15 Common Complaints from Journalists

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During my interviews with members of the professional media on the Media Pro Spotlight podcast, I ask for their advice on what people could do better to establish warm relationships with them. Often, this leads to a list of things PR people do to make journalists’ lives a living hell. Following is a list of things to avoid if you hope to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with one of your most important target audiences.

They don’t return calls or emails from journalists. I don’t know why this happens. Perhaps the person in charge of the PR function is unqualified for the position, characteristically rude, or their CEO has a pathological fear of the media. Whatever the reason, they’re not doing themselves any favors. My friend is a senior editor for a two-million-circulation lifestyle magazine. On a tight deadline, she needed to connect with the PR people at three separate hotel properties to make arrangements for a site tour and an interview with their executive chef. Not one of them returned her call, so she had to spend additional time on follow-up calls. Later, over a glass of wine, she said, “What’s wrong with you PR people?”

They don’t have an online press kit or succinct description of themselves in their “About Us” section. I’d been assigned by the local newspaper to write a 100-word descriptive blurb about 20 separate businesses, each of which had been named “best” in their categories in the annual “best of” competition. I had a very tight deadline. Going online, I couldn’t find anywhere on their websites a succinct paragraph of who they were and what they did. A good website or online press kit makes it easier for journalists to do their jobs.

They blast their press releases to every outlet, every time, indiscriminately. The typical journalist receives up to 300 emails a day, and most of them are press releases that they consider “spam,” because the sender went for the shotgun approach. Healthcare editors get press releases about auto repair. Business editors get press releases about food recipes. You get the idea. Be fastidious about the creation and segmentation of your media lists.

They don’t do their research before pitching a journalist. This one’s related to the previous gripe about people who spread their press releases like manure. It’s a best practice to pitch your stories to one journalist at a time, after having done the research to learn more about the journalist’s interests, style, previous work and contact preferences. It shows respect, and that you’re a professional. No one likes having their time wasted, and having to sift through piles of email that’s mostly irrelevant. It’s annoying and frustrating. Hacks and novices are in the majority, so your effort to do things right goes a long way.

Their press releases are poorly written or improperly formatted. I only mention this because my media friends bring it up all the time. “You wouldn’t believe the stuff I get,” is a common complaint. It’s too tempting for journalists and editors to hit the “delete” button these days because of the sheer volume of unprofessional submissions they get every day, so if they do open your press release, you want it to shine. If you’re consistently on the mark, they’ll be less trigger-happy the next time they see emails from you.

Their press releases are purely promotional or not newsworthy. There are people who think that the press release is an opportunity to promote or advertise. It’s not. In fact, it’s highly inappropriate to try. Resist the urge to sneak in sales messages. The press release is a news story, or an announcement of something noteworthy or that’s about to happen. The minute an editor spots a sales agenda and poof! It’s deleted. Want to advertise something? Call their advertising department.

They don’t deliver what they promised. A writer friend of mine traveled to a foreign country to do a story about a lovely travel destination. He arrived at the arranged location promptly at the designated time (on a Saturday), and was puzzled that there was no one there to greet him and show him around. There was no one on site who knew what was going on, so he called the media contact person’s cell phone. It went to voice mail. He called several times. Then, he called his editor in New York, who did some digging and learned that the media contact was out on vacation. My friend wrote the story anyway, but it left a bad taste in his mouth.

They are pests. Relentless follow-up is appropriate in some situations, but it’s not okay to harangue a newsroom. If you’ve sent a press release that pertains to an upcoming event or is a story in which you have strong confidence that it’s good, then it’s okay to call a day or so after you’ve sent your pitch or press release to ask whether your media contact received it. It’s possible your item was inadvertently missed. It’s also possible that your media contact is not interested in your item or can’t use it for any number of reasons. Perhaps they’ve already written a similar story that week, or their news crew is booked up, or your topic doesn’t fit into their programming, or they’re just not interested, period. If the media contact doesn’t return your call or respond to your email, then let it go. Don’t call day after day after day. Not only does it drive them underground where you’re concerned, but it brands you as a nuisance.

They think that because they have purchased advertising with the media outlet that they’re entitled to editorial. [Sound of air being sucked inward through teeth.] In the traditional media world, there is a giant barrier, called the “Chinese Wall,” between the editorial and advertising departments. In the editorial department are journalists with a sacred trust and an inviolate code of ethics. They report the objective truth, and cannot be bought. To even suggest such an idea is an insult of the highest magnitude.

They ask to see a story before it’s written. Unfortunately, you can’t control the substance of a story or what is said about you, unless the story is an advertorial and you have paid the media outlet to have a copywriter (not reporter) write a flattering profile on your behalf. If you ask the reporter who’s interviewing you if you can see the story before it goes to print, he or she will give you a sad, embarrassed smile and explain politely that it doesn’t work that way. You will see the story after it appears.

They complain to the editor after the story is published because it paints you in a bad light.  Do not place blame on the reporter or the media outlet that ran the story. Most important, do not complain to the media outlet. Instead, move on with your life. One bad review or well-publicized customer complaint isn’t going to ruin you. There are, however, exceptions to every rule. If there were egregious errors in the reported facts, or you have compelling evidence to suggest the reporter’s sources were unreliable or had axes to grind (e.g., a disgruntled former employee), then you have the right to raise your concerns with the editor or producer who green-lighted the story. This must be a civil discussion, and you must walk into it showing respect as you would to any other professional with whom you have built a relationship of trust. Showing respect earns respect.

They’re a diva. A diva is someone who is perceived as a person who has lost sight of respect and concern for others.They have an exaggerated sense of their own importance. If you want to be a diva when a reporter is doing a story about you, then the journalist may present you with a jaundiced eye, using concrete examples of your behavior to describe you to his/her readers. Good writers “show,” not “tell.” She won’t say, “Gosh, that guy’s a jerk.” Instead, she’ll paint a word picture: “Johnny Diva screamed at the waiter to bring him a clean fork, then blew a waft of cigar smoke into his face.”

They have unrealistic expectations. When you employ media relations as a strategy to build your brand, awareness and mailing list, expect to be in it for the long haul. To expect immediate results is unrealistic. Not every story you submit for consideration will be picked up. Not every publicity campaign will resonate with your audience or sell tickets. Even though a news crew has added you to its day calendar to cover your event, it doesn’t mean they’ll be there, because they may be diverted to a four-alarm fire instead.

Their online presence is lacking. I can tell many stories about journalists who were thwarted from their interest in doing a story because they couldn’t get what they needed from the target’s website. No contact information… no press kit… no company description… amateurish or antiquated website design… poorly written content. Today it’s common that rather than calling you, a journalist will research you first by conducting an Internet search on you or your business. If your online presence is lacking, it’s a big red flag that you’re bush league. What kind of business professional still doesn’t have a decent LinkedIn profile? Why does nothing come up in the google search? Why does your website look like crap? Is your CEO in hiding? Reporters want to talk to credible resources and experts who are in touch with the world and who have a strong online presence.

Your website’s “press room” is solely an archive of the previous press coverage you’ve received. It’s lovely that you have PDFs and videos of previous press coverage. It validates you as a credible resource. Certainly these things ought to be available for viewing on your website. But since the press room is intended as a place where journalists can go to become educated on your business, there needs to be more up there than reading the news stories or watching the video clips in your archives. They’re not your adoring mother, watching every second of your footage and beaming with pride. Do yourself and your business a favor by investing in the creation of an online press kit.

Episode 7: Mark Nardone

Welcome to Episode #7 of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast. In this episode, Mark Nardone, senior editor of Today Media’s Delaware Today and Mainline Today, shares his deep insight into the workings of regional lifestyle magazines, with an exploration of demographics, range of coverage and editorial approach.

Listen to the Audio

Some of the key takeaways from Mark’s presentation are:

  • What is a “lifestyle magazine”? Who is the audience?
  • How is their content organized?
  • Why magazines continue to stay in business
  • Why all of their restaurant reviews are positive
  • The criteria for being listed in their “Best of” round-up stories

Read the Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here:

Episode 7 Transcript Mark Nardone

Links & Resources

Delaware Today magazine

Delaware Today on Facebook

Mark Nardone: mnardone@delawaretoday.com

About Dana Dobson

Dana Dobson is CEO of Dana Dobson Public Relations, a boutique PR firm that helps businesses with creative publicity campaigns and business building content strategies. She is an award-winning B-2-B business writer, specializing in producing compelling, persuasive content for businesses in the services sector. She is the creator of the PR Breakthrough Publicity workshop series, an online training program that teaches you how to launch your own successful publicity campaigns, and she is also the host of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast, featuring interviews with top media talent. Dana speaks frequently on building market presence for executive and subject matter experts, demystifying media relations and how to write effectively.

Who Would You Like Us to Interview?

Is there a member of the media you’d like to know more about? Perhaps someone you’ve been trying to contact but have been unsuccessful, or someone whose work you admire? Are there any particular questions you’d like us to ask media professionals during the interview? I’d love to hear from you.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe!

Spread the Word

If you enjoyed Media Pro Spotlight and find it useful, please rate it on iTunes and write a brief review, and share it with friends and colleagues. When you review the podcast, it makes it easier for people who need this information to find it.

See you next time!

 

Episode 6: Mark Eichmann

Welcome to Episode #6 of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast. In this episode, Mark Eichmann, reporter, producer and co-host of WHYY’s “First,” gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to produce a weekly TV news magazine, what kinds of stories he’s most likely to cover, and some important advice on your role and responsibilities when you pitch a story.

Listen to the Audio

Some of the key takeaways from Mark’s presentation are:

  • Why “story” drives everything
  • Examples of how great stories are put together, with your help in the planning process
  • The secret to great visuals
  • Unprofessional behaviors by story pitchers that are a complete turnoff to producers
  • To B-roll, or not to B-roll

Read the Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here:

Episode 6 Transcript Mark Eichmann

Links & Resources

About “First” and WHYY

Mark Eichmann: meichmann@whyy.org

About Dana Dobson

Dana Dobson is CEO of Dana Dobson Public Relations, a boutique PR firm that helps businesses with creative publicity and customer communication strategies. She is an award-winning B-2-B business writer, specializing in producing compelling, persuasive content for businesses in the services sector. She is the creator of the PR Breakthrough Publicity workshop series, an online training program that teaches you how to launch your own successful publicity campaigns, and she is also the host of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast, featuring interviews with top media talent. Dana speaks frequently on building market presence for executive and subject matter experts, demystifying media relations and how to write effectively.

Who Would You Like Us to Interview?

Is there a member of the media you’d like to know more about? Perhaps someone you’ve been trying to contact but have been unsuccessful, or someone whose work you admire? Are there any particular questions you’d like us to ask media professionals during the interview? I’d love to hear from you.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe!

Spread the Word

If you enjoyed Media Pro Spotlight and find it useful, please rate it on iTunes and write a brief review, and share it with friends and colleagues. When you review the podcast, it makes it easier for people who need this information to find it.

See you next time!

 

Episode 5: Mark Fowser

Welcome to Episode #5 of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast. In this episode, Mark Fowser, news director and afternoon news anchor at Delaware 105.9 will share his opinions and insights gleaned from more than 20 years in radio, including his preferred methods of contact, how a radio newsroom operates, and what constitutes a good news topic.

Listen to the Audio

Some of the key takeaways from Mark’s presentation are:

  • What makes a “news talk” radio station different than other kinds of radio stations
  • How to contact Mark and his colleagues with press releases and story pitches
  • What to put in the subject line of your emails
  • How his station uses social media to collect story ideas

Read the Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here:

Episode 5 Transcript Mark Fowser

Links & Resources

Delaware 105.9 News Talk Radio

Mark Fowser: mfowser@dbcmedia.com

About Dana Dobson

Dana Dobson is CEO of Dana Dobson Public Relations, a boutique PR firm that helps businesses with creative publicity and customer communication strategies. She is an award-winning B-2-B business writer, specializing in producing compelling, persuasive content for businesses in the services sector. She is the creator of the PR Breakthrough Publicity workshop series, an online training program that teaches you how to launch your own successful publicity campaigns, and she is also the host of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast, featuring interviews with top media talent. Dana speaks frequently on building market presence for executive and subject matter experts, demystifying media relations and how to write effectively.

Who Would You Like Us to Interview?

Is there a member of the media you’d like to know more about? Perhaps someone you’ve been trying to contact but have been unsuccessful, or someone whose work you admire? Are there any particular questions you’d like us to ask media professionals during the interview? I’d love to hear from you.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe!

Spread the Word

If you enjoyed Media Pro Spotlight and find it useful, please rate it on iTunes and write a brief review, and share it with friends and colleagues. When you review the podcast, it makes it easier for people who need this information to find it.

See you next time!

 

Want to be a Star?

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After years of speaking with people who ought to be famous but aren’t, or at least, who have the potential to be recognized and admired, I’ve discovered a common thread—they don’t realize that achieving fame is possible.

Of course, everyone wants their products to sell like pet rocks (aren’t you glad I didn’t say “pancakes?”), or to be courted for the big speaking gigs, or to have hundreds—no, thousands!—of clients, but it never occurs to a lot of the business owners I speak with that being famous is an option. It’s an epiphany, followed by a blush.

The paradox for the shrinking violets out there is that the drama-laden human story behind the business/product/book/expertise, their story, is what’s necessary to attract customers, followers and media attention.

Next, they ask, “What is it about me that could possibly be of interest to anyone?” The answer is: A lot, my friend. A whole lot. Here is where I wax poetic, and I tell everyone this:

You are a star—a bright, fixed point in the night sky, barely perceptible to the naked eye, but hot and shining nevertheless. You exist with a vengeance. You are one of a kind. You’re brilliant. But don’t get a big head. I’m not singling you out for special treatment. Everybody is a star. In business, though, you’ve got to shout like crazy to get noticed—not an easy task in an ever expanding universe.

As a star, you’ve existed for eons. “Eons” is a relative term, of course, because at times, hours can seem like eons. When you’ve given birth to a business, product or idea, it seems like an eternity since you’ve launched your rocket of potential into the heavens, yet it may be that only a week or two has passed. Or, it could have been years since your launch, and you fear your precious vessel is somewhere adrift, light years away, without fuel or guidance.

On launch day, your eyes followed your rocket’s trajectory, up and up and up, and as you followed the path of its fiery tail you noticed many other bright objects speckled against the limitless, black dome. You know the names of many:  Sirius, Canopus, Arcturus, Alpha Centauri A. Their lights never waver, and in your brief moments of self doubt, you feel small and insignificant against their greatness. But you’ve got all the raw materials that they’ve got.

Here, at last, is the point: The discovery of stars beyond our solar system is dependent upon high-powered telescopes. Once the Hubble finds you, you’ve made it to the big screen. The discovery of stars living here on earth is dependent upon the media. Once the media find you, you’ve made it to the eyes, ears and awareness of your target audience.

What makes you a star that’s noticed in the business context are the stories you tell, your commitment to telling them, and persistence over a length of time. I encourage you to learn the art of story telling. Find out what stories journalists consider to be “newsworthy.” Read the stories of people you admire, people who have managed to launch themselves into public prominence and keep themselves in the bright, shining orbit or your consciousness. and the marketplace. Ask family, friends and colleagues to tell you what makes you special. Then, tell your story: blogs, social media posts, press kit bio, speaking engagements, feature stories, radio interviews, articles… everywhere.

If you have trouble with figuring out what makes you special, let’s have a free, 30-minute telephone conversation. After a few minutes of hearing your voice and learning more about your business, I promise to give you some direction on how to get yourself noticed by the audiences whose attention you need to succeed.  Click here to schedule an appointment.

To your ultimate stardom!

 

Newsjack for Media Success

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“Newsjacking” is a relatively new term coined by marketing expert David Meerman Scott, meaning, “…the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”

We’ve been doing this in PR for years, keeping an eye on current events and wondering how we can leverage the news to showcase our client’s expertise or solutions. The main difference between yesterday’s “piggy-backing on current events” and today’s “newsjacking” is the immediacy of which trending topics can be taken advantage. The rule of thumb, though, is that you only have 48 hours to to jump in, or you’re too late.

Sometimes you can plan for a newsjack, such as tying in to national holidays. I always have on file a cultural calendar that allows me to plan out the year. There are also certain times of year (e.g., buying cycles, lifestyle activity, “back to school,” etc.) where you have opportunities to offer your expertise. For example, June is a time when many families take vacations. I was able to book my client, a dog trainer, on several morning TV shows to talk about how to safely travel with your pet. Otherwise, I’m always on my toes and spend at least an hour a day scanning the media for real-time opportunities. I recommend you do, too, so that you can be in the right place at the right time when opportunity knocks.

What’s your PR role in the newsjack?

  • Disagreeing with the report you heard;
  • Adding a new dimension to it;
  • Giving examples
  • Explaining it
  • Predicting the future

(Source: “The New Rules of Media Relations: A Practical Guide To Newsjacking,” LewisPR.)

Newsjacking provides a public service, and the opportunity for media outlets to inform and enlighten their audiences when the world is in turmoil or a disaster strikes. A proficient newsjacker reaps the rewards of having high quality, shareable content, building a beloved brand, increased awareness, added credibility, trust, and the reputation as a thought leader. All of this good stuff translates to more leads and increased revenue.

Following are a couple of examples of some successful applications of newsjacking:

Duracel Brings Charging Stations to Battery Park After Hurricane Sandy

After Hurricane Sandy ravaged areas of the East Coast in 2012, Duracel dispatched its new Rapid Responder truck to heavily hit areas so that people could recharge their phones and computers. They also handed out samples of batteries so that people could keep their flashlights and radios alive. In New York City, the truck was stationed in Battery Park, one of the areas that was hardest hit. That’s not all. Duracel opened its offices to employees who didn’t have power to recharge devices and take showers.

What to Do If Your Phone Is Stolen

Lookout is a cybersecurity company that predicts and stops mobile attacks before they do harm. Their blog post, “What to Do If Your Phone Is Stolen,” is great content, because it’s useful to society and is a highly searched topic. They piggybacked on the World Cup by creating a SlideShare presentation called, “Mobile Security at the World Cup,” and promoting it on their Facebook and Twitter pages. According to Socialmouths.com, the adapted presentation resulted in increased traffic and shares.

I’ll explain more thoroughly how you can use newsjacking to promote your expertise in my “PR Breakthrough!” workshop on January 7, 2015.

You may not always strike gold when newsjacking, but don’t give up. With time and practice, you’ll get good at it, and many times, you’ll get lucky. The main thing to keep in mind is that the media are always looking for contributions from people who are experts—no one has the level of knowledge that you do. If you have built the right platform with useful content and have done your research on a journalist’s interests, you will be chosen as a trusted resource.

I’d love to hear your newsjacking stories. What have you done that’s been successful?

5 Big PR Mistakes

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You know how it is when you want something, and suddenly it’s everywhere? Like, you decide it would be awesome to own a bright purple pickup truck, and then everywhere you look are bright purple pickup trucks? Or, you decide your purpose and passion in life is to write books, and you find you can’t swing a squirrel without hitting a would-be author?

Because I’ve recently committed myself to teaching entrepreneurs, business owners, subject matter experts and executives to understand and be masters of their own public relations success, I’ve become almost fanatical about spotting what people are doing wrong. The mistakes and indiscretions are everywhere. I suppose that means journalists are weeping in despair far more loudly than I’ve ever expected, and I’m glad my newfound awareness of PR faux pas is noiseless. Because, darn, it would be loud.

This week I was deliberate about scanning for mistakes or erroneous assumptions people make about PR and came up with five big ones. Take these to heart.

Sending out non-newsworthy press releases

The media exists to serve its readers, watchers and listeners with valuable information. It is not the journalist’s job to promote you. Some outlets reserve special places for your announcements about new hires, events, charitable giving, changes of address or association awards. They’ll print it as a service to you as a member of the business community, but overall, this kind of stuff is usually boring and they are not obligated to run any of it. As you ponder an idea for a press release, ask yourself, “Who cares? Why is this important for the public to know? Why is this interesting?” One of my fondest challenges as a PR professional is helping my clients provide interesting and relevant story ideas to pertinent media contacts on a regular basis. It can be quite fun, actually. One of my saddest duties, however, is to explain to a client (as diplomatically as possible without inspiring intense dislike) that the story idea they’re proposing is of absolutely no interest to anyone outside the company, but they insist I write and send a press release anyway. Think “quality,” rather than “quantity,” and the results will be much, much better.

More about press releases in a future post. They still have a place in the PR world, but they’re not necessarily the best tools for making media announcements anymore.

Pitching a story without images

Let’s say you’re a journalist who was once a member of a huge, bustling team of editors, photographers and fact-checkers. Those were the days! The phone rang off the hook, the fax machines were constantly whirring, and you were working on one or two big, captivating stories. You were often out in the field, interviewing people or witnessing significant events. Then, one dark, fateful day, everyone but you was laid off, and your new job description reads, “you do everything.” Now, you’ve got to put together several complete stories, error free, with photos and on tight deadlines—alone, every day.

If you want to get your story published, give the reporter everything he/she needs in a tight, easy and complete package. In today’s digital world, images are crucial, and few stories are published without them. Sticking with the “boring” theme, make your visuals interesting, so interesting in fact that the picture tells a story unto itself.

Not doing your media research

Before you send anything to any journalist, you should know several things about them: what they cover, their style, and what they’ve covered before. You should be following each of them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and wherever else they hang out online. The real PR pros do this. Make it a part of your professional routine to develop relationships with every media contact on your list. Introduce yourself via email. Send them story suggestions when you can, even if the story isn’t anything about you but about something important they might want to know because it helps them do their jobs better. In the long term, you will greatly benefit by doing this in a number of ways.

Being completely self absorbed

I’m a big believer in the “share to shine” principal. It means that your strategy for achieving your objectives (e.g., building your list, earning press coverage, winning the hearts of customers and prospects, selling products) is all about being of service with the information you share. I have two email accounts. One is for communication with clients and other important contacts. The other is a holding tank for newsletter subscriptions and other distractions from daily business. In one day, this “holding tank” can be filled with at least 100 emails, most of them blatant solicitations. I’ll take 15 minutes here and there a couple of times during the day and find I’m mostly hitting the “delete” button. But there are a few that escape the axe, and I’ll open and read them because I know there’s something of value inside.

Send the email or the newsletter that people want to read, with content of value. Then they’ll want to open it. Keep your solicitations subtle.

Typos, typos, typos

What if I sent out this nwsletter** with lots of typogrifical** errors? Even the most grammatically challenged individuals can spot when something’s wrong with spelling, punctuation or grammar in the stuff your send out. When you see these mistakes in other people’s content, you might think to yourself (as I do), “Ah, that poor fool is destined for failure. Obviously bush league.” Yes. We judge. People judge. It’s wired into our DNA, no doubt an adaptive survival mechanism. We tend to reject business people who violate our trust and confidence by making careless writing mistakes. This mini-lecture isn’t for those of you who proof their copy to death before sending out, and who STILL find mistakes after the fact. Happens all the time, even to me. I’ve got the residual stress and gray hair (shh!) to prove it. Rather, this advice is for people who do not have what we call the “writing skills” but either, (a) don’t know it or won’t admit it, (b) know it but refuse to let other people proofread, or (c) insert other nonsensical reason here.

Mistakes. Gotta love ’em. We learn and grow by making them. My wish for you is that you hold the above observations of this journalist and seasoned PR pro on the fringe of your awareness so that you may climb above the hurdles the habitual mistake-makers have inadvertently strewn before us.

** Humorous?

Coaches: How to Promote Your Expertise

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One of the best decisions I ever made in my professional career was to hire a business coach. Over a 12-month period, my coach helped me recognize potential for myself and my business that I never knew existed. I developed systems and procedures, analyzed strengths and weaknesses, and tweaked my business model so significantly that all I have to do is work hard with passion and persistence. Hard work, process and mindset are the keys to the kingdom.

This article is just one of many karmic paybacks for the wonderful folks out there who have made it their business to help others transform their lives: life coaches, business coaches, weight loss and wellness coaches, coaches who coach coaches, etc. There’s nothing better than having someone on your team of experts who can see past the limitations you put on yourself, who enjoys giving you a swift kick in the pants when your light flickers, and who holds you accountable.

Coach, if you don’t mind, I’d like to grab that megaphone from you for a quick minute and point it back at you. The whistle too, please. Thanks.

Now listen up: You need to take your public relations efforts to the next level. Did you know that self-improvement is a $10 billion per year industry in the U.S. alone? People interested in improving themselves purchase books, online programs and hire coaches again and again over the courses of their lives. The industry bursts with potential and is in constant, ravenous need of content and subject matter experts. There is an abundance of clients out there who are looking for someone exactly like you, so get yourself out there! Why coach a handful of people when you can coach thousands? Why play small when your impact can be astronomical?

With all you have to offer, you can be a media darling! You’ve got knowledge enough and expertise to provide story ideas and content that millions of readers, listeners and viewers constantly crave. All you need to do now is to do the following things and you’ll be a superstar. (I’m laughing a bit at this last sentence. What you need to do—and what your clients need to do— is a lot of hard work, but you know this very well.)

I’m making some assumptions before offering you the following advice, i.e., that you are as clear about your message and ideal client as the ocean water off the shores of Bora Bora. Let’s also assume that you know you need a great publicist, but that until the big ship comes in you’ll need to do your own PR for the time being and shucks, you don’t know how to begin. Here’s how you begin:

Create your “signature system”

I’ve got the “PR Breakthrough” workshop series. Donna Duffy has “Boost Your Business.” Nicola Bird has “50 Days to 50k.” Attiya Blair has “The Master Reset.” Susan Harrow has “Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul.” Having a signature system is a surefire way to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, and further establishes the credibility of your brand. This should be your highest priority. Name it and claim it.

Author something!

You know you have to. How many advisers have told you this already? A million? Get on it. If you’re going to rock and bring in a bigger audience, you simply must be an author. Think eBooks, self-published hard cover books, articles, blogs, white papers, case studies and other written content that explains your signature system in detail and how it transforms lives. I’m not going to give you advice on how to write these things right now. Just consider this a kick in the pants. You know who you are.

Create an online press kit

Include a bio, company overview, your hi-res headshot, description of your products and services, FAQs, testimonials, fact sheets, a list of possible interview questions, a mention of other press coverage you’ve received and any other information that will help journalists learn all about you and what you offer. Search Google to find examples of hundreds of well-done press kits. Take this to heart: if you don’t have a press kit and your competitor does, your competitor is more likely to get the limelight.

Develop and maintain a media contact list

Collect the names and contact information for journalists who cover your industry. Follow them on social media so that you can get a firm grasp on what subjects they write about and in what style. Send each an email to introduce yourself and assure them that you’ll make every effort to be of assistance, whether it’s sending them story ideas that will work for them, or whether you can provide the names of other people they can interview. Then, keep your word.

Be active in social media

Duh, right? Just keep this in mind: You must SERVE to SHINE. You must GIVE to RECEIVE. Seek to educate the world (through your well-cultivated and favorable media chorus) via useful content, and don’t inundate the airwaves with bush league self promoting ego schmeego. Strive to be thought of as superstar saint who exists to transform the lives of his/her ideal clients and make a positive impact in the world.

There. You have a lot of work to do, but you don’t have to do it without help. Reach out for the resources, and keep building your network. The help is everywhere you look. Count me as one as those people eager to serve you. Use the comment section below if you have questions.

Here’s your megaphone back. Can I keep the whistle? It’s cool.

Great PR Story Ideas

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As a refresher, here are several “go-to” story ideas that should always be on your content and publicity radar:

Holidays, Seasons and Special Occasions

How can you tie in your products, services or expertise to events like Valentine’s Day, summer vacation, Martin Luther King Day or “Be Kind to Grandmothers” week? List as many of these opportunities you can think of. There are resources on the Internet (like this one, for example) to jog your brain and get the juices flowing. Clever use of seasonal content allowed one retailer to sell snow blowers in the summer season. (According to Joe Delulio of Snow Blowers Direct, the best time to buy a snow blower is in May or June after the new models are introduced, at a discounted price. With banks and credit unions, the best time to sell home equity loans is in the spring, when winter-weary homeowners are making home improvements.

Customer Surveys

The media loves facts, statistics and trend data. Using Survey Monkey or one of the many other free online survey tools, ask your customers controversial questions and write articles about the survey results.

Run a Contest

One of my clients, a Philadelphia area community bank, ran an annual “pumpkin decoration” contest. Every Halloween, every branch employee decorated a pumpkin and put it on display in their respective branch. Customers then voted for their favorite pumpkins, and we publicized the results with engaging images for the media. The creativity was amazing, and the pictures were published in a variety of media outlets. Coloring contests for children are popular, too, winning you public support and community goodwill.

Create “Top 10” Lists

What are the top 10 ways consumers can save on energy during the hot and cold months? What are the top 10 plants or bushes for the prettiest, but lowest maintenance, landscaping projects? What are the top 10 best ways to get Linda Hamilton arms by sleeveless dress season? What are the top 10 ways to save your hard-earned money? You get the idea, I hope. Lists like these attract readers like crazy.

Tips, Tricks and How Tos

These kinds of stories are candy to your audience and the media, and are very good at establishing your expertise. They help your prospects make the important decisions regarding your products and services. Remember, education trumps sales pitches every time.

The Story of How You Started Your Business

A good story will always attract an audience, especially other business owners who want to be inspired to achieve your level of success. If you have an interesting, unusual, emotional or “how I survived those first difficult years” story, share it with the world.

That’s just a taste of some of the many ways you can garner interest from the media and your prospects. Your PR success depends upon a years-long, consistent effort to deliver useful information to the publics you serve. Fill up your content calendar with as much as you can, and over the long-term, you will be sought after, referred and invited to opportunities you never would have imagined.

Please share any ideas you have used to generate useful content that captured the media’s interest.

Thank you, again, for a wonderful year. Now, to get ’em!

How to Create an Online Press Kit

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You need an online press kit. You really, really do.

Let’s say I’m a reporter with a big story assignment and a tight deadline. I need to find, by lunchtime, three community bank CEOs who will talk to me about their organization’s policy on loan officers’ use of LinkedIn as a business development tool.

Hmmmm, I think. Who do I want to talk to? Let’s give some of those other folks a try, the ones with whom I rarely speak and who might be excited about being quoted in a news story.

I make a list of three local community banks, and naturally, the first thing I do is go online and take a look at their websites. My personal research process is to click on the “About Us” button. I’m looking for a succinct paragraph describing their organization—the “boilerplate,” if you will. If I find one, (which, believe it or not, is rare), my next stop is the “Press Room,” where I’ll find the name of a contact person (again, rare) who will connect me, immediately, with the CEO.

Bank A has an “About Us” button. When I get there, I scroll up and down the page for the paragraph I seek. All I get is a lot of self-promotional tripe about their excellent customer service (yawn) and nothing about number of branches or asset size. Maybe I’ll find it in the press room, I think. But there is no press room. I sigh and move on.

Bank B has an “About Us” page. The content on this page is a 2,500-word essay entitled “Our History.” It’s interesting, but not what I’m looking for while I’m wearing my journalist hat. Again, there is no press room, but since I struck out with Bank A I discipline myself to press on and go to the contact page to find the main phone number. When I call it, I get a recording and a long menu of options. I frown, hang up, and move on. I don’t have all day.

Both Banks A and B just made my “off the radar” or “black” list. They made me work too hard to find the information I needed. I don’t like that. Also, their website’s seeming lack of sophistication is a cue this bank is still in the social media dark ages.

Bank C’s “About Us” page has the paragraph I need, right at the top of the page. And, they have a press room. Eagerly, I press the navigation button and find a list of links to press releases and PDF reprints of articles published by other media outlets, which is another pet peeve of mine when I’m wearing my journalist hat. Like Bank C’s two competitors, there is no media contact listed on this page or the contact page.

Really frustrated now, I pick up and call three of the many organizations I have on my “bank sources” list. Two CEOs get back to me almost immediately. When the third doesn’t respond, I call a few of their competitors until I get what I need.

What I has hoped to find was the bank’s online press kit. In this “kit” are all the materials a media outlet (or investor, analyst or potential employee) might need when researching an organization.

Here is a list of the types of items that are normally found, at a minimum, in a well constructed online press kit, regardless of the industry you’re in.

Company Overview. This is a one-page document that is your company’s “biography.” It is an informational piece, not a sales pitch. Explain exactly what it is that you do, who you serve, and a brief history. Even if your story is spread around other places on your website, put it here in one document so that it’s handy.

Key Personnel. Include a one- to two-paragraph description of the people in your organization who are resources the media can tap for information or interviews. This might include founders, top management and subject matter experts. Make sure you have nice head shots for each person and insert them next to their biographies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Remember, your press kit is targeted mainly to the media, not to your customers. What kinds of questions do you think a news interviewer might ask? If you are a subject matter expert or author, you may pose the kinds of questions you would like to be asked if you are a guest on a radio talk show or television interview. Again, writers and producers are time-crunched and it’s very helpful to them if you can do the question development for them.

Fact Sheet. This is a bulleted list highlighting important aspects of your organization, products and services. Because it’s “at a glance,” it makes it easier for the media to assimilate essential information.

Logos, images, Graphics, Footage. Have all of these items available in several formats for easy download. The easier it is to find and download your high quality logo or image, the more likely it is that it will be used. Include high-resolution photos of products, locations and historic events.

White Papers.

A white paper is an educational piece that is not only helpful to industry and trade media, but it also establishes your thought leadership, credibility and subject matter expertise. The media like having experts on tap to help them with source material and interview subjects. Additionally, a white paper has much of the foundational verbiage you can use to create numerous other marketing pieces, such as fact sheets, FAQs, brochures, contributed articles, presentations, videos and website content.

Please create an online press kit, for your own sake. It isn’t terribly difficult, and the benefits are enormous. Let me know if you have questions.

Meanwhile, if you are savvy enough to have your own online press kit, would you like to share what items you’ve included in yours aside from those listed above?

Wishing you fame and prosperity.