More advice for PRs

January 18, 2009

Here’s a basic Media Relations Masterclass for Rubelle Pymley-Bowles and her sushi sisters from Ostentatious PR…just a few hints and tips on how to professionally, practically and powerfully liase with the Press on behalf of less-well-informed Clients.

THE BASICS

1: Find the unique, interesting and different elements of your business.

2: Ensure you can prove any statements you make with cold, hard facts.

3: Research every publication – do not send blanket emails or editorial.

4: Remember that you need to earn a journalist’s trust and respect over time.

5: Make your press releases lively, fact-filled and relevant – not PR spin.

6: Utilise your knowledge and present your editorial with personality.

7: Do not ever mention you advertise with a publication to a journalist.

8: Remember that all News is people-based. Bring them out of your business.

9: Do not try to be controversial for the sake of it. Journalists get bored easily.

10: To hold attention, all you need to be is relevant, timely and interesting.

11: Request a Forward Features list on first contact, as and where relevant.

12: Never question a journalist’s editorial judgement. It’s their domain.

13: Remember that ‘off the record’ is usually an area of immense danger.

14: Only target relevant publications for your products or services. No spam.

15: Appreciate that the journalist is not there to serve you – other way round.

16: Do not be chatty, gossipy or unprofessional. Stay focussed and brief.

17: If you can offer fresh, new, exciting content regularly – perfect contact.

18: Track the career moves of journalists you know – build a media database.

19: Realise that most publications have online versions and online journalists.

20: Monitor target media yourself and build up a published Press portfolio.

PRESS RELEASES

21: Never make a press release more than two sides long – brevity counts.

22: Write the headline last – it should flow once the press release is complete.

23: Make sure you have one item of News only, not a series of items.

24: Utilise one key individual for your business as the quoted person.

25: Do not try to be funny, witty, smart or sarcastic – present the facts only.

26: Only use statistics if you can back them up with attributed sources.

27: Do not knock down your competitors – it’s unprintable and unprofessional.

28: Piggy-backing on a current News issue is great – if you add editorial value.

29: Ensure you supply at least one high-resolution image at 300dpi.

30: Make sure any pictures are taken professionally, not by an amateur.

31: Remember who the editor is presenting the story to – be relevant to them.

32: Never ring a journalist to ask why a press release was not published.

33: If your editorial is included, add value by presenting a Feature around it.

34: Utilise knowledge and expertise – only add opinion if totally essential.

35: Avoid PR jargon such as ‘ground-breaking’ and ‘industry-leading’ phrases.

36: A press release is like a perfectly-formed circle – end it where you start.

37: Understand the editorial structure of the publication before you write.

38: The first paragraph needs to tell the entire News item, and succinctly.

39: Be positive, upbeat and engaging in your editorial, but forget the PR spin.

40: Do not re-send the same press release. Send it once and media monitor.

DEADLINES

41: Always ask a journalist if they are on deadline. Always. Every time.

42: Understand that a journalist is busy, stressed, bombarded – help them.

43: If a journalist needs information, provide it without question or delay.

44: Do not miss a deadline given by a journalist. You get one chance at this.

45: Make your conversations to the point – ideally, only ring with one point.

46: Appreciate that you are not the Editor’s best friend, and never will be.

47: Understand that the paramount thing on a journalist’s mind is deadlines.

48: Make yourself available to give comments on deadline when needed.

49: Be consistent, reliable and a ‘safe pair of hands’ for a ‘rent-a-quote’ item.

50: Understand the publication’s deadline and editorial production structure.

51: News changes rapidly – do not be upset if a deadline removes your story.

52: Understand different deadline structures for magazines and newspapers.

53: The pace of News-gathering is increased when you deal with online Press.

54: Include a blog hyperlink with all emails – it gives more content on deadline.

55: Provide content, features, comment in one accessible place for a journalist.

56: Ensure your website has a Press area with editorial and images included.

57: Remain professional and polite when dealing with journalists on deadline.

58: If a journalist is on deadline, ask when is a good time to contact them.

59: Every journalist respects their deadlines, and so must you to gain ground.

60: Journalists will usually be more stressed and less receptive on deadline.

TALKING TO THE PRESS

61: Research the name and title of any journalist you intend to speak to.

62: Practice the conversation before you pick up the phone.

63: Never ring a journalist on deadline.

64: Always ask a journalist if they are able to speak before you continue.

65: Demonstrate you read the publication – identify different editorial sections.

66: Offer an exclusive wherever possible to the journalist.

67: Never mention competing publications, it usually winds an Editor up.

68: Ring a journalist to brief them of a relevant issue you can comment on.

69: Do not contact a journalist to see if they have received a press release.

70: If a journalist requires additional information, provide it within the hour.

71: When contacting a publication, be polite to everyone. People talk.

72: Demonstrate your expertise when possible, but do not ramble on.

73: Never interrupt a journalist – let them tell you what they want and when.

74: Add editorial value to the publication with every interaction you have.

75: Brief a journalist before you send a press release – by phone and quickly.

76: Do not invite a journalist out to lunch unless you add real editorial value.

77: Only present yourself as an expert or industry guru if you can back it up.

78: Be passionate about your business – talk to the Press from the heart.

79: Do not try to use the Press as a mouthpiece to gain column inches. Ever.

80: Work with a journalist, become a trusted source of information and ideas.

THE ESSENTIALS

81: Do not offer an exclusive to more than one journalist. Common sense.

82: Follow your target publications religiously and identify opportunities.

83: Realise that media relations is straightforward, and not a Dark Art.

84: Being in regular contact with a journalist will never guarantee publication.

85: The media landscape is changing – be aware of editorial nuances.

86: Be confident, calm and collected in your dealings with the Press.

87: Understand that successful media relations is not about PR spin.

88: If you ever lie, or mis-represent, to a journalist – say goodbye for ever.

89: Journalists are busy most of the time – but they are still human beings.

90: Have an awareness of the political leanings of a publication. It matters.

91: Do what you say you will, on time, and as agreed with a journalist.

92: If asked to provide editorial, keep to the word count requested. Always.

93: Journalists know what they want and need – do not second guess them.

94: Never mention that you used to be a journalist. It is totally irrelevant.

95: You might think you can outsmart a journalist. Wrong – it’s their rules.

96: PR schmoozing holds an increasingly useless impact to the Media.

97: Sending flowers, free gifts and the like rarely influences publication.

98: Do not be nervous or stuttery – present the facts and the angle. Simply.

99: Always back up your information with reputable sources and facts.

100: Remember that your News is useful, but not invaluable, to the Press.

RULE NUMBER 101: Never, ever, break Rules 1-100.

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