A Primer on the Basics
I like to start each new year by getting rid of the clutter and stripping my mind, my environment, my finances, even my kitchen, down to the essentials.
It’s how I clear away the distractions – and some of the mistakes! – that pile up over the previous 12 months. That makes it much easier to focus on what I want to achieve in the year ahead.
I thought the same approach would be helpful for your marketing and publicity efforts. We have so much information coming at us, we can lose sight of the basics. And those are the foundation for success.
Here at EMSI, we specialize in getting our clients publicity. By definition, publicity is not advertising; it’s coverage by the media of people, events and issues deemed to be of interest to their audiences. Getting publicity may be one prong of your marketing plan, which might also include doing speaking engagements, gaining followers on social media and, yes, buying advertising.
The nice thing about publicity is you don’t have to pay for it (unless you hire a company like ours to help you get it). If you can get a journalist or talk show host interested in your story idea or topic, you might be interviewed for an article, asked to write an article for publication, or invited to be interviewed as a guest on a radio or TV show.
Since we’re all about clearing away the clutter and getting back to basics, today I’ll share some general tips for getting publicity in any mass communications medium. In subsequent PR Insiders, I’ll focus on individual media – print, radio, TV and online social networks – and share suggestions specific to each. By the time we wrap it up, you should be primed and ready to go!
- The media pitch. A media pitch is your written communication to editors, reporters, bloggers, talk show hosts, and TV and radio producers, telling them what you have to offer their audiences. Press releases are one option, but we prefer content the media can use as is. So, for a newspaper, you might write a short, bona fide news story, or a list of tips that address a problem. For TV and radio, you might briefly describe the topic you can address and what you will contribute. For instance, say you’re a pilot who has written a book about traveling the world. Right now, problems with Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner are making headlines. Your email would briefly describe the issue, your credentials and what you have to offer, plus a link to a news story about it: “30-year pilot and author of ‘Flying the World’ says Dreamliner problems are nothing to worry about.”
- Contact information. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having your contact information clearly visible and accurate. Don’t weave it into your pitch, and don’t rely on your recipient hitting the email reply button. Include a telephone number that you can answer at any time, or one for daytime and another for evenings and weekends. You may get just one call from the editor or producer interested in your pitch, and if you don’t answer, he or she may very well lose interest.
- Be professional. Make sure your email is free of typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes that make you appear less than authoritative. Never write a pitch and hit “send” without carefully re-reading it to be sure it’s clean, makes sense, and is as concise as possible. If there’s no urgent need to send it immediately, give yourself 24 hours, then look it over again before sending.
- Pay attention to the news. Most mass media are focused on issues and events in the news today, so you’re much more likely to get publicity if you can speak to something going on now. That’s not as difficult as it sounds, but it does require creative thinking. If your company manufactures doors and home invasions are in the news, you might suggest an article or talk show segment about the safest types of doors. Psychologists and physicians can address all kinds of issues, from the latest bizarre crime to the newest health craze. One of our current clients wrote a novel about bootleggers during Prohibition. She’s gotten lots of publicity by comparing the repeal of Prohibition to the recent legalization of marijuana use in Washington and Colorado.
If you’ve committed to reinvigorating your marketing campaign in 2013 – or to getting one started – I hope I’ve given you a good starting point. Focus on the basics; the concepts are simple but, I admit, the execution can be challenging and it takes practice. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have the media blitzing your phone lines on the first day!
Above all, keep the payoff forefront in your mind. For me, that’s a big part of stripping away the clutter.