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Getting Press Coverage

An Entrepreneur's Guide to Successful Trade Press Coverage

By James D. Schakenbach

Some wag once said "I was so poor, I couldn't pay attention". While most emerging businesses suffer from tight cash problems, that should not prevent you from going after favorable press coverage, especially as you get ready to roll out a new product or service.

Obviously, there are many benefits to hiring professionals to help you develop effective PR and marketing campaigns; however, if you lack cash, you don't have to choose between hiring an outside firm or doing nothing at all. Instead, do some of the work yourself. By following a few useful tips, you can go a long way toward gaining the valuable visibility you'll need to be successful.

The Right and Wrong Way to Contact an Editor
Every industry has its own set of publications and chances are you're already familiar with most of the ones in your marketplace. Start by checking publication websites for reporters' names and their responsibilities. Make sure you will be contacting the right person. By doing this simple, preliminary task, you avoid unnecessary phone calls, delays, and confusion. If you do call, DO NOT leave lengthy messages. Editors hate them. And NEVER have inexperienced or unknowledgeable personnel contact editors. There is no better way to alienate an editor than to waste his or her time with an earnest young employee reading from a prepared script about the company's "revolutionary" new product or "leading edge" application. These hapless individuals -- often marketing assistants or junior account executives with PR firms -- are known in the trade press as "script kitties" and editors reserve a special scorn for them.

Choose a knowledgeable, well-spoken person (or persons) within your organization to be the contact point and then make sure they are available when editors need them. Most loss of coverage occurs when editors are unable to contact company personnel. You can make this easier by having current contact information, including names, numbers, and email addresses, listed on your website. It's surprising how many companies overlook this simple but critical feature.

Proper Press Release Preparation
A properly prepared press release can be one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. Start with full contact information and a release date at the top, followed by a benefit-based, concise headline that conveys immediate value. Avoid self-congratulatory backslapping that serves only to pump up your company. It has no value to the reader. The same goes for the body text. Too often companies make the mistake of dwelling on how great their new product or service is without putting it into context for the marketplace. What problem does it solve for the reader? What does it compare to? Why should the reader be interested in it? Forego the puffery for solid, strategic information about your product, service, and company.

If you are preparing a product release that contains specifications and other technical data, editors welcome the use of bullet points -- those lists of short, punchy phrases, often with a black dot in front of them. Editors are generally overwhelmed with coverage requests, so they prefer a short, sweet, and to-the-point release that puts a product or service in context quickly and accurately, with little or no jargon.

Words to Avoid
It's easy to get caught up in jargon, particularly if you are a fugitive from a large corporation awash in acronyms. Nothing is more deadly or stultifying than the overuse of now-meaningless words, including "revolutionary", "leading edge", "paradigm", "solution", "leader", "disruptive" (as in "disruptive technology"), "future proof", and others too numerous to list. Avoid them like the plague. Work hard to use common, everyday language for clarity -- it will help you stand out in the crowded marketplace and cause editors to sit up and take notice. Well-written press releases are rare these days.

Distribution Do's and Don'ts
Once you have your release prepared, take some time to find out how editors would like to receive it. Publication websites often contain information on how to prepare and send materials. These days, harried, overworked, and underpaid editors like to receive as much information as possible by email. In fact, the majority of B2B trade editors prefere to get their information electronically, so don't hesitate to include your release text right in the body of your email. Attached documents can slow down transmission and often contain viruses causing some editors to avoid attachments or downright refuse them. If you do have a product or application photo to accompany your release, create a .jpg digital file of it, clearly name it, and send that along with your release email. It makes an editor's job easier -- and increases your chance of getting coverage -- if you can provide pertinent, professionally-produced support material and graphics to make your news more attractive and informative.

Before you send your release, make sure you're sending it to the right editor. Check again. The editor you talked to when you first opened your doors is not necessarily the same one you'd send product releases to.

Good press coverage starts with common sense. Do your homework. Contact the right editors. Use clear, concise language. Be specific. Show value. Make yourself (or somebody else in your company) available for comment. Don't fudge, lie, or overstate. If you follow these simple guidelines you will be well on the way to getting the press coverage you deserve.

Jim can be reached through our contact page.

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