The president of a large Midwest construction company, with whom we have worked for many years, was evaluating his marketing program, which includes advertising, media relations, Web-based marketing, tradeshows and direct mail.

"You've done a great job in creating visibility and credibility with real estate brokers and developers, but isn't there a way we can get in front of end users?" he asked, referring to business owners and managers who are looking for new offices or industrial buildings.

Tall order. Entrepreneurs and managers who are thinking about new buildings are not a cohesive group. They don't belong to the same organizations, read the same publications, or reside on the same database. And there are too few of them to rationalize mass media advertising.

While most people think of public relations as media relations, there are times when either you can't reach your audience through print, broadcast or the Internet, or you need to supplement your media program. That's when you need to think about face-to-face marketing—placing clients directly in front of targeted audiences through informational events structured around their interests.

This strategy works well for consumer markets (think cooking demonstrations in grocery stores, hospital-sponsored health fairs, and hotel-sponsored bridal expos). It also works well for B2B companies like construction companies, law firms, or consultancies—businesses that want to showcase the expertise of their management team.

In this case, we worked with the client to develop a breakfast seminar for business owners; titled "To Build or Not to Build," it was cosponsored by a real estate brokerage, a bank, and an accounting firm. All four companies contributed to the mailing list, shared the costs of the event, and were featured in the panel presentation.

The event was marketed through a printed invitation, a program of email blasts, a press release, and mailings to members of local chambers of commerce and business associations that agreed to serve as "affiliated organizations."

Special care was taken to make the program as informational as possible—no heavy-handed commercials. Attendees were presented with solid information on such topics of interest as the current real estate environment, lease-or-own considerations, financing options, how to control costs, and the tax advantages of ownership.

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Judi Schindler ( is a principal of Hodge Schindler Integrated Communications (, a Chicago-based agency.