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Generating Coverage Between Press Releases

Press releases remain the backbone of PR, but these alternative tactics can also produce substantial results.

A newsworthy event, whether corporate-, product- or industry-related, offers the most direct path to generating coverage in the press. It's a simple equation: Reporters need news to do their jobs, and the more newsworthy announcements you can issue, the greater the chance you'll have of seeing your company's name in the press.

But what if your company, either by the nature of your business or the resources you have on hand, doesn't have the ability to announce news on a regular basis? Are you out of luck when it comes to PR? The answer is simple: No.

There are several tools and techniques that can yield positive, substantive coverage--with or without a major news story. The trick is to understand the nuances of each opportunity and then devise a plan of action that'll generate results.

Editorial Calendars
Most publications offer editorial calendars to provide information about the focus of upcoming issues. They offer these primarily to attract advertisers. However, you can also benefit from them because they offer a window into potential article topics--providing ripe opportunities for generating media coverage.

Most editorial calendars can be found in the advertising section of a publication's website, though it may require some careful searching to locate them because they're often included within larger advertising brochures or media packets. Thankfully, subscription services are available that can scour thousands of outlets for opportunities specific to your company and industry.

The key piece of data in an editorial calendar, aside from the issue and article topics, is the closing date. This is when ads must be purchased, but it also gives an indication of when reporters will be completing their stories. For monthly outlets, contact the reporter at least one month prior to the closing date. For weekly publications, contact should occur two weeks ahead of close.

When crafting pitches and targeting reporters, provide a straightforward description of your company and its connection to the topic along with a compelling case for how your company could help strengthen the article. Avoid hype! Instead, give the reporter concrete examples of your company's expertise or success in a particular situation. Avoid offering alternate story ideas unless your idea counters a commonly held belief--reporters are often attracted to the "devil's advocate."

Feature Articles
There are few PR activities that have such a singularly powerful impact as placing a feature story in one of your top media targets. But convincing a reporter to write a detailed, positive article on your company can be challenging. When pitching a feature article, it's important to tie together several factors:

  • Know about the outlet's focus and the reporter's writing style. A little research can go a long way to landing prime-time coverage.
     
  • Make sure to take a 360-degree view of your company. Use multiple, converging angles that highlight your company as an integral part of your industry or the world as a whole. Offering this depth of information should help the reporter grasp the fullness of the story. In the same vein, it's helpful to link your company to a significant industry trend or issue in the news. This'll help provide the reporter with a timely angle around which to craft the story.
     
  • Offer real-world examples of how your company has succeeded in either applying its technology or serving a client. Case studies are often essential components of feature articles. In fact, many reporters will refuse to consider a feature story unless he or she is able to speak to an outside source.

There are also services available that help place prewritten feature pieces with magazines and newspapers. Local newspapers and trade publications are often receptive to this level of content, which may range from a full article placement to snippets within a larger story. With this approach, you're largely in control of how your company's story and messages are portrayed.

Thought Leadership
The concept of thought leadership involves offering yourself to reporters for commentary on issues related or peripheral to your industry. If done properly, thought leadership has the potential to generate a steady stream of coverage that'll serve to position you as an important influencer in your field--and a valuable resource to reporters.

A successful thought leadership program requires three attributes:

  • You need to be articulate and willing to share opinions on a variety of industry issues. The more candid and controversial, the better. Identify three to five topics that you're passionate about, then make those reporters who follow such issues aware of your availability.
     
  • Closely follow news, and react quickly to sudden events. A reporter may need a source within minutes of a breaking story. The ability to capitalize on such situations can be the difference between securing national coverage and missing a golden opportunity. Expert networks are helpful at quickly bridging the gap between a reporter's needs and a source's availability.
     
  • Maintain close contact with the reporters who cover the issues relevant to your company. Securing that initial interview may be difficult, but once you're established as a valuable source, you'll find that reporters will come to you. Even better, relationships that are built on thought leadership have the ability to blossom into opportunities for feature coverage.

Surveys
Reporters crave objective, fact-based statistics. The reason's simple: It's hard to argue with numbers. Knowing this, you can garner media coverage by developing surveys and publicizing the results. However, getting a reporter to write about a survey requires a bit more than asking people a few questions and collecting the answers. Newsworthy surveys should have the following qualities:

  • The topic must be interesting and the results compelling. Otherwise, reporters won't care.
  • The sample size must be adequate for the results to be relevant and statistically sound.
  • The findings should suggest a course of action, particularly one that supports your company and its business strategy. Such evidence will be the crux of any coverage and the ultimate PR benefit to your company.

The backbone of most successful PR programs is the ability to generate and market news. However, news isn't the only resource you have to attract attention. If you know where to look, what to do and whom to contact, there are numerous opportunities you can leverage to build a well-rounded and highly successful communications strategy.

Rachel Meranus is vice president of communications at PR Newswire, an online press release distribution network based in New York. Get more information about PR Newswire and public relations with their PR Toolkit for small businesses.

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