Publicizing Your Cause, Product, Service
Guest post: By Doc Lehman
NOTE: This is the first installment on a series of free and inexpensive methods of attaining publicity, exposure & impressions for your product, service or benefit fundraiser.
Anyone that makes and/or sells their own unique products or services or organizes benefit fundraisers need to have some type of public relations program in place to be able to market, publicize and create awareness. And here’s the rub: Far too many equate ‘public relations’ with simply sending an email to a newspaper editor asking for an ‘article’ or even sending out a press release to the local newspaper in their area and maybe to a couple of specialty websites or even a message board or two. Mission accomplished, right?
Public relations is far more complicated than that and has far too many variables to be covered by one press release that only appears in a couple of avenues. Public relations work can be time consuming and many faceted. It’s all about building a public image, building bridges between your product or service and the public through the media. (There are other important and necessary components to ‘public relations’ that we will get into in another installment).
For this installment we’ll take a look at how your products or services or benefit fundraiser can attain media coverage and what basic steps are necessary to be able to successful generate media coverage.
The first, and likely most important for a variety of reasons despite modern technology (i.e.; internet), media outlet that packs a punch in terms of satisfying promotional and marketing goals is the old tried-and-true print format. It is still an important, necessary, beneficial and packs a punch in terms of exposure.
So how does your product, service or benefit fundraiser ‘get some ink’? There are a variety of ways but first and foremost remember that for the most part the media, whether it is ‘specialty’ or mainstream (your local and regional newspapers and publications) generally won’t come knocking on your door.
So what you have to do is set your product, service or benefit apart, take an active approach and actually seek out media coverage. It is not that difficult believe me, especially if you have a story that is unique, or a ‘hook’. And I’m a firm believer in that everyone has a story. So how does one go about getting coverage and exposure? There are number of ways to do this and sometimes the simplest most basic approach will work.
Getting coverage in mainstream papers can be easy because many papers don’t have cut staff. And with a skeleton crew they don’t have a good barometer to determine what’s newsworthy, so sometimes they don’t cover anything at all.
One way to overcome and get around this, especially for weekly newspapers or small dailies, is to get someone one your team to create press releases. That’s obviously some work, but it might smooth the way for the newspaper to begin providing more coverage.
Make sure and let the media know if something newsworthy is going on. Anything out of the ordinary might catch an editor’s eye, particularly if it has a good people angle or if you are launching a new product, service or other endeavor. Your press release is a great way of getting exposure and into print, and the bonus is the editor doesn’t have to pay anyone to create the ‘story’. But the key is to entice an editor to follow up with a feature or news story on your endeavor.
When creating a press release keep in mind that all contact information needs to be included in the event the editor would like to contact you with any follow up questions. And it’s Journalism 101, when creating a press release always include in the first paragraph the basics: who, what, when, where, why.
In the event an editor is faced with limited space, your press release may be edited down to fit and they typically start at the bottom and work their way up which highlights the importance of getting the important basics of the press release in that first paragraph. After that you can expound further with more details and quotes.
Also, keep it brief, within one page if possible, and write it like a news story and not an advertisement. You’ll increase your chances of making print if it reads like a story instead of pure hype. And always include a quote or three! One does not need a journalism major. Anyone who can type, and have basic English skills, can do it.
And when you send them out, whether via snail mail and/or email, make sure as many outlets receive them as possible. Saturate the specialty media and your local media. You will need to compile an email list of media outlets to send the press releases (and newsletters) to.
It would also be wise to email them to customers, if you provide a service, retailers (and customers) if you offer a product, and patrons, supporters and contributors if you promote a benefit fundraiser.
To send an email is free and when sending out a press release, depending on what your endeavor is and what your needs are, there is no reason you couldn’t send your press release to every daily, weekly & bi-weekly print publication in addition to any local and regional websites.
Another bonus of getting your press release into print is the vast majority of newspapers also offer online versions of their publications so you are getting more bang for your buck, so to speak.
But it’s all about preparing them in a professional and concise a manner as possible and distribution! If you have a hook or a story, a professional press release or newsletter, or maybe you caught an editor on the right day, you may get a call. But if they don’t know anything about your product, service or benefit fundraiser, no call, no email, so educate them. Make them aware! Try to spark some interest.
It won’t get done unless you make some effort.
As mentioned above, as for knowing how to get the press releases to the media you will need to compile a media mailing list. The majority of your press releases, newsletters and other promotional material can be sent via email that in turn helps with your budget. As for any the columnists you will need to go through the publications and compile their email addresses.
If you are promoting a benefit fundraiser, your press releases and other promotional material also needs to go to all local & regional radio stations and television stations directed to the News Director.
The easiest way to gather local and regional mainstream newspaper and magazine email and snail mail addresses beyond purchasing all of them is to, for example, do a state search on your search engine. Simply enter ‘Name Your State’ newspapers and links will pop up with various state newspaper associations with contact information for newspapers that you can cut, paste and save. (The same method can be utilized for radio & television.)
For contact information you can also visit:
The Internet Public Library – http://www.ipl.org/div/news
Walter Clinton Jackson Library News & Newspapers Online – http://www.library.uncg.edu/news
Newspaper Links – http://www.newspaperlinks.com/
NewsDirectory.com – http://www.newsdirectory.com/
And always post your press release on your websites and/or social media pages for maximum exposure.
Some Additional Basic Suggestions for Creating Added Exposure:
Website. Keep it updated. Frequently. If people keep seeing the same images and text they will hesitate about coming back.
Do a newsletter, even quarterly and do hard copies for distribution. With computers a professional, informative and well-laid out newsletter can be produced and printed inexpensively at a local quik-print shop or on a home printer. Depending on what you are publicizing and marketing, you can distribute them at shows, benefits, libraries, galleries, via mail as well as on your counter, if you have a retail outlet, or table or booth if you set up at any shows, fairs, galleries, festivals, etc…
(Also post an online version of it on your website to generate traffic. Be sure to post a link to it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages you are affiliated with.)
It can be black & white and one page, one-sided.
It can be multiple pages, colored pages, whatever your budget will allow.
One inexpensive method is to print a newsletter out on an 11? x 17? sheet, both sides. Fold in half and you have ‘four pages’ and eliminate stapling/binding.
If your budget allows, generate other promotional material (flyers, pamphlets, key chains, magnets, business cards, calendars, etc…) to distribute to the public.
Parades: Free advertising, free exposure, free hype for your product, service or benefit/fundraiser. If your budget is strapped, a decorated small trailer and lawn tractor with signage will suffice as well as the opportunity to hand out promotional items (flyers, business cards, etc…) to the crowd and candy and/or snacks or items to the children.
Charitable events: If you have a product or service to promote in your community pick a worthwhile community charity and align your team with them. Most have fundraisers and often have public fundraising events. Offer yourself and employees or supporters to help with any fundraising events. Such activity with local charities also often result in local and regional mainstream news coverage.