Public relations (PR), according to Answers.com, is defined as:

• The art or science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public.
• The methods and activities employed to establish and promote a favorable relationship with the public.

The press often defines PR as “BS.” And we all know what that means, right? Blowing smoke! So how do you avoid blowing smoke the media’s way and establish yourself as a valid source for stories and information?

The first step is to understand what the media is looking for in news and feature articles before proposing a story or composing a press release:

• Timeliness
• Relevance
• Local
• Trendy
• Human interest
• Unique
• Not repetitive

If the local newspaper just did a feature on your competition, even if the reporter or editor confused it with your business (which has happened to a client on whose behalf I was working), don’t expect it to turn around and do an article on you or your business just to be “fair.” Fairness in journalism only applies to reporting or making an attempt to report both sides of an issue – not to give everyone the same play (i.e.: free publicity) in a publication or broadcast. It’s a tough pill to swallow but you have to choke it down, regardless.

If what product or service your business provides or your expertise is related to a trend, you may become a source for a story. If your storefront or office was destroyed in a flood or vandals reduced it to shreds but you’ve rebuilt it from the ground up, people want to know and be inspired. If you offer a service that helps recently discharged or retired military personnel find jobs in a struggling economy, your business is worth reporting about. If you’ve proven in the past that you know your industry and can speak competently about issues affecting it and customers, you’ll get calls from reporters regularly.

You should also know what qualifies for a brief mention in the business section of most publications, since most of your company’s news will only make it this far:

• New business or owner
• New management/employees or promotions
• Anniversaries (usually multiples of 5)
• New product or service
• Expansion, downsizing or closing
• New location
• Completion of a certification specific to industry
• Award or recognition of business or individual in the business
• Contracts, mergers and acquisitions
• Charitable work or contributions.

Not every media outlet has a policy for business briefs and most policies differ some, so what shows up in one may not show up in another. It doesn’t hurt to send your news to all those who might have an interest, even if they don’t publish that release. Getting your name in front of the reporters and editors who may request your help as a source someday or decide to do an article or segment on your business is just as important as your business getting a small mention in their publication.

If you think you might have news that qualifies for a story or brief but you’re not sure or need assistance in contacting the local media, I’m happy to help. E-mail kelly@biz-speak.net or call (970) 988-7578.

In my next installment of Kelly’s Writing Well, I’ll talk about other ways to establish you and your business as a source for the media.

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