantages of what is being offered.

Too often the “good advertising” of local government entities and associations falter on the altar of good intentions.

· What is the specific target audience?
· What are the key points of the message?
· What are the tangible and intangible benefits and advantages”
· What actions are desired from the target audience?
· Is contact with particular responsive people detailed and made easy?
· What use has been made of public relations, promotions and merchandising to complement the advertising?