There are essentially four different major media – print, newspaper, broadcast, and online, to target for story opportunities. Your pitch may differ depending on the type of publication, and the method that each editor prefers to receive their information will also vary. Some prefer emailing, some prefer receiving your press kit directly in the mail, some may want to go to your website. Be prepared for all scenarios and educate yourself! The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), a non-profit organization, is a wonderful resource for articles, book recommendations and seminars on how to approach and work with the media.
Whom Should You Target?
A complete public relations program covers the gambit. You want to reach as many people as possible, so first and foremost choose the media that have the highest reach relative to your target market. Look at circulation numbers, especially if you want to reach the mass market and be sure not to overlook your local press.
Craft a smart PR plan that takes into account editorial calendars and deadlines, from shortest to longest. If you are breaking big news, work the “long-lead” publications first and then divulge your news to those with the shortest deadlines right about the time you know your magazine story is coming out. That’s impact!
The print magazine editor has different requirements than the newspaper editor or for that matter, the online editor. Deadlines can be up to four months in advance of publishing dates and publishing dates are generally one month in advance of the issue date. Your story is generally minimized to fit within the overall story focus of the magazine. For long-lead print stories, it is ideal to look at the publication’s editorial calendar in order to target the issue that best fits your story. Print media is generally the most difficult to sway, so having a good company spokesperson ready for interview and providing attractive photography or illustrations are often helpful in landing your story.
Newspapers are relatively short-lead publications so it is important to keep tabs if the paper has recently covered a story similar to yours. Here, there are myriad editors and many freelance journalists as well. To your advantage, look at the editorial and identify journalists that may offer another way “in”. Today, most newspapers have online counterparts and not necessarily the same editorial contacts. It can’t hurt to target both. Due to the trend of regional consolidation of newspaper groups, it is often a difficult task to find and speak with a ‘live’ editor. Look for managing or news editors in charge of assigning stories and don’t give up trying to contact them!
Radio and television media are perhaps the hardest to crack. You have to have a very newsworthy story, but even then it can be bumped easily by breaking news. On the other hand, you may find producers a bit more friendly and responsive to your pitches. Because they are also busy people, being persistent (especially if they’ve shown interest or promised a story) can make a difference.
The Internet has certainly opened a lot more opportunity for companies wishing to spread their news. Most print, newspaper and broadcast media now have online counterparts. The procedures are generally the same…identifying the appropriate editor; making sure you have a strong story, and having your digital press kit or press release ready to send or email. Blogs, chronological online publications of personal opinions and weblinks, are the latest trend for obtaining consumer, business and media attention. If you have a lot of time on your hands, or have an employee who is a good communicator and fast thinker, create and manage a topic blog on your website that suits and maintains your objectives.
News Wire Services
Traditional news services such as Business Wire offer discounted rates to non-profits to distribute their press releases, and targeting local markets or specific industries can be a cost-effective way to use this type of service. When you post a release, you will immediately obtain search engine visibility for your organization. And don’t forget to look for what’s focused and close to home. CSRWire (the Newswire of Corporate Social Responsibility) offers a highly targeted news service to its members. Below, several traditional news wire services:
- Bacons MediaSource
- BusinessWire News Distribution Service
- CSRWIRE – The Newswire of Corporate Social Responsibility
- PR Newswire News Distribution Service
Media Lists and Databases
There are several ways to compile your media list. The easiest and more costly is to subscribe to a reputable media database service such as Bacons. To cut costs, you could look into finding a PR professional who is already a subscriber and looking to share the costs by splitting up the access time to the database.
The other end of the spectrum is doing the research yourself. You know your business and therefore you should be familiar with the key publications that cover your industry. With so much information available on line, it is possible compile a good editorial list with a little time and dedication. Search your target media, look for the editorial contacts page and start by calling the managing editor to find out who is your best contact. Look for editorial calendar and story deadline information on the site and if you don’t find the information you need, simply call the editorial department number and ask some questions. Finally, be sure you backup your contact database and keep it stored safely off site. Treat it like gold; after all, you wouldn’t want to have to create it again!
A company newsletter is an excellent avenue to communicate what your business is doing ‘real-time’. It can be posted on your website and updated monthly. At the same time, your database of customers or potential supporters can grow through emailed newsletter campaigns. For maximum impact, make sure your newsletter includes both pertinent and interesting information; is pleasing to the eye and easy to read, and open it up to your customers or partners for contributed articles to keep editorial content fresh. Constant Contact is a nifty cost-effective service for posting and emailing newsletters.
Press Conferences, Press Tours, Trade Shows and Events
Delivering your message can take many forms. The press kit, the phone call, and the pitch are all essential tools in any PR program. Adding a press conference, press tour or event to your plan can have double the impact. The press conference gathers the media and your strategic partners in a room to unveil important news. The press tour takes your news on the road when it is impossible to bring the media to you. Trade shows allow you to promote your products or services to a bigger, captive audience for both marketing and sales benefits. And events are catalysts for developing important relationships.
As part of your PR plan, always be prepared to answer hard and sometimes beguiling questions delivered by the media. Having a savvy, well-spoken executive that is at ease with the media while knowing the limitations of his or her words is invaluable. Some people are naturally good at this, others can get just as good through media training and coaching. There are many companies that offer just this sort of training (search “media training” on the Web) and the investment can be worth its weight in gold. Professional communication will make a difference in the success of your message and PR campaign.
Networking, Creating Trust
Discovering what makes editors tick can be a tricky endeavor. You are dealing with many different personalities, deadlines, and an overload of material from which they need to choose. Do a little research about the editor or journalist before you speak to or email them. All media will assign editors to cover specific content – such as business and finance, health, technology, consumer interest, lifestyle, etc. Know their work — it will save you a lot of time. Find out article deadlines ahead of time, always be courteous, and be sure your pitch is short, about 30 seconds. If you find out you’ve reached the wrong person, kindly ask who is the appropriate person to speak with. You’ll usually get an answer. Once you’ve established a rapport with an editor, they can be a valuable resource. If you are fortunate enough to get a story covered, be sure to acknowledge your appreciation afterwards. This is the start of your media networking circuit that will be a critical asset down the road.
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