Madam Davis and the Design Writer

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My soon to be sister-in-law is a freelance writer. Michelle recently sent me a few of the news releases that she receives on a regular basis — 95 percent of which have nothing to due with her field of expertise. She writes about design. Her has work as appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, USA Today, and the Architectural Record, and she is writing a second book on design.

However, because Michelle is listed in media contact databases such as Cision, she receives a lot PR spam. From Elliott Spitzer’s madam Kristin Davis who is running for Governor in New York. From the University of Missouri News Bureau about faculty research on the Chinese Government and PR. From others who haven’t bothered to qualify her as a legitimate target for their news announcements.

Thus, I feel compelled to reiterate how important it is to target news release distribution and curb the tendency to send electronic spam. In the days when you had to stuff and lick envelops, it was somewhat easier to manage who received a news release. (For a journalist’s take on avoiding the snail mail that still arrives, check out humor columnist Gene Weingarten‘s recent column in The Washington Post Magazine.)

There are two primary goals informing media relations: build relationships and secure coverage for your company or client. Here are a few tips.

1) Know who is receiving the release and understand why he or she might write about your news.  If you wouldn’t call the reporter or writer on the phone to pitch a story, don’t include her on your distribution list. Remember: Avoid the “smile and dial” pitch strategy.

2) Use a service such as PR Newswire, Businesswire or Marketwire for news releases that require mass distribution.

3) Read the media. Take the time to understand the outlet’s audience. Read or watch the reporter you are pitching. Understand what he or she covers.

4) Build relationships by asking questions. Delivering your pitch is only part of the process.

The news release is an important tactic in the public relations toolbox.  However, it should be delivered in a targeted manner and complemented by a thoughtful pitch strategy.

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