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Increasing your editorial profile?

November, 2012

Successful media relations isn’t just about the news value of the individual story, it’s also to do with how you present the story.

Putting yourself in the mind of your customer is vital for every business and the same is true of media relations. So put yourself in the shoes of the news editor or reporter. However, if you have never been a journalist, that might not be so easy. Thankfully many of the team at Maxim have been, or are longstanding PR experts. In the spirit of helping businesses make the most of their good news, we have pulled together 10 Top PR Tips.

After surveying the media across the South East, whether in television, radio, local newspapers or business publications, it is clear that there are ways of improving the likelihood of a story being used. Here are a few of the criticisms – based upon the survey – as a way of avoiding making a PR mistake in the future.

  • Lack of local knowledge. If your story relates to a specific town don't send it to a publication that doesn't cover that community. Local newspapers, radio or television are primarily only interested in local news, or national news that they can give a local perspective to. But at the end of the day local means local. An editor once told us he was a member of the ‘flat earth society’ and wouldn't consider a story even a mile beyond his newspaper’s distribution catchment!
  • Poor understanding of audience. Knowledge is everything, so before you press send or pick up the phone make sure you know about who reads, watches or listens to a particular media title. It’ll show that you have thought about the needs of the individual journalist and their audience.
  • Follow-up calls about releases. While some journalists are happy to take a quick call about a release you’ve just sent, the majority aren’t. And none will thank you for it if they are on deadline or about to go on air! It’s crucial that you understand the time constraints and deadlines they work to before picking up the phone. Rather than a follow-up call, why not pick up the phone beforehand and quickly outline the story and why you believe your story is newsworthy. Then you can send either a briefing note or a specific press release.
  • Badly written press releases. Many journalists consider themselves a guardian of the English language, hence the recent heated debate over the future of the apostrophe. So it’s vital that your release is literal free and gets the likes of ‘there, their, and they’re’ correct. Don't rely on your spellchecker, get a colleague to proof read and sense check your copy.
  • Use of industry jargon. Unless you’re writing for a trade publication, which understands your industry’s jargon, don't use it. This is especially true when you are trying to communicate with a local reporter, who is more interested in what you do, where you do it, how many people you employ and that your new product or investment is going to sustain a local business. Remember you know your business better than anyone else, but the art is explaining simply what it does and why it is important.
  • Lack of news sense. The clue is in the word ‘news’; it has to be new, innovative, different, previously unseen, interesting and relevant in order to capture the journalist’s attention. If it’s not, keep your powder dry and wait until you do have a story that is. If you are simply looking to promote your business, buy an advert!
  • Poor knowledge of deadlines. With the advent of the internet and 24/7 online national and local news you can argue that the deadline is a thing of the past. However that’s not strictly true so before you ring the newsdesk make sure they are not on deadline – if you get it wrong and it’s not a major national news story breaking you are guaranteed to get short shrift – and rightly so.
  • Poor quality photos. With many newspapers making deep cuts, picture desks have fewer staff photographers able to attend events. A strong photograph capturing the key elements of the story and taken by a professional photographer will dramatically increase the potential for coverage, compared to an equally newsworthy story without a picture. The key, though, is investing in a professional photographer, rather than using ‘Bill from Accounts’ who’s a keen amateur.
  • Photos without captions. And once you’ve got your photograph it is essential that you make sure it is accurately captioned giving the names and titles of all those in the picture.
  • Wrongly addressed. This is a cardinal sin, and while the turnover of journalists is at an all time high, there’s no excuse for sending a story to someone who’s no longer there. If you get the email address wrong at best it’ll just bounce back, at worst it’ll find its way to the journalist and clearly show that you haven’t done your homework. Think of the press as your customers and get their details correct.

As you can see there’s a lot to think about which will no doubt leave many questioning the widely held belief that ‘anyone can write a press release’. In the current economic climate many businesses are looking at every penny they spend. However, just as you wouldn't risk servicing your own car, or drafting your own legal agreements, why would you risk your future relationship with the press with somebody who doesn't instinctively understand how they work and what makes them tick?

So if there was an ‘eleventh tip’, it would be: focus on what you do best – running your business – and appoint a PR agency to manage your public profile.

posted in: advice, media relations, public relations,

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