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Questions About Publicity and Public Relations

Questions About  This Site and Free Publicity, the Newsletter for PR-Hungry Businesses

Questions about Publicity and Public Relations

What is Publicity?

At its core, publicity is the simple act of making a suggestion to a journalist that leads to the inclusion of a company or product in a story. Newspapers, magazines, TV programs and radio shows have large amounts of space to fill and depend upon publicists to help provide story ideas, interview subjects, background information and other material.

For the most part, the act of making a suggestion to a journalist, when successful, will lead to one of two types of coverage:

  • A story created from scratch built around the story "angle" you suggest (e.g. a feature story on your company; a story about a trend that you present to a journalist; an interview segment, etc.)
  • The inclusion of your product, company or service in an already existing story (e.g. the reporter is already working on a story about your field and your contact with her results in your product being included in the piece).

What is Public Relations?

Public Relations is a broader field that encompasses publicity, but also includes such things as investor relations, crisis communications, special events and sponsorships, and other activities designed to mold opinion.

What's a Press Release?

The most important tool for making a suggestion to a journalist is the press release. Simply put, a press release is a psuedo-news story that presents the most newsworthy aspect of your product, company or service in a format and language familiar to the journalist. A good press release places the newsworthy angle at the very top (much as the lead paragraph of a well-written news story does), and is free of hyperbole and overt promotionalism. Paragraphs subsequent to the lead may include background information, spokesperson quotations and other information that can help put the newsworthiness of the story in perspective.

For more details about writing the perfect press release click here.

What's a Pitch Letter?

While the press release is written in third person, the pitch letter allows for direct communication between the publicist and the journalist. It's an opportunity to pique interest, form a relationship and persuade. Bad pitch letters begin with boring formalities or promotional hype. Good pitch letters begin with a striking opening that immediately alerts the journalist to an interesting story possibility (e.g. if you're promoting sunscreen: "In the time it takes to read this letter, seven new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed." Or, if you're an accountant: "Americans who were unaware of a new tax break needlessly paid more than $5 billion in extra taxes last year -- and time is running out for them to get that money back."

The pitch letter has one purpose: to persuade the journalist to read the attached press release. Personalize it, keep it short, sign it and clip it to the front of your press release.

For more details about writing the perfect pitch letter click here.

How Do I Find Something "Newsworthy" About My Business?

To an editor, an item is newsworthy if he feels his readers, listeners or viewers will find it interesting and/or useful. What's newsworthy to the editor of Field & Stream is, of course, quite different that what's newsworthy to the editor of Cosmopolitan. However, all newsworthy items do have some things in common.

To uncover the newsworthiness in your business, think about your target customer. Put yourself in his or her shoes. What would make you excited? intrigued? provoked? Now, think about how your business provides some type of service, product or information that feeds into these reactions.

Remember our pitch letter opening for the accountant? You might think that being one of a hundred accountants in town might make it tough to be newsworthy, but "Americans who were unaware of a new tax break needlessly paid more than $5 billion in extra taxes last year -- and time is running out for them to get that money back." should make a few business reporters stand up and take notice. In this case, the accountant's target customers are individuals and business who file taxes. What gets them excited and intrigued? The notion that they may have some money due back to them. What will provoke them? The realization that there's a deadline to claim that money.

Notice that the pitch doesn't say "Local accountant Jane Brown specializes in tax overpayments" or "Jane Brown, a graduate of the University of Michigan, has opened an accounting practice specializing in tax overpayments." Those are angles of interest chiefly to Jane Brown. However, "Americans needlessly pay more than $5 billion in extra taxes" is an angle of interest to just about everyone.

For more about developing newsworthy story angles, click here.

I'm Intimidated By the Prospect of Calling a Reporter. They Seem Pretty Gruff.

Even trained professionals can have a difficult time with this one. Reporters can be harried and rushed, and they spend a lot of time deflecting phone calls from people wanting to pitch them all sorts of ridiculous stories. However, it's important to remember that they need you as much as you need them. If you are presenting a useful story idea professionally and courteously, you'll do just fine.

And how do you do that? Click here and we'll tell you!

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Questions About This Site and Free Publicity, the Newsletter for PR-Hungry Businesses

Hey Bill Stoller, Who the Heck Are You, Anyway?

I'm a professional publicist with twenty years of experiences in the trenches. To read about my background, expertise and exploits, click here.

What's the Point of this Website?

To demystify the process of doing your own publicity & public relations. It's not that hard, especially if you have an experienced mentor to help you.

How Are You Different from Other Web Publicity "Gurus"?

Because I just don't claim to be an expert -- I am one. I didn't read a few books on the subject and decide to crank out a website and newsletter. I've lived and breathed publicity all my adult life.

Or, to put it another way, if you want to learn how to throw a fastball, do you ask Roger Clemens or some guy who read a book about Roger Clemens?

Tell Me About Free Publicity

Free Publicity is my monthly subscription-only newsletter in which I spill my guts about publicity. It's your chance to basically tap into my brain and dig out all my secrets and exclusive techniques. I'll also give the latest news on editorial changes, new publications, upcoming publicity opportunities and much more. It's designed to be useful for any businessperson, regardless of budget, size or experience.

To learn more about the newsletter, and discover our killer special offer, click here.

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