Getting a good publicity hit is a combination of art, science and sometimes just plain luck. You can increase your chances of getting “lucky” in your publicity efforts by following some basic dos and don’ts.
Here are eight ways to get your agency on the path to successful publicity.
#1: Define your media focus.
Limit your pitches to those outlets that directly serve your target audience. Otherwise, you may end up wasting a lot of time and energy. When I was on the editorial side of a healthcare magazine, I once got a very nice press kit for a horse show. There was no way we were going to cover a horse show in our healthcare magazine. Clearly whoever sent the press kit to us was taking a shotgun approach to the news media, hoping to hit something. That generally doesn’t work very well.
#2: Get to the right person at each media outlet.
Whether you’re dealing with your local paper, a trade publication or a national TV news outlet, it’s important to take the time to find out which person covers the particular area you are interested in targeting. “Dear Editor” or “Dear Producer” will not impress the recipient.
#3: Research a reporter’s previous stories before making contact.
Learn all you can about what the reporter covers, his or her interests and reporting style. Most reporters use social media, so it’s a good idea to follow them on Twitter, their blog, etc., before making contact. You can learn a lot about their interests (and dislikes), and even engage in online conversation, before presenting a story idea to them.
#4: Don’t waste their time or mislead them.
Reporters are busy people who work under constant pressure and deadlines. When pitching a story, get right to the point. The most important things you can tell a reporter about your story are who will care about it and why.
#5: Respect their deadlines.
When contacting a reporter, I always first ask if he or she is on deadline. If so, I then ask when would be a convenient time to share a story idea. (Some will prefer you email the idea to them.) If you’re contacted by a reporter on deadline, do everything you can to respond within that deadline; otherwise, you may miss out on a golden opportunity. Even worse, if you don’t respond promptly, the reporter may contact and quote a competitor.
#6: Think and pitch like a reporter.
When the time comes to make your pitch, be sure you don’t sound like a commercial. Be as objective as possible by emphasizing the news or human interest aspect, or your expertise to comment and provide insights.
#7: Make their jobs easier.
The more you can provide reporters with relevant, factual information that is meaningful and targeted to their audience, the more likely they are to take you seriously and provide coverage. Plus, if they know that you know their audience, area(s) of coverage and deadline, when they see a pitch from you in the future, they’ll realize you’re credible and are more likely to give you serious consideration.
#8: Know what makes a good news story.
There’s a simply way to evaluate your story idea before presenting it: Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes and ask, “Would this story be interesting to my audience?” If you can’t honestly answer yes, you need to rethink your pitch.