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