From the February 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

So you want to land your business message on the pages of The Wall Street Journal or Vogue. Sound impossible? Not really. You can hire an experienced publicist or PR firm with established media contacts, or you can go it alone and still achieve media-relations success--just so long as you follow some basic rules. Here are six practical tips for getting media coverage:

1. Set clear goals. Who do you want to reach, and what do you want them to remember about you? Ideally, your media-relations program should help your company achieve better penetration of its core message. Rather than a one-shot attempt at coverage, make communicating a central message or idea to your target audience a long-term goal. Focus on reaching your best prospects and customers, and use your media-relations program to repeatedly drive your message home.

2. Create a plan. A written plan is essential to keeping your program on track. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Briefly outline your goals, media-relations themes, the tactics you plan to use, a schedule of activities and a rough budget. Take, for example, the owner of a home-improvement company who has a $400 budget. If his goal is to be known as a resource for upscale contemporary remodels, he might plan to send press kits with photographs of completed projects four times per year to editors at select magazines and producers of cable TV remodeling shows, and then follow up by phone.

3. Lay the right foundation. Effective media-relations programs don't exist in a vacuum. They need support. Add a section to your website that's devoted exclusively to the needs of the press, with information about your company, its executives and products, as well as a contact page. Also, prepare your staff by keeping them up-to-date on your media-relations plans and messages, and designate individuals who may speak directly with the press.

4. Shape your story. One of the most critical components of a successful media-relations program is providing content that fits the needs of specific media outlets. Journalists and newsrooms are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of press releases and phone calls each day. And they're looking for news and information of interest to their unique readers, viewers or listeners. For best results, become familiar with the media you plan to target. Figure out what they want most, and tailor your story accordingly.

5. Make it easy to cover you. From print journalists to radio and TV news directors, everyone in the media is pressed for time. And much of what they use comes from press releases announcing new studies or statistics, video news releases, radio tours, or even photos supplied by businesses or their PR firms. Winning coverage often depends on going beyond a basic release. For example, you can provide a page of tips that journalists can quote from or use as a springboard for interviews with you. You can supply product photographs to magazines, win high-tech reviews by e-mailing links to an online demo, or position yourself as an expert in your field by scheduling a radio tour on a newsworthy topic.

6. Build relationships. Sometimes "blasting" a press release to thousands of media outlets is called for. But for most entrepreneurs, media-relations success depends on one-on-one interaction--selecting key media, becoming familiar with their needs, providing materials and then following up by phone or e-mail. You can assemble your own list of local media that cover your type of story or, for larger lists, you can find help in media directories such as Bacon's Media-Sourceand Gebbie Press, where you'll find a free, searchable database of media links.