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The Publicity FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Media Coverage

This FAQ addresses the following questions:

I. THE WHAT AND WHY OF MEDIA PUBLICITY

    1. Media publicity - you mean free advertising?

    2. Why would the media want to publicize my business?

    3. What do you mean by an "angle" and why is that important for
       publicity?

    4. Don't you need a PR firm to make contacts for you?

II. HOW TO GET MEDIA PUBLICITY

    1. What's a press release and how do I write one?

    2. Can you give us a sample release?

    3. What's a pitch letter?

    4. Can I phone in my news?

    5. Can I contact the media by E-mail or fax?

    6. How about posting press releases on the Internet and online
        services?

    7. Does it pay to schmooze with reporters?

    8. Do I need a press kit?

    9. Will I need to hype my business to win media publicity?

    10. If I send something in, should I call to follow up?

    11. How will I know when and where my information was used?

    12. What if I do all the above and nothing happens?

III. PUBLICITY RESOURCES

    1. Listings at your library

    2. Newswires

    3. Six Steps to Free Publicity

    4. PR firms

    5. Press release makeovers

Write News Releases That Attract Media and Boost Sales
Learn the crucial differences between a so-so news release and one that gets you onto the airwaves or into print.  You get 24 before-and-after transformations of news releases to study and use as models.  Learn to write better news releases.

 

 

 

 

 

Press Release Makeover Course

I. THE WHAT AND WHY OF MEDIA PUBLICITY

1. Media publicity - you mean free advertising?

No. Publicity and advertising are two very distinct methods of marketing. With advertising, you pay for a specific space or time to get your message across a predetermined number of times. With publicity, you pay only the minimal costs of getting your message out to the media by phone, mail or fax. The media then may choose to disseminate your message, at their expense and at whatever time, setting and length they choose. Once you've pitched your story to the media, whether you receive a blizzard of publicity or none whatsoever is largely out of your hands.

2. Why would the media want to publicize my business?

If you know how to answer a key question - Why would our readers/listeners/viewers be interested in learning about you now? - they will be happy to use your story to fill up their airtime or column space. As a reporter once told a friend of mine, "The media are a hungry animal that needs to be constantly fed."   So the trick is to feed them an angle on your business that their particular audience will perceive as news, entertainment or useful information.

Improve Your Odds for Media Coverage
Discover how to generate dozens of ideas that reporters, broadcasters - and your prospective customers - love. Inject dynamism, relevance and surprise into your media pitches.

Learn how to distill your message so it captures attention right away, then bolster your credibility and eliminate factors that turn off editors and producers. Publicity success course.

Learn to create nonstop newsworthiness

Publicity success course

3. What do you mean by an "angle" and why is that important for publicity?

The angle is the aspect of your product, service or event that makes your business qualify as news and hence worthy of publicity. For example:

  • What's new about your business?

  • What's distinctive about your business?

  • How does your business solve a prevalent problem?

  • How does your business relate to a current trend?

  • etc.

One way to understand angles is to examine the coverage in a newspaper, magazine or radio or TV broadcast, asking yourself precisely what about the businesses that were featured appear to have earned them attention.

4. Don't you need a PR firm to make contacts for you?

If you have a controversial product or need a constant stream of publicity instead of a jump start or occasional boost, you may be better off hiring a PR firm to handle publicity. Some PR firms do have valuable contacts and high-level strategizing skills. But the basic principles and effective execution are within the grasp of an ordinary writer or business owner.

Sheer beginners whom I've coached on catching the attention of the media have ended up being featured in the Wall Street Journal or other prestigious media outlets, where they knew absolutely nobody. Pre-existing contacts aren't essential. A catchy angle on your business and effective communication of a newsworthy message often do the trick very well - for next to no cost.

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Promoting a Book? Get Your Marketing in Motion With a Plan
If you're releasing a new non-fiction book or want to revive the fortunes of one that's been out for a while, use this one-year, month-by-month marketing and publicity plan as a model. Discover creative ways to reach potential buyers as well as a feasible timetable for generating sustained attention for a book. Tame all those "Should I?'s" into "To-do's." Book marketing plan.

II. HOW TO GET MEDIA PUBLICITY

1. What's a press release and how do I write one?

A press release is a brief document in a specific format that sets forth for media gatekeepers the newsworthy angle on your business. The top two lines identify the source of the release (your company, with its address) and the name and phone number of the person the media should contact for further information. "For immediate release" usually belongs on the next line, signifying that the story need not be embargoed until a specific date. Then comes the headline, which sets forth the main point of the release in big, bold letters.

The first paragraph of the release begins with the place and date of the release, as in a news article, followed by the journalist's who-what-when-where-and-why with respect to the angle announced in the headline. Subsequent paragraphs expand on the main point, usually with quotes from you, industry leaders or other authoritative figures.

The release often closes with the practical details about the event, service or product, such as price and ordering or contact information. It's best to keep the whole release to one page.

After making copies of your release, send them to the media representatives most likely to take an interest in your message.

2. Can you give us a sample release?

Here goes...

For: Creative Ways, P.O. Box 305, Goshen, MA 01032,
Contact: Marcia Yudkin, marcia@yudkin.com, 1-413- 563-4134.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Internet Publicity Expert Spills the Secrets of
Press Release Optimization, Techniques that Multiply
Chances That Company News Reaches the Target Market


Boston, MA, July 16 - In crafting a news release, PR practitioners have always rightfully paid disproportionate attention to the headline, the angle and the who/what/when/where/why in the first paragraph. Now that releases generally become part of the World Wide Web, through a wire service or the company's own site or both, specific keyword phrases used in a release take on greater importance, according to Boston-based publicity consultant Marcia Yudkin. (http://www.yudkin.com/powerpr.htm)

"When I went looking for techniques to make releases more likely to turn up when potential buyers are searching the Web, the phrase 'press release optimization' itself turned up a big fat nothing on the search engines," says Yudkin, who recently compiled a manual called Powerful, Painless Online PR detailing what she then learned in her own intensive self-education campaign.

Yudkin recommends that Internet Age publicity seekers begin by analyzing the phrases that potential customers or clients will use to look for something in the arena of the product or service being publicized. "When distributing a release about a new service, a bed and breakfast in Truro, Massachusetts, might be better off using the phrase 'Cape Cod' repeatedly than 'Truro,' for instance. Similarly, if travelers think in terms of 'country inn' rather than 'B&B,' that's what should be in the release." The selected phrases then need to be repeated a few times in the release, for instance by replacing pronouns with nouns, even if that sounds a bit stilted, she says.

To increase the chances of the release getting found by searchers, a company releasing a new product should de-emphasize the name of the product (because no one will be searching for it) and instead emphasize the generic label - for example, "child safety tag" rather than "SafEze." "There's a completely new audience for company news in Internet searchers, who can now use search engines to find products, services and companies even if no third-party media coverage results from a release," says Yudkin.

Besides discussing press release optimization techniques, Yudkin's report on online publicity techniques offers tips on crafting news release headlines, keeping reporters on your side, publicizing products that are no longer new, running publicity-worthy online contests and much more.

Marcia Yudkin is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity (Career Press) and Internet Marketing for Less than $500/Year (Maximum Press) and a syndicated columnist on marketing.

For more information about Powerful, Painless Online PR , anyone can go to http://www.yudkin.com/powerpr.htm.

3. What's a pitch letter?

If you have only one or a few specially selected media outlets to target, instead of sending a press release, you can put the information in the form of a personalized business letter. Begin by establishing some special connection with the editor or producer to whom you're writing (e.g., you're a devoted listener or reader - but don't say this if you're not). Then explain straightforwardly what you have to offer and close the way you would any business letter.

Get to the Point Quickly. Enuff Said?
Eliminate wordiness. Learn how to get your point across in one page or how to satisfy a strict word count for magazine or newsletter editors. Discover how to identify and cut repetition, slash excess verbiage, make your point fast and convey a wealth of facts in a small space. My longwinded clients asked for this! Become more concise. 

4. Can I phone in my news?

For an effective phone pitch, you must have a curiosity-provoking opening line and be able to say in a sentence or two what's newsworthy about your business. Don't get insulted if media people are brusque. When they're on deadline, they can't chat with you. But if you have a story that sparks their interest, they will get back to you. When you're contacting radio or TV, the person you need to speak with is the producer of a show, not the on-air host.

5. Can I contact the media by e-mail or fax?

Unless a media outlet has specifically put the word out that they welcome press releases and pitches by E-mail, stick to the other methods of contact. For faxes, keep in mind that a large newspaper or broadcast station might have half a dozen or more different fax numbers. Make sure any fax number you use for press releases was designated (for instance, in a computerized or printed media list) for that purpose.

6. How about posting press releases on the Internet?

If you post press releases at your own Web site, you face the problem of having to publicize the press release, since the right media people won't normally stumble across it there. Two publicity wire services, PR Newswire and BusinessWire, make their offerings available on the Web. See information in III below.

7. Does it pay to schmooze with reporters?

I've gotten a significant amount of media coverage from writers who personally knew me. But this didn't transpire because I wanted to get media coverage and then in a calculated fashion called up to invite them out to lunch. If you're already a good networker, it wouldn't hurt to pay special attention to media folks you run across. Remember, though, that you still must have a newsworthy story for them. No one will give you media coverage merely because they like you.

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Marketing for Introverts Course

 

 

 

 

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8. Do I need a press kit?

A press kit, or media kit, usually consists of one or more press releases, a photo of you or the product, background sheets on the company, bios of the principal people involved, your company brochure and prior press clippings, all packaged in a nice colored folder. If budget allows, you can send these out in place of a simple press release - or you can send out just the press release and wait until someone asks for more information. I've never routinely sent out press kits and am asked for one only a few times a year.

9. Will I need to hype my business to win media publicity?

To get publicity you will need to toot your own horn, but extravagant claims and blatant boasting hurt your chances. A survey of more than 100 newspaper editors found their most common criticism of press releases was "Sounds like advertising." You need to use the same objective tone about your business that a journalist would use.

10. If I send something in, should I call to follow up?

Although many professional publicists swear by followup calls, I interviewed numerous businesspeople who get a good deal of media coverage without ever making followup phone calls. If you're especially effective on the phone and have the time, followup calls might be worth a try.

11. How will I know when and where my information was used?

Although some editors will print your story almost exactly as you wrote it, most will contact you for additional information so that they can write it up in the way that most meets the needs of their audience. At that time, you should ask when they think they'll run the story. Similarly, radio and TV stations will call because they prefer to have you show or tell about your news.

In addition, if you include an offer for a free booklet or brochure in the last paragraph of your press release, many media outlets will include your 800-number and/or your address when they publicize you. Then it's easier to track where and when the story appeared. One Sunday morning my 800-number began receiving an onslaught of what turned out to be 200 phone calls from the area surrounding Dallas. Obviously an article that had been making the rounds of the newswires landed in the Dallas paper that day!

Copywriting Course

Learn to Write No-Hype Copy
Six-week self-study course teaches you to wow people into buying through the power of well-chosen words.  Includes challenging and varied assignments to practice on, with answers from the instructor and participants.  Replace incomprehensible jargon with reader-friendly, motivating content.  Copywriting course.

12. What if I do all the above and nothing happens?

Don't assume you've failed if you just don't hear anything. One client of mine experienced utter silence about her press release for eight months, then received a full-length photo feature in the Boston Herald. My coauthor for the book Smart Speaking got called to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show three years after our publisher sent a copy of the book and a press kit! Besides patience, remember the old saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" - with a fresh angle.

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III. PUBLICITY RESOURCES

1. Listings at your library

Many public libraries carry one or more of the following, which contain media contact information. Make sure you're using an up-to-date edition. In addition, there are regional directories, such as one for Southern California or New England media. Ask your reference librarian.

  • Bacon's Newspaper-Magazine Directory. 2 volumes.

  • Bacon's Radio-TV-Cable Directory. 2 volumes.

  • Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook.

  • Editor and Publisher International Yearbook.

  • Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media.

  • Newsletters in Print.

  • Oxbridge Directory of Newsletters.

  • Standard Rate & Data Service.

  • Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory.

  • Working Press of the Nation.

  • Writer's Market.

2. Newswires

  • Business Wire. For a few hundred dollars, this newswire service can bring your press release to thousands of business-oriented newsrooms around the U.S. and several online databases. For more information: 800-227-0845 or check the white pages in the nearest large city for a regional office; www.businesswire.com.

  • PR Newswire. Functions like Business Wire, but not limited to business press. For more information: 800-832-5522 or 212-832-9400; www.prnewswire.com.

  • Other newswires.  A couple dozen others are listed here:  www.yudkin.com/resources.htm#Distribution

3. 6 Steps to Free Publicity

This popular paperback book by Marcia Yudkin from Career Press offers practical tips for making your business newsworthy and attracting print or broadcasting publicity on a limited budget. Look for it at your local bookstore, or order an autographed copy from www.yudkin.com/6steps.htm.

4. PR firms

If you decide to hand over responsibility for publicity to public relations professionals, ask business colleagues for references and check your yellow pages under "Public Relations." You'll get the best service and appropriate pricing if you match the size of your company to the size of the PR firm. Expect to pay a monthly retainer plus all out-of-pocket expenses such as copying, printing and postage or fax charges.

5. Press release makeovers

This is an appropriate, cost-effective option if you're prepared to draft a press release yourself but want professional feedback and guidance. For more information, email Marcia Yudkin.

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Copyright 1995, 1999, 2004, 2009 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

Online Courses Related to Publicity

The Press Release Makeover Course

Deep Publicity

Marketing for Introverts

Create a Practical Marketing and Publicity Plan


 

 
   
Inspired! by Marcia Yudkin
Publicity Ideas from Marcia Yudkin
Copywriting Techniques from Marcia Yudkin
Web Site Makeovers from Marcia Yudkin
 
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