In recent years there seems to be an increasingly common misconception among many entrepreneurs and business owners nationally who try to generate media attention and publicity for their products or ventures. Since starting my PR business more than a decade ago I have had more than a few clients come to me seeking "a P.R." to get more customers interested in their products/businesses. That’s right a "P.R.". Contrary to what some people think, P.R. is NOT an acronym for "Press Release" – it stands for Public Relations. P.R. is much more than just a press release and that distinction is very important to understand.
I often cringe when I see articles from well-intentioned "marketing" experts that say, in effect: "simply write a press release, pitch it to the media and just sit back and reap the benefits." Unfortunately, it is far from being that simple. That statement pre-supposes that the media release/pitch is written well – containing all the right elements and newspegs to catch the media eye – and that it is pitched and maintained in the correct media market, which is often the downfall of many amateur PR campaigns. By all means, a press release is an integral part of a PR campaign. But a press release alone does not a PR campaign make. A successful PR/publicity campaign for your business or product should include many, if not all of the following:
• An interesting, quality, newsworthy product/service that the media (and its audience) will find merit in;
• A concise, articulate media release or story pitch – not a glorified ad – detailing the benefits of your product/business/website and what effect it will have for its users;
• A supply of media "supportives" – product photos (digital & hard copy), possible review samples, etc.;
• An extensively researched media list detailing all applicable media outlets whose editorial profiles match your product/business profile. Here’s an important detail -- the targets of your pitch should be "name-specific" not just "title-specific" media contacts. By that I mean the media market research you compile should give you particulars like "Sally Jones-Cooking Editor" not just Tribune Newsroom or Managing Editor;
• A solid, trustworthy media contact vehicle that gets your release/media kit directly into the hands of the appropriate reporter/editor/producer and allows them to respond easily to your pitch. (As always, beware of press release distribution services that often times indiscriminately spew your release to hundreds of mistargeted media outlets with little or no results.) Research to find out the preferred method of receipt of your media targets – don’t just assume an email will suffice. Whether it’s by snail mail, email, fax or phone calls, the media can’t run your story if they don’t hear about it. For one reason or another, some media may decide not to include your product/business in a placement -- but don’t let them say the reason is because they weren’t made aware of it;
• Meticulous media relations to immediately fulfill media requests (photos/interviews/product samples) and extensive media contact follow-ups over several months to generate as many placements as possible. Many times, media members can’t immediately respond to an initial pitch due to tight editorial deadlines and the time it takes to wade through a multitude of similar media pitches. I have found, without question, that the media interest continues to increase as you re-introduce the pitch and gently "rattle the media cage" over the course of the next several weeks/months;
• Some sort of media tracking capabilities -- whether it’s your own media follow-ups, Internet research, or a professional broadcast/print clipping service. Having "hard copies" of the placements generated by your PR campaign can be invaluable in the further marketing of your business/product. Media placements are a unique validation of the market acceptance for your business/product and can help you convince new customers of that fact.
Think of launching a PR/publicity campaign like flying a kite. The press release (which aptly details your product/business) is the kite. But if your kite doesn’t have the proper amount of string, a good tail, a strong wind and the expert manipulation of the kite flier – it has very little chance of getting off the ground. But if all theses elements are in place – a PR/publicity campaign can send your business soaring like a kite on a breezy Spring afternoon.