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Publisher News Release Advice

Concerning the do's and don'ts of following up news releases with media people, I'd like to offer a few observations and recommendations.

I have the honor of being the Editor-in-Chief of the Midwest Book Review and in that capacity receive virtually hundreds of publicity releases from publishers large and small, experienced and novice. I've also sat on numerous seminar panels and workshops down through the years and listened to my editorial peers talk about this subject.

  1. Your publicity or news release and its follow-up should be written with the same strategy that a newspaper story or article is written. It must contain Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why.

    Who -- who are you.
    What -- what are you offering
    Where -- where are you (address, phone, e-mail, Web site info, etc.)
    When -- the appropriate timeliness of your publicity
    How -- how can the editor make best use of what your offering
    Why -- why should attention be paid to your PR out of all the hundreds of others

    Then make certain that (like a newspaper article) your synopsis can be gotten from the first paragraph. The second expands on the first. The third on the second. And the entire publicity release does not exceed one page. The follow-up contact is concise and will not take more than 60 seconds to perform (unless made longer by the editor's requests and questions).

  2. Follow up with a call or an e-mail inquiry phrased and framed to avoid confrontation (perceived or real), with the uttermost respect for that person's time and with an absolute civility.

    Literally read off the following questions (nothing will bug a busy editor more than to have the caller stumble around trying to articulate or describe what it is they want/need from the editor).

    • Step 1: This is [your name here] and I'm calling to confirm that you received our publicity (or news) release on [your book title or author's publicity tour here].

      Use the world "confirm" because it is a not threatening, non-controversial term. And things get lost in the mail or overlooked in the organizational setup all the time.

    • Step 2: I wanted to ensure that our information got to you because of its usefulness to your readers/viewers in (put your "reason why" statement here -- make it a single sentence if you can, two at most).

      Frame your "reason why" sentence carefully. You want to give that editor a persuasive explanation of why your news will do something good for them and their readers/viewers. What problem it will solve, what need it will meet, what good it will do, what question it will answer, what entertainment it will provide, etc.

    • Step 3: Is there any further assistance or information I can provide?

      If you've managed to intrigue the editor by this point, be prepared and able to supply author contact information, a review copy, more data, whatever is going to be needed if the editor decides he/she can make an article out of this, or a guest interview opportunity, or a staff assignment, etc.

  3. Editors come in three basic categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Mediocre. Some editors are positively phobic about dealing with publicists or publishers. Others welcome the well-prepared publicists or publishers with open arms. Most fall somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum.

    Get on a first-name basis if you can, especially if you anticipate future dealings arising out of future publishing projects. Keep records of which editors seem good to deal with, and which ones are just too abrasive or uninterested to waste any of your time with on future project personalized follow-ups.

    And if you've got some that have given you a good welcome and their time, send them a "Thank You" card stating your appreciation (regardless of whether or not this contact resulted in any concrete benefit for your current project). A "thank you" card will fix you in their memory as a person they won't mind hearing from again on future projects.

  4. You will always encounter editors that "can't be bothered" and will give you a quick brush-off. Think of this whole sector of publicity/promotion activity as "door-to-door" selling and know that you will succeed with a percentage of your "contacts." And that serendipity happens. Good surprises and unforeseen leads can occur with those successful contacts. And the unsuccessful contacts are simply a part of the normal operational overhead costs of publicity and promotion.

  5. There are a lot of "how to" books available to help you develop a successful and persuasive publicity release or news article oriented release. You'll find a batch of them on the Midwest Book Review Web site page Writing/Publishing Bookshelf. And most of them are available for free through your local public library (directly or through interlibrary loan service).

    If you are going to do your own marketing then you must learn how. And that "learning curve" is best composed in part by reading "how to" books, in part by dialoguing with colleagues who have been there before you, and in part by your own experience. There are no shortcuts, no "magic pills." But neither do you have to reinvent the wheel. There are splendid examples that you can adapt to your own particular case and lots of sound advice from folks who have walked the path you've chosen to trod.

    As a small press publisher, if you cannot invest a portion of your time in learning how to market effectively (and that includes media contact follow-ups), then you must either pay someone else to do it for you, or go into some other line of work.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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