On any given day, up to 70 percent of all the stories in newspapers across the United States were either released or pitched by public relations firms, publicists, and corporate communications firms. In the case of business news — often released by business owners or their industry associations — this number approaches 100 percent.

Publicity is such a powerful complement to traditional marketing that most major corporations staff entire departments with people whose only job is to get their company in the news.

Associations too can employ this marketing strategy. And when they do, they see their membership rosters swell, their political and civic agendas gather momentum, and their meetings and trade events grow.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to get the coverage they desire. This failure comes from a misunderstanding as to how mainstream news agencies work. If you hope to exploit the media's insatiable appetite for information, you must first understand a few simple truths.

First, the media needs you

Most newsrooms are short-staffed and their reporters have little time and need a constant stream of new ideas. You should never allow your organization to implement a new service or product, promote a cause, adopt a new social position, or change leadership without notifying the media.

When your association has a meeting or trade event, alert the local media. If you have a speaker of national prominence on the agenda, alert the media. Will your speaker grant interviews to the press? What awards will be given, to whom, and why? Is the event open to the public? If so, how may someone attend? What industry trends or changes will be discussed? Have you hired a new director? Can you guess? That's right, alert the media.

Before a meeting, you might consider encouraging your members to send press releases announcing their plans to attend to the newspapers in their hometowns. This alone would get your organization coverage in newspapers across the country. And your members will learn a valuable marketing strategy they can use in their business lives over and over again.

Second, reporters are relationship-oriented

If you want to get expanded coverage for your events, it's not enough to blast-fax a release or send it out on a news wire. While appropriate for simple announcements, such as awards, pitching a feature story idea requires personal contact. Fax or e-mail your release directly to the reporter, then follow up with a phone call. Introduce yourself and confirm the reporter received your release. Then — and this is critical — ask if you can continue. Never begin pitching a story idea without first getting permission to do so.

The media needs you. But they owe you nothing. Help them by providing them a steady stream of new ideas. Respect their time. Treat them as cherished partners. Understand when they decline a story. Become a valuable, trusted, and dependable resource and they will reward you with priceless exposure for years to come.


Michael Hart is a speaker and trainer on publicity. For more information on his programs, reach him at (205) 678-9661 or www.MichaelHartSpeaks.com. To learn more about this subject, send a blank e-mail to report@MichaelHartSpeaks.com to receive Hart's report, MEDIA BLITZ, free of charge.

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