Monday, April 05, 2010

Ask An Expert: Tips For Getting Publicity, And Credibility

Q: Steve – How can I get a local reporter to write a story about my business? I have sent her several press releases but it hasn't worked at all. — Elle

A: One of the surprising things about PR is that the value to your business, in my opinion, is not that you are in the news one day. Sure it's great to be able to say to your friends and family, "We're going to be on the six o'clock news!" or "Look for us in tomorrow's business section." But for my money, that one story pales in comparison to the continuing benefits:

• It is independent, third-party validation that your business is worth noticing. An advertisement that you purchase is you saying your business is great, but a feature story is someone else, someone with credibility, saying it. That is why it is so valuable.

• It can be used again and again. This is the other major benefit. You can take that TV news piece, post it on your homepage, and you have instant credibility. You can post that newspaper story in your store window.

• It helps you stand out from the crowd. With 27 million small businesses out there, anything you can do to distinguish yourself makes a difference.

So how do you get noticed by a writer, producer, or editor? Here are the steps I would take:
First, you have to think like an editor (or writer or producer). What does that mean? Consider things from their perspective. Like most of us these days, they are busy, busy, busy. So think about crafting a pitch that is quick and easy to understand.

I find that a simple, informal pitch via e-mail is far more likely to catch my eye than a boring press release. Yes, I know we are taught to craft a who-what-where-when-and-why press release, but I think that is not the way to go in this faster, less formal business era. I also think I am fairly typical in that regard. An e-mail addressed to me personally, from someone who knows what I write about and offers a story that would interest my readers is what works.

Editors, writers and producers have space or time they need to fill every day, and their job is to fill it with news. They are not in the business of giving you free publicity, but they are in the business of offering their readers and viewers interesting, intriguing stories. So your job is to craft a story — have an angle — that is newsworthy. As they say, dog bites man is not news, but man bites dog is.
There are several ways to come up with an angle that might intrigue your reporter:

• You could sponsor an event.

• You could offer some innovative product or service that could help the reporter's readers or viewers.

• You could have a contest. I knew a baker who sponsored a 'Best zucchini bread recipe" contest to get some publicity and it turned into an annual goldmine.

• You could create a publicity stunt. Remember when GM gave 276 Oprah audience members a new Pontiac? How many millions of dollars of publicity was that worth to them? sponsored Dennis Rodman when he ran with the bulls in Pamplona to raise money for multiple sclerosis..

So the basic steps are these: Do some research and find the right reporter who covers stories like the one you want to pitch. Create an angle that is different, interesting, and newsworthy. Send a short and snappy e-mail pitching your story. Be friendly and accessible, and make it easy for the reporter to follow up. Follow up yourself, but don't be a pest.

Today's Tip:  Remember, if you are pitching a television story, you have to make it visual; TV is a visual medium.

Ask an Expert appears Mondays. You can e-mail Steve Strauss at: you can click here to see previous columns. Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and speaker who specializes in small business and entrepreneurship. His latest book is The Small Business Bible. You can sign up for his free newsletter, "Small Business Success Secrets!" at his website —

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