Q: How should we react to a reporter who gave our product a negative
A: Whatever you do, don't get angry and make a long-term enemy of
this reporter. Instead, acknowledge whatever problems there may
be with your product and explain what your company is doing to correct
them. Invite the reporter to revisit your product when the problems
are resolved. Then, make sure you follow through at that time. If
you feel the review was not only negative but unfairly biased as
well, you might wish to write a polite letter to the reporter and
his editor to at least provide accurate information. Again, dont
hesitate to follow through several months later to request another
Q: Why would I want to be included in a "round-up"
article? Id much rather see my company stand alone.
A: There are a number of reasons to spend
at least a portion of your PR effort on round-up articles. Dont
give up on trying to get stand-alone coverage, but be aware that
its a more difficult goal to attain. Round-up articles are
an excellent way to build relationships with reporters and establish
your credibility within your industry.
If youre a small firm struggling to be noticed, getting quoted
alongside your larger, better-known competitors can enhance your
image. Plus, its an easy avenue to introduce yourself to reporters
as a resource who can help them do their job better, instead of
approaching them with your hand out, seeking publicity to help your
business. Sure, the reporter knows your offer is partly a bid for
publicity. But if he or she learns that you are knowledgeable, available
often on short notice and can deliver an articulate
answer, pretty soon that writer will call you for quotes instead
of the other way around. At that point, it will probably be easier
to convince a reporter who already knows and likes you to feature
Be aware, however, that few stories are entirely stand-alones; even
a reporter who is primarily focusing on your firm may contact a
competitor or two to round out the piece.
of October 2002
Q. Our company has some excellent case studies but
we aren't sure what to do with them. Any ideas?
A. Case studies can be extremely valuable
tools for any company. They offer a first-hand glimpse at how a
company has solved a particular problem or how its product or service
has otherwise worked successfully. People tend to learn by examples
and this gives them that ability.
That said, it is important to know what to
do with your case studies once you have identified them. First,
determine which ones showcase your company and its products/services
most effectively. Your case studies should tie into the key message
points you wish to disseminate about your company. Be aware that
a case study may not always do so, so select carefully. When you
write the case study, keep your message points in mind. Make certain
you are showing HOW your product or service solved the companys
problem. It should not sound self-serving, but should always leave
the reader with a positive impression of your company.
Your case study can be utilized in many ways.
The easiest use is your Web site. This is especially effective if
you write a version with the Web in mind be concise rather than
overly detailed in this version. Make sure it is visible from the
home page. A prospective client should be able to zero right in
on this. Next, write a longer, more detailed version for a marketing
piece. This is a useful tool for both your sales and marketing department
and for your PR team. Your sales department can use it as a "leave-behind"
and your PR folks can use it to obtain an application story in a
targeted trade publication. Or, they can just include it in the
media kit to give reporters an idea of your company's successes'.
of October 2002
Q: Why cant I write whatever I want about
my company in a press release?
this question may not be voiced often, we know that many corporate
executives have pondered this very question. Here are just a few
of the reasons why press releases should be based on facts
particularly facts that can be attributed to reliable sources.
The purpose of a press release is to communicate
factual information to the public ideally information that
can be deemed newsworthy. Press releases are not intended to be
marketing pieces, that is, written material designed to "sell" your
companys products or services. When you are writing marketing
pieces, you can make whatever claims you like. While it is always
best to be as accurate as possible, even in marketing pieces, there
is a certain amount of exaggeration that goes on in marketing that
is simply accepted and even expected.
In contrast, a press release should contain
information that can be backed up in a credible fashion. For example,
you shouldnt simply announce that your company is the fastest
in its field unless you have incontrovertible statistics
to back up that statement (i.e., XYZ Company is the fastest in the
industry, able to produce 1 million components in less than an hour
at least 20 percent faster than the industry average.). If
you can cite the source for the industry average, all the better.
If you cant offer statistics such as
the above, there are a few ways to overcome this roadblock. For
example, if your company won an award for being the fastest in your
industry, you could include that information in your press release.
If an industry analyst or an industry publication made note of your
companys speed or efficiency, you could provide a statement
noting that. If you have a testimonial from a customer, you could
attribute that opinion in a quote: "In my opinion, XYZ Company is
the fastest in the industry," said customer Joe Smith. "They handled
my order more quickly and more accurately than anyone else."
In sum, try to keep your press releases and
your marketing materials separate. Their functions are different
and you will gain more credibility from media and from the public
if you do not inflate your releases with unsubstantiated claims
of September 2002
Q: Im the
marketing manager and our company has hired a PR firm. Can I still
contact reporters at our top media targets?
A: If youre paying an agency
to contact media, let them do it. Thats their profession,
and its one thing less for you to worry about. Moreover, if
youre communicating with the agency successfully, your PR
person should be aware of your top targets and be working to make
media hits happen there. It would be counterproductive for both
of you to contact the same reporter. It looks unprofessional and
runs the risk of antagonizing the publication. If the PR person
is new to your industry and doesnt yet have a relationship
with a reporter whom youve already cultivated, the more effective
method is to suggest that the PR person reference you in conversation
as part of establishing his or her own relationship with that reporter.
However, in some cases, a long-established relationship with a reporter
cant be duplicated quickly and you may wish to continue some
contact to ensure the best results. If this is the case, make sure
the PR person is aware of this and steers clear of that publication
until you are ready to pass the baton.
of September 2002
What is a media advisory and why is it different from a press release?
A. A media advisory is a document whose purpose is to alert
media to an upcoming event or a situation that may interest them.
To be effective, a media advisory is written in a brief style
often bullets that is easy to read quickly. Remember the
5 Ws (WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY) when creating a media advisory.
It is also most effective when sent only to APPROPRIATE reporters
and editors (print) or assignment editors, planners or producers
(broadcast). Just as you shouldnt send your press release
to every media person in the media guide, you also should be selective
in sending out media advisories. For example, if your event concerns
a special event of interest to persons in financial services, only
send it to business reporters who cover that beat and to industry
publications in that sector.
A media advisory can serve as an invitation to attend or cover an
event, an opportunity to do an advance story including an
advance interview -- on the event, or perhaps provide a "heads
up" on expertise your company CEO may possess that fits into
current news issues. Your advisory may offer an interview that would
fit into current news stories.
Sometimes you may wish to send a media advisory to attract initial
media attention and then follow up with a press release intended
to elicit news coverage. The two are not mutually exclusive but
your media relations campaign will be more on target if you first
determine what you wish to accomplish and then use the most appropriate
tool or tools.
of September 2002
Q: Our CEOs interview was cancelled at the
last minute due to breaking news. The TV producer wants to reschedule,
but the CEO is reluctant. What should I do?
A: Being bumped for breaking news is one of
the risks you take when you decide to seek TV exposure. Remind your
CEO before any TV appearance that there are no guarantees so he
or she is not shocked if it happens. The news desk may bump your
already produced interview, reduce your scheduled time or call ahead
to cancel the interview when the assignment editor decides something
else is late-breaking news hits. If your interview ties into breaking
news, your chances of coverage as planned are far greater. But if
you are part of a feature package, the risk is higher.
It is your job to assess the risks and
rewards of the appearance. If the TV station has a significant audience
and it is an audience important to your company it
usually is worth taking the risk. But stay in close contact with
first the planning editor, who usually plans features in advance,
and second, with the assignment editor the day of the shoot. Dont
take it for granted that the news crew will show up just because
it was on the schedule the day before. And if your CEO is scheduled
to go in-studio, check just before he or she leaves to make certain
the station is still prepared for his arrival.
You can also help your cause by making sure
everyone involved at the station is well-briefed on your CEOs
expertise and the company itself, if appropriate. Often, the reporter
sent to cover a story has little background on what the story is
about. When the assignment editor can hand the reporter a brief
written summary you have sent in advance, it often will lead to
a better job of interviewing.
Bottom line: if you can manage your CEOs
expectations, it may be very worthwhile to reschedule. But if your
CEO is bumped again for a different breaking story
you may wish to focus on print interviews, which typically are a
much more reliable form of media coverage.
of September 2002
Q: Our PR agency sometimes sends clippings about
our company that we dont want. What should we do?
Unfortunately, your options are limited. Your
PR agency no doubt has contracted with a clipping service to monitor
the media for articles that include your company name. The clipping
service interprets that to mean, "send us articles, long or
short, as long as they carry the companys name." The
agency has no control over the clippings it receives and, unfortunately,
neither do you. Essentially, its a package deal, and you have
to take the good with the bad.
Clipping services are available for print,
broadcast and Internet coverage. Clippings are essential to the
measurement of a media relations campaign, as well as subsequent
reprint efforts. But clipping services are an imperfect solution.
Every clipping service will miss some stories in lesser-known publications.
And each kind of clipping service will miss stories in the media
it doesnt cover. For example, online services will miss stories
that only appear in printed editions, while services limited to
printed publications will miss Internet-only articles. Whichever
way you go, there will be holes in your coverage, and your PR firm
no doubt is doing searches online to supplement what it gleans from
the clipping service.
of August 2002
A reporter has asked for our media kit. Will a marketing package
A. If you do not have a dedicated media kit,
you can modify your marketing package for this immediate need. But
your inability to immediately send off a media kit demonstrates
a deficiency in your companys PR program that should be remedied
since your company appears to attract media interest. So what is
the difference between a media kit and a marketing kit? The two
fulfill very different functions.
A media kit consists of "backgrounders" or
articles that tell your companys story without fluff or hype.
These stories are written in a straightforward fashion, letting
the facts speak for themselves. They are designed to appeal to a
reporters need for interesting story ideas and to provide
solid, factual information to help the reporter write an accurate
story about your company, product or service.
A marketing kit, in contrast, is designed
to persuade people to buy. A marketing kit, in fact, could also
be called a sales kit. Sales sheets, brochures, photos, samples
these kits are tools to help the sales department. For your
short-term media kit need, toss out the sales sheets and other promotional
sounding material. Keep in any press releases and reprints of articles
about your company (providing they are not from competing publications).
Add a cover letter that summarizes your companys key message
points and perhaps suggest possible story angles, as well.
of August 2002
Q. I arranged for one of our executives to be contacted
for a story on a particular topic, but the reporter never called.
How should I follow up?
A. You should definitely follow up with the
reporter, but position the call as a quest for information, not
an opportunity to complain. You want to keep the door open for quotes
in future stories. Find out whether the story has already been written
or if you can reschedule the interview. Also find out if the reporter
tried to make a call and couldnt reach the source, or didnt
get a call back.
If thats the case, you may have to take
some action on your end. The most likely scenario is that the reporter
simply ran out of time to contact additional sources before deadline.
If thats the case, be pleasant but remind the reporter to
keep you in mind for future stories.
of August 2002
Q. Why does the newspaper change the news release
we send out?
A. There are several practical reasons
why this occurs, but the most important thing to keep in mind is
that the news release usually is viewed as a "source document" from
which to extract information. Thats why its crucial
to make your releases as accurate and easy to understand as possible.
Reporters and editors who are almost always on deadline
will hurriedly extract information and put it into the format most
appropriate for their section of the newspaper. Sometimes its
a full-length story, but most often its a "brief" (a paragraph
or two) or even a listing in a column.
Even when the newspaper runs a full-length
story, most editors will remove excess industry jargon, subjective
comments, flowery adjectives and similar parts of the release that
do not conform to "news style." Newspapers are always tight on space,
so the press release that is well written in a concise manner may
end up nearly intact. Some companies like to write press releases
with every possible fact included, but these mammoth releases are
tossed more quickly than the shorter releases and, even when used,
there is more room for error because they can be difficult to understand
by a non-industry reporter or editor. Keep it short and simple and
youll have the best results.
of August 2002
Q: My company is starting a PR
campaign. Do I need to prepare a media kit, and can you offer some
A: Yes, you do need a media kit. Once
youve gotten a reporter interested, you want something that
answers basic questions about your company and delivers your messaging
platform. However, kits can be developed in varying degrees of complexity.
Your kit might include a corporate backgrounder that describes your
company and its positioning, a one-page fact sheet, a set of Frequently
Asked Questions, bios of one or more members of the management team,
and photos of your product and/or CEO. You also may want to include
news releases, your corporate brochure or product brochure(s), and
product spec sheets. Sometimes, media clippings can be useful, provided
they are not from competing publications. A partial client list
and/or testimonials from clients can also enhance the kit.
What you include, and how you distribute the
kit, will vary according to your particular company and its industry.
Youll want to put the kit online in almost all cases, so that
reporters can view it or download it easily. If youre a tech
company, most of the media will want to view your kit this way.
If you are in other industries, such as consumer products or retailing,
youll find more uses for actual kits, as opposed to virtual
kits, which can be mailed or given to reporters during interviews.
Whatever your industry, dont forget to have hard-copy media
kits available at trade shows. Be selective, though: Dont
include every document in every kit. Base your decisions on the
reporters level of technical expertise and the kind of story
he or she is writing. A lifestyle reporter who might cover a consumer
tech product will have different needs than a business reporter
or a true technology reporter.
of July 2002
We met with several reporters at a recent trade show. How do we
A: Call, email or, perhaps even
better, send a handwritten note expressing pleasure that the reporter
took time out to meet with you. Offer to provide any additional
information they might want if they plan to write about your firm
and/or its products or services.
Dont forget to include a business card with your thank you
note or, if you're e-mailing, appropriate contact information. If
you promised to send products to any of the reporters, send them
along with your note. That will provide you with opportunity for
a second follow-up. Set the groundwork for an ongoing relationship:
Be sure to offer your services as an ongoing resource for information
on your industry. If youre chatting by phone, use the opportunity
to ask what other stories the reporter is working on that you might
be able to help with.
A relationship with a reporter is a two-way street: You want coverage,
they want good stories and reliable sources they can quote.
of July 2002
Q: A publication has requested a photo of our CEO. Should we hire
a professional photographer?
A. If you believe there will be more than
one opportunity for a photo or the opportunity itself is
meaningful a professional photo session is well worth the
investment. Professional photos can be used in a variety of ways
your Web site, the company's brochures or annual report,
marketing materials, press kits, as well as articles in trade and
With the advent of digital photography, some companies are choosing
to shoot their own photos. This sometimes works out fine, but usually
the company is disappointed with the results. Digital photography
can be trickier than it looks and sometimes gives you fewer options
in the end. Professional photos whether traditional format
or digital will enhance your image, making your company look
more professional. When you hire a professional photographer, you
may wish to maximize the opportunity and shoot several things at
once perhaps your CEO and a few other key figures.
of July 2002
Q: My company invites high-level,
local business contacts to monthly breakfast meetings. How can I
convince a local reporter to attend?
A. With a high-powered guest list, you wont
have to do a hard sell. To "hook" a reporter, emphasize
the high-level nature of the attendees at your breakfast and the
opportunity the reporter will have to meet and visit with them.
Some of these individuals may represent potential news stories and
some certainly would be worthwhile sources for the reporters
expert sources list. Youll succeed in getting the reporter
to attend if he or she perceives that attending your meeting will
be beneficial. While this may not lead to immediate coverage for
you, the reporter will remember that you made the connections possible
and will be impressed with the caliber of contacts your company
One caution dont invite reporters
from more than one publication to the same breakfast. Rotate invitations
for the best result. Reporters dont like to feel as though
their competition is looking over their shoulder and that
way you can devote more time and attention to the reporter in attendance.
of July 2002
Q: Im an entrepreneur, and
the editor of the local business publication has agreed to a lunch
meeting with me. Any tips?
A. A "getting-to-know-you"
meeting with the editor of a local publication is an excellent idea,
and a wonderful opportunity for you to develop a productive, ongoing
relationship with the media outlet. However, even if your ultimate
goal is a feature story about your company, aim for a low-key sales
approach. Yes, you should clearly describe what your company does,
why its different from all the others in your industry and
get your message points across. But beyond that, emphasize what
you can do to help the publication and its reporters, rather than
what you want from the publication. Present yourself as an expert
in your industry and readily available to the business staff as
an ongoing resource. Before you leave, provide contact information,
including an after-hours telephone number. If you have one or more
story ideas, kick them around with the editor.
Moreover, if the publication has assisted you in some way
for example, through a weekly email newsletter be sure to
point it out during your discussion. Everyone likes a pat on the
back, as long as its sincere. To be successful with your public
relations efforts, remember that editors and reporters appreciate
reliable two-way relationships. You may discover that your best
press coverage comes from editors and reporters who consider you
a resource they can rely on.
of June 2002
If I produce a video news release, do I need a print media campaign
A. Yes. A video news release (VNR)
and a print media campaign will complement one another. Unlike competing
print publications, a television news show wont reject a story
simply because it has already appeared in print. In fact, television
reporters often read the morning newspapers to find stories they
want to cover that day.
As far as your audience is concerned, you
want them to see the story in as many media outlets as possible.
A positive, cumulative effect occurs when the same story appears
in many places at the same time. While a single print or TV story
might not make an impression on the average person, someone who
reads a story in print and then sees the same company or product
featured on television is more likely to remember it.
An integrated PR program is almost always
your most effective route to take. Unfortunately, budget constraints
often dictate whether the campaign is full-featured or one-dimensional.
of June 2002
Q. Does a private
company need investor relations?
A. In many cases, private
companies do need investor relations (IR), just as public companies
do. To determine if your private company should have an IR program,
consider the following:
Did your company raise capital through
Will your company seek additional sources
of capital near term?
Is your company positioned for an IPO,
merger or acquisition?
Are you trying to attract strategic partners
for your company?
If any of these scenarios fit your company,
then you should develop an IR program that emphasizes financial
communications. As a private company, it may be crucial for you
to target existing investors and option holders to keep them informed
and happy, gain exposure to seek funding and build mind share among
the Wall Street investment community. Some ways to accomplish this
include conducting regular communications with your investors through
shareholder letters, issuing an annual and quarterly reports, developing
an investor section for your Web site and attending/speaking at
conferences aimed at private companies seeking investments.
In addition, an aggressive financial media relations campaign is
a powerful accompaniment to an IR program for a private company.
Earning positive press among business and financial media builds
credibility. If youre a start up, media exposure helps you
appear "real" and provides a third-party endorsement of
your company. Plus, you can use reprints as part of your sales and
of June 2002
Q: Ive heard that its important to "position"
my company. What does that mean?
A: Positioning involves the core message(s)
about your company that you wish to communicate to your target audiences.
Every company needs to be positioned to achieve success. Small companies
can formulate informal positioning statements to help them achieve
success; large companies may need to create a comprehensive messaging
platform document that is formally disseminated throughout the organization.
Regardless of size, your positioning, or messaging, should 1) explain
what you do and for whom, 2) tell what differentiates you from other
companies in your industry, 3) describe how your companys
products or services provide benefit to your customer.
Unless you are a large and complicated company,
strive to keep it short, specific, and simple to understand. Your
positioning process should also involve testing it on several people
NOT in your company to see how understandable and compelling it
is. Done correctly, your positioning provides a compelling reason
to do business with you. Your positioning will enable the entire
company to remain in step together as you move forward, both with
internal and external communications. The goal is for all company
communications to deliver consistent messages to all audiences,
from potential and current customers to business partners and media.
And dont forget that as your company
grows and when it changes to accommodate a changing market
your positioning statement may need adjustments, too. Positioning
statements are not intended to remain constant through the life
of your company they must be relevant and pertinent to current
market conditions and your current target audiences.
Q: A company executive was quoted in a recent news article, and
we want to use the article in our marketing efforts. Any suggestions?
A: You are wise to consider the marketing
benefits of reprints, both online and off. There's no substitute
for the third-party credibility of media coverage. Reprints give
you the opportunity to extend the article's reach beyond the publication's
initial audience. They should be used to encourage business prospects
and to keep your company top of mind with current customers and
business partners. Don't forget to list them in your Web site's
pressroom. Even if the story isn't about your company, the fact
that a company executive has been quoted lends him or her credibility
as an industry expert.
That said, there are definite protocols required to avoid copyright
violations. To use the article on your Web site or in an email campaign,
you can link to the actual article via a URL that will take readers
to the publication's site. For a hard copy, you should contact the
publication regarding reprints. Some publications will allow you
to reprint the article yourself, as long as you provide credit to
the publication. Others require you to purchase reprints from the
publication itself. Whatever you decide to do, note that you cant
change the text of the article in any way.
Week of May 2002
Q: An industry friend told me about a trade publication that sounds
like a perfect target for us. Do I need to see a copy?A: You
should definitely get a look at the publication before you try to
pitch the editor. If you can find it online, thats a start.
But it would be even better to see a printed version. Ask your friend
for the contact information, and order one from the companys
ad department. In fact, ask for a complete media kit. That way youll
get the magazines demographics, circulation, and probably
an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar will tell you if the
magazine is planning a story that fits your companys expertise.
That way, when you pitch the editor, youre filling a need
you already know exists. Be aware, though, that publications often
work months in advance.If youre making a more general pitch,
there are things youll need to know about the magazine. For
example, what kind of stories does it publish? Does it have a news
briefs section, or are all the articles longer feature stories?
Does your companys story belong in a particular section? Is
there a spot for promotions and new hires to be listed? Does the
magazine quote expert sources? Can you write and submit an article,
or does it publish only staff-written pieces? You may want to consider
submitting a bylined piece if thats acceptable. If you can
show that youre familiar with the publication, youll
do better. If you cant be bothered to read the magazine, why
should the editor care about your story? Conversely, if you frame
your pitch as a way to help the magazine do its job successfully,
you become a useful resource, not just someone looking for publicity.
Week of April 2002
Q. Our company does not fall into a simple category such as "high
tech" or "healthcare" or "manufacturing."
How do I find reporters who will care about my company?
A. Your problem is a common one for many companies that
do not fit easily into one category or another. As such, they also
do not fall into a regular news "beat." Identifying interested
reporters can be time-consuming as well as frustrating.
Nonetheless, there are some ways to combat this. When you think
about your company and its news value, think expansively rather
than narrowly. Your product or service category may be narrow or
even obscure, but there are many things about your company that
could lead to coverage. Do you have a compelling management story
that would intrigue a management reporter? Was your initial or subsequent
funding process unusual in any way and therefore of interest to
reporters covering investment banking, M&A or just general finance?
Is your product manufactured or assembled in a unique manner?
By all means you should endeavor to identify key media outlets that
hit your targeted audiences, and then try to uncover the reporter
or editor who would most be concerned with your news. However, if
you can use that as a starting point, not an ending point, you will
usually have better result in getting your news and features into
the appropriate media.
Week of April 2002
Q: Our companys CEO will receive a prestigious award next
month. Should we arrange for a photo of the presentation? A:
Yes, such a photo has several potential uses. You could post it
on your Web site, with an article about the award. Depending on
the nature of your company and its product/services, you also could
incorporate it in your marketing materials. Some trade publications
and weekly newspapers do publish these kinds of photos. Remember,
though, low-resolution photos taken with digital cameras may be
fine for Web sites, but are not appropriate for print media. Less
expensive digital cameras cannot provide high-resolution shots,
so your usages will be confined to the Internet. If you use traditional
photography or a high-end digital camera, high-resolution photos
can be sent to publications sent via snail mail or email.One further
caveat: the mainstream press isnt likely to use whats
known as a "grip and grin" shot (two people shaking hands
and smiling over an award or check presentation) in its news pages.
Youd be better served with a head shot of the award winner
and a short news release, which most likely will be inserted into
a column of noteworthy business briefs.
Week of April 2002
Q. My company has an opportunity to appear on TV if we provide
the station with B-roll. If we spend the money, can we put the B-roll
to other uses as well?A. Standard B-roll can be used over and
over again for different stories if it is good footage
as long as the products and services it showcases are still fresh.
Potential uses include:
- A pre-packaged, distributed news story.
Many companies will create their own video news release (VNR)
and distribute it via satellite or standard snail mail to news
stations nationwide. If the company and story are relevant and
the VNR is distributed on a slow news day, a sizable number of
stations might pick it up for their newscasts.
- As background footage at trade shows.
- As marketing material, packaged as a handout
to potential customers on a CD-ROM or VHS/DVD.
- Since video is a collection of still shots,
B-roll can also be used as individual shots for both online and
print reporters, and for analysts expressing interest in your
Week of April 2002
Q: A major retailer has purchased our new product but denied permission
for a case history. Can I write the case history without the specific
companys name but list the company as a customer in an accompanying
press release?A: You are trying to have your cake and eat it
too something very difficult to achieve. You can write a
case history without the specific companys name. It wont
have the same impact, especially if the customer is well known.
But you can make your points about the product application and achieve
a certain degree of product recognition in doing so. If you write
this anonymous case history, but link it to a press release that
reveals the companys name, you are asking for trouble and
may be jeopardizing a major account.Perhaps the best tactic is to
contact the company's PR department at the first sign of resistance
to publicity. PR folks have a better understanding of the value
of public relations and may be able to persuade corporate where
you can't. After all, a case study means ink for the customer as
well as for you. Sometimes there IS a logical reason for the company
to wish to remain anonymous. If this is the case, and the publicity
could harm the company, the PR department usually can fill you in.
Week of April 2002
Q. Our PR agency is focused on media placements but Ive
heard that an "integrated campaign" is best. Is this true?A:
In most cases, an integrated campaign yields the best and longest-lasting
results. Media placements can be an extremely important element
within a companys PR and marketing effort but this
is like working with a one-legged stool. An integrated campaign
takes advantage of multiple opportunities for exposure. Imagine
how much stronger and more effective your campaign would be if your
company turns up in various vehicles in the same time frame. Activities
might also include exhibiting at trade shows, advertising in media
that attract your targeted audience, conducting a direct-mail campaign,
and uncovering speaking engagements that bring recognition to your
company as an authority in its field. If a potential customer sees
your company quoted in a magazine, and then receives your marketing
brochure, the combined approach will make the customer more likely
to respond than either piece standing alone. Whenever possible,
leverage the individual components of a campaign for greater results.
Week of March 2002
Q. An editor told me it was OK to send him news about my company
via email. When I did, he responded "Remove me from your mailing
list." Can I salvage this situation?
A: If youre sure this is the right editor, wait a week
or two and write him a conciliatory letter. You might have hit him
on a bad day or a day with a deadline crunch. Ask how you might
interact more successfully in the future. Ask whether he can suggest
another editor at the publication who might be more interested in
your news. If that doesnt work, remove him from your list.
You can always try contacting another editor at the publication,
but dont hide the fact that youve been in contact with
the first editor if it comes up in conversation. Editor #1 might
see it as an end run and warn that editor off, too.
Week of March 2002
Q. Our PR department has set up several interviews with tech publications.
How can we maximize these opportunities?A. Were glad youre
asking this question. Setting up interviews is often difficult and
too often, they are a waste of time for both parties. Preparation
BEFORE the interview and careful attention DURING the interview
are critical to success. Here are three tips to keep in mind:First,
never walk into an interview either in-person, phone or email
unprepared. Always know the focus of the publication, the
specific purpose of the interview (informational background or for
a specific story), the interests of the interviewer including a
brief scan of previously written articles, and, when appropriate,
the nature of the section or "beat" handled by that reporter or
editor. This knowledge is readily available, usually through the
publications Web site as well as from various in-depth media
guides. And, whenever possible, do read at least one copy of the
publication prior to the interview.Second, dont forget that
the focus ultimately should be on what the interviewer finds interesting,
not what you think is interesting or important. Always keep in mind
your companys key message points, but put them into the context
of the publication, the interviewer and his or her readers. If you
remember that this is an editorial opportunity, not an advertising
situation, you will do better at maintaining interest in your company
and its products or services. Third, dont rely on the interviewers
note-taking skills or memory. Always have a "leave-behind" that
provides straightforward information crucial to your story. This
is NOT a marketing presentation, but rather a brief, objective review
of the facts you have presented during your interview or of your
company itself. A good reporter will refer to this while writing
the current or even future article concerning your
company or product. You can leave this as a power point presentation,
a multi-media CD presentation or printed documents.
Week of March 2002
Q. I know our company needs to create a media kit, or press kit.
Who, exactly, is the target audience?
A. Your media kit, also called a press kit, is a collection of materials
about your company that provides solid background for reporters.
It can include already created pieces, such as brochures, sales
sheets, newsletters, annual reports, etc., but the primary emphasis
is on background articles that present your companys story.
These are not sales or marketing pieces nor are they opinion pieces.
They are factual articles that tell the company story.That said,
the tone of the articles will vary depending on who reads the kit.
Thats why it is important to know your target audience.
The three most common audiences for press kits are 1) trade press
media outlets that deliver industry-related, business-to-business
information to their readers; 2) business and financial press
publications that provide information to the general business or
investment community and care more about your companys financials
and how well you are executing your business model, than how your
product works, and 3) consumer press primarily mass media
publications or programs that carry your message to the general
public, thereby reaching the customers who consume your products.
Some companies have just one audience. Thats when its
easy. Many companies, though, have multiple audiences. If written
carefully, one kit may be able to work for all audiences. Usually,
though, separate kits for the different audiences will work best.
The same information can be "tweaked" for each audience.If
its a trade press kit, go ahead and provide product specifications
and plenty of good information that would interest your potential
business-to-business customers. For a financial press kit, pay attention
to telling your business story. Be aware that these reporters may
not have a thorough grasp of your technology so dont
use too much jargon or give too many technical details. Consumers,
of course, need a flashier, more creative approach. When youre
trying to reach consumers, know that the press who cover this segment
expect a bit more sizzle.Taking the time to understand your audience
will definitely allow your press kit to be more useful, whether
reporters read printed materials or the online version on your Web
Week of March 2002
Q. Why do reporters seem to need to do the interview RIGHT AWAY
even when their stories sometimes dont appear until
months later? A. Unfortunately for both you and the reporter,
most reporters actually do work under the gun even those
who work for monthly magazines whose stories do not appear until
a few months down the road. Daily reporters, of course, often have
just hours to find sources, do interviews and then write the story
for the next days paper. Whew! When you want to be a media
resource, you have to be prepared to accommodate their harried schedules.
That said, most interviews dont take long. A 30-minute interview
is usually quite long. If you have decided that media exposure will
be good for you and your company, a 15- to 30-minute intrusion into
your schedule shouldnt be too difficult.
However, dont forget the preparation time make sure
you know the article topic and the angle the reporter is taking,
if possible. And if the topic concerns your company, dont
forget to review your message points. If you really cant fit
the interview into your schedule, leave the door open for future
opportunities. Let the reporter know you are sorry you cant
be accommodating but that you would be willing to talk at a future
date when the article involves your area of expertise. Its
also a good idea to be courteous and helpful to all reporters, when
possible, because most reporters will remember good sources when
they move on to bigger and better media outlets. Media friends can
be worth their weight in gold.
of February 2002
Q. Is it OK to thank media for publicity?It is good business
etiquette to thank those who benefit you. So many professionals
overlook this that you likely will be remembered for showing your
appreciation. However, you must make your thanks sincere and appropriate
for the media. You can send a note thanking the reporter for the
coverage or call (not during deadlines), but never send a gift.
This would imply that the editorial integrity of the journalist
had been compromised. You can send along additional information
that would be helpful, however, to show your appreciation. Some
items to consider would be a research report on the industry he
or she covers, another story lead or an introduction to an industry
expert who could make the reporters job easier.
of February 2002
Q. How can I ensure visitors to my site get past the homepage?
the clickthrough rates of their Web sites is a major battle most
companies face. Its true that the majority of visitors to
your site will leave after viewing the homepage only. This costs
you the opportunity to turn visitors into customers. You can increase
the likelihood of visitors clicking through to other pages, however,
by following a few tested strategies.
Market your company well on the home page. If a visitor to your
site cant glean from the homepage what it is you do and what
you offer, they will leave. You should include a clear company description
on your home page that positions your company within your market
and against competitors and provides a compelling value statement
for customers, partners, etc. This shouldnt be long; in fact,
you should accomplish this in less than 25 words. In addition, give
visitors reasons for clicking past the home page.
Entice them with information or offers they would find valuable.
You should provide links on your home page to deeper pages within
your site. However, give visitors too many choices and you risk
information overload. If they cant see a clear path for getting
the information they want, chances are, they will leave the site
entirely. Instead, segment links by benefits. You could have
link for prospective customers or current customers. You also could
create links by geography or region. Think of how visitors will
use your site and link accordingly.
Week of January 2002
Q. I send our press releases on a paid news wire. Do I need to
do anything else to get press? A.
Yes! The paid news wires the biggest ones being
PR Newswire and BusinessWire -- are just the starting place for
generating serious press coverage. If you are a public company,
you are required to use a widely disseminated wire for news that
must be disclosed to the financial community. If you are a private
company, you have a choice; however, if it is significant news,
a paid wire service is essential. Wire distribution is even more
meaningful today because of the numerous Web sites that pick up
off the wire news releases that would interest their readership.
That said, the wire distribution is only the starting place. From
there, you must work hard to generate the kind of coverage you are
looking for. This is done by creating your own media distribution
list of key reporters who cover your particular beat. Most likely,
this is a combination of industry (trade) press, and business/financial
media. Next step is to personally contact them with the story. Once
you develop relationships with these reporters on your beat, youll
find that your coverage will increase dramatically over just sending
out on the wire.
Week of January 2002
Our company, which was started in 1998, had excellent sales numbers
until the past six months. Recently, our sales force cant
close deals. Any suggestions? A.
Frankly, your question is most appropriate for a site
focused on sales and marketing rather than public relations and
marketing. However, since this is a problem quite a few young companies
are experiencing, wed like to provide a few ideas.First, many
companies that began business in the late 1990s -- and actually
had working products -- produced sales quickly and relatively easily.
As a result, those responsible for sales who were often inexperienced
were more reactive than proactive.
Unfortunately, todays recession, and the business setbacks
caused by the Sept. 11 terrorism and resulting war, have caused
many companies to stop buying. Companies with enabling technologies,
especially, can only move as fast as the consumer or business products
they enable. Its a domino effect when those sales decline.What
is needed is not only a proactive program, but an aggressive one
at that. The core of the program would be a dynamic sales system
based on conscientious follow-through.
Unfortunately, companies sometimes lack the experience or the tools
needed to put such a program together.One idea is to enlist the
help of your in-house public relations person, or the outside PR
firm, to provide assistance. PR skills can be used to develop a
sales program that works, whether it involves telemarketing scripts,
email campaigns, direct mailers, or any other way to regularly contact
your prospects. And, if your prospect lists are weak, carefully
analyze exactly who you are going after and ask the PR team to locate
a source of lists that meet those needs.Rest assured: you are on
the right track to be asking this question. For companies beyond
the R & D stage, sales are key. If things arent happening,
dont sit by and patiently wait for the economy to bounce back.
Aggressive steps to bolster sales are critical right now.
Q. My start-up company is interested in displaying at
a trade show. How do we select the critical ones?
A. There are hundreds of trade shows annually
for the tech industry. As a start-up, several trade shows in your
sector probably are worth visiting and one or two may be
worthy of a company booth. The cost of simply attending a trade
show is relatively low compared to the potential contacts you can
make and the value of the information you can gather about competitors,
suppliers, buyers and the market in general. Consider attending
as many as your marketing and sales budget will permit. Deciding
to exhibit at a show with a booth is a more complicated and expensive
However, you can make the process easier by researching which shows
to attend. Identify the locations and dates of all the trade shows
related to your industry. An easy resource for this is the Web site
TSCentral.com, which provides trade show information for most industries.
Once you've identified shows that are likely prospects, request
sales kits on each show, which should tell you about its size, target
market and typical exhibitors. If your direct competitors are likely
to exhibit, your company may be conspicuous if absent. You can find
out this information by requesting last year's attendee list. It's
a good idea to exhibit at least once a year just to get your name
out there, especially if you're an early stage startup looking for
publicity or funding. Don't forget that showing up with a
booth is just step one be sure to maximize each trade show