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Meet the Press
Laurie L. Dove
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It's good to be an expert. And, with just a few savvy PR moves, you can position yourself-or your company-as a go-to source for journalists.
While it may take some effort to cultivate relationships with local writers or trade publication editors, the payoff can be huge. Being cited in news articles or conquering the blogosphere (while quietly forwarding your own carefully crafted message) provides a level of credibility and goodwill you’ll not find with traditional advertising.
We sat down with media professionals ready to spill their insider secrets and what they shared about promoting your own news may surprise you. It’s hot, as they say, off the presses.
Linda Muskin, a partner at Chicago-based Clarus Communications, suggests a methodical approach- whether promoting oneself as a professional planner or establishing your special events company as a trusted resource. During the last 10 years, Muskin has worked with businesses in their earliest stages, helping principal players craft messages with staying power. "The first step is to define the [message’s] goal," Muskin says, which could be as specific as getting coverage in the business section of the local newspaper.
Once the goal is clearly defined, Muskin takes clients through a series of exercises that yield an "elevator statement," a two-minute description including key points that answer the following questions:
>> Who are you?
>> What do you do?
>> Why does it matter?
>> How are you different?
"These are the questions reporters frequently ask, so it is essential to have the answers clearly defined using memorable language," Muskin says.
Map Your Strategy
After you’ve clearly defined what you do and why you’re good at it, it’s time to figure out how to spread the word. Denise Dorman, founder of WriteBrain Media, suggests building a year-long media plan. Check out the editorial calendars of trade journals by going to their websites and clicking on the "Media Kit" or "Advertise with Us" sections. "That’s where you’ll find their editorial calendars, or monthly schedules of article topics. Build a spreadsheet that indicates the pertinent topics, deadlines and pitch only relevant offerings based on the articles they’re doing," she says. Dorman suggests keeping track of this information in one place (after all, you’ve still got a business to run) by using a subscription-based service like www.MyEdCals.com. This service will e- mail reminders for pitch deadlines based on the topics you plug into their search system.
Fill Your Dance Card
To position yourself as an expert source for your industry, keep your membership in professional organizations current. Check out database services like PR Newswire and Business Wire, says Dorman, where you can add yourself as an "expert source" journalists can use to quote for articles. "Be sure to let all the writers in your industry know you’d like to be a resource for articles," she says. "If you are in the same city, I recommend taking the editor to lunch. Placing a face with a name grants you a powerful advantage and editors will typically share with you what they’re working on and what they need."
However, Dorman cautions, don’t contact ers unless you have a solid reason. "With all of the budget cuts, they are busier than ever and harder to reach," she says.
Rock Star Draw
If you want a journalist-either from the local media or an industry publication-to cover an event in-person, you have to up the ante. "Free food and swag attracts journalists, but doesn’t necessarily result in coverage. Figure out how to tie your event in directly with real news," says Shel Horowitz, author of Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World (Chelsea Green, 2001). One of the best combinations of free swag and real news in his recent memory, Horowitz said, occurred at the 2008 Book Expo America, where Wired magazine’s Chris Anderson had a conversation with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos-who seized the moment to focus on the new Kindle. "The room was absolutely jammed, including quite a bit of media, and there was a ton of coverage," he says.
Publicist Nancy Frede focuses on creating marketing plans for a nationwide client base. Meeting and event planners, she said, should keep tabs on online message threads to find marketing opportunities.
Her favorite websites for networking? LinkedIn and Facebook. HelpAReporterOut. com is also a great way to connect with reporters on the hunt for sources.
A Win/Win Agenda
Developing relationships with members of the media, whether local or industry-wide, is essential, agrees Jamie Estes, president of Estes Public Relations, a full-service firm specializing in media relations and special events. However, there’s a key point to keep in mind.
"Your agenda is very different from a reporter’s agenda," she says. "Generating publicity means you have to merge your interests with the interest of the media. Covering news is their job and if you can supply them with news, it can be a win/win situation."
Clarus Communications // 847.432.7300 / www.teamclarus.com
Estes Public Relations // 502.721.0335 / www.estespr.com
Nancy Frede // Frede Enterprises LLC / 508.380.3737
Shel Horowitz // 413.586.2388 / www.principledprofit.com
WriteBrain Media // 630.845.4694 / www.writebrainmedia.com