Ask Not What Your Journalist Can Do For You…

John F. Kennedy - his words still ring true

By Ann Baker, CEO, Publicity Pros

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JFK’s iconic quote from his inaugural address was a goosebump-maker not just because he so eloquently exhorted us to change our attitude toward our government, but because he perfectly distilled a powerful and empowering outlook on life itself.

“Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.”

Take out the word “country” and insert anything into it – wife, friend, employer, dog… it all applies, and those who remember, believe, and employ this outlook usually do very well in life.

The same is true when a business owner, expert, or author is trying to get some media coverage.  Unless you’re already something of a star in your field, you’re not likely to elicit much interest when you approach a reporter, editor, or influential blogger with a message that’s essentially, “Hey, I’d like it if you’d write about me.”  Instead, if you can find out what the journalist is working on, and supply helpful information or sources that will help round out his story, you’re much more likely to get a mention.  Why?  Because you’re helping the journalist, not asking him to help you.

So with my small business clients, I often advise them not to start a PR program with a press release and “media campaign,” but instead to employ a strategy of monitoring the media to find out who needs what, and when, to complete stories that journalists are already working on.  This intel is known as a PR lead or PR opportunity.  There are many free services providing such information for the do-it-yourselfer, such as HARO, Pitchrate, and Newsbasis.

Those who have some budget to allocate to PR can increase the breadth of this research and also save a considerable amount of time by subscribing to a lead-finding service that will search for and send targeted leads on a daily basis.  It’s also advisable, and relatively inexpensive, to pay a PR professional for some training in how to pitch the media effectively and what materials to prepare ahead of time.

The beauty of this approach is that, in addition to raising the odds of being mentioned in the press, the smart businessperson is also building authentic relationships with reporters and editors along the way.  This lays the foundation for a strong and lasting PR plan for the future.