Seven Steps to Getting Media Attention

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Everyone wants it, but few have any idea how to go about getting it. As a business owner, being mentioned or written about in a major magazine, journal or newsletter can be a dream come true. First, it's free (a beautiful word to a bootstrapped company); second, it offers credibility and recognition (something young entrepreneurs in particular, often struggle with); third, it's the best form of advertising, because it is totally objective; and last, it introduces (and endorses) your company to a targeted - and often substantial number - of prospective customers. In most situations, PR is a win-win situation for everyone: You get the press coverage, and the journalist gets a new, interesting story to report.

For an entrepreneur, dealing with the media is probably one of the most potentially profitable activities - and it can also be the most confusing, frustrating and sometimes unrewarding ones. The biggest problem that most people have in attracting PR for their business is in misunderstanding the very people they need to appeal to.

Journalists are in business too, and like you, they have pressures, deadlines, idiosyncrasies and yes, lives. If you think your life is stressful, follow around a journalist for a little while. Remember, as an entrepreneur, your stress is created internally, as you have decided to be "in charge." Journalists are at the mercy of many others who often control their every move. So showing them that you understand and respect their jobs will give them the incentive that they need to give you the time of day, and sometimes even their friendship.

As with any other relationships, to ensure success, you must invest the time and effort in understanding what motivates the people you are dealing with, particularly what it is that makes you of value to them. Once you understand these basic subtleties, your business relationships will become more plentiful and profitable.

To build the foundation for a favorable relationship with the media, consider these simple steps:

1. Why should they write about you?
Come up with a list of story angles that a journalist could use to write an article about you and your business. Decide what makes your story newsworthy. Are you unusually young for a business owner in your area/field? Have you started a company that is out of the ordinary, or provides a new or specialized product or service? Are you making a substantial amount of money for someone in your position? Are you a student at a local or major university? Have you been able to secure high-level clients or corporate support? Have you challenged the competitive positions of major corporations?

Then, write down a list of attributes that could be used as "buzzwords," or phrases, to describe you or your venture. Some examples might include: "woman business owner," "Native American," "cyberjunkie," "virtual corporation," "green" (environmental in nature), "gourmet," "global," "international," etc. If you are doing your homework and reading your industry's trade journals, newsletters and other publications, you should have no problem finding the industry catch phrases.

2. Build your own media list
Next, compile a media list of publications and media sources (newspapers, journals, radio shows, talk shows and news programs) that you believe are most likely to write a story like yours. Collect all of their vital information - complete company name, address, phone and fax - as well as a suitable contact person, if possible. Be selective. Don't send info to people who clearly do not cover your industry, topic or share your audience/clients. Journalists are constantly bombarded with unsolicited press kits, so don't waste their time (or your money) sending them literature on your business banking on the off-chance they might make an exception. There are too many publications, journals, organizations and news stations that will be interested in what you are doing to bother those who don't. The worst thing you can do is provoke a journalist to request that you don't contact them again: One young entrepreneur we'll call Todd e-mailed an unsolicited press release to the Editor-in-Chief of a major newspaper. A few hours later, the editor emailed him back rudely demanding that Todd "remove his name from his junk mail list."

Ideally, you should read the publications yourself, or scan back issues at a library, to see which journalists specialize in topics related to yours.

3. Who do I contact?
For business publications, send media kits to the Managing Editor or Senior Editor. They are more likely to be the ones personally writing or overseeing feature stories, and are usually the best ones to review new story leads. For general interest publications, find the name of one of the editors that cover your field (i.e.: business, entertainment, or fashion editor).

If the names of individual journalists or special editors are not available, you can call the company directly to inquire, or send your literature to the Editor-in-Chief. (Contact information is available in all publications, usually in a thin column called a "rote box" in the first few pages of a magazine or newspaper.) Never bother the publisher - remember that in the publishing world, the publisher is the business manager of the company, not a journalist. Often publishers are not even located in the same offices as the editorial departments, and thus are most likely to disregard or misdirect your information.

4. When to pitch your story
Create your own media calendar to help you preplan PR campaigns. A good way to start is by studying your company/industry's business cycles. When are your busiest months? If, for example, you provide a career-oriented service for students, your business cycles would peak around May and December, when students are most likely to be hunting for jobs. If you look at some of your media targets around these times, they too are probably keeping tabs on graduating students. This is when you most need them to know who you are.

First, determine whether your media targets have daily, weekly or monthly editions. The frequency of release, whether you're looking to be on a weekly news program or in an annual special edition, greatly dictates when the best time is to contact your media sources. Say, for example, that you are looking to have an article written on your company in a monthly magazine. Most major monthly magazines have a three month lead time. On your media calendar, keep track of your "target media months," or months when you would like your information to appear in the press. Then from each of your target months, move two months backwards and note issue closing months. Then move one more month before and note press release due dates.

For example: December Target media month (peak business season) November October December issue closings September Send press releases/media kits (Keep in mind that this illustration applies to monthly publications only.) If you are dealing with a daily or weekly publication, the best time to release information to them is usually closer to a few days or three weeks prior to publication, respectively. For any other distribution cycles, call the publication directly to inquire about their specific issue closings. Another good idea, while you have them on the phone, is to request a copy of their publishing calendar. (The advertising sales department can also furnish this for you. This will give you the specific dates that they plan to run special features. See if you can tie your PR into one of these dates. The more information they have for these, the better their feature stories are, and the more of that issue they sell.) Understanding when journalists are most likely to be interested in your story can save you a lot of time and greatly improve your chances of being mentioned or featured in an article.

5. Make yourself invaluable.
Be a resource to the media. If a journalist or editor calls you for information on your company, or even your industry, jump. Don't appear too anxious, but give them everything they want and more - but keep it brief. If they say they're on a deadline (and they'll tell you), restrict your correspondence to brief faxes, voice mail or quick calls should they request that you contact them directly. The more attentive you are to their needs, the more likely they are to keep in contact with you. All journalists have their own group of people they consider personal sources for various issues; if you can become one of these people, sooner or later you are sure to be rewarded with some great publicity.

6. Follow up
Always follow up with a thank you letter for any article or interview that you receive - even if you are interviewed, and you do not appear in the article (which happens often), follow up and thank them anyway. It's very easy to get frustrated after you have spent a great deal of time gathering or offering information and insight to a media agent and you do not get recognized for it, but don't let that get in the way of good manners! Another important thing to remember is that journalists must disregard the majority of the information they receive due to limited editorial space. Journalists also have editors, or bosses, who can be merciless when reviewing a new article. If you thought your English professor preferred their red ink to your writing, ask a journalist about her editors.

7. Keep in touch
Send your media contacts an occasional note or mailing as your company changes, expands or diversifies to let them know about the latest news. This is an excellent way for you to stay fresh in their minds and allow them to stay abreast of your progress effortlessly.

For more than a decade Jennifer Kushell has led a movement inspiring young people to achieve everything they have always dreamed about. As the New York Times best-selling author of Secrets of the Young & Successful and president of YS Interactive Corp., and as a relentless advocate for her generation, Jennifer has impacted the lives and futures of millions around the world. In 2006, she led her company in launching http://www.YSN.com - Your Success Network - an online universe for emerging adults to explore their passions, build a professional identity and pursue their dreams.

Called a "guru" of her generation by US News & World Report and the "career doctor" by Cosmopolitan Magazine, Jennifer has spoken to over 200 million people throughout the world via major media such as CNN, CNBC, CBS, ABC News with Peter Jennings, FOX News, BBC, NPR, PBS, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Fortune, USA Today, Business Week, Entrepreneur and Seventeen.

For more about Jennifer Kushell, please visit: http://www.ysn.com/group/WhereInTheWorldIsJenniferKushell

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