COMPANY, PRODUCT PUBLICITY ISN'T HARD...ALL IT TAKES IS FOCUS
A single article on your company, its technology, or its
products can result in hundreds of inquiries and thousands of
dollars in sales.
Every month at least 50 business, financial, and trade
publications probably cross your desk. Each has at least three
to four such articles in each issue. With more than 6,000
magazines and trade publications being printed, you probably
wonder why you aren't getting "your share" of coverage.
After all, when the articles do appear some great things
-- They bring a glow to management's cheeks
-- They make a salesperson's chest swell with pride
-- They make market researchers and security analysts look
at you a little more closely
The major reason most organizations don't get their "slice"
of coverage is the mental attitude they have toward these
publicity efforts. They erroneously refer to such articles as
They fail to achieve this valuable exposure because they
don't understand that company, product, management, technology,
service, and marketing articles aren't free--and aren't
advertising. Their thought process defeats the company before it
even starts its efforts to get editorial coverage.
People inside and outside your organization who write
company profiles, technical articles, industry trend pieces, or
user case studies will quickly tell you these aren't free...they
cost. They cost in terms of the time and effort required to
research the publications' target audiences as well as the talent
necessary to write a piece that meets the editors' requirements.
Secondly, such articles should never be considered as a
form of or substitute for advertising.
Editors and reporters bristle at such statements even more
than PR people. Try telling an editor or reporter to run
something exactly as you give it to them. Or better yet, ask
someone who has been doing a good job of getting coverage if
everything they submit is being printed, when they want it
printed, and where they want it printed.
You'll quickly learn that companies and their management
have to earn the right to get their information published
In addition, PR or publicity writing is dramatically
different from advertising writing.
Unfortunately, all too many managers don't realize the
differences in the writing approaches.
In addition, they "know" they can write articles that will
Their reasons are flawless:
-- "I've been selling the systems for years, so I can write
- "Bob developed the product, so he knows it inside and
out. He's the most qualified person to write the
- "Jill writes a great sales letter, so she can write the
- "Harry is close to the customer, so he can write up
These, and other equally weak reasons, are made by people
who look at the development of the product (article) and the sale
(placement) strictly from the company's point of view rather than
the customer's (editor) perspective. Once the concept is placed
in selling terms, they often see the error of their ways.
Unfortunately, when it comes to writing for and working
with the press, everyone is an expert. That's because since
childhood we have all been taught to write and communicate. The
problem is that for the vast majority of people, the education
Ask any journalist.
They'll probably tell you that even some PR people have
failed to learn the basics of good writing.
But getting company, product, and/or people feature
articles developed and placed isn't terribly difficult...if you
follow a fairly simple set of guidelines.
Done properly, the results will be articles that have a
strong company/product message. Articles that develop a positive
corporate image. And articles that have an implied third-party
endorsement from the publication and its editors.
The time, effort, and expense involved can have a profound
and positive impact on your marketing and sales efforts as well
as on your bottom line.
Types of Feature Articles
There are a number of different types of articles you can
develop for and with the media to support your corporate,
marketing, and sales objectives. Each has its place in the
marketing plan. Each also has its own particular set of
Just as with any selling situation, it is important to know
the editor's needs before you approach him or her with a story
idea since nothing sours editors more quickly than being
contacted about an article which doesn't meet their readers' or
In general, the article types include:
* Editorials -- These are excellent opportunities to
reinforce your company's industry expertise. Sources
for these opinion pieces include speeches, recent market
research efforts, customer surveys, and comments/inputs
from others in the industry.
* Industry/Product Round-Ups -- This type of article
brings together a series of products/applications or
different products used in the same application.
Horizontal and vertical publications use this type of
article to keep readers abreast of activities in key
* Technology Articles -- These bylined articles cover the
development of a new product and/or advanced research/
development efforts. They are ideal for establishing
and reinforcing your technological expertise and
* Approach-to-Problem Articles -- These how-to articles
show people how to choose or use a product. They help
publications meet their editorial goal of assisting
readers in doing a better job within their organization.
The articles show how you can use a product to solve a
problem; improve your design, manufacturing, or
management functions; improve your bottom line; or
advance your education, expertise, and career.
* Product Unveilings -- With some publications, and with
proper timing, new product announcements can receive
magazine cover treatment. Because it is impossible to
purchase this kind of coverage with a reputable
publication, such coverage is almost priceless (and
eagerly/aggressively pursued). But even if you can't
get the cover of a specific publication, an in-depth new
product feature gives you an opportunity to explain the
new product in detail. This includes its technical
advances, its features/benefits, its applications, and
its market potential.
* User Case Histories -- One of the most widely used
feature articles in business, trade, and technical
publications is the case study or user article. These
articles describe problems a company/department had, how
they solved the problems with specific products and
actions, the benefits of the application, and the
results which have been achieved.
Know the Publications, their Needs
The quickest way to turn an editor off is to "prove" to him
or her that you don't have the foggiest idea about their
publication, their editorial direction, their editorial policy,
or their audience.
There's really no excuse for presenting a story idea or
completed article to a publication if you haven't at least
studied a few issues to understand their style, format, and areas
But even when the story idea has been accepted, you're
still not home free.
It should go without saying (but, we'll reemphasize the
point) that the article has to be written well. It should be
objective, without page after page of company/product sales
Next, it has to be approved by the appropriate people.
This becomes especially important when you are developing
articles which include information and quotes from customers.
Finally, it has to be slotted into the publication's
Keep in mind that publications' lead times vary
dramatically. A weekly publication has a lead time of three-four
weeks. A bi-monthly publication has a lead time of one to two
months. And a monthly magazine can have a lead time of three to
Most managers understand that it's often a long time
between signing a contract with a customer and actually shipping
the product. However, they find it difficult to understand why
the editor doesn't simply "squeeze" their article in the very
next issue. Submissions and acceptance don't translate into
Rather than look around your organization to determine what
you want to have appear in a publication, focus your attention on
the publications and their readers' wants and needs. Then
determine how your organization can meet those wants and needs.
Information sources can include:
* Satisfied customers
* Company research reports
* Technical bulletins
* Cost-justification studies
* Technical advances or tricks-of-the-trade in new
* Emerging or new technologies
* Buying criteria studies
* Industry trends based on customer surveys
* New or unusual applications of your products
* Technical presentations
That's a fairly long list of potential article subjects.
It goes well beyond just new products and product enhancements.
Next, you have to take into consideration your corporate,
marketing, and communications goals/plans and blend them with
specific publications' editorial goals and objectives.
Once you've selected your target publications and your
article topics, you have to shift your mindset from your point of
view to that of the editor.
Many years ago, I was given a fundamental guideline which
I'll pass along...forget about how great the product is and focus
on telling people how great it is going to make them look when
they use it.
Most articles that are rejected by the editor suffer from
this corporate myopia. It's perfectly acceptable to mention your
company, your product, and your technology in the article.
In fact, it is generally a necessity.
However, if the completed article looks and reads like a
sales piece or sales brochure, you might as well not bother
submitting it for editorial consideration. It will never be
Save the editor and yourself some time. Produce the
article as a self-published sales piece. Set the copy to look
like an article complete with the photos and illustrations you
want to include. Don't bother with the editor, go ahead and
produce the kind of "article" you want produced.
In so doing, all you have sacrificed is the broad exposure
and implied editorial endorsement provided by coverage in a
But, if you prefer these benefits as well as the added
recognition and visibility, think like a staff writer.
While you're writing, think about the visual portion of the
article. Publishers, editors, and readers don't want page after
page of grey text. Good photos, illustrations, and diagrams not
only enliven the printed article--they can actually help to
quickly and easily communicate your ideas.
Once you've talked with the editor and received a tentative
acceptance of the article, meet your commitments. The sale isn't
final until the customer receives the goods.
Even though the article may not be appearing for three to
six months, if the editor gives you a deadline of next week, that
means that is the date that he or she wants the article. It
doesn't mean that is the date you start working on it.
The editor is your customer, and customers tend to remember
suppliers who fail to meet their commitments. The next time
around, you will find it extremely difficult to sell an article
or idea to an editor once he or she has been burned.
That also means delivering the product as it was promised.
For editors, more isn't better. If they are expecting a 15-page
manuscript plus photos and illustrations, you won't be doing them
a favor by sending them 30 pages of copy.
Depending upon the subject matter and the deadline, the
editor will have to exercise one of two choices:
- Use his or her discretion and cut the article to fit the
- Summarily reject the article since it doesn't meet the
It's easier to reject the article rather than edit it.
That means you've lost time, money, effort...and an opportunity.
One of the biggest temptations for the salesman marketeer
is to take a winning article idea and peddle it to other
publications. Very simply, don't.
If its a product, enhancement, contract, or financial
release, there's nothing wrong with giving the announcement to
every publication that is interested in the subject. But when it
comes to a feature article, you're custom-building the product
for one particular customer.
Even in this area, though, there is room for "discussion."
Some publications insist on worldwide exclusivity. Others want
U.S. exclusivity. Many editors are only concerned with industry
If the latter is true, and with a little work, you can
place an article with perhaps a technical publication, rewrite it
and place a similar piece in a publication in another market
But be honest with the editor.
Tell them they have the article exclusively in their
marketplace and honor that commitment. Nothing will destroy
their confidence and goodwill faster than seeing the same article
in a competitive publication.
You may feel you won by amortizing your efforts over two
publications, but in actuality you have closed the door for
future placements...with both of them.
By focusing on the editor's wants and needs you gain his or
her trust and respect. You accomplish this by keeping abreast of
the editor's needs, staying up with the publication's changes,
heeding their suggestions, realizing that their time is valuable,
and meeting your commitments and their deadlines.
When editors feel you are trying to help them do their job,
they come back to you again and again.
Each time it becomes easier to sell an idea or an article.
It won't be free advertising, but it will help sell the company
and its products.
Soon you'll find it really isn't hard.
All it takes is focus...and talent.