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Do-It-Yourself Public Relations

Secrets to Getting PR with a Little Know-How and Elbow Grease

By Marsha Friedman

The cycle of marketing was once summarized in the story of the circus coming to town.

If the circus is coming to town and you buy a billboard saying "Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday," that's advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that's promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor's flower bed and the local paper picks it up, that's publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that's public relations. If the town's citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they'll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that's sales.

Most of the time, it's really difficult to get the elephant to walk where you want it. In those cases, you need to generate your own public relations, and I've got some basic tips for you to follow to make that happen fast and inexpensively:

·        Find your inner expert - Think about your business or your profession and zero in on your expertise. Pick the area you know the most about, and focus on that. Do you have a ballpark idea of what that is? Keep that in mind, and we'll get back to that in a minute.

·        Surf the Internet - Just about every key news source has a Web site, so do some surfing. Go to the Web sites of the news media outlets in which you'd like to be featured and harvest their contact information to build your media database.

·        Read the papers - One good way to figure out if what you are doing is newsworthy or relevant is to read a newspaper to see what the press is writing. If you want their attention, you need to figure out what currently interests them. Specifically look for news stories in your area of expertise or interest.

·        Put it all together - In remembering your media targets and the stories they typically publish about your topic or area, go back to your expertise. Is there something that you found that was in the news related to your expertise? Is there something you can comment on with veracity and credibility? That's how you thread the needle.

·        PR Tools - The press release, as a reliable tool for public relations professionals, had been on life support since 2005, when newspapers first realized that they weren't competing with television or radio as much as they were competing against Internet news portals. Dozens of newspapers and magazines have folded, and hundreds more have scaled back their staff and even their publication size. Consider the shrinking news hole, the shrinking staff and the emphasis on competition from online outlets, and you have to ask yourself if they even have the staff to read the volume of hundreds of press releases per day that they receive from email and wire services.

So, if they aren't reading press releases, or only selecting press releases from trusted or existing sources sparingly, how can you get through to print media editors?

The answer is content. Most publications are not seeking news, but rather, ready-made content that they can plug directly into their publications, Web sites or both. The key is ensuring that the content you offer is more than just a sales pitch for you or your project.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that this is NOT a marketing project or a promotional project. It's a news project. You want to take who you are, what you do and your primary message and marry it to something already in the news. Think like a news editor and not like an artist, and you'll find something between the lines that will resonate with the media as well as the audience.

( Marsha Friedman is a 20-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. She also hosts a national weekly radio talk show, The Family Round Table, and is author of the book, Celebritize Yourself.)

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