Thursday, October 06, 2005

Recovery City

I returned to find that Houston is still in “recovery mode” in many ways – including marketing and marketing communications activities. Large-scale hotels that might be hosting regional tradeshows are being used as FEMA housing instead, so normal reservations have been cancelled and shows rescheduled.

A two-day conference, Direct Marketing Days, has been cancelled. It was due to start Wednesday and continue through today. The immediate reason given was a very low rate of registrations. The rock-bottom reason is that people who might normally have attended are busy catching up with their own overdue work. It’s too bad: the sponsor, the Houston Direct Marketing Association, put together an excellent agenda that was to have included presentations on direct marketing tools, strategies, and programs. The founder/CEO of Direct Marketing Network, Pam Lockard, was to have been one of the speakers.

On the good side, a Career Open House conducted by one of the major oilfield service companies took place here as scheduled 28 September and was very successful. I was privileged to help construct and write the pre-Open House communications program before I left on holiday.

We used a short-run but intense mix of media to generate attendance – and learned a few things to the bargain. Newspaper advertising generated 29% of the attendees. Radio commercials (including a flight during one of the Houston Texans football games) brought in 26%. Direct mail accounted for 20% of the job-seekers. And word-of-mouth, “told by a friend,” generated 24%. The last percentage point came from people who noticed the signs put up around the Open House site.

Radio showed its strength – during Hurricane Rita’s evacuation, a huge number of people were listening to their car radios. Mail delivery, on the other hand, was partially interrupted by hurricane preparations.

Hats off to the clients, who not only got the kind of results they were looking for but ensured that the effect of the various media was measured. It’s the kind of forethought that will make future programs easier to recommend and support.

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