Trylon Communications  - January 2004

Maintain Your Focus

When developing your next media message, consider the following quote from former Advertising Age editor John Wolfe: “The job of advertising is to convince consumers; the job of PR is to convince the press.”

One of the great failures in public relations today is the blurring of the line between advertising and PR. Ads are often written like press releases, and media pitches are often thinly disguised advertising ploys. It’s high time that the two were appropriately segregated and labeled.

When advertising to end users, companies make a specific pitch – they identify a need and offer a solution (or create the need and then offer a solution.) With a good PR campaign, the media itself will identify the need and then specify the company as a resource for the solution.

Cynical journalists have no time for self-aggrandizing pitches and press releases. The quickest way to a reporter’s trash is to send thinly disguised advertising disguised as news. And, if you send that ad blindly, in the form of a blanket press release, you will ensure failure.

Following the advice that opened this article, consider the message you are crafting. How can you best convince the media your story deserves telling?

First, have a real story. For example, a new hire or promotion at a radio station is not necessarily newsworthy. But the addition of a highly controversial on-air personality in the market just may be worth a journalist’s time.

Second, pitch the story to the appropriate media. Trying to get the city desk editor intrigued by the hiring of the controversial personality won’t get you anywhere, but the entertainment editor may well have an interest.

Third, know your audience. Do the editors you are trying to reach prefer email, telephone or printed information? What are their deadlines and when is the best time to approach them?

Fourth, have your story complete. Be prepared with background information, third party confirmations, and whatever else a journalist or editor may be able to use if they decide they want to cover. Nothing is worse than getting the media interested in a story idea, only to drop the ball because they request more information. You not only lose the story, but any relationship with the editor that you may have been able to foster.

So the next time you get an idea for a public relations campaign, take a good look at it. Are you trying to convince the press – or the public?