Eight Steps to Getting Free Press

Effective planning improves your chances of success, and your material will be less apt to wind up in the dreaded circular file

Developing press contacts takes a lot of time, energy and persistence. You have to be confident enough to initiate the first contact, and creative enough to develop ways to present what you are selling in a newsworthy way. No matter how large or small your company is, allot yourself a generous amount of time for this effort and set definite goals for making contacts. The following eight tips will help you get started.

Create a Master List

Find all publications whose readership is most likely to benefit from your products or services. The magazines you select for your list will be the same ones in which you would want to advertise your products or services. To find the available publications, check the Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS) directories and the Bacon’s directories, both available at your local library. The SRDS books list magazines and their advertising dates. The Bacon’s directories list magazines and their editorial data.

Contact Publications

Call the magazines that you feel are appropriate for your business and order their media kits. They will send you a sample magazine and their editorial calendar. These are provided free to businesses and advertising agencies that may want to advertise in the publication. Study the magazine, paying careful attention to the articles, material covered and other items showcased. Look for special sections that may be a fit for information about your company.

Develop a Story Angle

Once you have studied the publications, you will know what topics are likely to be accepted. Remember that the editors are very interested in providing information that is pleasing and of prime importance to their readers. You can help them do that by submitting relevant information. If your company sells water treatment products, for example, you may want to select one item and give tips on how it could benefit the readers. Make sure to write your story in a similar style to the one the magazine uses.

Plan Timing of Release

Newspapers have short lead times before publication and require material that can be used within a week or two, and they usually want information with local appeal.

Newspaper editors are very sensitive to “old news,” or that which has been printed somewhere else the day before. Magazines on the other hand, have long lead times, so your article or release must be in their hands months in advance of when you are hoping it will run. You will know from the editorial calendar you received in the magazine’s media kit if your material is appropriate to run with a special feature in the magazine.

Pitch a Story Idea

Make your first contact by calling and discussing your idea with the editor. Ask for advice. Usually, the editor will ask for a release. If not, offer to send one, and then mail or e-mail it that day. Keep in mind that magazines and newspapers usually have an editor for each department. If the media kit does not contain the editors’ names, call the publisher and they will provide them for you.

Listen

When you are talking to the editor, listen to find out if they want to use your information to create a story with a different angle. If so, tell them you will send information right away, and change your release accordingly. Take advantage of an opportunity to be a part of their story idea when you can.

Follow-up

Remember you are selling a story idea. Sometimes it takes several calls to an editor before he or she feels the story is worthy. Your first call-back should be a confirmation that they received your release. Ask the editor what he or she thinks of it. If you receive a negative response, ask for suggestions; if suggestions are offered, follow up using the suggestions as new guidelines.

Play the Percentages

In an ideal world, all of your releases would be printed. However, you are going to win some and lose some. Be persistent and keep working with follow-up telephone calls. The term “relations” is just that. You are developing a relationship with someone at a media outlet. The more you get to know them, the easier it will be for you to get your story told. wqp

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