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‘Til the Cows Come Home: 6 Ways to Maximize your Local Connections

  • Posted November 21, 2006
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I once opened a press kit that mooed.

MOOED.

We kept the package around the newsroom for weeks, but never
published the press release and professional photos wrapped inside.

Hey, it was cute. Probably expensive. Just one problem. I ran a
local newspaper focused on local connections, and this had none.

In 20 years, I probably tossed upwards of 15,000 press releases. Even
though the name of our community featured prominently in the
masthead, scores of expensive media kits promoting people and
businesses from everywhere you can imagine crossed my desk.

I decided if I ever ended up in the PR business, I’d try to keep people
from wasting so much time.

I started with Susan*, who came to me for help with marketing an
educational toy. She’d been selling to day care centers, but one or two
sets at a time barely covered the cost of gas.

She had a wonderful story, one that needed a larger audience – and
got it.

Even with a very limited budget, Susan’s product was profiled in
community newspapers, a parenting magazine and a regional daily. I’m
not taking much credit; she did all the legwork.

I told her who to talk to, what to say, and how often to say it.

It’s just plain silly to throw your PR blindly at an editor, hoping it sticks.
Sure, you can e-mail every media outlet in the free world. It won’t cost
you a dime, and you’ll probably get exactly what you paid for.

Why waste your time, when you can invest it on the front end? Just find
your connections – and then give them what they want.

Start with a list of every place you’ve ever called home. Community
newspapers, accessible through any search engine, would welcome
news of your business and accomplishments. Be sure to mention your
“local connection” in a cover letter.

Did you go to college? Send your alumni magazine a “news note,”
then take one extra step. They often “localize” national stories with
alumni interviews. Why shouldn’t one of them be you? Contact the
editor, establish yourself as a willing expert.

Your insurance provider, wholesale club, auto club and other groups
probably publish member-focused magazines. Offer to help them out, as
a source in your field. Or let them know how their business has helped
yours.

All those editors still receive drifts of press releases. Still, you can
shine through. I know you can, because I’ve seen people do it. Here’s
how:

1. Create a press kit that includes a clear, well-written press release in
long and short formats, and high quality photographs.

2. Don’t forget the simple stuff, like affixing sufficient postage or
including your contact information.

3. Contact the editor by phone three or four days after sending your
information, to make sure it arrived and answer any questions.

4. Respect an editor’s time when you make your follow-up call, asking
whether he or she has five minutes to talk.

5. Create a lasting impression with a snappy 30 to 45-second “pitch”
about yourself, your product or service.

6. Keep a tone that blends enthusiasm, professionalism and courtesy.

Finally, remember this: All you can do is improve very long odds
Editors are people first. They have personal problems and biases, just
like everybody else.

Stay positive, patient, polite and persistent – sooner or later, you’ll beat
those odds.

And you won’t need a “lowing” press kit to do it.

Joni Hubred-Golden uses two decades of experience in journalism to
advise marketing clients. She’s packed her latest e-book, Worth Every
Penny (2006 Forum Communications) with templates, scripts, checklists
and scores of hot tips to help small business owners market themselves
on a shoestring. It’s available at http://forum-online.info/

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  • Posted On November 21, 2006
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