Let’s clarify how to get publicity and properly write a press release to get better results.
1. First, it’s critical to look at overall marketing strategy to see how ‘media’ fits into the bigger picture. If you haven’t a good website or promotional materials that explain and help you sell your product or services, then publicity can drive lots of callers to you whom you cannot convert to customers or clients. So then, what’s the purpose?
2. If you have the groundwork laid to convert visitors to sales, then the next step is understand that the media is looking for stories. Whether it’s online media, tv, radio or print media (newspapers, magazines, newsletters, trade journals, etc.) their purpose is to educate, entertain or inform their readers. So, you must offer them a story that fits their publication (or website, podcast, or similar).
3. If your pitch doesn’t fit their publication, you’re just wasting their time, and yours, so target your publications well. For example, if you’re a sports trainer, you’d waste time targeting “Fast Company” – a business magazine, unless your training specifically was focussed on business results like measurably increased employee productivity from your particular study on sports training.
When I was an editor, I had to toss out faxes or emails from certain people because I knew they were just spamming me with pitches that didn’t apply to my readers. For time efficiency, I simply lost trust in them and couldn’t read their releases – which were usually sales pitches. And who has time to waste like that? So, don’t be rude. Be thoughtful about whom you pitch which story to.
4. Create a database with your media list. Ideally, you want to develop a relationship with your target media, just like with prospective clients, so be sure to track all communications, pitches, responses and notes about all your media relations so you remember to follow up on time, as requested by your contacts. Do not send gifts or samples unless requested. In many cases (like broadcast news) it’s simply not allowed. So, you’ll be wasting time, money and making the reporter feel bad that they can’t use your sample (it’s kind of considered a bribe to ‘get ink’ or get included in the news). Read a few books by media experts to get advice on building media relations, but know that you’ll figure it out once you get a foothold in certain media, too.
5. Don’t ignore small websites or even newsletters. Imagine this: you’re a massage therapist in San Francisco focused on helping people with pain. Would you pitch stories to a newsletter for athletes about how your style of massage can help them overcome injuries or prolong their stamina so they’re better at their sport? Or would you pitch the New York times? In the latter, people may be interested, but far less likely to fly to San Francisco weekly for a massage.
However, the newsletter you target might only have a readership of 300 members, but virtually all of these athletes might be your ideal target client. If you wrote an article encapsulating studies on why massage helps pain relief and had a bio box at the end with your contact information, you might get clients who need your service immediately. If you supplemented the article with ads over 6-12 months, you’d probably make a memorable impression so those seeking therapy when pain strikes would most likely recognize your name from a list on yelp.
A company pitching the San Francisco Chronicle with its million readers often has an expectation they’d get an overwhelming response from those who need what they offer. Here’s a reality check so you can make smarter decisions:
Statistically only 100 might see your article and click on your site. Of those 100 that click, only 2 will be super interested – and if your site doesn’t give them exactly what they seek, like the ability to schedule with you online, they’ll click somewhere else! Or maybe your office is in Hayes Valley and they don’t want to hassle with parking. There are dozens of reasons people don’t contract your services, even if they’re interested. Then all your time, cost and effort pitching the SF Chronicle is simply wasted.
I often see this strategy of targeting smaller publications overlooked. So, don’t forget the small and targeted publications when you develop media lists.
6. Once you’ve created your media list to pitch your story, draft your press release, which is an announcement of your newsworthy event, story or notice. It’s not an ad! Be certain to have someone else read it to ensure it doesn’t sound like you’re selling something – which is what an ad is. If it’s news, it should include the five W’s: “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Why” and “Where”.
It’s often very hard for people to realize their latest, greatest offering is really an ad, not a news release, (a news release is the same thing as a press release) so best to get professional advice on this before you develop a reputation as one of those ‘spammers’ or publicity amateurs whose releases get tossed away before they’re read. Once your pitch or press release is ready, you can distribute it yourself (the ideal method) via email or fax – as each media outlet requests – or you can use a publicity professional to manage that for you. [yes, we help clients with this!]. Costs depend on the breadth of distribution.
7. When you’ve developed your pitch, you can either send in a press release and hope you’ll get called for an interview. Or you can send a ‘query’ to pitch a story to the editor/publisher or section (i.e.; sports, business, travel section) editor. If you are not positive whether a query is appropriate for that editor or publication, get advice from a publicity professional so you have a better chance of getting their attention. News sources must trust the sources of their stories so amateur tactics can harm your chances of getting in print, radio, TV, or online.
What’s a query? It’s a 1-2 paragraph inquiry to the editor to find out if they’d be interested in having you submit a story to them about your topic. Remember, it’s not an ad, but a topic of interest to their readers. Many websites will offer writer guidelines should the editor decide to pick up your story. But top rated publications usually have their own writers so will not allow others to submit stories. If they’re interested, they’ll contact you to get more information. It’s not proper to call them except in very specific instances, which are too detailed to note. (If you need info on this, call us for a consultation).
8. Be prepared for an interview or to submit your story immediately if it’s a publication that allows submissions.
The early bird gets the worm! Do not make the publication wait longer than an hour for your response or you may blow your chance of getting your story picked up. Why? Because print, radio and TV media are on very tight deadlines to make live shows. If they don’t hear back from you but still need to get the story ready for the 5:00 news, they’ll find another source. How to solve that? Get some professional advice on this and other topics in this article so you’re prepared to get the top value out of your media efforts.
Where are the other opportunities?
Be sure to submit any relevant general interest stories to online article portals like ezinearticles.com or those specific to your industry. If you get an interview, it’s best to have facts and statistics or other data at hand. Best to plan the most likely questions you expect the reporter to ask and prepare your answers so you’re ready.
Having done perhaps a thousand interviews, I can tell you the one thing that drives a reporter bonkers is to get generic, not-well-thought-out answers from people who are holding back the goods. So, try to be as specific as you can. Have examples or stories that demonstrate your main points in your newsworthy item. Be relaxed. It’s people with engaging personalities who are most often asked to share their stories, so be yourself, be open, and most importantly be vibrantly interesting!
If you need customized publicity guidance for your business or full service publicity to handle all the above, call us for advice. We’ll either have our teams help you or send you to an expert in your industry. Just remember, Knowledge is Bliss, so be authentic, forthcoming and truthful in all your media endeavors. And make it fun, too!
Allison Bliss Consulting is a multiple award-winning marketing & communications agency in the San Francisco Bay Area delivering practical, customized solutions to produce more business.
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