PR Media Relations Basics for Clients (Part One)

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The following list of media relations basics for client firms is based on three-plus decades of working in PR, seeing what reliably succeeds for clients, and seeing what essentially works one time only (based on distinctive or unique circumstances).

To put this list of basics in perspective, I have presented the information as advice to a just-past-startup manufacturing client which has developed a brand-new "alternative" product. This client functions as a wholesaler selling through retail distributors, with consumers as the end-users. If your business model is different, some of these recommendations will have to be adapted—but most apply across a wide range of business modes. After all, the essential nature of "basics" is that they apply reliably to a wide variety of clients and business circumstances.

Basic Number One:



Although many decry the need for press releases in this digital age, you need a core press release announcing and positioning your business to the media and the marketplace. This is important, though not always for the same reasons as those that once justified press releases. This "core" launch release should tell your story to the media briefly, succinctly, and effectively. However, a launch press release isn't enough—the initial release package needs to include two different elements:
  • Your launch release should be provided in digital format (and never in PDF). It is helpful to allow reporters and editors to cut and paste it—and this applies not just to the initial press release but to all PR-provided materials. Though it may sound odd, reporters are almost allergic to the idea of retyping anything—but if you give it to them in digital format, that will make getting coverage in print more likely.

  • With this initial release, you'll also want to include high-resolution digital photos of the product, the product installed, the company logo, and the founder/inventor. Rather than attach a photo (if the release is emailed to the media), include a link to those high-resolution photos available for media download. In addition, include a concise and accurate photo caption and (if appropriate) a further link to permission-to-use statements signed by those in the photos. This gives reporters and editors all the tools they need in order to use these photos.
Your media contact's email address—not just the phone number—should be included on all releases and correspondence. So much media work is done via email now that this is essential.

Basic Number Two:

To go with impressive and effective launch (or other) press releases, you need an equally impressive online press room. A good example of an effective online press room can be found on the site of a former client of mine. (This press room is effective content-wise; I won't speak to design as that was beyond my ability to influence.) This website can be seen at www.avalara.com/index.cfm/page/press_room. In addition, for an important feature often overlooked in online press rooms, check out www.avalara.com/index.cfm/page/In_the_News. In your own online press room, you need to include all of your press releases (in reverse chronological order, with the most recent at the top).

The media is a "follow-the-leader" pack animal and will be impressed by previous press coverage—having achieved solid coverage from other sources at other times makes the media more trusting of you and more likely to also want to cover you. Therefore, be sure to include:
  • All of your favorable press clips (again, in reverse chronological order). A strong hint here: do not assume that press coverage will stay online at the media's website; create a "screen capture" of the article on your website so it will never go away.

  • All of your favorable broadcast interviews, in streaming video (for TV) and streaming audio (for radio), live on your website.

  • A backgrounder on how you discovered/invented the product. This should be something substantial—1,000 to 2,500 words is good, though as little as 500 to 750 words could work in a pinch. You want reporters to cut and paste from this and include it in their write-ups. Note: This applies to startup manufacturers—adapt this "product-specific" item to your own business.

  • A backgrounder on the company itself. As with the product-creation backgrounder, having this online will invite reporters to cut and paste and use it in their write-ups.

  • A bio on you and your co-inventor. Note: For other companies, this means bios on the founders (if still active), as well as current corporate C-level leaders.

  • Frequently asked media questions (if you don't have them, make them up—the way you want to be asked), along with the answers. As you gain experience in talking with the media, update this so it reflects the questions reporters actually ask.

  • Kudos from happy retailers/dealers (remember, you're also looking for dealers, so let's not forget them), with contact information so reporters can verify the comments and follow up with other questions as appropriate. You'll want to get their permission—in advance—before you turn the media loose on them. Note: Adapt this to reflect your channel.

  • Kudos from happy/satisfied end-users, with contact information so reporters can verify the comments and follow up with other questions as appropriate. You'll want to get the end-users' permission to give out contact info, of course, but that shouldn't be difficult…most people are flattered to be asked—and those who aren't shouldn't be bothered.

  • High-resolution digital photos of the product, the product installed, the company logo, and the product's founder/inventor.

  • Case studies. Take testimonials that you or your dealers have received—or can generate—and beef them up into online case studies that reporters can crib from for their articles. Remember, reporters generally feel overworked and prefer to work with material they don't have to retype. If you make it easier for them, they're more likely to cover you.

  • Praise from local, state, and national civil defense, construction, and disaster-relief experts (we can solicit this). Note: This applies specifically to this client, but more broadly, this section should include endorsements from credible third-party individuals whose recommendations cannot be bought.

  • Links to articles that put the traditional approach to solving this problem in a bad light, especially when compared to your innovative solution. Note: This should apply to any links that will help the media more thoroughly research your product and its place in the market.
Now that you've got the basis of a solid online press room (one that will be updated in "real time" whenever you have new press releases go out or new press coverage generated), put this online press room on a CD disk to create a digital press kit you can send out at very low cost with your product sample and initial press release.

To be continued

About the Author:

Ned Barnett has been in PR/marcom for 35-plus years, focused primarily on high-tech and startup businesses and products, crisis PR, investor relations, issue advocacy, and promoting authors and publishers. He has published nine books on PR and marketing communications, has taught courses at four colleges, and currently writes a monthly column on crisis PR for IABC.

In 1978, Barnett was the youngest-ever person accredited by PRSA, and in 1984, he became the first person named PR and Marketing Fellow by the American Hospital Association. In addition, he is the only person to earn four consecutive MacEachern Awards, and in 2001, he won a PRSA Silver Anvil.

But there's more to Barnett than great PR and marcom. He also writes novels and frequently appears on The History Channel as a mil-tech expert. His wife, also a writer, had a novel released in 2004; together, they have written a screenplay that is currently in development.
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