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The PR Quiz: Test Your Publicity Knowledge

by Marcia Yudkin

Try putting yourself in the shoes of reporters, columnists and editors with this quiz. Of the following actions, a majority would drive most media folks crazy. Which examples represent annoyances and why?

1. A columnist to whom you sent your product for review sent regrets, saying he doesn't review products. Two weeks later you read a column of his about a product. You send a note admonishing him for misleading you and demanding fairness for your product.

Someone I know did this, certain she had been lied to and mistreated. Her first mistake: acting as if the columnist owed her something. Nope! Publicity is a privilege you earn through sending news to appropriate media outlets - not a right.

Second, the columnist wrote true-life stories that might mention a product or company in passing, not product reviews. Understand that columnists have their own angle that they'll never bend to suit you.

Third, don't complain about not getting coverage. Even when news you submit is spot on, time and space limitations exist. Just try again.

2. You send a pitch letter to a reporter, who replies that they recently covered your company. You write back saying that you looked all over the Web site but couldn't find the piece; which one was it? The reporter e-mails back with something that sounds sarcastic, but you're not sure. You reply that sarcasm isn't called for; you're just trying to get your story out.

A reporter from Forbes magazine posted this exchange at as a prime instance of clueless behavior. The mistake: expecting media folks to do your research for you.

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3. On Friday you send a press release by e-mail and on Monday you call to make sure it was received.

A magazine editor friend of mine cited this example as making her want to scream, Do you think I'm superhuman? Let me get through my in-box!

4. You spend an hour being interviewed by a magazine writer and get just two paragraphs in the resulting article. You drop a note to the writer about how disappointed you feel that your best points were left out of the piece.

Bad move. It's great that you got two paragraphs! The writer's job is not to report every pearl of brilliance she heard but to produce a balanced story that flows and informs. Keep the door open to future coverage by thanking the writer, not complaining.

5. You aren't sure which department at a big magazine would cover your story, so you e-mail it to every editor listed at the Web site.

This backfires because many of these editors will forward the e-mail to the correct person, who then gets 15 copies and concludes that you exercised poor judgment.

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6. Every time you reach a live media contact by phone, you preface your call with "Do you have a moment to talk, or are you on deadline?"

Bingo! This is considered courteous in a business where deadlines rule.

Copyright 2001 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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