Public relations is the ability to promote your products or services and sell them through mediums that don't cost money and yet are as effective as paid advertisements. It is said that he who whistles down a well, about the goods he has to sell, will never glean the golden dollars, as he who scales the heights and hollers.
Press releases and your local media may be networking's best kept secrets. They're inexpensive (you don't have to pay for space) and they're more believable than paid advertising. They are effective in situations where paid advertising isn't appropriate.
Public Relations In The Networking Mix
Networking is one of the places where paid advertising might not be appropriate but where public relations will fill the need. Typical examples for publicity might include announcements of: job promotions, changes of address, honors and awards earned, books written, new accounts gained and speaking engagements.
The advantage of public relations as a networking tool is that it provides an opportunity to get your message to a wide audience quickly and inexpensively. Your news also brings acquaintances up-to-date with what is happening to you. It also allows people who are not already in your network to learn about you and the positive things you are doing.
Element Of Luck
The element of luck is always present in public relations but knowing how to recognize news and how to present it to the right medium reduces the luck factor. We believe that the important things in your life are often bigger news than you think they are. We also believe that most people have a better than average chance of having their news published or broad casted than they think they have, especially when the news is presented to the media properly.
Pity The Poor Editor
How do you properly present the news to the media? Lets s talk about press releases to newspapers and magazines first, there is a prescribed form for sending news to editors. Why must you use the prescribed form? Editors receive press releases in every kind of way imaginable. Some come scribbled on tablet paper. Some arrive daintily handwritten on pastel-colored, perfumed note paper and some even come written on the backs of envelopes as notes taken during a meeting.
Part of an editor's job is to read press releases and look for suitable news. Remember, a newspaper is made up of news from wire services, information from its own reporters, editorial material...and the news from press releases. Editors need your news. Unfortunately, if they have to decipher handwriting, find their noses tickled by perfume, or are forced to cope with unmanageable paper, your chances for getting your material read are slim to none. Let's not tax the eyesight or patience of the very people we want to help us.
It is best to neatly type out the matter and send it by email. However, if you have to send it by traditional mail, ensure that the writing is legible and it is written in an interesting manner that arouses interest.
Winning The Battle Of The Wastebasket
To get your press release used, you first have to win the "Battle of the Wastebasket." Editors go through many, many releases for each issue. If the releases are not really news or if they're hard to read or understand they go into the wastebasket. Your job is to keep your release out of the trash.
Follow these guidelines, and your press release will have a better than average chance of being used.
- Make sure that what you send is really newsworthy. If it's not, or if you continually send unimportant news, you'll be like the boy who cried wolf. Your really important news will be overlooked.
- Type your release on plain white 8.5" X 11" paper.
- Have a name and address block for the sender at the top of the release.
- Mark the release in large type: 'PRESS RELEASE" or "NEWS RELEASE" or just plain "NEWS."
- Under the heading, "For Further Information" add the name and phone number of someone who can officially and intelligently answer questions concerning the release.
- Provide a date line for the release telling when the news can be released. This might be the date the release is sent or a later date. If, for instance, your release tells about something someone is expected to say on a future date, make sure the release is marked: "For Release After (applicable date)." This way, if something happens to the speaker or they don't actually say what the release says they will, you still have time to retract the news.
- Double space your release, so editors can write between the lines.
- Leave wide margins on both sides, again, so editors have a place to write.
- Title your release with a headline that very briefly tells what the release is about.
- Your first sentence must relate the pertinent facts. Answer the Kipling quotation: "I have five servants, tried and true. Their names are what and when and where and why and who."
- The paragraphs following should contain the details of the story. Remember to use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
- In these succeeding paragraphs present your news in descending order with the most important information first and the least important last. Editors edit to size from the bottom up. If they have to cut your news, let them cut the least important information.
If you include photographs, these suggestions will help:
- Newspaper Editors prefer black and white photos. Magazine editors, a good color print will work.
- Size should be at least 4" X 5", although 8" X10" is often preferred. Again, in a pinch you may get away with a smaller size, but remember you lessen your chances of winning "the battle of the wastebasket."
- Try to use some creativity in taking the picture. Look for the special interest angle.
- Be sure to accurately identify everyone in the picture.
- Attach a caption under the photo that includes the names of the people in the picture.
- Crop the photo to the tightest possible shot leaving out extraneous background.
- Do not clip the photo to the release with a paper clip. This might leave a mark that will cause damage to the print.
- Mail the picture with some kind of firm backing to make sure it doesn't crack or bend.
Now that you've finished your release you can mail it to the editor of the appropriate publication. To increase your chances of having your news in print, you might specifically address your release to the editor most likely to use it. Your choices might include the entertainment editor, the business editor, the society editor, the travel editor, the sports editor, the fashion editor or the food editor.
Radio And TV Networking
Yes, there are opportunities to network through radio and TV. The likelihood of getting mentioned on the regular radio news segments is less than appearing in the press. There is still the opportunity, however, for public service announcements, the community bulletin board or for interviews on talk shows.
If you are an expert on a particular subject, approach your local stations for the opportunity to appear on a talk show. Just as the press needs news to fill space, stations need input to fill time.
Though regular TV news coverage is the toughest to get (though not impossible), cable TV is a good source for "newsy" subjects. People profiles, news of trade shows, conventions, seminars, unusual occupations, travelers, experts on timely subjects, etc. are all potential material for cable. Call the station and give them your concept.
Articles For The Media
You do not have to be a professional writer (only a good writer) to develop articles on your favorite subject for newspapers, magazines, trade journals or newsletters. The articles can be short or long. If they're too long they will be shortened by the editor.
Capitalizing On What's Been Published
Having gotten some press coverage, you have a wonderful opportunity to further your networking process. Send reprints of the items published by or about you to others in your network who might be interested. Some of the better networkers we know who use newsletters often include their published news with them. A reverse procedure is also an effective networking concept. When you read about someone in your network, clip the article and mail it to that person with a short note of congratulations.
Public Relations Networking
Public relations efforts include more than the traditional media exposure for you news. Other facets of the medium include such areas as celebrations, special events, public speaking, articles and newsletters.