Effectively managing any process within a business requires well-proven methodologies and documentation. It is the same in public relations.
With the right procedures in place it should take a small company less than four hours to generate at least one full page of press a month. Along the way summary reports should automatically be produced showing what stories have been sent out and how successful they were, in addition to alerting you to upcoming opportunities for future stories.
One successful methodology is to categorise tasks into those which require attention each day, week, month and year. It might be best to begin with tasks which must be performed each year, because they form a necessary foundation for establishing a successful public relations operation.
The most important task is to define the list of publications you wish to address. Given there are more than 40 in Australia which target the computer industry, it might be necessary to subscribe to a media guide in the preliminary stages. Media Guides (see Media Information &/or Services in the Yellow Pages) are usually subscription-based services which supply a comprehensive reference of all Australian magazines, newspapers, radio and television organisations, indexed by publication, publisher, journalist and even industry. Normally one subscription is enough to get you started.
Transfer information from the media guide into your own computer to create electronic mailing list facilities. If possible, you should include the name of the publication and its publisher, the editor, any special interest journalists, the advertising sales representative in your area, the frequency of the publication, contact details including e-mail and of course diary notes relating to the last contact.
Use this list to initiate an open channel of communication between yourself and the sales people associated with each of the publications, even if you do not plan to advertise. Sales staff can be very helpful in supplying updated versions of feature lists, and also in tracking any stories you may have had published in the past, but missed seeing. Such information is seldom so cheerfully provided by editorial staff. Ask the sales representative to send you a sample copy of their publication and file it so you have ready access to the style of journalism employed by that publication and its individual sections. Both these issues become important when you start having your own press releases produced and submitted.
You also require a copy of this year's features list. Features are a valuable advertising tool for the publisher and an excellent editorial opportunity for you. As you receive each feature list, transfer the information into a more easily accessible folder filed from January to December. This provides the ability to simply turn to the section, three months ahead, to plan your editorial contributions. As these lists change regularly due to the strong competition for the advertising dollar and almost constant shifting in industry focus, most publications regularly mail out updates. If possible, request to be placed on this database.
After establishing a publication database and features folder, it is helpful to create a "To Do List", which is basically a list of stories to write. Whenever possible, enter at least one of your day's triumphs into the To Do List. It may be a large sale, a favourable comment you received from a client, the imminent arrival of a representative from your overseas parent company, a new product or even a new staff member. This may appear to be a trivial task, however it significantly speeds the process of sorting through and assigning the stories to their necessary destinations at the month's end.
For example, the large sale or favourable comment from a client would require a telephone call first to the client to get their agreement to go public and secondly to a publication which specialises in writing user stories. The imminent arrival of an overseas guest would prompt a call to a news journalist who specialises in the same area as your overseas guest. The new product and new staff member could be assigned to a freelance journalist to write up for distribution to all publications.
Without this type of organisation, you will tend to postpone any potential productivity because of a pre-conceived idea that there is nothing worth writing about. Each month, compare the ideas on the To Do List with the features to be published in three months to determine any matches and organise to have them followed-up.
Maintain control over the resulting stories using a Progress Report. A progress report could be represented as a table in Word-Processing. It simply contains a list of all press releases, their descriptions, file name and locations, the day they were written, a list of publications they were sent to, the date published and the number of column centimetres published. It is also extremely useful to include whether they were submitted with a photograph and where it was published. The last two columns will probably remain depressingly bare for the first six weeks only, but after that, your next task will be to create your own Press Clippings folder. More about that and standard presentation requirements for a press release, next issue.
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