Publicity is the art of getting journalists to write or talk about your products, services and company without paying them to do it. The best way to achieve that – as I outlined in Do-it-yourself PR – is to ask them. How you ask can be an art in itself. Here’s a crash course in dealing with the media:
DO respect media guidelines.
Many publications and media outlets have specific guidelines that stipulate how you should contact them, when you should contact them and how you should follow up with them. Find out what they are.
DO provide practical information.
Forget about self-proclaimed greatness, stick to the facts. Nothing turns off a jaded-journo more than hearing about the fastest, the slickest and the best – unless it truly is and you can prove it substantially.
DO choose your targets wisely.
Familiarise yourself with the media outlet and its particular focus. Save yourself time and embarrassment by doing your homework first. Watch several episodes of a TV show, listen to several radio shows (often available on the internet), read several issues of magazines and blogs, and a week’s worth of newspapers, to really get a feel for a media outlet.
DO prepare pitch points with all the pertinent facts about your company and the story you’re pitching before you call.
This is vital, especially if your mind goes blank when the editor answers the phone. Having your press materials in paper form in front of you is also very helpful, especially if you get asked detailed questions.
DO prepare more than one story angle.
Don’t waste everybody’s time by putting all of your publicity eggs in one basket. Have a few story ideas to suggest. This shows editors you’re savvy enough to know they may not bite on a single story. It often makes the difference between success and failure to get placements.
DON’T be a pest.
You’ll need to follow up with journalists during a publicity campaign, and often they won’t get back to you. Calling every hour, emailing several times a day – consider how you’d feel if you were on the other end of that kind of barrage. You’ll do much better showing journalists you understand they are surrounded by deadlines and demands. Keep your messages brief; make sure you let them know how to contact you, and keep the door open by telling them how and when you’ll follow up next. Rather than following up empty handed, use it as an opportunity to show that you’ve been thinking about them and their media outlet – perhaps mention a new angle or opportunity you’ve thought of.
DON’T show your frustration.
Ignored emails and phone calls are the order of the day in a publicity campaign. Getting frustrated is easy and often completely valid. However, you can’t tell some journalist off for not giving your story a chance. Stay professional in all emails and phone calls with the media, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing.
DON’T get discouraged.
Even seasoned PR pros have to work really hard to secure media coverage – not every pitch is going to be a winner. Don’t let an uphill battle with the press get you off track. Eventually, you will identify writers and publications that are a good fit for you, your company, products and services. The only way to get there is to go through the experience – the good and the bad. Stick with it.
– Philippa Lowe is a publicity mentor, award-winning journalist, PR agency CIO and author of the DIY PR and Publicity Kit. For more information, please visit www.publicityexpress.com.au