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Preparing For Your First Press Release

Oct 29, 2007
The media offers an incredible opportunity to anyone who knows how to take advantage of it. For the most part, I'm talking about television, radio, newspapers and magazines. And a little guidance can help you make inroads with the journalists, editors and publishers behind the scenes. This article will give you some basic but essential pointers to the process.

Let's talk about newspapers first. The editors putting them together are always working on a deadline and spend most of their working lives scrambling to get everything together. They're always looking for good stories and reward quality contributors with regular coverage. Bottom line; you need to introduce yourself to these people and get in the habit of sending them good material.

The first step is to make a list of media outlets. Start with your local media as they will be more amenable to your contributions. Obviously, the local newspapers are a good place to start but the other media providers can be included as well. The idea is to accumulate a list of a dozen or two dozen media outlets that you'd like to be featured in.

With your list in hand, visit the appropriate websites and get all the contact information you can. I recommend building an Excel spreadsheet with columns for company, content focus, mailing address, contact name, title, phone, fax and email. Fill in as much information as you can and then call each one to fill in the blanks.

The most important field is that of the contact person. You need to get the full first and last name of the person handling your contributions and it may require a phone call and some direct questions to find the right person. It may be the person handling local community events. It may also be someone handling a particular subject matter. Be sure to get the right person on the front end because an after-the-fact correction looks bad from the start.

When it comes time to send out your press releases, you want to address them to a specific person. In fact, it will be important to follow up all of these individual submissions with a personal phone call. Yes, you will probably end up in their voicemail but believe me; a personal message confirming receipt of your press release goes a long ways in establishing a relationship.

There are some situations where you can send out your press release on a wire service. These services cost money but they distribute your story to every corner of the media universe. Of course, there are different levels of the service but a general distribution will probably cost you about $200. You can also pay a bit more and have your news go out to a narrowed field of appropriate recipients.

The trick to wire services is to use them only when you have a really juicy story. It can be tied in with the major headlines of the day or it might just have a great title or clever angle. But if it's a really good piece, you can often get a ton of exposure by using the wire services. The big ones are PRN Newswire and BusinessWire but there are others. Do your research and pick the one you like best.

Public relations can dramatically change your business but you have to know how to approach it. The people who run the media machine are just like you and me. They're busy people who look forward to their weekends. Treat them like human beings and you could see huge rewards. There is a lot more information on my website and I hope you take advantage of the free resources available there.
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