This post was written by Brad Foster, managing editor of micenet AUSTRALIA magazine. He has been to more events than he cares to remember, and read more press releases than is probably healthy. Brad has seen the best and the worst of events and press releases, and offers up a few tips on getting publicity for yourself, your business and your events.
From my experience, most public relations companies will bill you megabucks and not do a great deal for you. In our neck of the woods there are good ones and there are bad ones, and I imagine it’s the same in whatever part of the world you’re living in.
Working in the business events industry in Australia at the same magazine for over a decade, and another industry magazine before that, I know a lot of people. I even have the mobile phone numbers of some very high-profile executives working in our major convention bureaux and hotels.
And so I get a little cranky when a brand new account executive, who’s just won the public relations account for a client working in our sector, calls me up to ask if I would like to interview the head of the company and they can arrange it for me. Hello! I’ve probably known them for years, and if I want to interview them I’ll probably call them direct myself.
If you must use a PR agency make sure they do their homework on the journalist or editor they’re pitching a story to. And have a story worth pitching. I’m sorry, but new chair covers at a hotel just won’t cut it.
The good news is that media outlets want stories. They need them. They crave them. If they didn’t have them they wouldn’t exist. But they want interesting ones, and if they’re like me, they’d really like the story EXCLUSIVELY.
Call them up first and pitch the story to them. (Most journalists are actually quite nice. They won’t bite your head off. If they do, then forget about them. They’ve no doubt got a competitor working at another magazine or newspaper who may be far nicer so give them a call).
Know the journalist’s name, and do some research into their experience. Call them and make sure you have your pitch ready. A short one or two sentences:
“We’ve just developed an incentive travel product to outer space and
we’d like to offer you the exclusive story about how we’re going to send
200 high-achieving executives to Mars and back. Would you be interested?”
“Too right I am!”
And the thing about offering EXCLUSIVES is that they don’t have to be exclusive forever. You can say:
“We’d like to offer this story to you to allow you to publish it first.
Once you have then we’d like to be able to send it to some other publications.”
“Okay, I can do that!”
By offering an exclusive you’re more likely to get interest from them in running your story (if it’s interesting of course). And you’ve just started building a RELATIONSHIP with them. If you give them what they want then the next time you have a story they’ll certainly be ready to do it again. And who knows, if you keep that relationship up the journalist may start calling you for story ideas.
I can tell you right now that I give preference to exclusives. When I get an interesting exclusive I give it more prominence in our magazine – more space and in a good position. Stories that I know aren’t exclusives are usually much smaller in size, and are positioned further from the front page.
The other thing to remember is that not every idea you pitch has to be something new. For example, if you’ve been organising events for 30 years you’ve got a lot of knowledge. So why not pitch to the journalist that you’d like to write a regular column on events. Give them a few topic ideas too. Right now they may already have someone writing on events but they won’t have them doing it forever. That’s when you step in. You spend some time writing good articles and you get the publicity that comes with it. (Of course, this only works if the magazine is based around the events industry. It’d be an incredible feat if you pitched to write a column on events at a magazine that focused on say skateboard manufacturing.)
So give it a go. Make friends with a journalist or editor. Buy them a coffee, ask them about their kids, offer them an exclusive, and build a relationship with them.
The big PR agencies will promise you the world and may deliver in the short term, but they’ll be gone soon enough – staff changes, mergers, focusing on other clients – and you’ll have to start building those relationships all over again.
My advice… DIY.
Brad Foster, Managing Editor of micenet AUSTRALIA
Brad has been with micenet AUSTRALIA, a publication that focuses on the business events sector, since its inception in 2000. He has traveled extensively but agrees with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz that “there’s no place like home.”
Written by: Guest Author