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Ken Magill

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Smart PR Watch: How to Get Coverage

By Ken Magill
Over the years I have often been asked how companies and executives can get coverage in the various publications for which I have written.
Come to think of it, while I am often asked how to get coverage, I’m not asked enough. Most PR reps introduce themselves into my inbox by sending irrelevant crap and then continue to do so on a regular basis thereafter.
One rep regularly sends me e-mails with the subject line: “Story Idea: …”
Trouble is, anyone who has ever read a word I’ve written would know I wouldn’t touch the ideas she presents—ever. 
I realize I’m not Ernest Hemingway or Dave Barry for that matter. But I do have a core audience of decision makers who, for some vendors, are worth reaching.
The most important piece of advice I can give someone who wants coverage in the trades is they’ve got to think small-ball, a term in baseball that means the batting team focuses on methodically placing runners on base and advancing them home, not on home runs.
From my experience, the same holds true for a good PR strategy. Quit dreaming about that big feature in the Wall Street Journal or BusinessWeek. If it happens, great. But a single ego-boosting piece in a mass-circulation business publication isn’t a PR strategy that has legs.
Moreover, trying to get big puffy features published in the trades isn’t wise either. A smart trade reporter knows company executives will tell them everything’s peachy even if their CFO just sent a mass internal e-mail with the subject line “Iceberg Ahead!”
Announcements are a way to get coverage in the trades, but not announcements no one cares about outside the company such as “look how big we’ve grown!”
Studies and surveys are great ways to get coverage, as well. Most reporters know the studies are bound to be self-serving for the company touting them, but will use them if they’re interesting enough.
Smart PR involves always thinking of what will interest a publication’s readers, not what is dear to the company’s CEO.
Another smart trade PR strategy involves being cited regularly as an expert in the publications the company’s prospects and customers read. 
Appearing regularly as a source in the trades can help a company gain and keep credibility with both.
When I worked for a small business-to-business cataloger in the early 90s, we were always proud when someone from our list manager, Direct Media, was quoted in the direct-marketing trades, such as DM News. It indicated to us we trusted our list in the hands of a company that had industry wide respect.
A big feature written by a reporter who has no prior knowledge of the industry can’t possibly have the brand-burnishing effect of writers who understand the industry using a certain executive regularly as a go-to source when they need an expert.
What does PR small-ball entail? Being useful and accessible.
Being useful involves convincing the reporter that a certain executive can offer expertise and insight in an area the reporter covers regularly, and do so without overtly pitching the company’s product or service.
Being accessible means just that. If contact must go through a PR rep, fine, but the executive who wants to be quoted must respond to reporters’ calls and e-mails quickly. And by quickly, I mean within the hour if possible.
A smart trade reporter looking for comment on a story puts out multiple calls and/or e-mails, then quotes the sources—for the most part—on a first-come, first-served basis. 
I have multiple sources I know I can go to on deadline and get reliable expertise. 
By sharing their expertise with my readers, they burnish their brand with customers and prospects in my subscriber file.
By quoting them I’m effectively saying: “I trust these folks. You should, too.”

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