Getting publicity is like gardening. You can't make plants grow. All you can do is put a healthy seed in the right environment. Give it the right temperature, soil, sunlight and water and, most of the time, it will take off.
It's the same with publicity. You can't make journalists run your stories. What you can do is prepare, get a good story and give it to the right journalists. Make sure it's interesting, clear, newsworthy and timely and, most of the time, it will get good coverage.
A lot of energy and emotion is wasted in unsuccessful efforts to get publicity because marketers don't understand journalists in the IT&T industry. Here are some tips.
Prepare the ground: understand what's news. Just as you'd plow the dirt before planting seeds, prepare yourself and your company for expectations of publicity. News means something new. That sounds obvious but journalists get swamped with news releases about products that are already on the market. News is based on facts rather than opinions. It should contain specific facts, it needs to be reliable and usually should be important - at least for the readers of the particular publication.
There are many angles a piece of news can have: it might be important in terms of benefits for the reader, or threats to the reader. It might touch on topical issues and/or involve perennially interesting angles like conflict and outrage. But whatever it contains, it must be new, factual and important.
Prepare your seeds: what's your message? Who's your target? MDs and CFOs? Technical people? The general population? Each target has a different media outlet. And that means you have to tailor your message to the issues that those media journalists know their readers want to learn about.
For MDs and CFOs, that means getting into the business press. The business press deals with business issues, trends, and the bottom line. Technical people are still the most interested in the IT&T press, so provide them with specifications, diagrams and examples.
The general population means TV, which is visual, and radio, which is audial. Both handle IT&T news as it relates to the social impact it has on viewers.
Sew: send your message to the right person. Read publications to know which journalists write about what issues then send your information to the journalist who writes about your topic. Some IT&T publications deal only with users and industry issues. Others feature products.
Fertilise: use good images. The right image can help explain a concept, graphically show data, enhance a story, and can help the chances of a story being run. You can supply a good image or rely on the publication, depending on their preference.
If you supply one, make sure it's appropriate to their style. Go through the publication and jot down the sort of images they use. If they use people shots, send them a people shot. If they use screen or product shots, send those.
Don't over-water. Don't call and ask a journalist, `Did you get our release? Are you going to run it?' This is irritation number one for almost every journalist. It's far better to call first and ask if they want it. If you've taken the trouble to understand the publication and the individual journalist you're calling, you will have a very high score rate.
Cultivate for sustainability. Like a garden, sustainable publicity is based on ongoing care. You can create good publicity by ongoing relationship building with the media. Invite a target journalist to coffee or lunch. You will be able to reap great rewards from the seeds you plant today.
Recognition is holding the annual Understand the IT Media seminar on October 27 at Sheraton on the Park. Nineteen editors and journalists from all media will educate the IT&T industry on maximising publicity.
Steve Townsend is managing director of Recognition public relations. E-mail him at email@example.com