Q: What is the best way to contact publication editors, and how is information best communicated to them?
A: I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion on The Insider Secrets to Publicity. There were many questions asked, but the majority of them centered on finding out what editors are interested in printing and determining how to contact the editor/reporter. The answers from the three panelists had some very common threads that answer these questions.
Communications to editors/reporters vary with the person. It is truly their personal choice. Some of the older, experienced editors still like to sort through the faxes in their in-box, regardless of how busy they are or how tech-savvy they want to be. Some of the younger reporters and newer publications always ask for communication by e-mail. Editors and reporters get hundreds of communications a day. Making the communication stand out is key to making sure it won't go into the delete file or the waste bin. Editors expect e-mail communication and faxes, so don't think of it as spam or unsolicited faxes.
Some hometown publication editors like to get phone calls. This is especially true if they have the liberty of assigning a reporter to a story. Editors like two weeks lead time on features for dailies and more if it is something like a special edition or monthly publication. They do not like calls requesting a story the day something is happening. Also don't call at the end of the day. Editors and reporters are on deadline at this time of day and are scrambling to finalize their stories. Call in the morning when things are more relaxed.
As far as what editors and reporters will publish, it depends primarily on the type of publication its readership. Daily local newspapers are truly looking for items of local interest, national stories with a local angle, timely topics within the readership community and the like. National or regional publications are reporting on hot trends and items affecting the lives of those reading the publication.
One editor wisely suggested: "First put yourself in the readers' shoes and think of what you would like to read about. Then put yourself in my shoes, and think about what could be reported on out of all the stories I get that would appeal to our readers."
Summarize your information, and be prepared to tell the editor/reporter why your story is important or of interest to their readers. Don't overwhelm them with too many details.
The preferred vehicle of communication is the press release. The editors on our panel stated that 99 times out of 100, press releases are edited and shortened. Because of this, they ask that press releases be short and to the point. Rambling and unnecessary details will get noticed and remembered in a negative way. Short is good for press releases. This is one reason why the press release is preferred. When asked their opinion on the submission of feature articles, all unanimously stated that these are not desired. That's what editors and reporters do--write stories about news. They usually don't want anyone else doing it, or they are not needed. If, for some reason, an article is all they have, it will get rewritten and probably shortened anyway.
As I've said in previous articles, editors do not like promotion. They like news. They see right through a PR spin to make promotion news. If you get one past them, they remember. After all, they have control over what goes into the publication. Establishing as positive a relationship as possible is advantageous for anyone desiring PR and using the media to tell their story.
Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principle of marketing consulting firm Marketing Now, and president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Visit his Web sites at http://www.market-for-profits.com and http://www.1-800-inkwell.com, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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.
Al Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant and direct-mail promotion specialist. He's also the principle of Market For Profits, a Chicago-based marketing consulting firm. His two latest books, Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days and The Ultimate Guide to Direct Marketing are available at www.entrepreneurpress.com.