Down To The Wire
When you want to win and woo new clients with national publicity -- and don't have an enormous budget to distribute your message -- turn to the news wires. But first, be sure you're telling a story that's worth printing. The best publicity draws on one of a handful of tried-and-true themes. Newsworthy stories have something that hits you as a reader and makes you more interested than "just the facts."
Think about how your company's story might work as part of one (or more) of the following story themes.
David vs. Goliath
You were small, the odds against you were great, but you took on the big guys and you won! Everybody loves an underdog, and if you can play this card, you might stir up more attention than you ever thought possible. An Orange County-based company, ProtectConnect (www.protectconnect.com), is using this strategy to publicize its buzzworthy invention -- a modular system of safety-first electrical outlets and switches. The wiring device industry they're taking on is dominated by just a handful of huge corporations, but the attention they're getting as a startup for their patented product has prompted more than $1.5 million in orders -- before the company even opens its doors for business.
First, fastest, brightest
If you've really got a story that's unique -- you're the first, or the biggest, or the strongest, or the loudest -- then you have a certifiably newsworthy story. RoseTel System Inc. (www.rosetelsystem.com), a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of the world's first streaming, real-time video delivered through plain old telephone lines, scored a touchdown with this angle in January 2003, when their system helped the city of San Diego maintain surveillance, security and order during the Super Bowl. The story became especially significant because on the day of the big game, the Internet, which would have carried other forms of video, was crippled by a global virus. RoseTel was able to honestly state that their video communication system was the first and only one in the world that could have performed so affordably and so well that day -- and as a result, their story was picked up around the country from one simple wire release.
Rags to riches
Stories about the GWOG (Guy Working Out of Garage) who strikes it rich are still unusual. Steve Jobs of Apple may be one of the best examples of a rags-to-riches story, but there are countless examples of this. Jack Daley, president of the Triarch Group, a San Diego-based consulting firm that works with tech-driven companies to systematize their approach to innovation, delights in telling a rags-to-riches story from his own experience. His client, the company that eventually became Network Solutions (still the biggest registrar for domain names on the Internet) was started with a cash advance on a credit card and eventually grew into a multimillion-dollar monster. Now that's a story.
Remember the ad campaign in the 1970s that urged you to write away to a major petroleum company for free booklets on auto maintenance, safety and repair? (Hint: The booklets were yellow, and the logo is still red. Looks a bit like ... a seashell.) School children across America learned to write "business letters" by carefully printing "Dear Sir" requests to that company, and even 30 years later, people remember the company's generosity with a warm, fuzzy feeling. You can't beat free advice for building trust.
Did you know?
You can assert all you want. But numbers make it real. Research -- real, proprietary research, carried out by you, with numbers that you own --can be a great way to get attention. San Diego-based Metabolife Inc. just wrapped up a year-long research initiative that resulted in mentions and stories in several national publications. What did they do? They got numbers, and they used them. Did you know that 47 percent of people say everyone is out of shape at their high school reunion? Metabolife did the studies, found the numbers, then turned the statistics into a great opportunity for publicity.
Once you've got a newsworthy story, how do you get the word out?
One option is to hit the news wire services yourself. Both the PR Newswire (www.prnewswire.com) and Business Newswire (www.businessnewswire.com) are membership-based services that require you to join in order to distribute your releases. Prices for releases can range from as little as $125 for a statewide distribution to $600 for national, or several thousand dollars for an international release. For this price, which is much less than postage, your brief release will cross the country or the globe, passing in front of the eyes of thousands of editors in tens of thousands of media outlets.
There are also services that will take on the task of distribution for you, especially if you're a small firm or don't have a dedicated staff to make contact, handle releases, or do follow up. One such service, E-releases (www.ereleases.com), for example, will do as little or as much as you want to help you get the word out. They'll even write your release for you, for a nominal fee, shaping your story in ways they know are likely to garner the most attention. They'll also distribute for around $350, and send you links showing you where your story was run online (a great deal that saves you hundreds of dollars, because it includes a national distribution via PR Newswire).
Finally, no public relations expert would ever say there isn't at least some element of chance involved in what stories get picked up and which ones don't. It's best to take a "water drip" approach. Every little bit makes a difference, even if you can't see them for each droplet. Still, after a while, water will wear away a stone, and your story can break through the clutter in the same way.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Henry DeVries is a marketing coach and writer specializing in lead generation for professional service firms. An adjunct marketing professor at the University of California, San Diego since 1984, he is the author of "Self Marketing Secrets" and the recently published "Client Seduction."
© 2005 Henry DeVries, All rights reserved. You are free to use this material in whole or in part in pint, on a web site or in an email newsletter, as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear.
The attribution should read:
"By Henry DeVries of the New Client Marketing Institute. Please visit Henry's web site at http://www.newclientmarketing.com for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses."