Public relations is like cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. You can’t just email a few reporters your press releaseand upload it to a press release website and expect to become famous immediately. There is a process. While sending press releases to the media does not automatically lead to coverage, if you follow the process, you will increase your likelihood of getting press coverage.
What is the process to follow to get press coverage?
1. Know which media is right for you.
If you represent a small nonprofit, a community organization, like a neighborhood watch or own a small business, your community’s weekly newspaper is the best place to start sending press releases. They love news about the community and many are so short staffed that they will print your press release word for word. If your organization or business is more regional in scope, then you can go to a daily newspaper. Have a good visual element? Try local television stations. Before sending anything, you need to find the media that fits your organization.
2. Know which reporter is right for you
Once you’ve decided on which media fits your organization, you need to find the right reporter to contact. Many reporters, whether print or broadcast, have beats that they cover. A beat is a subject area, such as crime or business, in which a reporter writes about on a regular basis. Of course, there are reporters that don’t have a particular subject area that they cover. They are known as general assignment reporters and as the name suggests, they cover anything and everything. Most of the reporters at a weekly newspaper would fit into the category of general assignment reporters, though there are some weekly papers that have beat reporters. Read a few articles by a reporter that you are thinking of contacting to make sure that he or she is the right reporter for your subject area. After all, you wouldn’t send a sports story to a business reporter and you wouldn’t send a business story to a sports reporter.
3. FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP
There are three things you can do to increase your chances of getting press coverage… follow up, follow up, and follow up! You can’t just send a press release to a reporter and expect him or her to write a front page story about your business or organization. Reporters are inundated with emails and phone calls. You need to contact them to remind them that you sent something and ask if they are interested in writing about it. Unless you have a pressing news story, wait about a week to 10 days after you send the press release to follow up with the reporter. I usually say something like this:
“Hi, my name is Debbie Goetz and I’m calling from Debbie Goetz Media Connections. On May 15th, I sent you a press release about X. I’m just checking to find out if you are interested in the story idea or if you need more information.”
If you get voice mail, be sure to leave a message with your contact information so that the reporter has a way to get back in touch with you. It is also good to alternate between phone and email because some days, reporters don’t check their email and some days they don’t check their voice mail. So, if you do both, you increase your chances of getting a hold of them.
Going back to the Thanksgiving turkey example, even if you follow the recipe to the letter, you could end up with a turkey that doesn’t turn out the way you would have liked it to. So, even if you do these things listed above, there is no guarantee you’ll get press coverage. But, if you want to improve your chances of success, follow the simple steps outlined above.
Now go and Get Noticed!!