Public & Media Relations -
A Cost-Effective Image-Builder & Sales Tool
by Newman P. Mallon
First published in the October, 1996 issue of Canadian Barter Review.
A well-executed public & media relations program can create a favorable corporate image for your company as well as a tremendous amount of publicity -- all for a nominal amount of investment in terms of time, effort or costs. But then again, if it's not done properly you could be wasting your time and money!
The real value of a good media relations program is the credibility it provides in the minds of readers as compared to editorial space. People tend to view editorial space as being more objective and factual than the hype often contained in an advertisement. The writer is perceived as being an expert on the subject, rather than someone who is trying to flog their wares. If the piece is written without a lot of sales hype, sticks to the facts and conveys information that is of interest to the publication's readers, it will likely get published and generate new business and referrals.
Editors are always looking for new items that are of interest to their readers. Like most people these days, they are busy people and can't spend ages hunting down stories like the sleuth reporters often depicted on TV. The easier you make it for them by bringing their attention to news items and writing your press release or article succinctly and to the point, with just the facts rather than superlatives -- then the more chance you'll have of success.
Editors do not bite on everything -- the key here is that it must be news that is of interest to their readers. Editors are inundated each and every day with press releases and phone calls from all kinds of corporations looking for publicity.
Presume that you've just been appointed as Vice President of Sales and Marketing or expanded your company's services. This is obviously very important to you and you can't understand why anybody else wouldn't be interested.
The cold, hard reality is that unless you're a Fortune 500 company, it's not very likely that the major Canadian daily newspapers would pick up your story. However, smaller newspapers and trade magazines that cater to your specific industry or geographical area may very likely print it.
What is considered news to one editor is different from another editor simply because they have different audiences - your story must be newsworthy to the readers of the particular publication.
Be familiar with the publications you are sending press releases to. If you're announcing an appointment, look and see if they have an appointment section or you may be wasting your time.
Developing a standard mailing list is a good idea but mail only to those editors who will likely be interested in that particular news item. Weed through the list and consider the newsworthiness of your piece from the editor's perspective rather than your own.
In the case of an appointment announcement, find out who edits the appointment section and mail directly to them. Alternatively, there may be writers on the publication who specialize in your area of expertise. If you own a computer company, obviously the computer writer will be far more interested in your material than the general editor. Don't count on the general editor to forward it to the computer editor, the general editor may not even know your company makes computers.
Including a picture with your press release will also increase your chances of placement since it helps an editor "liven up" the page. Providing a photo will help you get published, increase the amount of editorial space when it's printed and improve readership -- since pictures really are worth a thousand words!
The most important aspects of any media relations program is directing the press release to the right publication or editor, ensuring the material is newsworthy to the publication's audience and sending an interesting photo or illustration.
Ask yourself what's new or interesting to the publication's readers. The fact that you had a booth at a trade show this year is news for your client newsletter, but not for a major daily or even most trade publications. After all, there were probably a few hundred other exhibitors. However, the fact that you introduced a new and unique product at the show would likely be of interest to numerous publications as a product announcement or for their post-show round-up issue.
Put the new and unique features up front in the lead paragraph - often that's the only thing an editor reads. If the first paragraph doesn't tweak an editor's interest, it's likely headed for the circular filing bin.
In most cases, don't start with a quote from the president, put it further down and make it strong. All too often press releases are written to satisfy the president's ego, rather than to appeal to the editor.
Editors look for a succinct style and if it's not there, it goes to the side of their desk for when they might get some re-writing time. More than likely they won't find the time and your piece will never see the light of day again.
In short, don't waste your time, effort or money if the item isn't newsworthy. Ask yourself what you're doing that's new or different from most of your competitors. If it's new, let the media know about it, if it's not new -- forget it!
Nothing irritates editors more than receiving a multitude of press releases that are of no interest to them or their readers. After receiving a few press releases of little interest, it's likely your next one will go straight into the garbage bin without being opened. Murphy's law says this is certain to be the one that really is newsworthy.
If you don't waste an editor's time your press release will get far more attention, when you send one. After all, those that cry wolf don't get help when they really do deserve it.
Copyright © 2011 by Newman Mallon You may download or print a copy of this article for your own personal use, or reviewers may quote brief passages of 25 words or less in a review with credit given to the author. For other permissions or reproduction rights please call Newman Mallon at (416) 285-0911 or e-mail him at Newman@Mallon.com.