In my last post, I talked about the role of editors and why most are comfortable with publicity. This week, I’d like to offer some simple advice that will make you a valuable resource for an editor instead of being viewed as that most despised of creatures, the “flack.”
The most important advice of all is to never send an editor anything that doesn’t have relevance to his or her audience. If the editor runs a magazine for chicken farmers, his readers probably won’t care about a new device to floss swine teeth. Not only will the editor delete your news release; he’ll store your name in his memory as someone who wastes his time. Each time you do that, you lose more credibility. Eventually, your emails will be filtered directly into the trash.
Do remember the Golden Rule? You know, that “treat others as you would have them treat you” that’s at the center of most of the world’s religions? It definitely applies here. If you want editors to treat you with respect and fairness, treat them the same way. If you call and yell at them, don’t be surprised when they’re hostile to you next time around.
A great example of that is respecting their time. When I reach an editor (or reporter) on the phone, my first question is always, “Is this a good time?” If the answer is “No,” or “Not really, I’m on deadline,” my second question is, “When should I call you?” — and that’s when I do. That simple courtesy has created more great relationships with folks in the media than any other strategy I know. It also pays to learn how and when they prefer to be contacted. Some editors like phone calls; others would rather receive emails. Using their preferred approach makes them more receptive to your message.
It is never, ever a good idea to make demands of editors. Calling or emailing to insist that they publish your press release on a particular day, in a particular place — or at all — is the easiest way to make a lifelong enemy. Even if the editor gives in this one time, he or she will remember you in the wrong way, and future press releases just may not find their way into print. If your release is relevant, and the editor has space, he or she will be more likely to use it.
Never use advertising as leverage, as in “if you don’t run our press release, we’ll stop advertising.” First, in many publications, there’s a wall between the editorial and advertising departments, or at least they pretend not to know each other. Second, most editors try very hard to maintain objectivity, and become concerned that their reputations would be damaged if they gave preferential treatment to advertisers. Again, making sure that what you send is relevant provides the best chance of seeing it in print.
Finally, remember that editors and producers really are people. Back when I managed the publicity program for a large auto parts manufacturer, I got to know the key trade publication editors at a personal level. When I called them, it wasn’t to demand, “When will you publish my client’s press release?” Instead, we’d have friendly conversations about subjects that interested them. For example, I knew that one enjoyed bass fishing, and another restored Shelby Cobras as a hobby. By building that rapport, I also developed a deeper understanding of what they wanted their readers to see. That made my efforts more efficient, so I never wasted their time or mine, and it helped make my client more visible. Trickery? No. Pressure? No. Just treating a fellow professional with respect. It really does work.