Get Your Message Into the Market the Professional Way by Brant Clifton

Is your business truly in the spotlight? If not, it may be time to bring in a professional for a bit of support!

I want to thank guest blogger Brant Clifton for this great post on points we ALL need to consider when getting our message into the market.  My suggestion:  Contact Brant by clicking on his name to email him OR call him at 910-585-2497. He is a prolific writer and knows how to get to the press.  From many years of working on Capitol Hill and 20 plus years of marketing and PR in the business world, he truly gets what it takes to break through the noise so that your message is heard in our  noisy market!

If a tree falls in a forest – and no one hears it – does it make a sound? That old maxim can easily be applied to the contemporary business world.  How much do your accomplishments – or those of your business – matter if they are not widely known?

Getting your message out into the market can be quite a challenge – unless you have the name ID and PR / marketing budget of Wal-Mart, Starbucks, GE or Microsoft.

Have you ever noticed how certain people or companies regularly get cited as authoritative sources in newspaper or television news reports?  Others seeking to get their names or services or products in front of the same audiences have to spend thousands of dollars on advertising.   After reviewing media advertising rate sheets, getting free publicity as a “talking head” looks quite appealing.  But how do you pull that off?

GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. Struggling media operations have done most of their belt-tightening in their newsgathering operations.  Fewer people are available to report a growing amount of information. Copy from newswire services, like AP or Reuters, is a favorite “crutch” for newsrooms seeking to fill pages on a tight, shoestring budget.  Saving an overworked newsroom staffer some time by providing a quality photo and a well-written release / story can earn you a few “brownie points” and some prime (free!) news coverage.

WHAT DO YOU WANT? Are you an author seeking a review of your work?  Targeting a feature writer with an extensive in-depth media packet (i.e., bio, book synopsis, copy of the book, photo, etc.) in that case would make a lot of sense. That would also be the case if you or your business are fascinating – or newsworthy enough – to warrant a feature article.   Feature writers have more time to work on their pieces. They also have more space set aside in the paper for their work – meaning that they need a lot of information.  With a well-crafted media kit, you can do an awful lot to craft the message the final article communicates to the readers.   The more interesting, helpful information you supply on yourself – in these cases – the better things will likely turn out for you when the article is published.

If you are seeking to build name-ID and a positive public image for yourself and / or your business, you need to adopt a different strategy.  The average “beat” reporter is often producing his stories on tight deadlines.  He likely does not have time to sift through and decipher pages and pages of stuff in a media kit.   These guys and gals are being bombarded daily with emails and faxes from people trying to get their attention.    The trick here is to be: (1) creative, (2) timely, (3) brief, and (4) to the point.

The acronym for the name of our family business was CSI – just like the highly rated television shows.   (Of course, we dealt in commercial construction and development, and left the dead bodies and crime fighting to the folks on TV.)    In talking with members of the public, I found a lot of people made the association with the TV shows.  So, in response, I titled one media release from our company: “CSI on the scene in Wilmington.’’  The sub-headline offered further detail on the event I was promoting.  This creative touch worked.  It caught an editor and reporter’s attention, and even made it into print in the targeted publication.  (The release was reprinted in the paper practically verbatim.)   I remember one case where a local paper printed a story on its front page about the groundbreaking for one of our projects.  The lengthy story ran over to an inside page.   The portion of the article on the front page featured a photo of the proposed facility, photos of our personnel, our company logo, and  numerous mentions of our company name.  If you read to the very end of the article, on the runover page, you flipped past an advertisement for one of our competitors that likely cost them thousands of dollars.   (A free, front page article vs. thousands of dollars for an advertisement on an inside page.   I think we made out pretty well in that deal.)

Timeliness is also an important consideration. Being in the construction and development business, I knew that I had information – new businesses coming to the area – that would be of interest to local journalists.  I fed them details to help them get great stories on these developments.  I rapidly became indentified as a source of good information when it came to stories about the regional economy or construction.  When there were statewide or national developments that crossed into our area of expertise, I was ready with a release and a few phone calls.   Thanks to my  series of timely contacts, I had many reporters calling me – unsolicited – for commentary / assistance on stories.

When dealing with beat reporters and their editors , brevity  can be the key to achieving the desired end result:  free publicity exactly the way you want it .  Editors are often haranguing their reporters to keep their stuff short and to the point.   With news space shrinking and ad space growing, editors have less and less to work with.   Do their editing for them.  Give your release a clever headline and sub-head to sell yourself, then – in the body of the release – promote your case in the shortest, most succinct way possible.   If you do that, you just might find your release reported verbatim in the paper or on the newscast.  (And wouldn’t that be nice?)

GETTING IT DONE. Sounds like a piece of cake, now doesn’t it?  Dealing with the  media can be quite daunting.  (Lots of people have seen 60 Minutes correspondents ambushing unsuspecting business owners.)  If you play your cards right, and help these folks in the media look good, they can in turn make you look good and help you reap benefits for yourself and your business over the long run.

Playing this game REALLY does not require shelling out big dollars to hire a big-time flack from Madison Avenue or Hollywood.  There are plenty of competitively priced options out there – like me and my firm – that can get the job done for smaller enterprises.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would like to find new ways to dramatically increase their name-ID and presence in the market without having to shell out a small fortune.    As a reporter, I spent many a day and night in newsrooms shoveling through mountains of releases.  I know what works – what sells a pitch to a reporter and his editor.  I’ve been able to capitalize on that experience in my PR work with various businesses.

Drop me a note, and let’s get to work on a plan that  (1) meets your and your organization’s needs and (2) fits your budget.

Brant Clifton is a managing partner in BEC Management, a business consulting firm headquartered in Pinehurst, North Carolina. For more information, call 910-585-2497 or contact Brant Clifton by email.

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  1. Good advice — although the standard press release has given way to the brief, carefully crafted “pitch” with a killer subject line — as you mention in your post. One favor — please don’t use the term “flack.” It’s a derogatory term that’s been applied to PR people for years, mainly by reporters who would be lost without us. I once went to a media conference where a Business Week reporter was on a media panel and said he had never done a story originated by a PR person. His own colleagues on the panel doubled over with laughter at the obvious
    fib, to be generous, while the audience booed and hissed.

    As I once wrote to the New York Times when they bragged about not using PR people for a series of what they called “enterprise” stories, smart reporters will gladly get good ideas no matter where they come from — even PR people.

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