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After Press Release Distribution?
by Carolyn Moncel
A few weeks ago I was participating on an on-line message
board. One of the members was a new business owner who
was very excited about sending out her company's first
press release. The question she posted to the group
was important, but also a common one echoed by so many
small-business owners charged with handling media coverage
in-house for the first time: "Now that I've distributed
my press release, what do I do next?"
The answer to that question is a simple one: You
follow up with the media. Following up with reporters
by phone or e-mail -- where appropriate, can be more
important than sending the release itself. Why? Because
maybe the reporter didn't receive the fax sent, hasn't
read his e-mail yet, or the headline for the release
sent via wire services just didn't engage him enough
to want to read the release in the first place. Or maybe
the release wasn't sent to any one reporter in particular,
which is always a no-no.
Fear is the number one reason why most people avoid
making contact with the media. In fact, most small-business
owners worry that they won't know what to say to the
reporter once they call, or that they will catch the
reporter at an inopportune time and anger him or her.
However if you've taken the time to target
the right reporter, study their news beat and the
stories they prefer, and adhere to their deadlines,
you should have nothing to fear in picking up the phone
and calling a reporter.
There are basically two approaches one can take to
follow up. First if you are confident in telling your
company's story, you can just call up the appropriate
reporter and tell him or her about your news and ask
permission to send over the release. If there is interest
from the reporter then send the release over immediately.
The second way is to send the release to the correct
reporter and then follow up with a phone call or e-mail
-- base your follow up method on what the reporter prefers.
One word of caution: Always remember that reporters
are very busy people so try to give them two days before
following up. It takes them a while to get through all
of the messages that they receive. However, if you have
a breaking story to report and you want to alert the
reporter in advance, or you have an event taking place
-- any particularly time-sensitive news, then give the
reporter a call the next day after the release has been
So you have the reporter on the phone - what exactly
should you say to him or her? It's easiest to start
with the one sentence you should never utter: "I'm
following up to make sure you received my news release."
Consider this the second commandment right under "Thou
shall not forget to ask a reporter if he or she is on
deadline before pitching a story." It's also
always a good idea to do a little preparation prior
to making your phone call.
Here are some tips:
Do make sure that the press release sent is
available in two forms - fax and e-mail. The
reporter may not have received your release, and
if he or she has an interest, they will want you
to resend it. The faster you can resend it the better
the chance of coverage, so have the fax version
ready in the fax machine and the e-mail version
ready to go once you hit the "send" button.
Do purposely leave out a couple nuggets of information
so that you can offer them up to the reporter during
Do take time to listen to what the reporter
says during your conversation. Your follow up
call should not be a monologue but rather a dialogue.
If you listen closely, the reporter will indicate
interest and what your next directives should be.
For example, you'll discover whether or not you
need to conduct a second follow up.
Do make note as to whether your release has
been forwarded to another reporter. If this
turns out to be the case, then prepare to contact
the new reporter with your story idea, but follow
these steps again.
- Do accept "No" gracefully. When a
reporter says "no" to your story, accept the
fact that he or she has a good reason -- at least at
that particular point in time. Therefore, you should
never try to push a reporter into running your story
because you will run the risk of alienating that reporter
forever. He or she will remember you and each time you
try to pitch a new story, you will be punished. Simply
say "thanks," tweak your release and try again
later. The timing or story angle may be wrong. Again,
if you are listening closely, sometimes the reporter
will tell you why the story will not be covered. Perhaps
he or she wrote a story on a similar topic recently.
Last, it never hurts to prepare a little script to
help you concentrate on the specific points you'd like
to make to the reporter. Practice what you are going
to say so that it feels natural during delivery. Below
is an example of what you can say once you have the
reporter on the line:
Hi, John. I'm Carolyn Moncel from MotionTemps,
LLC. Are you currently on deadline and is this a good
time to talk?
Great! I know that you like covering stories about
running offices more efficiently and my company specializes
in helping other businesses get their offices organized.
To kick off a new service that we're offering
to our clients, we're sponsoring a contest called
"Chicago's Most Disorganized Office," and the release
that I sent to you has all of the details.
Oh, you didn't receive it? Shall I resend it and
to which fax number? Oh, you'd like it by e-mail instead?
Can I please verify your e-mail address? You can expect
to receive the release in five minutes.
In case you're interested in covering the story,
I thought I'd provide you with some additional numbers
and sources, which might help to flush out your story.
Would you like me to fax that to you now also? Thanks
for the consideration. Can I follow up with you again?
If you have further questions, just give me a call
at 877-555-5555 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, what happens if you get the reporter's voice mail?
Actually you can use the voice mail to your advantage
because it allows you another opportunity to leave your
contact information, pitch your idea and offer up alternative
ideas without interruption. You can use the same script
as above with a few modifications.
The bottom line here is this: the media will never
know about your company unless you tell them. You can't
wait for the reporter to call you because it will almost
never happen. That type of response is reserved for
hard news stories and extremely rare circumstances --
miraculous rescues, scandals, extraordinary acts of
kindness -- and most business stories just don't fall
into any of those categories. As the business owner
the onus is on you to tell your company's story to the
reporter, and you do it by following up.
you have a media relations question? Ask
Carolyn! Your questions could be featured in an up-coming
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