Public relations companies spend a lot of time trying to find the right formula to get media mentions with varying degrees of success. At the news desk, I get hundreds of press releases in a week. About 80% of these go unread. The trouble is often not the content, but the fact that the PR firm fundamentally misunderstands the publication. This is especially true when a single release gets sent to journalists across different industries.
Finding the theme
Obviously publications differ greatly and if you’re sending the same press release to all publications, that’s probably your first mistake. This is very basic PR 101 stuff, and often not the case with more professional PR firms. “So, what’s the issue?” you ask. The answer is simple: You missed the themes.
Most publications have different themes. These themes are very easy to spot when you read the magazines, or watch the programmes. A title like Shape, for example, deals with fitness, nutrition and stress management. I got that from reading the magazine, which is why it’s so important to read (or watch) your target media. It’s also why you should be very focussed in your content strategy and limit the amount of titles you approach. It sounds counter-intuitive, but approaching three titles with useful, relevant content is much more effective than sending one release to 12 titles in the hope that one will bite.
Rethink your current strategy
If any of this rings true for you, it’s probably time for a strategy audit. I recommend drawing up a mind map of each client. Here’s what you do:
1. Write the name of your client in the middle of a page.
2. Make each of your client’s target markets a little item on your mind map.
3. Now think of secondary target markets – people or companies who might benefit from the services of your client in an indirect way. You’re not going to show this to anybody, so feel free to let your imagination run wild.
4. Next, think of at least two angles for stories you would like to tell each of these target markets. If you can think of more, even better.
Finding the right publication
Once you’ve done that, you understand where your client can add value. The next step is to match what you’ve learned about your client with the right publications. Try this:
1. Get at least three issues of a title that might be a good fit.
2. Read through the titles carefully, front to back. (Yes, it’ll take time, but it will be worth it!)
3. Ignoring specific articles, write down the different sections of the title.
4. Next, keeping what you’ve read in mind, write down keywords that could be the underlying themes of the title. Start with a word association-type exercise and narrow it down from there.
5. Finally, match these themes with the angles you identified for your client.
6. Rinse. Repeat with the next title.
I know this sounds like a lot, but it will save you a lot of energy in future. It will also help you build a meaningful relationship with the title you’re targeting. When it comes down to it, both of us want to get information to the reader.
This article forms part of a PR writing programme presented at FleishmanHillard in Johannesburg. For more information, contact Kristia van Heerden.