Q: What can I do to increase my chances of having my press releases used by a newspaper or magazine?
A: Whether you're creating your PR, thinking about creating it or you're just about to launch it, beware of these shortfalls, mistakes and other considerations:
Editors hate promotion. The purpose of publicity is to inform the public about news, events, people and things of that nature, not to tell a story. Editors and reporters are sensitive to what the reader wants to read. Since a significant portion of news in a news publication comes from press releases, editors want to see news. They hate promotion. If your press release contains information that is purely promotional and you try to disguise it as news, editors can pick out the promotion a mile away. Don't do it. Save yourself the time and aggravation. Editors and reporters form opinions and perceptions about those that submit releases. If you continue the promotional angle, you will get the reputation of being a promoter. When you have real news to communicate, editors will then ignore you because of that reputation. Think news. Put yourself in the editor/reporter's shoes and the reader's shoes, and communicate newsworthy facts, not personal, promoting stories.
Don't put out a press release announcing a time-sensitive event the day beforehand. Planning a publication and laying out a publication takes more time than overnight. Even though you see yesterday's events communicated in today's newspaper, it doesn't mean there was a happenstance layout with no prior planning done. Editors and copy editors have a place for breaking stories, event announcements and general PR. Respect the fact that there is a degree of planning involved. Turn in any press releases related to time-sensitive events early enough so that an editor can plan accordingly. Communicating information today about an event tomorrow is not soon enough for most editors. Planning your own PR and associated press releases must be part of your event, product launch or personnel planning.
Make sure that your publicity has a news angle to it. You now know editors hate promotion. What they do like is news. Creating a newsworthy angle to anything increases the probability that something will get published. Sometimes just using the word "news" in the headline of a press release will indicate that. Usually anything with a time or date associated with it is considered news. Think announcements, events, happenings and occasions.
Local angles to national stories are also considered news. These sometimes can be human-interest stories. The national story is more newsworthy and satisfies the news requirement of most editors. Anniversaries are news. Promotions in management are news. Seminar announcements are news. New product information is news.
Consider what readers want to read. Put yourself in their shoes. Some news doesn't matter to the readership. This is where identifying your target market comes in. You want to publicize in those places that are seen by your target market. If a particular publication doesn't necessarily reach your product market, there is no reason to communicate your news. A business seminar announcement is of no use to a gardening club. Reorganization in the largest business in town is of no interest to sports junkies. Consider the publication; consider the readership; consider what else is publicized in a particular publication.
Don't call the editor to see when your release might run. Over half of the press releases an editor receives are discarded, ignored or not used. Press releases hit an editor's e-mail inbox or his or her fax machine sometimes like popcorn--there's more than can be handled, managed and certainly published. An editor is generally in charge of other publication content. The day in the life of an editor is a case study in prioritization and time-management. Receiving a phone call from everyone who sent in a press release is an obstacle they don't need nor choose to deal with. Once again, if you bug an editor and ask about placement, you will get a reputation. Editors need to be handled with TLC.
If you do contact editors or reporters, first ask them if they are "on deadline." Sometimes there is reason to contact an editor. Maybe it's returning a phone call they made to you for more information. The first thing you should say when phoning an editor is, "Are you on deadline?" Sometimes it's 3:00 p.m., and they have a 5:00 p.m. deadline they are trying to meet and have three hours worth of work to cram into those two hours. Fielding a call related to prospective PR ruins that time-management. Editors want the opportunity to say, "I'm busy, leave me alone, I still want to talk to you but I've got a deadline." Don't be offended by this; its part of the PR business.
Paid advertising generally has no bearing on publicity placement. One myth is that paid advertisers get preferential treatment for PR placement. This is a myth. Editors generally don't talk to the advertising department. Now common sense does prevail when trying to take care of larger accounts and great advertisers. There may be an occasion where preference is given, but the general rule of thumb is that you won't get preferential treatment for PR if you advertised.
The tips mentioned above also apply to broadcast news; just replace the word "editor" with "producer."
Understanding some of these quirks, rules, myths and considerations will increase your probability of getting your news placed in the publications that your target markets read.
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.