In-House Public Relations
more to your business than an advertisement in the Sunday paper? An actual news
story. The public is much more likely to accept an assertion made by a news
agency than one made by an ad agency.
But public-relations firms are expensive. When cutting your budget, some things
may seem easier to jettison than others. You might be looking at your
public-relations line item and thinking, "How hard can PR be?"
Many small businesses use their own resources to ply the media with news of
their product or service. Public relations may not be rocket science, but there
is an art to it. Here are the basics.
Getting it Written:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: These words should appear in the upper left-hand
margin, just under your letterhead. You should capitalize every letter.
Contact information: Include the contact personís name, title and phone
number. If the release is not on letterhead, include the company address, email,
Title: Write a concise title with an action verb, for example "Bunco
Discovers New Genome."
Dateline: This should be the city your press release is issued from and the
date you are mailing your release, immediately followed by the first line of
copy; e.g., "Portland, OR, January 14, 2002 -- Bunco Corp. has discovered a
Copy: Answer the questions who, what, when, where, how, and why. If the
release is promoting an event, donít forget the time. Include the answer to
"Who cares?" by addressing the people who will benefit from your
announcement and reminding them what theyíll get out of it.
Boilerplate: End the press release with a paragraph that includes your
company name, description and mission statement. You may reiterate contact
information and a URL. This tells readers that theyíve reached the end of the
An editor who doesnít know you will usually give your press
release about 30 seconds of attention. If she canít see beyond the
self-promotion, your hard work will go straight into the recycling bin. When
writing copy, avoid superlatives. Donít say, "This is the most amazing
product of all time." Say why itís the most amazing product of all
time. Describe in concrete terms how it will impact the newspaperís readers.
Follow the "inverted pyramid" model that reporters use. That is, the
most important information is at the top; then you can go into more detail. The
title and first paragraph must contain all the bare-bones details;
subsequent paragraphs can elaborate and include executive and expert testimony.
Your press release should have a maximal length of two pages. For grammar and
usage, refer to The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual,
available at most bookstores.
Getting it Read:
The good news: Now you can write a dynamite press release. The bad news: Writing
a press release is only half the battle. The key to success in the publicity
game is to have someone on the receiving end do something with your press
release -- like write a front-page feature story. How can you make that happen?
First, contact the right people. If you work in the restaurant business, make
sure youíre sending your information to the editor of the food section, not to
sports (things do not get transferred in a bustling newsroom; they get tossed).
And make sure itís the current editor (while faxes never get transferred,
editors do all the time), and that youíre not faxing to them when they prefer
email. Also be sure that youíre not sending the press release the day after
Next, build some relationships. This is a big reason why PR firms are hired -
less for their writing skills than for their personal connections. You make
friends within the media the same way you do within your own industry -- by
taking key people out to lunch and to coffee, by phoning and "chatting them
up." People in the media are always looking for new stories, for
cutting-edge innovations, and for people who are making big splashes; your goal
is for them to want to do a story about your company. The trick is to
communicate that youíre important and reliable, without overdoing it and
Different types of publications to target:
There are also
"alternative weeklies" in most large cities, but since they tend to
look for scandals and shady deals, youíll probably want to avoid them.
- Local dailies
- Business magazines
and newspapers (both regional and national)
- Industry magazines
and newsletters (usually national)
- Radio interviews
- Television morning
shows (usually regional)
An interesting alternative to seeking coverage about your company is to place
yourself in the news as an industry expert. How much easier it is for an editor
who wants to write a story about the local DSL controversy if she already knows
an expert in telecommunications -- you! Youíre just a flip of the Rolodex
away. This may also put you in the news more often than in just one feature
If your company is hosting a conference or a public fund-raiser, youíll also
want to secure listings in local calendars of events. Press releases to these
entities should be concise and adhere to what are typically unforgiving
deadlines (if youíre late, youíre late, and you wonít be listed). If
itís a high-end event, you might try to get coverage through the society page
of your local/regional newspaper.
It will take some effort, but you can put yourself on the media map. Be concise,
creative, and carefully persistent, and your company will be in the news -- and
in the black!
Note: This article was originally published at the www.HP.com
web site, but it no longer appears to be available online. Visit the site for
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