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The Making of a PR Story 4 steps to creating an intriguing press release the media will love

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To many people, the publicity process is a mystery.

It's not.

Even small-business owners can drum up press and propel theirbusiness--no matter how small--into media-fueled success if theyknow the right tricks. Whether you're creating an officialpress release or simply notifying the media with a simple phonecall or e-mail, you need a "story" to grab theirattention. A PR story is anything about your business, product orservice that you want the public to know, and is crucial inguaranteeing your business's time in the limelight.

To create a PR story the media will snatch up, follow these fourbasic steps:

Step 1: Determine Your PRGoals
First, decide what you want to accomplish for your publicitycampaign. Here are some typical goals businesses try to reach withPR:

  • Increase sales
  • Increase awareness of the business, brand or product
  • Become known as an expert
  • Enter a new market or industry
  • Change perceptions
  • Develop goodwill
  • Attract great employees
  • Attract investors and/or buyers

Knowing what goals you're trying to achieve will help youdetermine what type of PR story you're going to create.

Step 2: Choose Your MediaTargets
Determine which media you would like to receive publicity from.Base your selection on what your target market reads, watches orlistens to. For example, if your target market is Fortune 500 CEOs,your media targets might include The Wall Street Journal andCNBC. If your target market is cat owners, your media targets mightinclude Cat Fancy Magazine and the local Humane Society.

Step 3: Get Creative
Now that you've determined your goal and media targets, youneed to do some brainstorming to come up with story ideas.

Here are some questions that can help you zero in on ideasthat'll intrigue the media:

  • Do we have a new product/service that the public would like toknow about?
  • Is there any way to tie in our product/service to a currentevent or holiday?
  • Do we have new, quantifiable information (a study or a survey,for example) that would be useful to the public?
  • Do we have an interesting or quirky approach, or somethingcontroversial about our product/service?
  • Can we tie our product/service to a celebrity?

Step 4: Make the Pitch
Next, you need to choose several ideas out of all the ones youbrainstormed that'll be most appealing to your mediatargets.

Once you've chosen the ideas, you need to prepare thefollowing:

  • A one-page fact sheet/company overview
  • A biography of the yourself (the owner)
  • Several pitches from the ideas that'll appeal to each mediaoutlet

The pitch can take the form of a press release, or it can bejust a couple of paragraphs (this is what I prefer to use, as itcan be customized for each media person you pitch to).

Whichever you use--press release or paragraphs--you'll needto include the following information in your pitch:

  • A brief statement about why this idea is ofinterest to the media (example: "The specialty baby clothingand accessory industry is growing at 30 percent peryear.")
  • Why this idea will appeal to the mediaoutlet's audience (example: "Businesspeople who are alsoMoms and Dads have created million-dollar businesses by tappinginto this growing market.")
  • Information about why you're qualified to be asource (example: you're a Dad who created a successfuldaddy-diaper-bag business)
  • A call to action, such as asking them to schedulean interview or discuss the story now

I believe in contacting the media by telephone, prior to sendingout anything in writing. Here's why:

  • You develop rapport
  • You might get an immediate interview or an interview timescheduled
  • It's a chance for the media person to ask for moreinformation and actually read it (since many e-mails aredeleted)

How do you determine who at a media outlet you should pitch? Thebest way is to be familiar with the work of each media person byreading, watching or listening to that person's coverage. Forexample, if you read USA Today every day, you should have agood idea about what areas are covered by each reporter.

If you're not familiar with an outlet, you should learn moreabout it before pitching. In addition, it's easy to do a Googlesearch once you've identified a media person you'd like topitch. That way you can learn if your idea has already been coveredor if you have an idea related to recent stories covered by thatperson. The contact information is often available at their websiteor by calling the media outlet's main number.

When you call the media, start off with why your idea is ofinterest to them. If it's impossible to reach anyone by phone,e-mail is generally the best way to send pitches.

Here are some e-mail pitching tips:

  • Use short, catchy (not sales-y) subject lines
  • Never send attachments initially
  • Keep information short
  • Include your contact information, including office phone andcell-phone numbers and e-mail address

The result of all this? A story that helps you achieve yourpublicity goals!

Margie Fisher, president of Zable Fisher Public Relations, isthe author of the Do-It-Yourself Public Relations Kit. Formore information on her kit and PRactical PR newsletter,visit www.zfpr.com.

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