Winning the Media Game     

As professionals in the public relations field we are often asked the same question by entrepreneurs seeking media attention: "Why is it that I see well placed articles spotlighting my competition yet I can't seem to get anyone interested in my business story?"

Luck is not part of a winning PR formula.

Those that succeed at story placements have learned the proper way to court reporters. They also agree to play by the rules of the press. Think about it from a reporter's viewpoint. All publications whether local or national, receive hundreds if not thousands of faxed and electronic press releases daily. Aside from the reality there are not enough proficient staff to read through the prodigious flood of information, most of it is self-serving advertising and not newsworthy. Here are four critical rules of winning PR strategy you should follow:

Rule #1 - Don't try to sell a reporter on your product or service.

Pitch them a unique story instead. They know a sales job when they hear it. It's a big turn-off. We all loathe someone trying to sell us something we don't need. Now multiply that times 100. That's what a reporter feels like every day in their office.

Rule #2 - Have a PR practitioner help you find and write your story.

Over 90% of all press releases submitted have poor grammar, spelling errors and a complete absence of proper writing skills. This causes a disconnect between the journalist and sender. Your credibility is shot immediately. Any "luck" of getting a story just went in the trash along with your press release. What is often missing from the homegrown press release is a compelling storytelling style. Remember, the reporter is a buffer between you and the audience. If your audience cannot understand and follow what is written, they will certainly not buy what you are selling. Your goal should be to tell your story better than anyone else. This does not require luck, it simply requires common sense.

A good PR practitioner can save time and energy and often will write a press release and help with distribution. In the end this is always money well spent.

Once you make it past the first two rules and have a proper press release ready, you need to consider what the reporter will do for further information. Almost always reporters will look at your website before calling you for a story. Again, think like a reporter. The faster and easier you can make their work, the better.

Rule #3 - Have a solid marketing plan in place before a PR plan.

Your website and marketing materials better be in top-notch shape. Your company logo and image must be branded effectively and consistent. Trying to get press coverage before your marketing plan is in place is like putting the cart before the horse. So many overzealous business owners make this mistake. A reporter on his own can deduct quickly if you are not ready for PR. Their reputation depends on the readership interests and approval. The information on your website must be in complete harmony with your press release and all the marketing elements in alignment.

Rule #4 - Develop the relationship with reporters.

You must accept the need to communicate with journalists properly on their terms, not yours. Take a local reporter to coffee. Exchange cards at your next networking event. Journalists are interesting people and love to hear about new exciting things. If they like what they hear, you now have an "in" with that reporter. They will remember you and will be more open to looking at your release. They are the ones that will get it in print for you, not luck.

You now have some added clarity to the process of effective media relations, which is an important and vital aspect of winning PR strategy. Good PR practitioners are already well versed in these rules and are far ahead of the average business owner when it comes to media relations. They will have good relationships with reporters established and have credibility when it comes to pitching your PR story.

Effective PR like many business elements comes down to this: "Good planning and preparation brings its own luck."

This article was written by Vicky Gallion, co-founder of The Gallion Company. It originally appeared in the All About Public Relations Web site.

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