Press releases are considered the mainstay of public relations, but that doesn’t mean that other written materials can’t get you media exposure. If you don’t have a subject newsworthy enough for a release, try sending one of these.
1. Pitch Letters
Use these letters to suggest story ideas to journalists. Many are looking for good ideas and your ideas will be appreciated as long as they’re on target.
Your goal is to present a story idea that will highlight your personnel, product or service, or some other feature of your business or life. However, you should approach the idea from an angle that will benefit journalists and their audiences. Tailor your pitches to the different outlets you target. And when you’re pitching to broadcast media, remember to mention audio and video opportunities in your letter.
2. Introductory Letters
Instead of waiting for the media to discover you, make the first move by offering yourself as an expert source. Introductory letters can serve as your first contact or as a follow-up to a call.
When writing to journalists, explain that if they ever need information on [fill in the blank] you will be able to supply them with information. Include a brief description of your expertise, a short fact sheet on your business, and your business card. Make sure you’ve given them all your contact information: home phone, cell phone as well as regular business phone and e-mail. You never know when a reporter will need to get in touch with you.
3. Letters to the Editors/Op-Eds
Another technique for gaining publicity is writing letters to the editor about articles that appear in the publication. These can either offer praise for an article or point out inaccuracies and omissions. If it’s the latter, be polite and make sure that you support your claims in your letter. Also, keep your letter brief (one page) and focused on one subject.
Op-eds or opposite editorials can be in the form of letters or essays, depending on the preference of the publications you target. Keep your piece short and base it on a timely subject in order to have a better chance of being published. You don’t have to refer to any articles or news that ran in the publication. In fact, some publications consider those to be strictly letters to the editors and won’t run it in the op-ed section. Accepted lengths range from 500-1,500 words, so check to see if there are any guidelines before you submit your piece.
4. Articles and Columns
Contribute articles to publications in order to gain exposure and credibility. Writing articles about your particular field of expertise establishes you as an expert and builds confidence in your abilities, two of the very things that you want to accomplish via your PR efforts.
Look at publications that you already read to see if any of them will make likely markets for articles (focus especially on publications that are read by your clients and prospects). If you’re just starting out, trade magazines are a good bet since they have fewer writers competing for placement. An added bonus is that they target niche audiences, so your words will be before a focused group of prospects.
Think of a few story ideas, do some basic research and start shooting off query letters to editors. Once you have some writing experience under your belt, you may even be able to get your own column. Newspapers and some newsletters may be receptive to proposals for a column that focuses on your particular know-how. Experts have also become columnists for community newspapers, business magazines and so on.
Propose your column idea to an editor (local publications are a good bet) and submit about three to six pieces so that they’ll have an idea of what to expect. Before you decide to become a columnist, bear in mind that columns can be daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly. That means that you’ll have to come up with new slants and ideas on a regular basis. If you are successful in getting a column, try to have a few pieces written in advance as a safety net.
These four options can help you stay in the media even when you don’t have any material for a news release. Start using them now.