Editor’s Note: This is a piece that appeared in the May edition of the Hendricks County Business Leader. It is reprinted here with my permission.
Gaining publicity for your business in a way that doesn’t bring the authorities is tricky. One method is getting a news article written about you. If the article isn’t about a DUI or embezzlement accusation it can even bring credibility to your business. However, sending a press release is a tricky endeavor fraught with pitfalls. First, you must realize that press releases are crapshoots. They may or may not resonate with an editor, especially when they come from a commercial entity. Media outlets tend to charge for advertising.
Here are some tips that may help you get published.
- Send something newsworthy. There’s a fine line between news and advertising. If you’re looking for free advertising, a journalist will smell it before the e-mail hits their inbox. Don’t bother sending the “We’re OPEN” news release. At best, it will garner a blurb on a page next to the school lunch menus. More than likely, it will be passed over for something a tad bit more exciting. The challenge is to find something that sets you apart.
- Man bites dog. It’s the unique that makes news. Discover the unique in your business and pitch that specifically to the local reporter or staff writer who covers that type of story. Be as brief as possible and make sure you grab their attention in the first two sentences or else they’ll move on. Also, consider only pitching one outlet at a time to offer exclusivity. It’s like crack to a journalist.
- Be there. Cut backs at all several traditional outlets mean less people to work on stories. Less advertising in a newspaper means a smaller newspaper and less need for content. Television stations still have to fill at least three hours of local news every day. A well-pitched story may get the news media attention. Radio has the luxury of filling lots of time, but can usually go to national or statewide sources to do the job. Also, make sure the contact person for any release is always available. Send a cell number for the contact. Sometimes even e-mail is too slow. It will garner more interest if the spokesperson is a high-up muckety-muck in the organization rather than a low-life PR rep. Lowest on the totem pole is a representative from a third-party public relations company.
- Study the formatting. Word nerds like journalists have specific formatting requirements. Stuff you wouldn’t think about like periods after the “a” and “m” in a.m. (all lowercase, by the way). It won’t change the content into something newsworthy, but the effort will show. Make it easier for them to say “yes” to your article. Get an Associated Press Stylebook or you can subscribe to their Twitter feed at twitter.com/APStylebook.
These are just a few suggestions. They may not fit your target news demographic. If you’re shooting for national coverage in a trade mag, the requirements will be quite different and the scale of newsworthy will be increased to a much larger audience. But a trade magazine is also more open to industry jargon and something among your brethren may sound more impressive than to a local news entity.