Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Shoestring Marketing Tip: Meet the Press

It’s axiomatic that good press coverage does wonders to validate a company or product. After all, here’s someone who doesn’t work for you saying something (good, we hope) that wasn’t written by you. The believability factor shoots way up when you’re part of the story – not a full-page ad that you’re gambling your budget on. (We’re talking here about the not-for-hire press. Certainly, there are publications that – whatever they might say publicly – give preference to advertisers. This practice strikes me as okay up to a point. To me, that point is where advertising influences what gets said about a product or company, not where advertising just “requests” that their customer gets included in a review, round-up, or whatever.)

In any case, it can be very hard getting through to the writers who should be interested in learning about your company and your products. Writers and editors get continuously bombarded by companies who know all about the press coverage axiom. And they can spot the self-serving, thinly veiled sales pitch from 10,000 miles away. And some publications flat out say that their readers don’t want to hear about products and companies they’ve never heard about.

How to get noticed?

One way to cut through the weeds and raise your awareness is to send response to an article or column about something that you or your company is interested in.

No, it shouldn’t be of the “Dear John, You should know about our wonderful new product.” It should be a thoughtful letter that has something intelligent and useful to say on the topic at hand. If there’s something you particularly liked about the article, let the writer know, and make your compliment as specific as possible. (“Your explanation of the different types of outdoor wi-fi technology was one of the best I’ve seen.”)

Whoever ghosts the letter, send it in the name of someone that you’d be happy to have as a spokesperson, and state somewhere in the letter just what expertise they have in the matter. Writers are usually looking for quotable people, those with expertise and something to say. If your person gets mentioned in an article that’s in your market domain, you’ve helped establish or underscored your company or product’s credibility.

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