Free publicity is not a myth and it can be achieved, all need to know how to go about getting it. In the current economy, any business would be happy to get something for free and with employers making budget cuts across the board, the marketing budget will have un-doubtfully suffered. However, businesses should be looking at ways to publicise their business for free and it all starts with creating the perfect pitch and could very well end with your businesses getting themselves into a magazine or newspaper. It is something that anyone has the opportunity to do; it is just about getting the pitch right.
Once you have created a press release that includes your key comments and points, you are ready to get pitching. Always ensure however that you have proof read your material, journalists will not be happy to receive anything that contains numerous grammatical or spelling errors. Also, make sure the piece is penned by the Managing Director or someone with a high level of authority; this makes the piece more appealing.
Journalists and Editors receive a countless number of press releases every day and so you need to make sure you get yours stands out from the crowd. Prior conversation with a journalist is a vital part of your pitch and this is one of the first hurdles many people fall at. If you speak to the journalist and let them know what you are sending, this helps to build an initial relationship between the two so that there is an element of expectation about the release. It will also allow you to gage an initial reaction of the journalist to your release. In terms of what information you are sending, whether it be a news story, possible article for inclusion or an even an announcement of some kind, it is fundamental that you do your research into the publication in question. Read through the publication and get a feel for the style of writing that the articles seem to take and familiarise yourself with the features and columns and see whether you could envisage your article slotting into the publication. You also need to make yourself aware of the more formal aspects such as who the feature writers are and rough word counts.
Once you have done your research and decided upon the main message/topic of your editorial, call the journalist in question. If they are too busy and you are greeted by their answering machine, do not leave a message, just leave it a little while and call back. It is your responsibility to call them; after all, you are the one pitching something. When calling, try either early morning or late afternoon, ensuring you avoid lunch periods. Also think about the frequency of the publication and avoid any peak days or weeks that the journalist may have as they will not be as welcoming of contribution at these times. Be direct and straight to the point when speaking to your contact and try not to oversell your company. The journalist will only be interested in how your contribution can benefit his readers rather than what your company is all about. Remember, trying to get yourself free press is not the same as advertising and if you attempt to get a blatant advertisement into a publication you will immediately be re-directed to the sales department. This is all about publicising your business and getting your name out there and promoting your business as a brand, not putting out a direct sales advertisement. Journalists know every tick in the book so will know if someone is trying to cover up a sales pitch.
Once you have spoken to your press contact, follow the conversation up with an email to confirm your discussions, including your press release. Also, add into the subject line 'As Discussed', this will help to ensure your contact does not overlook your mail. Consider calling up again the following day to confirm the journalist has received the e-mail and to answer any questions they may have. You should then have a better idea of whether he is going to use your material. You should make no more than 3 calls to your press contact, any more and you risk becoming a nuisance and losing the potential to work with them on in the future. You have then done everything you could possibly do to achieve free your publicity. Always remember to keep press cuttings as it looks impressive to any potential clients to see your business being featured in the local press and adds a sense of credibility to your company.
Other ways to generate free publicity including looking at your present contacts. Do you belong to any business groups, local Chambers etc? Do they produce their own newsletters? If so then there is a good chance that they welcome material submitted by their members. Remember, the publishing industry has been hit by the recession too so do not have as many writers on board as they would have had a year ago. Therefore, they are more willing to accept material from outside sources. Just always remember, free publicity is out there, you just need to find it!