Publicity: A Powerful Compliment to Traditional Advertising, part II

Working with the media to become their prime resource for articles.

In the previous article we discussed the role publicity can play in getting your company's name and message into the minds of your prospects.  Not only is publicity one of the most potent ways to motivate people to do business with you, it's a brutally effective strategy to help establish you as the expert in your market, while casting doubt on your competition.

Unfortunately, many companies fail to get the coverage they desire due to a lack of understanding of the inner workings of the press. To fully capitalize on this marketing phenomenon and see your business enjoy increased exposure and growth you must know how the media operates, what they look for and just as importantly what they do not.

Before we begin its critical that you know that the media needs you!

Most reporters are responsible for finding their own stories. They are constantly on the lookout for new ideas. Their job depends on attracting and keeping readers or viewers. Reporters may be dispatched to a late breaking news scene from time to time, but usually they are responsible solely for their assigned beat covering specific types of stories.

So when you're ready to capitalize on the media's insatiable appetite for new information, follow these simple rules:  

Relationships are critical to your success.
Get to know the reporters, editors, and producers in your market. When they need help with a story or need a quote to substantiate a point, they call people they know and trust. This list of contacts or "sources" is kept in what is commonly referred to as a Green File. You want to be in this file. Call your local reporters, the ones who write on topics related to your business expertise and let them know you are available when the need arises. Also tell them if you can be contacted on short notice. This is a very strong relationship builder

Another reason for offering your services is often the reporter you help will be the same one that writes a full coverage story on you. Help make reporters and producers jobs easier by volunteering as a source and they will repay you with feature stories and leads on other opportunities. 

Reporters consider themselves storytellers.

They look for the local angle. That is "why do people in this market care?" Make NO mistake about it - news is entertainment.  If you wish to see your story make the news you must inform reporters why the people in your city or state would benefit from hearing about you, your product, or service. In a previous article I told the story of a pool fence company. When this company needed some press the story idea we presented was not related to the product, in this case a mesh fence, but rather what the product did, keep children safe from drowning. Your idea must be informative, compelling, and yes entertaining. Before calling answer the question; "Why should anyone care"

It's okay to ask reporters their opinion of your story idea and ways you might tweak it to better comply with their needs. It is also okay to call and ask what types of stories they are looking for.  

Reporters work on deadlines.
When calling to make an introduction, call early in the morning, before 8am. (If you're calling an AM show producer call later in the day). Keep your introduction short. It's a good idea to rehearse it. Keep it under thirty seconds unless they invite you to stay on the phone longer. Another way to get in the door is by e-mail. E-mail has become the contact method of choice for many reporters, producers and on-air personalities. You may also send your press release by e-mail. A good time to contact on-air producers is immediately after the show has aired. When contacting a reporter by e-mail do not expect an immediate response. It may take days if not weeks for them to get back to you. Be Patient.

If you have a story that is time sensitive, consider inviting him/her to eat. Breakfast is usually preferable as lunch or dinner might interfere with a deadline. Be prepared to pay and bring a copy of your idea outline. Do not make the reporter take notes.

Become a fan
Read reporter's columns. Listen to the on-air hosts' commentary. Get to know their style, preferences, topic trends, and even their consistent word or phrase choices. Many times you will see "phraseology" appear in a print reporter's style. When writing or sending an e-mail try to write in the same style as the reporter. i.e. if they use the phrase "Beyond a Doubt"  through-out their stories, incorporate beyond a doubt in your pitch. Although this strategy is not mandatory, it will help to get and keep his attention.

Almost every newspaper, magazine and even some online outlets publish an "Editorial Calendar". This is their topic placement schedule. It includes the type of articles they will run and when. Such as:  June is "Pool Safety Month", February is "Tax Preparation Month". Having a copy of this calendar – which they will be glad to send you, allows you to pitch specific story ideas when they media has publicized they will be most interested.

Working with the media can be challenging, even frustrating at times. But it's worth the effort because the benefits can be extraordinary. Don't overcomplicate the process. In reality you sell the press just like you would any prospect. Reach out to them, educate them, listen to them, ask them, be patient with them. And when you do get the publicity you desire make certain you do it again.

Michael Hart is a speaker, author, talk radio host and shameless publicity hound. His marketing, publicity and advertising strategies have been featured in: Selling Magazine, Sales and Marketing Executive Report, Creative Selling, The American Salesman, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Closing, and Presentations Magazines, - as well as hundreds of business journals, newspapers, trade magazines and private business publications. Michael is also regularly interviewed for radio, television and podcasts around the globe. He can be reached at [email protected] or through