How To Generate Positive Publicity
Be larger than life. Donate millions to a charity. Rescue a dying person. Win the lottery. Kick the winning field goal. Invent a more powerful microchip.
Those are just a few ways to generate favorable publicity. It’s easy to get publicity when you don’t need it. People like the idea of generating a positive buzz in the place of expensive advertising. News coverage, in many ways, is much better than paid ads, because it’s considered objective, while ad copy has to be positive. News coverage can also be larger in print or longer in broadcast time than a commercial.
But journalists, savvy to publicist and public relations practitioners, are wary of businesses and individuals who try to couch a product pitch in a legitimate news story. Plus, because reporters’ Code of Ethics come out strongly against payola, journalists will bend over backwards to avoid making any story look like a commercial.
But products, services and companies get positive coverage every day. How does it happen?
There are countless avenues to get the coverage, but here are three basic strategies to get you started with a positive publicity plan.
- It’s all about relationships. Call a reporter whose work you admire and tell him or her so without fawning. Explain that you may be a resource in the future: perhaps you’re an expert in a certain field or you’ve had a life experience that may be interesting. Follow up by sending articles you’ve written or ones that have featured you. Here’s how it works: reporters have a Rolodex full of contacts. When they have to do a story on a certain topic, they flip the business cards around until they find someone qualified to talk on the subject. If you’re not in the Rolodex, you won’t get called.
- It’s all about news. Keep up with current events. When a news story happens that affects your product, service or business, call the newspaper’s assignment editor and the TV station’s assignment desk and tell them you have an angle or a “sidebar” to go with XYZ news story. For instance, let’s say a huge fire destroys an apartment complex. Investigators have determined a cigarette started the fire. You have a new product on the market that stops cigarettes from burning if they haven’t been puffed in two minutes. Reporters could legitimately tie your product to the news story without it looking like payola.
- It’s all about spin. You’ve heard of spin doctors, or public relations specialists who take a bad situation and “spin” it into a better situation. If something negative touches your industry, find a way to make it look better and tell the whole story to the media. For instance, a few years ago, a man got mad because his toddler was making too much noise during a Dallas Cowboys’ football game. The man beat the child, who ended up dying. The Dallas Cowboys franchise was having its own public image problems at the time and ignored the news story. However, if the owner had made a donation to the city’s child abuse prevention association, he could’ve made the team look more compassionate and made it appear the little boy didn’t die in vain.
Plotting your own ways to create positive publicity can be challenging and fun. Try to think like a reporter and come up with objections to covering your story. When you approach your story from several angles and don’t come up with any arguments to coverage, it’s time to call the media. The payoff can be increased awareness, improved community standing and higher profits—all at a fraction of the cost of advertising. And you don’t even have to practice your field goals.
Lorri Allen is a journalist and media coach. She works with people that want to look smart on TV and groups that want to use the media effectively. To contact her, please firstname.lastname@example.org. For permission to reprint this article, please call the numbers below.