Public relations has been a priority for the Society since it was founded in 1976. Today, Manning, Selvage & Lee (MS&L), a public relations consulting firm, manages the program that positions ASHI as the leader in its field with industry professionals and consumers. There are a number of ways to assess the effectiveness of the current program. You might want to know how ASHI stacks up to the other national home inspector organizations in positive mentions in the press.
According to a comparative audit of positive mentions in the press for 2006, conducted by MS&L, ASHI had four for every one of the other organizations combined.
MS&L also reports that the total circulation of all the articles that mention ASHI in 2006 is 68.2 million. This means that 68.2 million people had an opportunity to read about ASHI or an ASHI inspector, see the logo or learn how to use Find an Inspector or the Virtual Home Inspection.
The list of publications in which articles appeared is 17 pages long and includes the Los Angeles Times-Valley Edition and Realtor® magazine, both with one million-plus circulations as well as the Westwood Press and Stoughton Journal, both with circulations of less than 2,000.
Several large-city newspapers, such as the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Bakersfield Californian, published seven or eight articles during the year.
Well-known magazines, such as This Old House and Journal of Light Construction, also appear on the list.
According to MS&L, it would have cost in excess of $330K to purchase advertising space in corresponding publications. Ad equivalency is determined by measuring the size of the article in which ASHI is mentioned and comparing it to the publication’s actual advertising rates for equivalent space. Based on actual fees incurred by ASHI (calendar year 2006), the return on investment, or ROI, for PR is nearly 3 to 1, meaning the dollar value of the awareness gained through PR is three times the cost of PR fees.
The 17-page list, which is available as a bonus with the online ASHI Reporter, serves as a testament to ASHI’s success at building name recognition through its PR program. What’s more, this list only covers print publications. ASHI has also been featured on the Internet and on the air.
ASHI finished strong in 2006 and has continued to create awareness this year. Recent highlights include the following:
• ASHI, ASHI.org and the Virtual Home Inspection were mentioned in a column by Gerri Willis in the March issue of MONEY magazine. The article also appeared online at Money.CNN.com, with a link to ASHI.org.
• As a result of the MONEY magazine article, NewsProNet, a company that provides pre-packaged news content to more than 70 network affiliates across the U.S., contacted MS&L to coordinate an on-air segment featuring Frank Lesh and a homeowner, highlighting the importance of hiring an ASHI home inspector for instances other than during the buying and selling process. The segment began airing on network affiliate news programs nationwide the week of March 26. On March 28, it was broadcast on KABC in Los Angles at 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.
• ASHI, ASHI.org and the Virtual Home Inspection were prominently featured in the April issue of The Family Handyman Magazine (a Reader’s Digest Home and Garden Group Publication), which has a circulation
of more than 1.4 million readers.
• Speaking of the Reader’s Digest, Executive Director Rob Paterkiewicz was interviewed for an article in the magazine. Watch for it to appear.
• Lolita Cusic, Designing Woman columnist for the Lifestyles section of The Daily Southtown, from the Chicago SunTimes news group, quoted ASHI President Frank Lesh in her March 30 column “Home Inspections key to helping buyers make sound decision.” The column appeared in both the print and online editions of the newspaper.
MS&L explains it best. Public relations is a tool that builds awareness and preference among consumers by positioning an entity (company, product/brand or organization) as being the expert and leader in its category. By influencing media through relationship building and article placement, potential customers and prospective members will look to ASHI as the premier professional home inspection association.
In contrast to paid advertisement, which is also effective in creating awareness, studies show that a mention in an editorial context through PR has a greater positive effect on a potential customer than a paid ad placement. This is due to the implied endorsement inherent in a mention in an editorial context; whereas a potential customer who sees an ad knows that the company paid for the placement — there’s no implication of credibility for the product or service being advertised.
The public relations success that ASHI currently enjoys has resulted from years of consistent messaging and building relationships with the media. As the comparative analysis shows, while ASHI’s high profile in national media outlets helps raise the bar for the entire industry, the vast majority of articles that mention ASHI do not mention any other organization. This means that ASHI’s return on investment for PR activities is primarily benefiting ASHI exclusively.
Monthly Press Releases
“Sometimes a year is actually 364 days: ASHI reminds homeowners about one-year home warranty inspections.” This release was distributed to real estate and consumer interest reporters at daily and community newspapers, syndicated writers, freelancers and trades. ASHI members are encouraged to pick up this and other releases from the ASHI Web site (www.Ashi.org/media & publicity), add some local color and distribute to the local media. For help with local public relations, review PR tools on the ASHI Web site in the Membership Extranet. Log in the to the Extranet and then click here.