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Creating a Favorable Impression

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Archives / 1948 / June



Creating a Favorable Impression

Donn Thomas

By DONN HENRY THOMAS, Director of Press Relations, Pacific Union Conference


I do not know how many thousands of dol­lars are spent to advertise public efforts each year, but I do know that the total is consider­able. Generally speaking, we do not spare the advertising budget, and a large proportion of this money is used to buy display space in news­papers.

I have yet to meet the minister who does not believe in newspaper advertising, but the value of publicity—free publicity—is something which is not understood by many. The fact that pub­licity in such form is far more valuable than display advertising is easily proved by a news­paper rate card. There is a certain kind of ad­vertising, known as a reading notice, which is set to look like news stories. These are dis­tinguished from straight news by the word ad­vertisement, usually set in small type at the top or bottom of the ad.

A comparison of rates for this kind of ad­vertising and straight display ads will show what a premium the newspaper puts on reading notices. If you were to place a conventional ad on the church page of the Los Angeles Exam­iner, you would pay $5.04 a column inch. How­ever, if you wanted to buy space for a reading notice, the charge would be $17.50 a column inch.

Now, it is not true that we can substitute free publicity for paid advertising to promote our efforts, because actually this is the most difficult kind of publicity to attain. Yet I firmly believe that if we would educate the public with more widespread denominational publicity of a general nature, our advertising dollars would bring a far greater return. Moreover, we ought to identify ourselves in our advertising. Then if we have already broken down prejudice with the right kind of publicity, we can expect a far greater return in conversions.

We have not reached more people because more people do not know enough about us. To be sure, it is the Lord's Spirit working in the individual that leads him to the truth, but we must do all we can to direct the individual into the desired path:

Long in the message, many of our ministers understandably lose sight of the variety of in­fluences which stimulate the interested and the new converts who come into Adventism wide-eyed with expectancy and surprise.

My own conversion has been recent enough for me to recall the little things that heightened my interest in the beginning. This will sound foolish to many, but to make a point I am will­ing to admit that a huge Fruehauf trailer truck, rumbling into the campgrounds at Grand Ledge, gave me quite a thrill at my first Michi­gan camp meeting. And when I learned that the denomination's holdings were valued at more than a hundred million dollars, I wrote excitedly to my father, who is an auditor and a Presbyterian, to tell him the news.

In analyzing my seemingly childlike enthusi­asm over a truck and the value of Adventist property holding, I soon realized that this re­action resulted from my previous lack of knowl­edge of the denomination. Although I had not actually been misinformed about Seventh-day Adventists I had gained the mistaken impres­sion that this denomination was a run-down-at-the-heel, insignificant sect which held to very queer customs. Beyond that I knew nothing.

Then came the first light about Adventism and an entirely new concept of the church-built upon its beliefs and teachings, of course, but greatly enhanced by physical and material aspects which created in my mind a new im­pression and opened the way to an entirely new attitude toward life and God.

In my own case I made the contact with Ad­ventism, and then happily assimilated the im­pressions which increased my interest in the message. This is putting the cart before the horse, for actually we want to stimulate people -materially and statistically, if you will-to induce them to make the contact with Advent­ism. How can this be accomplished? A great opportunity rests in newspapers and magazines which will inform the public for us.

Certainly all Adventists agree that the public has misconceptions and often false ideas about us, but we do not seem to realize that this can be corrected by a stepped-up public-relations program, using secular publications to full ad­vantage.

We should have followed the advice of Ellen G. White, who wrote in 1875: "Wise plans should be laid to secure the privilege of insert­ing articles into the secular papers."-Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 141.

Worldly enterprises have long seen the ad­vantages of publicity; yet years late, we are just awakening to its full significance. Let us inform the public about Seventh-day Advent­ists through increased publicity, and then boldly announce our meetings to an enlightened public.

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