December 2002
Q: How should we react to a reporter who gave our product a negative review?

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, don’t hesitate to follow through several months later to request another review.


November 2002
Q: Why would I want to be included in a "round-up" article? I’d 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. Don’t give up on trying to get stand-alone coverage, but be aware that it’s 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 you’re a small firm struggling to be noticed, getting quoted alongside your larger, better-known competitors can enhance your image. Plus, it’s 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 your company.

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.

Week 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 company’s 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'.

Week of October 2002
Q: Why can’t I write whatever I want about my company in a press release?

A. Although 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 company’s 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 shouldn’t 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 can’t 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 company’s 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 and conjecture.

Week of September 2002
Q: I’m the marketing manager and our company has hired a PR firm. Can I still contact reporters at our top media targets?

A: If you’re paying an agency to contact media, let them do it. That’s their profession, and it’s one thing less for you to worry about. Moreover, if you’re 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 doesn’t yet have a relationship with a reporter whom you’ve 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 can’t 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.

Week of September 2002
Q. 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 shouldn’t 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.

Week of September 2002
Q: Our CEO’s 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. Don’t 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 CEO’s 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 CEO’s 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.

Week of September 2002
Q: Our PR agency sometimes sends clippings about our company that we don’t 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 company’s name." The agency has no control over the clippings it receives and, unfortunately, neither do you. Essentially, it’s 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 doesn’t 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.

Week of August 2002
Q. A reporter has asked for our media kit. Will a marketing package suffice instead?

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 company’s 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 company’s 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 reporter’s 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 company’s key message points and perhaps suggest possible story angles, as well.

Week 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 couldn’t reach the source, or didn’t get a call back.

If that’s 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 that’s the case, be pleasant but remind the reporter to keep you in mind for future stories.

Week 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. That’s why it’s 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 it’s a full-length story, but most often it’s 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 you’ll have the best results.

Week of August 2002
Q: My company is starting a PR campaign. Do I need to prepare a media kit, and can you offer some tips?

A: Yes, you do need a media kit. Once you’ve 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. You’ll want to put the kit online in almost all cases, so that reporters can view it or download it easily. If you’re 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, you’ll find more uses for actual kits, as opposed to virtual kits, which can be mailed or given to reporters during interviews. Whatever your industry, don’t forget to have hard-copy media kits available at trade shows. Be selective, though: Don’t include every document in every kit. Base your decisions on the reporter’s 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.

Week of July 2002
Q: We met with several reporters at a recent trade show. How do we follow up?

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.

Don’t 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 you’re 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

Week 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 business publications.

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.

Week 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 won’t 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 reporter’s expert sources list. You’ll 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 deals with.

One caution — don’t invite reporters from more than one publication to the same breakfast. Rotate invitations for the best result. Reporters don’t 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.

Week of July 2002
Q: I’m 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 it’s 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 it’s 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.

Week of June 2002
Q. If I produce a video news release, do I need a print media campaign too?

A. Yes. A video news release (VNR) and a print media campaign will complement one another. Unlike competing print publications, a television news show won’t 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.

Week of June 2002
Does a private company need investor relations?

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 private placement?

  • 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 you’re 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 marketing programs.

Week of June 2002
Q: I’ve heard that it’s 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 company’s 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 don’t 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.

Week of May 2002
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 can’t 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, that’s 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 company’s ad department. In fact, ask for a complete media kit. That way you’ll get the magazine’s demographics, circulation, and probably an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar will tell you if the magazine is planning a story that fits your company’s expertise. That way, when you pitch the editor, you’re filling a need you already know exists. Be aware, though, that publications often work months in advance.If you’re making a more general pitch, there are things you’ll 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 company’s 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 that’s acceptable. If you can show that you’re familiar with the publication, you’ll do better. If you can’t 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?

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 company’s 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 isn’t likely to use what’s known as a "grip and grin" shot (two people shaking hands and smiling over an award or check presentation) in its news pages. You’d 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 company.

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 company’s 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 company’s name. It won’t 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 company’s 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 I’ve 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 company’s 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 you’re 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 doesn’t work, remove him from your list. You can always try contacting another editor at the publication, but don’t hide the fact that you’ve 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. We’re glad you’re 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 publication’s 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, don’t 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 company’s 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, don’t rely on the interviewer’s 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 company’s 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. That’s 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 company’s 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. That’s when it’s 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 it’s 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 don’t use too much jargon or give too many technical details. Consumers, of course, need a flashier, more creative approach. When you’re 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 site.

Week of March 2002
Q. Why do reporters seem to need to do the interview RIGHT AWAY — even when their stories sometimes don’t 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 day’s paper. Whew! When you want to be a media resource, you have to be prepared to accommodate their harried schedules. That said, most interviews don’t 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 shouldn’t be too difficult.

However, don’t 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, don’t forget to review your message points. If you really can’t fit the interview into your schedule, leave the door open for future opportunities. Let the reporter know you are sorry you can’t be accommodating but that you would be willing to talk at a future date when the article involves your area of expertise. It’s 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.

Week 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 reporter’s job easier.

Week of February 2002
Q. How can I ensure visitors to my site get past the homepage?
Improving the clickthrough rates of their Web sites is a major battle most companies face. It’s 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 can’t 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 shouldn’t 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 can’t 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, you’ll find that your coverage will increase dramatically over just sending out on the wire.

Week of January 2002

Q. Our company, which was started in 1998, had excellent sales numbers until the past six months. Recently, our sales force can’t 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, we’d 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, today’s 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. It’s 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 aren’t happening, don’t sit by and patiently wait for the economy to bounce back. Aggressive steps to bolster sales are critical right now.

January 2002
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 activity.

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, 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 appearance.

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