Thursday, October 07, 2010

Your department head calls you in and pouts, "I can't understand why the media don't publish our news. Other outfits like ours get coverage all the time."
Sound familiar? Can't understand what you're doing wrong? If so, listen up:
"Did you send your news to the right editor?"
"Yes, we checked their names carefully."
"Do you follow up by telephone?"
"Yes, but the editors aren't always available."
"Hmm... Have you met the editors you send releases to?"
"Well, no. If they can't answer my phone calls, I assume they aren't interested in seeing me in person."
One of the biggest mistakes in trying to use news releases as a public relations tool is a failure to recognize the value of personal contacts. Some PROs who'd laugh at the idea of selling their product or pressing their cause only by e-mail or telephone somehow expect to "sell" publicity to editors without taking the trouble to establish personal contact with them. If that's the situation with you, make quick steps to get acquainted with media contacts in the flesh.
First Step: send a letter to the editor of the biggest paper in town inviting the editor to a get-acquainted luncheon meeting with the president of your company, deputy minister, programme head, or appropriate senior whoever. Make a point of mentioning that lunch would be at the best club in town, to show the editor that the company/ministry considered the meeting an important one. (E-mail is fine, but if you want to really get noticed, compose a letter printed on paper, delivered by the Post Office.)
Second Step: make a telephone call to the editor as follow-up to the letter, so as to get the editor's in-person acceptance of the invitation. (Don't be surprised if the editor comments something like, "We got the impression you people must have gotten pretty busy. Up to now, the only contact we ever had with you are those news-releases -- often too late, or on subjects we can't use." That's useful PR feedback, itself.)
By the way, if your head honcho (president, DM, or such) is mistakenly shy of making such media contact in person, arrange to visit the editor yourself. You should meet him/her anyway, as a matter of course. Whichever representative of your outfit connects with an editor, you can count on greatly improved response to PR efforts afterwards. But, establishing face-to-face contact does not mean you must wine and dine editors. Nor should you pamper, toady to them, or act beyond common courtesy. It does mean that if you want to learn how to give editors the kind of information they need, in the form they prefer, and at the time they want it -- the best way is to sit down across the desk, or the restaurant table, and ask them. Try this personal approach and see how more effective your publicity efforts become in future.

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