Q: Sometimes I see lists of tips on various subjects printed in newspapers and magazines with the name and Web address of the author at the end of the list. This seems to me to be a very effective way to get free publicity, but how do you go about getting these lists to editors? Do they call you on the phone and interview you, or do you send them the tips?
A: They're called tip sheets, and they're a very powerful way to get thousands of dollars in free publicity without ever having to buy an ad or spend a cent. Most of the tip sheets you see in the media are sent to media outlets.
A tip sheet is a simple list of six to a dozen tips that tell people how to do something-usually how to solve a particular problem. Examples:
to Complain About Bad Customer Service-and Get What You
"8 Tax Tips the IRS Wishes You Didn't Know"
"11 Mistakes You Don't Want to Make When Buying a Used Car"
"9 Easy Ways to Winterproof Your Home"
Editors love them because they're ready-made lists that require no extra work on the part of the reporter. So they can reprint them verbatim. TV stations love them because they provide content for the short bulleted lists that are flashed on the screen and often accompany stories. Sometimes even editorial writers use the sheets as fodder for their editorials.
Anyone can write a tip sheet, usually in less than an hour. Here's an example of a tip sheet I wrote that explains how to write tip sheets. Notice the identifier paragraph at the end that gives contact information and leads people to my Web site.
8 Tips for Tip Sheets That
Position You as an Expert
1. Use numerals in the headline. There's something psychologically enticing about them.
2. Limit the tips to one page. Six to 12 tips is ideal.
3. Start with the first tip immediately after the headline. You don't need an introductory sentence.
4. Begin each tip with a verb.
5. Tell people what to do in the first sentence. If you use a second sentence, it should explain "how" or "why."
6. Avoid the temptation to promote yourself or what you're selling in the tips. Instead of "9 Reasons to Buy Car Insurance from the Honest Insurance Company," write "9 Ways to Save When Buying Car Insurance."
7. Use tip sheets to tie your company to an upcoming holiday, to lobby for a particular issue, or when you're introducing a new product or service. If you're a seamstress who specializes in custom-made clothing, your tip sheet might be "9 Things to Look For in Well-Tailored Clothes."
8. Let your tip sheet double as a news release.
Tip sheets can also be used in your media kit, at trade shows, to stay in touch with customers, on your Web site, offered free at your store, or used as a premium for current customers if they buy something by a particular date.
Joan Stewart is the "Ask the Experts" PR columnist for Entrepreneur.com. Sign up for her free e-zine, The Publicity Houndis Tips of the Week.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.