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Why Promotional Marketing is an Essential Function in Public Relations (and every organization)

I graduated in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in public relations and a minor in Organizational and Corporate Communication (basically a fancy way of saying I studied how people communicate and how companies can use this to their advantage to build and maintain relationships with their audience). Most PR majors choose between the two major paths: firm or organization. Working for a firm, you have many clients and you fulfill a range of needs for each of them. The organization path, on the other hand, puts you smack dab in the middle of operations for one organization where you act as the mouthpiece for that organization (most likely).

Well, I didn’t take either of these paths. Instead, I’m in promotional marketing. I’ve been with Imagination Branding for going on three years now and I learned very quickly my degree applies so much to what I do! First of all, communication applies to everything – I mean it, literally everything. Secondly, promotional marketing is a necessary part of every industry and it all relates back to public relations. Let me explain.

What is Public Relations and how does it relate?

Public relations, as defined by my professors with the help of PRSA, is the building and maintaining of mutually beneficial relationships with key publics. (I wish I were getting a grade for having that memorized!!) So, what’s an easy way to build and maintain those relationships? Well, free stuff with your logo on it, of course! I’m a sucker for a free t-shirt or a free pen. I’ve worked at other companies where I used pens, t-shirts, pins, stickers, mugs, cups, etc. to build relationships with the right people. A branded item is a perfect way to make an introduction for your company and it’s a great conversation starter. These pieces build brand recognition (which is a goal many PR campaigns have) and if they’re free, it’s so easy to get them into the hands of potential customers and clients.

Why Promotional Products?

One easy, practical product to put in people’s hands is a calendar. According to a Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) study from November 2012, out of the thousands of items promotional product companies offer, calendars get the most use. And of course – we all use a calendar every day!

Right now, I have a calendar up at my desk at work. It was free from another organization and I’d literally be lost without it. I look at it probably 15 times throughout the day, if not more. So, if I look at the calendar 15 times a day, 5 days a week for one month – that’s 300 impressions right there. And what about the impressions from the people who come by my desk? Or even better, those who come by to discuss dates? A calendar can be printed for as little as $0.11 and is essential in most people’s daily lives. Just think of how effective pens or coffee mugs can be in addition to that calendar. They’re all items we all use every day (If you’re like me, you use your coffee mug way too many times throughout the day)!! (Note: you could also slip a business card into a calendar or mug, or even under the clip of a pen. Your customer has to touch your contact info when they go to drink coffee, hang the calendar up or write something down. It gives you AND your company some visibility.)

If you’re running a PR campaign, these cost effective promotional items will help you achieve your goals in such an easy way (A measurable objective here might be to print 1,000 calendars and get 100 copies into 10 large office buildings in the area).

The same PPAI study found that 88% of consumers were familiar with an organization before receiving a promotional item. This statistic doesn’t seem important, and alone it may not be…BUT think about this…59% had a more favorable impression of the organization after receiving a promotional item. That. Is. Huge. Right there, you’ve done public relations at its very definition – built and maintained a relationship with your public (your customer).

How can I move into Implementation (the 3rd step in the PR process!)?

So, whether you’re in a firm, an organization or any other industry, you should be RUNNING to order some branded items for your next awareness campaign (or for daily operations – trust me, you’ll use them!). Imagination Branding prides itself on being creative and client driven, so if you’d like a fun, creative partner in building and maintaining those relationships, visit our website ( and let us know how we can help! Don’t imagine yourself working with anyone else!!

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