Five Steps to Precision in Publicity
By Rusty Cawley
PR flacks use a scattergun approach, hoping to hit something. They fax out press releases to long lists of
reporters and editors. They make countless, fruitless phone calls. They pester and cajole and plead.
But PR Rainmakers reject such amateurism. Instead, they
adopt the motto of the U.S. military sniper: "One shot,
You want to become so precise with your proposals that you inspire news stories that accomplish exactly what
you and your client aim to accomplish.
There are five steps to bringing such precision to your
1. Pinpoint your objective.
This is often the hardest part of the process. It
requires you to focus your client or your boss on
exactly what it is they want from your news story. Boil
your objective into a simple sentence, such as "We want
our retailers to gain confidence in this new product"
or "We want our vendors to complain to Congress."
Executives often rush through this process. Don't let
them. Ask them: "If we don't know what we are aiming
at, how do we know when we hit it?"
2. Identify your audience.
Knowing your objective allows you to choose the
appropriate audience for your story. Generally for a
business, audiences fall into seven categories:
management, employees, customers, vendors, lenders,
investors and regulators.
The appropriate audience is the one that can help you
reach your objective. All other audiences are
irrelevant for the purposes of this particular story.
3. Design the message.
You must ask yourself, what is it we want the audience
to do? Buy our product? Write their congressman? What?
You want to design a message that will cause your
audience to respond in the way that will help you reach
Again, boil your message down into one simple sentence.
Avoid the temptation to hit more than one target.
Focus, focus, focus.
4. Target the journalist or the media outlet that can
best deliver you message to your audience.
The whole point of PR is to get your message to your
audience through a credible third party. In this case,
the third party is the news media. Forget the general
Focus instead on proposals that aimed to convince one
particular reporter to write one particular story.
Figure out which reporter is the most influential with
the audience you want to influence, then pour all your
energy into devising a proposal that will appeal to
that reporter or to that reporter's editor.
Study the reporter's past stories to discover that
reporter's tendencies. Fit your story to the reporter's
5. Create a proposal that hits the bull's eye.
Make your case in just one page. No nonsense. Get right
to the point. Give the reporter at least three good
reasons to do the story, each of which strongly appeals
to the reporter's needs and tendencies.
Put your proposal in writing, send it by overnight
delivery and then follow up in two days with a phone
call. If the reporter says no, don't argue. If you
missed, you missed. Time to reload. Listen carefully.
Often the reporter will tell you how to hit the target
Above all, don't get frustrated. Most story ideas end
up in trash, no matter who comes up with them. Don't
resort to the scattergun. That's for amateurs. Be a
professional and learn to shoot with a PR rifle.
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