Why do most press releases (PR) get published except yours? You know the story was good. The quotes were sublime. The angle was creative. You felt so good about it that you even broke one rule of Public Relations – you guaranteed pickups to your boss. Now two weeks have gone by and still no results as the hour of reckoning draws closer. If only you had the budget for a Public Relations agency then you wouldn’t be in such as bind.
Maybe you should first review your media relations practice and do it as the PR professionals do. Sometimes all it takes is a few common sense habits to get published. PR pros have so ingrained these habits that it all come second nature to them like breathing.
- Deliver in multiple formats. This is the digital age. Nowadays, most editors prefer to receive press releases in both hard and softcopies. The hardcopies are for easy viewing to gauge if your press release is worth seeing print. The softcopy provides easy copy and paste. PRs should be in print outs and also in CDs when you send them to the editors. These people are busy, understaffed and, even underpaid so you must live in another dimension if you think they will retype your story.
- Know your story. Read your story to see if all the vital details are there. Sometimes the sales guys or marketing team get so anxious to send a story out that the ship sets sail before all the details can get on board. You are then left to explain why there is no availability date for the product, no pricing and no promo deadlines. You should check for details that editors will be looking for in your PR. Do not get media all worked up for a story only to find out it’s half-baked. This leads us to the next point.
- Know you client. If media is really interested in your story, they may want more details. Be ready to supply facts that may not be in the story, such as local spokesperson, where to buy, other services and products. It’s a big turn-off for media to find out you know nothing about your client. If you’re not interested in your client why should media be.
- Be easy to reach. If the media is interested in your story, they may call for further information or even for an interview. You only have one chance at this so make sure it is very convenient for the media to contact you. The editor will move on to the next story on their table if they cannot get the data they need. They have pages to close and the deadline isn’t going to wait. Your mobile number, email, and twitter account should be included and visible in all your press releases, on the envelopes and in your email signature.
- Build relationships. Filipinos are all about relationships. Public Relations is about relationships. Media relations is about relationships. Why not practice it? Instead of building up your media network, build up your media friends network. Try to connect at a personal level. Contact media not only when you are making a PR pitch but also during their birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and holidays. Thank them for using your stories. Chat them up over coffee. You do this not because you are a scheming hack but because you are a sincere professional who is in the communications industry for the long-haul.
- Do your homework. Do not pitch a travel story to a reporter who only writes about information technology, or call someone miss when he is a mister, or say “Happy Mother’s Day,” when she’s still single. Get to know your media friends in a personal manner. This doesn’t mean staking out their place or going through their trash. At least be familiar with the minimum details if you want to call someone a friend like their marital status, gender, age, last name, likes and dislikes. Sometimes, all media asks in exchange for precious editorial real estate is for you to spell their names right.
- Don’t call during busy hours. In the Philippines, from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., editors usually wish they have another pair of arms and eyes. Reporters are also in the same boat as they rush to beat their deadlines. Let them be. Call after 7:00 p.m. or late in the morning. And do so only if you have a valid reason.
- Monitor for media clips. Never call the editor to ask if they have already published your story. No self- respecting PR pro does that. It’s your job so you do it. Certain sections come out during specific days of the week so monitoring shouldn’t be confusing. Dailies are dailies, weeklies are weeklies and a fortnight means every two weeks. Memorize publishing schedules and monitor first thing you arrive in the office.
Media Relations is more art than science. There is no magic formula. It takes commitment, creativity and a genuine love for people. Practice these eight habits until they become your own and you should see the boost in your media pickups. One more thing, never guarantee pickups.