When Your Press Release Isn't Working
Q: OK, I've followed your advice on how to pitch an editor, and I've sent press releases. I'm still not getting my PR placed in publications. What more can I do?
A: This is common among those not focusing on what the editor wants, needs or, more important, what the reader wants to read. So many times you blast a press release to the world, and it's not right for the publication. Editors see this and ignore subsequent communication. You can get a bad reputation in the media world regardless of how small you are.
It's often said that PR takes not only initiative, but also ingenuity. Typically the PR do-it-yourselfers of the world start with a press release. This is their best communication conduit to the media. If you blast out your press release to multiple publications and sit back and wait for the publicity to happen, I can almost guarantee you will be disappointed.
"Blasting" implies sending to as many publications that you can just to play the numbers game. There are many e-mail programs that will blast to publications' e-mail addresses. There are also fax programs that will do the same. The error that many make at first is to send to everyone. You should only send press releases to publications that you think might be interested in your product. Make a list of them before sending your release out. Find out what kind of articles, news and stories the publications tend to communicate to their readers.
Also, if possible, find out who the key editors, reporters or writers are. Don't send the release to the publisher or executive editor. They receive many releases each day, and they don't have time to sort them or forward them. Start lower on the totem pole. If you can't find the information in your initial research, call the publication. Ask who should receive your information and what the preferred delivery method is (e-mail, fax or snail mail).
Once you have all this information, you can actually craft a personalized cover letter and include information about their publication. The little bit of homework you do for this will go a long way with editors and reporters. They know at this point that you've not just blasted to the world--that you've been selective in your targeting. You can also mention at this point why you think your information is relevant to their readership and even go so far as to suggest how it might be used or where it might be placed.
Even with all this homework, your press release still has to be newsworthy. You have to have a news angle to your information. It can be of local interest or of human interest and still be newsworthy. If you want to know whether your information is newsworthy, compare it with the other information in the publication you are targeting. As a reader, is it the sort of thing that you would want to see if you were a paying subscriber? One of the questions that you can use to test the interest to the readership is to ask the question "So what?" If you don't have a good answer for this question, chances are, your information will not pass the newsworthiness test.
The other test that your information must pass is the "no-hype" test. Editors hate promotion. They don't care whether you or your company's name gets in their publication. They have no interest in promoting your company. They only care about their readers. If they spot hype or promotion, you go on their bad list. Send enough of these, and you get a reputation. If you get a reputation, even your most newsworthy items will be ignored. Start off on the right foot, and you will have recurring publicity and a good relationship with the editor/reporter/publication.
Lastly, if you follow up, always start by asking if the editor or reporter is on deadline. If so, ask when you can call back for five minutes of additional information. If you can't reach them or get past the gatekeeper, don't despair. Persistence and consistency pay off in this game. Send out regular newsworthy releases to targeted media, and you will soon be in the headlines.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.