A sample from the book, ‘How To Think Like A Publicist’ by Dean Shanson
Introduction—What is a Media Story?
When I sat down to write my first press release, it didn’t occur to me to use a publicist. I knew how to write a press release. I knew how to lay it out and I knew how to get it to the media.
Most importantly, I knew what I wanted the press release to say.
As soon as I saw the contractor on the news chopping a chunk of wood off the Brooklyn Bridge, I knew exactly how the story would look.
That was a lucky break.
It’s not often that a story like that falls into your lap. You certainly can’t rely on it.
But the huge amount of publicity that story generated allowed me to figure out how the system works. I was able to test different press releases, play around with headlines and formats, and come up with a system that consistently produces results.
I told friends how to do it — and I watched them have exactly the same success.
The methods that I explained to my friends are exactly the same as those used by publicists and professional PR people every day. I don’t think that a publicist can do anything that entrepreneurs can’t do for themselves.
If your press releases are good enough, in time, you’ll have exactly the same connections to reporters that experienced publicists have. The difference will be that your contacts will be with reporters who you know are interested in youand your industry.
Once you’ve written a few press releases, you get a feel for how they need to look and the way they need to read. Soon, you’ll be writing up your releases and sending them out in less than twenty minutes — faster even than a publicist who has to handle lots of different clients in lots of different industries.
Most importantly, you’ll know what stories reporters want to write about your field.
That’s really the value that publicity professionals bring to their clients.
There’s nothing difficult about writing a press release.
There’s no challenge in doing an interview, writing a bio or creating a Q&A.
If there’s anything tricky in winning publicity for a business, it’s coming up with stories that the media wants to print. That’s where businesses tend to go wrong.
When business owners sit down to write a press release, they’re at risk of making a fundamental mistake. They think, “What is this story going to do for me?”
That gives them a press release that looks like a sales letter. It tells the reporter about the company, describes its latest success or talks about its new product. It includes a ton of information that reporters just don’t care about and don’t want to know.
When a publicist sits down to write a press release, she thinks differently. A professional publicist will be experienced enough to think, “What will this story do for the reader?”
Those are the kinds of stories that reporters want to see: stories that are about their audience, not about the company quoted in the story.
They tell the audience information that can help them improve their lives. They add to a story that’s already in the news — and which audiences have already shown they want to read. They entertain, they inform and they work for the benefit of the reader.
When a press release shows that it can deliver information that an audience wants to read, it wins an interview and delivers publicity for the expert quoted in the story.
That expert is the business owner.
In this book, I’m going to reveal how publicists think when they’re putting together the subject of a press release.
I’ll begin with an overview of the most important aspect of a press release: its promise to affect the life of its audience. I’ll explain how to turn any story about your business into a story about your readers.
I’ll then discuss one very easy way to win publicity. Instead of trying to second guess what an audience might want to read, you can see what they actually want to read by looking at the stories that are already in the news and adapting them for your own business. I’ll explain how to do it and what you need to do to improve your chances of success.
Those stories change all the time. Other stories though are completely dependable. There are stories that you can rely on to appear at regular intervals throughout the year. I’ll reveal how publicists make the most of those opportunities to help their clients — and explain how you can do the same thing for your business.
The media moves quickly though. A story that’s popular one minute may be old the next. When you’re writing press releases, it’s important to understand the difference between a story idea that needs to be acted on right away and one that can be used at any time. Reporters will certainly know the difference, and professional publicists do too. They use that knowledge to know what to expect from their press releases and assess when the time is right to move on and try a different story idea.
Any one of these ways of thinking up press release ideas can bring you publicity. But professional publicists don’t use one of them. They use all of them. That’s why in the last chapter, I explain how you can put all of these different methods together to come up with a comprehensive publicity campaign and build a routine that has your press releases going out like clockwork — and puts your business in the press on a regular basis.
It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to think like a publicist. You just have to understand how publicity works and how the media works.
When you understand those things, you’ll have the success of a professional publicist too.