COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | HENRY DEVRIES

How to be newsworthy

Is there such a thing as free publicity? My father always told me when I was a youngster: "The sun comes up, and the sun goes down, and nothing else is free." There is a price to be paid for media coverage -- you need to work on being newsworthy.

To be newsworthy, you must identify with the needs, wants, concerns and interests of your potential clients. Many professionals, entrepreneurs and IT consultants know that publicity is a cost-effective marketing method, but many miss the opportunity to garner "free" media attention because they don't know how to generate news coverage -- or how easy it is to do.

Award-winning publicist Sandra Beckwith wants to change that with her new book, "Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans," a how-to guide for small businesses. Beckwith says that the publicity process "doesn't require fairy dust." Instead, she says, it involves having a good story to tell, packaging that story appropriately and getting it to the right journalists at media outlets.

From the basics -- determining your audience and setting goals -- to figuring out your message and knowing who needs to hear it, the book gets you started on a successful publicity campaign. After showing you how and where to start, the book brings you along to the next level, where you begin to create press releases and pitch letters, write bylined articles or columns, prepare press kits, get interviewed, plan a press conference, become a public speaker, and plan, manage and sponsor a special event.

The author's key message is that the media won't know how interesting your company is unless you tell them. The process begins when you examine what's newsworthy about your company. This is often challenging for business owners, Beckwith says, because what is interesting to them is not necessarily interesting to others.

"Editors, reporters and producers determine what is news or newsworthy based on their knowledge of the interests of their readers, listeners and viewers," she writes, so "it doesn't really matter what we think is newsworthy if the gatekeeper at the media outlet doesn't agree." She suggests looking at your list of newsworthy topics and asking yourself, "So what?" If you were your neighbor, would you care?

Once you have a sense of what is truly newsworthy, the book shows how to package it for presentation to the press. It offers these packaging guidelines:

  • Use press releases for news announcements.

  • Create tip sheets to offer advice and tips.

  • Use a pitch letter to suggest an article idea or a news or talk show interview.

  • Consider bylined articles for trade magazines or small local publications.

  • Produce a press kit when making a significant news announcement involving more information than you can put in a two-page press release.

    The next step is to get your news into the right hands. Sometimes it's as easy as checking the masthead of the city business journal or skimming through a week's worth of daily newspapers to find out who covers your topic area. The book offers these overall guidelines for whom to contact at each type of media outlet:

  • At newspapers, contact either the reporter who covers your topic area (technology, small business, workplace issues, etc.) or the section editor.

  • At TV stations, contact the assignment editor.

  • At radio stations, contact the news director for hard news, the talk show producer when targeting a specific talk show or the public affairs director for public affairs program interviews.

  • For magazines, contact the editor of the section where your news fits best.

  • For newsletters and e-zines, contact the editor.

    The author (www.sandrabeckwith.com) is clearly biased in favor of small agencies specializing in public relations rather than advertising agencies offering publicity services as a side business. Regardless, she says, the goal is to select the organization that has the most relevant experience and can prove it has been successful with other publicity campaigns.


    DeVries is a marketing coach and writer specializing in lead generation for professional service firms and technology service companies. A UCSD Extension instructor since 1984, he is the author of "Self Marketing Secrets." Visit www.henrydevries.com or e-mail questions to henry.devries@sddt.com.

  • User Response
    0 UserComments