Hanging out with the Extreme Home Makeover Crew

A couple months ago, the fabulously popular Extreme Makeover: Home Edition came to Phoenix. And, I had the luxury and luck to be able to get a full pass on the set, roam around wherever I wanted to go.

Plus, I helped them (the show) out by getting some outdoor patio furniture because the original company backed at that weekend. Today's Swim and Patio in Gilbert was kind enough to donate the furniture for the Okvath family.

Preston Sharp sets up the scene in Phoenix Posted by Hello

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was also back in Arizona to build a home for a family of a lost soldier - Lori Piestewa - and a new veteran's center.

But, while the national advertisers and sponsors get great PR traction from the show - look at how well Sear's has monetized it's sponsorship of the show, tying Ty into their ad campaign - how much does this really do for local companies that donate product to the show's special family? Unless the local firm has a PR firm on retainer - or knows enough about how PR works to realize that they need to hire a PR firm - how much traction can the company really get? Okay, great, you can put up some point-of-purchase materials that you donated materials for the latest and greatest home, but that has how long of a shelf-life?

Another PR practitioner in Phoenix asked me for advice on a client. The company had already donated goods for the home in Phoenix, and they were going to donate the same goods for the Piestewa house. But, the company wanted national exposure this time around, since they figured that the Piestewa story is going to be a national story. They want the agency to do a national PR Newswire release - mulitimedia - and to get as much national exposure as possible.

I asked a few simple questions to the other PR person: is the client national? No. What does the client hope to get out of the sponsorship? Increased visibility and sales. Is the national push going to help with that in Arizona, or is it a wasted money spend? Not sure.

As PR firms, we have to think the same way - is this going to be cost-effective? Are certain campaigns worth the outlay of time - in a cost/benefit analysis, do they cut the mustard? Many firms - and companies - fall into the nonprofit trap. You say yes to one non-profit, and then the word gets out that you do pro-bono work. Soon enough, that's all you are doing, and you cannot afford to stay in business. While the idea makes sense - if my firm is involved in the community, the community will take notice and hire me for paid work - it might not always pan out. A recent article in the local paper noted that a catering firm is asked to do - for gratis, naturally - chamber of commerce events. The owner noted that he was sick of the free catering, but continued to do it.

If he were my client, I'd counsel him to evaluate each instance, and what, if any, business he has received from the chamber events.

But, as PR firms, we can fall into the same trap. I took on a client - who claimed that all the money was going into R&D - to build goodwill because I thought the company had a cool product. A product that in 2003 Gizmodo noted as vaporware, and has yet to launch. So, I got stuck for the hours and the PR Newswire bill. Lesson learned from the first year with my agency.

But, sometimes local companies think that when an opportunity such as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition comes their way, they need to jump on it. That's not necessarily true. If they have the marketing and PR in place already, it makes sense. If they want more publicity which may or may not translate into sales, go for it. If they think there will be long term growth and benefits, it's best to reevaluate the opportunity.

And, sometimes PR firms have to do the same: that's just some cold, hard business facts.

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  1. Jeremy:

    Excellent story (I love EMHE and watch it every Sunday ... did you get to meet Constance Ramos??).

    I've noticed that the list of suppliers on the show is a long one. A former client of mine often participates and has, from time to time, gotten a logo aired. But I've often wondered whether there is any benefit to being part of such a huge project. Easy to get lost in the shuffle.

    And, your advice about publicizing items that don't necessarily qualify as newsworthy is a good reminder for all PR folks. It's easy to get caught up with a client, especially when they are involved in something like EMHE. But those are tough sells.