Getting Free Publicity

I'm trying to get out more, and heard an excellent talk on "How to create a PR plan that results in Thousands of Dollars in Free Publicity." Joan Stewart of Saukville, WI, a/k/a "The Publicity Hound" spoke at the Chicago Association for Accounting Marketing meeting in Chicago.

I was in the new business for 15 years but she offered several great tips I hadn't heard before:
*Start at the bottom of the totem poll when contacting a publication - the beat reporter. Don't call the top editors, who are busy doing performance reviews, fighting with the ad director and negotiating with the union. Aim as low as possible. Find out in advance which reporter covers your beat (law, accounting or consulting).
*Partners are reluctant to woo reporters. Here's a way to motivate them: every time a competing firm is mentioned in a news story, clip it out and start a file. After a while show the file to the partners, and point out that the competing firms have partners out schmoozing with the press.
*If you are lucky enough to meet a reporter for lunch, pitch one good story idea, not 20. Start out by asking "how can I help you understand..." (a) our industry) (b) new legislation or (c) our lingo.
*When taking a report our to lunch, don't jump to grab the check to pay it. Ask them first what their ethics policy is on payment of the check.
*When you introduce your partner as an epxert resource, give them the partner's cell and home phone numbers. Deadlines occur at crazy hours, and he who gets called gets quoted.
*Position your partners as an "expert." The media has a loose definition of who an expert is. It is basically a person who answers the phone.
*Write letters to the editor that (a) comment on an article already published in the paper or (b) expresses a strong opinion on one side of a controversial issue. Editors are starving for letters to the editor and they love getting letters.
*When you send out your newsletter or e-Newsletter, don't just send it to clients and prospects. Send a copy to the media too. If you're sending e-mail, get their permission first, you don't want to be considered a spammer.
*When you get a reporter's voicemail, leave a message that says, "(a) I just read your story on "X" and (b) it gave me an idea for a new story (or a follow-up) story on "Y." Give me a call and I can tell you about it." Don't give away the story idea; make the reporter call back to get it.
*Read the editor's column. It will discuss new columns, reporters, areas of coverage, features and columnists. These are all prospects for your story pitches.
*Send news stories from other publications to reporters about a new trend. It will generate call-backs from reporters.

Joan Stewart can be reached at 262.284.7451 and at on the web, and via email.

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