pitching stories

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Here's some ways to turn press releases into press coverage

I was at a holiday party this past weekend and had a chance to talk with some reporters and PR folks.  I asked each person what was the biggest problem businesses faced when trying to pitch stories.  I was shocked that nearly all of the reporters and PR professionals agreed that finding a compelling story was the one thing businesses had the most trouble doing.

It is always amazing to me that businesses can’t seem to figure out the stories that make them interesting.  In that vain, here are five areas of your business where you can find that great story that can turn your press releases into press coverage.

HIGHLIGHT YOUR GOOD DEEDS

There’s one thing that most, if not all, news people bristle at is the perception that all they’re interested in is bad news.  It’s just not true.  News folks are interested in stories that are not “normal.”  Those stories can be good or bad, just not typical.  Here’s how this can work for you.  Do you as a company raise millions of dollars for a good cause?  Do you give away free products to the disadvantaged?  If you do, you need get a press release out, stat.  You see, you’re not “normal.”  There are many businesses out there who don’t do charity so finding one that does is newsworthy.  Reporters love positive news stories just as much as bad news stories, and the fact that your company is so charitable is news.  Let them know.

“SUPER” EMPLOYEES

Support and highlight your employees who are doing something super

What do your employees do when their not working for you?  If you don’t know, you should find out.   Too many Support and highlight your employees who are doing something super businesses don’t think about how their employees non-work actions can affect them, but it can.  Learn about your employees and support them when they do extraordinary stuff.  It would be a shame if you had employees that went to the mountains every weekend to help disable kids learn how to ski and you didn’t help them and tell the media about it.

OFFICE CULTURE

Why do people like working for you?  Yes, it might be that you give them 20% more money than anyone else, but more likely it has something to do with your office culture.  Do you allow dogs?  Do you have flexible hours?  Do you have a swimming pool in the main lobby?  If you do, I bet a news organization would love to do a story on it.

GENUINE INNOVATION

This area is where most businesses try to get news coverage but fail.  The reason is that their products are not interesting.  Look, I understand that to a company that makes rugs, using a brand new type of thread is interesting, but to the rest of us its not.  If you are using thread, however, that makes your rugs last for 200 years, or makes sure that nothing will ever stain them, or it makes your rugs fly…THAT is genuine innovation.  If your company is doing something that makes the average person on the street go “wow,” that’s a reason to let the press know.  By the way, that should exclude about 98% of the things businesses are currently writing press releases about now.

Are you an expert? Let reporters know.

EXPERTISE

Are you an expert in your field?  Do you have people on your staff who are experts?  I mean real “other folks come to you asking for help” expert, then you should notify the press.  Reporters are always looking to stack their Rolodex with experts they can call at a moments notice to help them with a subject.  Even better, tie your expertise in with something that is happening in the news.  You’d be surprised how often reporters are looking for experts.  Writing that press release will let those reporters know that you are the expert they should call.

To be sure, the hard and fast rule about sending out press releases is “less is more.”  But by examining these five areas of your business, you might just find a great story which will help you succeed in turning your press releases into genuine news coverage.

*(If you’re interested in hiring me you can go here for more information.)

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I got a question the other day that really made me think.

“So what makes you qualified to give advice on public relations?”

A great question.  Why should you heed my advice on public relations, or anything for that matter?

The short answer is you don’t have to do anything I suggest here at the P.R. by DeVol blog.  My musings here are but one opinion on how to handle certain P.R. situations.   But its certainly not the only way.  That’s what great about P.R. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

But the question about what makes me qualified?  That’s a query I think needs answering.

What makes me qualified to give public relations advice?

Well thanks for asking.

There are several different disciplines that are encompassed by public relations, crisis communications, social media, and corporate communications are a few, but what all P.R. people are practicing is “image advocacy.

Basically a business hires public relations people to trumpet their strengths while correcting and minimizing any weaknesses or flaws.  It seems like an easy task, but the devil is in the details.

See, a P.R. person never knows what will cross their desk on any given day, so having  relevant and varied experience in your past is definitely a strength.  I think my experience is a plus.

One of the main jobs P.R. people have is to get their clients earned media in the press.  This could mean a story on the clients’ company, an interview on a news program, or a stint as an expert for a certain big news event.  To do this, you gotta know how the news business works.  With over fifteen years in the news business as a reporter/producer/talk show host, I know all the ins and outs of how news decisions work and what reporters are looking for when making news decisions.  Why?  Because I made those decisions all the time.  I saw all the terrible press releases and heard the terrible pitches.  I also know what worked and why.  Now wouldn’t that information be useful?  I bet it would.

Social Media is a phenomenon that has exploded in the last two years, but in reality social media has been around a lot longer.  How do I know?  Well, I’ve been involved in social media for nearly 10 years.  This includes work on several personal and group blogs.  Yep, I’m a blogger.  You name it in the social media world and I’ve done it.  In fact, not a lot of people were trumpeting the P.R. value of blogs back in 2007 the way I was.  But like dealing with reporters, there is a right way and a wrong way to work with bloggers.  And my experience as both a reporter, P.R. person, and blogger has allowed me some great insights and connections on how to use social media for public relations.  Would you like to know more?

“All this is great,” you say, “but what about any actual public relations experience?”  Glad you asked.  Not only have I owned  a boutique P.R. firm, I worked as the Communications Director for the Colorado Senate Republican Caucus.

I know, I can hear it now, “a Republican!  Yuck!”

Well, it is what it is, and before you dismiss me out of hand, take the politics out of it and think about this.

While there, I was responsible for introducing and expanding their social media efforts.  This meant creating and integrating  Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn platforms.  Platforms, the Caucus is still using, I might add.  Additionally, I got the Caucus multimedia savvy by using audio and video to help them with their messaging.  It’s amazing how much both sides of the aisle have taken my ideas and ran with them.  I was also the first one to put together a summit between the State Senators and local political bloggers in order to show both sides that they could help each other.  They have and they continue to do so.  Oh yeah, did I mention that I also did press releases, media training, and media relations daily?  Not too shabby.

Finally, I have to mention my education.  What, you thought that I got all my know how from the streets?

Heck no, I got a Master’s Degree in Public Relations from the University of Denver.  You need a public relations plan? What kind, I’ve written communications plans, crisis communications plans, international communications plans, and even internal social media platform plans.  I’ve implemented these plans for large companies you’ve heard of and for tiny ones which you never will, but without that master’s, I wouldn’t have known about any of this.

So here’s the sum up.  I started this blog because I realize that when it comes to public relations, my past experiences have given me the great gift of having hands on opportunities that other P.R. folks haven’t had.  In fact, I doubt there are many who can combine reporting experience, long time social media experience, real public relations experience, and a formal public relations education.  Instead of keeping the lessons I’ve learned a secret, however, I want to pass them on so that other people who work in P.R., or who need P.R. can use and improve upon all this stuff.

But hey, I’m a giver.

So read the P.R. by DeVol blog with this in mind.  I may not have all the answers when it comes to public relations, but more than likely I can put you on the right path to making your P.R. efforts better.

Happy reading.

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One of the biggest struggles that any P.R. person faces is getting their client a story in a news publication.  It’s hard because there is a real dichotomy between what companies want publicized and what journalists need.  And frankly, most companies aren’t very newsworthy anyway, which is a good thing.  But that’s not what your client wants to hear, is it?

So how do you increase your chances of getting news coverage?

Understanding the concept of “newsworthiness” is a start, but the best way to get your client a hit on the 5 O’clock news is to know what the journalists think is newsworthy.  Seems logical right?  So where does one go to find this information?

Why Twitter, of course.

You see, news organizations understood very quickly that Twitter is the ultimate news feed.  And because  they base their business on selling you the premise that they can give you the most information about your world as quickly as possible after it happens, they  use Twitter, not only to track what’s happening in the world but also to keep you informed on what’s going on.

That’s pretty neat, but how does help a client?

What I do is follow every local and national news organization on Twitter.  During the day they will tweet about every story they’re working on.  If I see a story that a client of mine might know something about, I reply right away saying I know an “expert” on the issue that might be able to add something to the story.  Imagine how grateful your client will be when you tell them that CNN wants to use them as an expert for a story.

Also, many news outlets often ask if anyone has any stories that they might be interested in.  Not a bad time to pitch that “newsworthy” story.

A WORD OF WARNING! Pitching on Twitter is the same as pitching by press release.  Inundating a reporter with multiple ideas every single day will only irritate them and cause them to not use any of your suggestions at all.  Remember, NEWSWORTHINESS.

Remember, increasing your chances of getting that client on the news is all about knowing what those reporters are looking for.  Twitter can help you with that.

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