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2010-02-24 19:27:19

Profit by Publicity: Finding and Contacting Journalists

 

Over the years, I’ve generated as much news coverage for my PR clients and the Marin Association of REALTORS® from reporters I did not know as from journalists with whom I had long-term working relationships. That’s because a good story can be like bait: it can encourage reporters to come to you — whether you know them or not.
 
Indeed, when I was the marketing strategies columnist for the Wall Street Journal’s StartUpJournal.com, I had no qualms about hearing from complete strangers who wanted to be in my columns as long as they had the right credentials, a good story to tell and knew how to talk to a journalist. When searching for people to interview, I would often use services such as Profnet.com, which helps connect reporters with experts or spokespeople.      
 
But what if you are a real estate agent or broker who wants to pitch a story idea to with a reporter? Since most local news organizations usually assign the task of covering real estate stories to one journalist, it can be relatively easy to find the right person quickly.
 
Here’s how:
 
  • Simply call the news outlet and ask the operator for the name and phone number or e-mail of their real estate or business reporter, or the columnist you think will be most interested in your story or announcement.
  • Some newspapers list the phone number or e-mail addresses of their reporters along with their stories.  
  • When seeking television or radio coverage, call the local stations and ask to speak to their news assignment editor.  Few broadcast journalists specialize in real estate stories.
  • It can be helpful to both you and the reporter if you get to know them before you have a story to pitch them. The sooner you get to know them, the sooner you’ll know what specific real estate stories they may be interested in covering. The reporter will get a better idea about your own areas of real estate expertise. This may in turn suggest news hooks and story angles that may be of interest to the reporter and his audience.
  • If you want news organizations to cover a special event or news conference, it will also help to call the local office of the Associated Press and ask them to list your event on their daybook (or calendar) of scheduled events and activities.

But if it’s important that you notify as many news organizations as possible about your news or event, there are several services that can help you get the job done, such as private news wire services such as PR Newswire BusinessWire who, for a fee, will send your release electronically to the different categories of news organizations you specify, or nationwide to thousands of editors and reporters. 
 
Whichever way you decide to go, keep the following advice in mind:
 
  • Since the features and costs for these and other services are always subject to change, be sure to contact them or their Web sites for the latest and most up-to-date information, and cost-compare to decide which is best for you based on your needs and budget.
  •  Use a heavy dose of common sense in determining how much time, effort and money to spend in distributing your news release. If you send releases to people who common sense would tell you have absolutely no interest in reading them, then you are wasting both your time and theirs. And remember that different reporters have different preferences for how they like to receive information—phone, fax, e-mail, or snail mail.
 
If, as part of your marketing activities, you send a real estate newsletter to clients and new business prospects, then you’ve left off an important audience from the distribution list: the media.   
        
Most editors, reporters and columnists are always on the lookout for new story leads, article ideas and reliable sources of information about the topics and issues they cover.
 
Real estate stories are no exception.
 
That’s why it makes sense to send a copy of your latest printed or e-mail newsletter to the journalists who cover real estate in your area, have done stories about you in the past or who you’d like to write about you in the future. 
 
Sending newsletters to the media is also a good way to get “more bang for the buck” out of the work you put into the newsletter in the first place.
 
The information in your newsletter may be perceived by reporters as being less intrusive than sending story pitch letters or “pestering” them with story ideas via
e-mail or the telephone.

Post the newsletter on your Web site, as well as an archive of past issues — but only if you are willing to share the contents with the rest of the world.

Carefully review your content to determine whether will be of interest to journalists in the first place.

If you have any doubts whether reporters would be interested in receiving your newsletter, just ask them. And always remove them promptly from the distribution list if they say they want to stop receiving them, or provide them with an opt-out function so they can do it themselves.  
 
Edward Segal, RCE, is the author of the Profit by Publicity series of live and online classes, audiobook and how-to-reference guide for real estate agents and brokers.  Segal was the marketing strategies columnist for The Wall Street Journal’s StartUpJournal.com, a PR consultant to more than 500 clients and press secretary to members of Congress.  He is now CEO of the Marin County Association of REALTORS® in San Rafael, Calif.  Visit his Web site at  www.ProfitbyPublicity.com

 

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