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By B.L. Ochman
Posted Friday, October 15, 2004

Is your public relations campaign getting the results you want? If you're still counting on traditional press releases to spread the word about your business, the answer is probably no.

There's only a small amount of space available in traditional media, and there's tremendous competition for that coverage. The Internet provides a host of tools that let you have direct contact with customers and potential customers yet most businesses are still ignoring them.

There's more to media than the press.
Today, media is a collective term for the producers of content for mass consumption. Newspapers, radio and TV each are powerful mediums, but they are no longer the only - or necessarily even the best - outlet for news about your company or product.

Web sites, e-zines, newsletters, Mail Lists, Online forums, newsgroups, Blogs, reputation management sites and e-mail also are all powerful mediums created by the Internet. They can have as much or more influence than the press. In fact, journalists troll these mediums for stories.

Think like a wired journalist
To get publicity now you must think like a wired journalist and realize that the fact your company exists is not news. You must understand what the journalists' audience wants to read and what they, by virtue of this, want to write.

And you need to learn where wired journalists look for news so you can be there. Understanding this perspective is the basis of a system I call Reality PR TM. Here are the principles upon which the system is based.

Do not bullshit
Pride yourself on your ability to make complex topics simple by unburdening them of jargon and MBA-speak. The more you stick to answering questions instead of spewing mission statement rhetoric, the more likely you are to be sought out for your opinion. At least make the pretense of maintaining an impartial perspective.

Write an elevator pitch
Write down your story idea in one sentence. Explain it in plain English the way you would tell it to a friend during an elevator ride. Get it down to 30 seconds.

Before you write a press release ask yourself where you have seen an article published like the one you want to write. If it's a release about your new Web site, your first anniversary or the company president's speech, chances are - unless your company is large and publicly traded - the answer is nowhere.

Write tight
Writing short and tight is hard. Keep your press pitches to an absolute maximum of 300 words including contact information and headlines. Keep your posts in mail lists and forums short and pointed.

Think vertical
The Internet has created a new demand for vertical content that covers niche subject areas and smaller industries. Look not only at traditional media but also at specialized newsletters, e-zines, forums and newsgroups where your information can be of value.

Be visible
Make it easier for a journalist to come to you than to your competitors. If your posts in newsgroups and forums are smart and helpful, you can create a reputation for yourself as an expert. And journalists want to talk to experts.

Find the names of editorial directors of major Web sites, editors of e-zines and Online newsletters and analysts and address your pitches directly to these people.

The traditional press release is dead
Journalists almost universally express disdain for the traditional press release. The vast majority of releases are formulaic, rambling and if they have a story to tell it is usually boring as hell and lost amidst superlatives and marketing babble.

Want to win coverage? Start by throwing out the tattered old print press release. Write like you have 10 seconds to make a point. Because online, you do.

The new message for new media
Ten well-constructed story suggestions will do the work of 10,000 press releases.

Stories have to be individually tailored to specific outlets. The expectation of blandness, poor writing and bias is so ingrained in journalistic culture that the form of the press release has become entirely devalued.

Moderators of forums, newsgroups, Mail Lists and web sites have no use for the traditional press release. When you practice Reality PR you will learn the format they do need.

The Internet has rendered traditional made-for-print press releases obsolete.

Don't SPAM the Media
While it is perfectly acceptable for pitches to be unsolicited, you need to observe a number of courtesies.

Relevance is the key. Read the publication, watch or listen to the show BEFORE you pitch. Better yet, study several editions. Learn its point of view and the type of stories it features. Identify the writers who cover your sector.

Give away your knowledge
Write articles for online publications. Volunteer to be an on-call exert for a major web site. Make a genuine effort to help people who participate in forums, mail lists and newsgroups. Skip the bluster and bluff.

There is more to PR than publicity.
If you're Number One in a field that affects millions of consumers, the media will seek you out. At the least, they will listen when you call or read release you send because a story about your industry wouldn't be complete if you aren't included. Approximately 100 companies in the United States fall into this category.

If your company is small to mid-sized, not publicly traded, new on the block or a behind-the-scenes business you'll have to learn other skills for spreading the word about your virtues.

About the Author
B.L. Ochman Internet marketing strategist, journalist and speaker is the author of a new e-book on Reality PR ™ (


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