Archive for the 'Media Relations Tips' Category

Tips For Increasing Your Publicity During The Holidays

While many people are off shopping, taking kids to the beach and enjoying their year-end holidays, newsrooms continue working (albeit with skeleton staff). Newspapers are still being printed, TV and radio slots still need to be filled and the journalists and producers still need content, especially content that’s different from all the normal holiday-season fare. However, as we go deeper into December, the media’s phones start to go quiet and the flood of emails slows to a trickle. This presents the perfect PR opportunity to pitch those tough stories that normally wouldn’t cut it during the busy news cycles.

The best timing for the best impact is to use the holiday time - especially around the public holidays - to actively pitch your stories. But even if you’re off sipping cocktails, there are still a few things you can do to passively help increase your holiday-time coverage:

- Don’t date your media releases. If it’s a story that doesn’t have a specific date attached to it, then it makes it easier for the journalists to slot it in during a slower news day.

- Ensure that all the facts are included, from where to buy the product and the price, or links to related research findings, to the industry expert quotes. You don’t want a journalist to have to ask for anything and then reach your “I’m on holiday” out-of-office reply.

- Many of the beat editors and journalists you normally deal with may be on leave and freelancers will be working in their place. Although personalised emails are the best at all other times of year, if you’re not sure if the recipient is going to be there, rather email your story to the newsdesk so that the relevant acting editors can still access it.

Good luck for all the publicity opportunities and … enjoy the holidays!

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Media@SAfm Features Media Alerts

Robynn Burls talks to Ashraf Garda on Media@SAfm about Encyclomedia’s new service, Media Alerts. Listen to the interview and visit the Media Alerts website to find out more about this new free service.

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Talk About A Bad Subject Line

I’m sure you know how important it is to make your email subject lines stand out, especially considering that some journalists receive up to 800 emails a day - yes, 800! But the following subject line is not a good way to attract attention:

*********************************************[Company competition winner] Found! SHE’s one in a million!******************************************************

The journalist who forwarded this to me simply said “talk about a bad headline”. Yes, indeed, let’s talk about it.

Firstly, putting your name in stars doesn’t automatically deserve royal treatment from the media.

Secondly, who cares? I know that sounds awfully harsh and cold. It’s not that no-one cares about the winner, it’s that no-one knows the winner (except those people that do, of course). Journalists are looking for stories that can add value to their readers and give them something of interest or something newsworthy. Yet another competition winner is simply not newsworthy.

There are other angles that this company could’ve taken though. Considering that this press release was sent to a marketing journalist, they could’ve looked at the successful elements in the promotion of the competition. What created the biggest response, what made the competition stand out, why is this important to other marketers?

There are always various angles to any story. The trick is to match a relevant angle to the right audience. If you can get that right, the journalist will be happy to look at your content, with no stars and funny formatting needed.

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Decor Editors Share Publicity Tips

I attended PR-Net last night in Green Point, Cape Town, where several top decor editors spoke about the unique selling points of their specific home/decor magazines, plus tips on how they’d like to interact with PR people and publicists.

I’ll share some of the tips with you here:

Anneke Blaise, Home/Tuis magazineAnneke Blaise from Home/Tuis magazine says that she really appreciates face-to-face contact. She wants to know who she’s dealing with and invites PR practitioners to visit their offices once a month, or whenever appropriate to discuss ideas, show products, or simply just put a face to an email.

Bianca Du Plessis, Conde Nast House & Garden

Bianca Du Plessis from Conde Nast House & Garden says that she finds it surprising that people don’t realise that they work three months in advance. That means that the issues for December and January have already been sorted. Bianca suggests that PR people should find out what issue they’re working on and enquire about the feature calendars.

Bianca also explained how tricky gardening features can sometimes be. Because of their three months production schedule, a picture of a beautiful Spring garden in full bloom wouldn’t reach them in time for the Spring edition. So unless they have a good library of pics, they sometimes work on their gardening features one year in advance.

Johan van Zyl, Visi“Be concise” is the advice from Johan van Zyl of Visi. They have a small editorial team and he fills the roles of three people, therefore he says he often suffers from “inbox rage x3″. Johan recommends that you familiarise yourself with the magazine and then speak to the right person depending on the section you want to appear in. Visi is different in several ways from other decor magazines, so Johan is looking for an angle (preferably exclusive) that would be perfect for the Visi reader.

Lauren Shantall, Elle DecorationBoth Johan and the next speaker, Lauren Shantall of Elle Decoration, spoke about the “non-exclusive exclusives”. No magazine wants to feature something that appears in several other competing titles at the same time. They lose credibility with their readers and you will certainly lose the editor’s trust. All that they ask is that you are honest about what other magazines plan to feature your product/brand/company so that they can decide what type of angle would work best for them.

On this topic, Brian Berkman raised a valid point. Journalists also have a responsibility here to answer PR emails on whether they plan to use the content or not. When you don’t get an answer, it’s difficult to know when you can start pitching the idea to other titles and you might miss the production deadline in the meantime. As Brian said, a “no” is better than hearing nothing.

Back to Lauren, she says that she prefers to receive the high res pics upfront, as it saves her time. Please note though that this is certainly not the case for all journalists - they won’t be happy if you crash their inbox. Use Encyclomedia’s media database research service to give you all the journalists’ individual  preferences and pitching tips.

Lianne Burton, House and LeisureLianne Burton from House and Leisure says that they aim to promote all the positives of life in South Africa. The new look magazine launches in January 2009 and, given that the competition was sitting right next to her, she couldn’t really reveal too much except that the new slogan is “stylish SA at home and play” and it includes a beauty section. They’re big into eco angles, so there are some great PR opportunities there too.

Thanks to Mike from Wesson Digital Photography for the photographs.

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Great Example of a Pre-Pitch PR Introduction

Before sending out your press releases to the journalists in your media database, have you ever tried sending an introductory email to ask whether the journalist would in fact be interested in receiving the type of press releases and angles you have planned?

A PR professional named Scott Duehlmeier did just that when he sent a short, descriptive email to a well-known blogger, Chris Brogan, asking if Chris would be interested in receiving further emails with PR announcements from their clients.

Have a look at Scott’s email on Chris’ post “Great PR manners go a long way”. Chris refers to it as “a very polite, very personal-seeming opt-in letter”, which came across well because it was “human-sounding”.

Unfortunately, far too many journalists (and bloggers) are on the receiving end of the spray-and-pray press release distribution approach. Even though software can automatically enter the journalist’s name into the email, they can mostly tell that they’re part of a mass mailing, especially if it starts with “I thought you’d find this interesting”.

Nothing beats personalised, thoughtful communication if you want a good response from the journalists. Of course, if all you’re looking for is a long list of media contacts to tick off and show to your client, then you may need to revisit what your PR goals are.

For some great tips on how journalists like to be pitched to, sign up for this free media pitching tips email series. It’s full of advice on various PR-related topics from editors, producers and journalists across South Africa.

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Have You Prepared Your Gift Guide Pitches Yet?

Christmas giftsMedia with long lead times, like consumer magazines, will be busy working on their end-of-year, Summer editions now. Those magazines with features or supplements covering December gift guides will need to start gathering their products and ideas now in August, while some would’ve already started in July.

If you have a product, brand or experience that you think will fit in the Christmas gift guides, make sure to do your research straight away to find the media you need to pitch to. Remember that many magazines will prefer to take their own photographs of the products to maintain consistency and quality. Once you’ve successfully explained why your product would be a good fit for the publication and the target audience, make sure to have the product ready to courier. If they don’t receive it in time for their photo shoots, you’ll miss out on a great opportunity.

Don’t send unsolicited products to the editors. They’re bound to receive so many boxes, packages, media kits and gifts, that your product might just get lost. Rather get in touch first and see what the journalists are looking for and then find an angle of how your product could match their needs.

Important question to ask yourself before pitching your product for the first time: Who would use/buy my product?
Be specific with your answer. Hint - there is no such thing as “the general public”, that creature does not exist. There are hundreds of different publications for a reason, because every person has different interests, values and priorities. Once you know who your real target audience is, only contact those media that actually talk to your target audience. Being relevant is critical if you want to build a good relationship with the journalist.

For help in finding the right media and the most relevant media contacts, have a look at Encyclomedia’s media database research service, where you can customise any media database you need and Encyclomedia will verify all the information just before you receive it.

Pic source: Flickr

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Marketingweb’s Tips To Get Your Press Release Published

The editorial staff at Marketingweb receive over a thousand press releases each week. In order to make sure that your media release stands out, they’ve very kindly published their top nine guidelines on how to get your story published.

These simple guidelines and tips can be applied to any journalist you plan to contact, although certain journalists will have their own pitching tips and preferences regarding email attachments and follow-up calls. Nonetheless, it’s a very good summary of some of the best practices in pitching your PR stories.

Also have a look at Encyclomedia’s Media Pitching Tips Revealed series. It’s a free email series with tips and advice straight from South African journalists on what works best and what PR tactics to avoid.

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The Way You End Your Emails May End Your Media Relations

Stuart Jeffries wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday on “A guide to signing off your emails“. He raises some interesting points about netiquette and how PR practitioners should avoid faking a sense of intimacy through over-familiar email endings.

Although Stuart yearns for a return to proper business correspondence, personally, I always avoid what feels like overly formal communication, such as addressing someone with “dear sir”, or ending an email with “yours faithfully”. It just feels dishonest. Not that it’s untruthful, but rather, by using these standardised formalities, it strips all sense of individuality. Your real message, feeling and tone gets muffled.

Don’t get me wrong though, there is always a place and time for the formal, business communication style. Also, I’m certainly not suggesting a descent into colloquial, over-familiar chit-chat with the business contacts and journalists you email.  As an example, I did a double-take today when I opened an email from a job applicant I have never met, which started with “Hi there”. Hmm, not really appropriate as a first time introduction, considering the applicant already knew my full name.

So what is appropriate in emails to journalists? Is “warm regards” too warm and fuzzy? Stuart Jeffries seems to think so, although he’s received far worse. In my case, I’m a warm-blooded human being, a pretty friendly one at that, so I regularly use “warm regards” to end my emails. Although, if I’m emailing a complete stranger I normally opt for the slightly more stand-offish “kind regards”, or more formal “best regards”.

While “warm regards” might still be debatable, “love and kisses”, “xoxo”, “ciao” and “cheers” definitely are not. You might well be filled with divine “light and love” at the time of sending, but these phrases are reserved for friends and family only.

You can’t try to imitate a closer relationship with someone by using an over-friendly ending to your email. You’re more likely to cause the opposite reaction and irritate the journalist.

Phrases like “God bless” and “take care” can also be irritating when received by a stranger. The words come across as empty or insincere when you are asking someone that you have never met to take care. Why? What for?

When in doubt, rather stick to a neutral email ending, such as:
Kind regards,
Best regards,
Thank you,

By the way, by not using a sign-off at all, you will come across as curt or rude. Read more about email sign-offs and other email etiquette on

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Email Subject Line Tip - Get Noticed

My resident media expert at Encyclomedia, Chantal, was speaking to a radio producer yesterday about his contact preferences and pitching tips and he gave a great tip that I’d like to share with you. It’s simple, perhaps it’s even really obvious, but I can guarantee you that very few PR practitioners practice this.

After pitching your idea to a journalist over the phone, when you then email your media release, write the following in your subject line: [Journalist’s name], we’ve just spoken - [concise headline].

For example: Thabo, we’ve just spoken - Purple pumpkin discovered in Potgietersrus.

According to this Kaya FM producer, he receives so many emails that even though you have discussed the idea with him, he may still miss your email. But by using his suggestion above, while scanning through the subject lines, he’ll be able to spot your email and media release straight away.

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How To Really Irritate a Journo in The First 5 Seconds

It’s simple. If you start a phone call with “Hi, how are you?” you are looking for trouble.

Perhaps you’ve heard that public relations people are sometimes referred to as PR sales people? This is not because the poor journalists aren’t savvy enough to know the difference, it’s because people in our own PR industry are creating this perception - often unwittingly. In fact, some are so unconscious to the effect that their sloppy PR habits have, that they get upset and exclaim “how rude!” when an exasperated journalist doesn’t want to hear another irrelevant PR pitch.

I think I need a quick disclaimer here: I am not saying that journalists should be excused for being rude, there is no excuse for that. But after hearing some of their stories, I can understand why blood pressure levels rise as often as they do. 

Ok, so getting back to the PR/sales person comparison. Here’s what you can do to avoid a negative impression when making your call:

- Introduce yourself upfront.
Only untrained telemarketers selling dodgy products start a conversation with a bubbly “hi, how are you?” in an attempt to “build rapport”. The only thing this does is build scepticism. First say who you are and what company you’re calling from. No-one wants to make small talk when they don’t know who they’re dealing with; journalists generally don’t want to make small talk at all.

- You don’t need to be everyone’s best friend.
Get to the point and then be friendly, in that order. Once you’ve built a good relationship with a journalist, then you can chat away about your weekend plans and the weather. But up until that point, simply give the journalists what they need in a professional manner.

Please, for your own sake and for the sanity of the journalists you’re dealing with, understand why “hi, how are you?” just doesn’t work. Then pass on the tip to all of your colleagues too (despite its obviousness), because somewhere out there some PR people are unknowingly sabotaging all your hard media relations work.

What’s obvious to one is obviously not obvious to everyone.

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