Is it ethical or acceptable to email writers and request to be written about?
May 29, 2006 10:17 PM   Subscribe

Other then releasing press releases, how would I get my business/myself interviewed or written about?

Other then releasing press releases, how would I get my business/myself interviewed or written about?

Is it considered unnacceptable or against company standards to email a writer from a publication, or a freelance writer, and Ask to be written about?

I know that issuing press releases can translate into the company being written about in relevant articles. my question is, what alternate methods are used and acceptable?
posted by Izzmeister to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's not unusual to nurture relationships with writers so that you can obtain publicity for your firm. However, news releases and other press/analyst campaigns are usually part of it. Why are you against news releases? News releases should not be the only part of your toolkit, but they are usually pretty important pieces.
posted by acoutu at 10:30 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Well, I'm a business reporter at a newspaper. I'm not sure I can directly answer your question, but maybe I can offer some insight into getting noticed.

I get press releases and story ideas pitched to me all the time -- by e-mail, letter, fax and phone calls. Most are either filed away or thrown away.

When is the only time when I'm definitely going to write about a company? When the company has a new development or is doing something interesting that people might want to know about.

A new product line, a multi-million dollar expansion, hiring of a new president, a fine for polluting a stream, layoffs -- these big, newsworthy events, are the sorts of things I prefer to write about.

Occasionally we'll write about company a company even though there's nothing newsy going on right now with it -- maybe someone working there has expertise in an area that would help another story, or maybe the company has been doing something that's a big deal for a while now, and we think people would be interested in knowing even though it's not new. A press release or a phone call to let us know what you're up to may help you get noticed in this regard.

At my newspaper we only write about businesses that are based locally, have a large number of local employees, or affect the daily lives of a large number of our readers. Keep in mind your audience -- most newspapers are interested in companies in their own back yards, not folks who hail from far away.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:32 PM on May 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am not against it, just looking for alternative methods as well...
posted by Izzmeister at 10:33 PM on May 29, 2006

My friend and I have done this, to varying success - he had a book out, I was trying to get support for participation in an international global education program (I was the only one from my country), and he had it slightly better than me.

I met a few nutjobs along the way - including one who insisted on personal letters from the UN, an Ivy League school, and a Fortune 500 company, amongst others. (He's just a freelancer, for one.) So it really depends on your pitch, and who you write it to.
posted by divabat at 10:57 PM on May 29, 2006

Become newsworthy, but in a good (non-Enron) sort of way. Sponsor a clean-up-the-park day, or a collect a fuzzy toy for kiddies drive. Have your work place conform to some Green Standard, or let your employees bring their dogs to work, or, I dunno, install a tank of piranhas and ducklings over every workstation to remind yourself what a good attitude is.... Then put out a news release about that to get croutonsupafreak's attention.
posted by Rumple at 11:03 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: As a freelance writer, I get pitched several times a week, but I usually just file away the pitches and news releases, unless they fit into my editorial calendar. I like news releases because I can go back to them. If there's no news release, I tend to forget about it. I do remember if someone sends me a pie or a toy, but I still like to have a news release.

As a marketing consultant, I pretty much always include news releases as part of my media relations.

Have you considered hiring a PR consultant from your area / field? Then you can have someone custom design a campaign that will address your unique opportunities.
posted by acoutu at 11:10 PM on May 29, 2006

...and if you can't afford a full-fledged PR person, you might want to check out the local journalism school for an intern or student willing to negotiate a reduced rate for some good clips.
posted by mdiskin at 4:16 AM on May 30, 2006

Best answer: The trick about using a PR company is that a) they should have up-to-date databases of journalists and b) they should have relationships with journalists who will be likely to be more interested because of the track record the PR person has at NOT trying to spin non-news.

But that's the most important thing - only build a PR program around real news. Look in the paper or the magazines you wish to target on any given day and try to honestly judge if the material you have is truly newsworthy in comparison with the other stuff there.

It is perfectly acceptible to nurture relationships in anticipation of news to follow, but be warned that most journalists don't have a lot of time for such activity.
posted by mikel at 4:31 AM on May 30, 2006

i've seen it done three ways.

one, get an agent. said agent must have something of yours to give away. many journalists have to be subtly bribed. if you need big national press, this is the only way.

two, find a way to meet and get cozy as friends with the journalists you want to write about you. many journalists only write about their personal club of connections. this is more for subjects who don't have anything to give away yet, but who can make other people feel like they are onto something new and upcoming by associating with it. surprising amounts of press comes out of just kissing up.

three, sending out press releases works fine under two conditions: if you have something worth writing about and if the journalists receiving your press releases aren't lazy. many journalist toy around with things they know they want to write about but never quite get around to it. but many journalists also just need to be tipped off to something newsworthy. you don't have control over the latter. but you have control over the former. just earn it and then use the shotgun method. persistance pays off. note, in this instance, you will have the least control over what is said about you and journalists have to spin everything. it's their nature to filter things. often what you put and and what is written can be polar opposites. such is the nature of the enterprise.
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:42 AM on May 30, 2006

Another good assumption to work under is that as with every profession there are some journalists who are lazy. The easier you make their job, the more likely you might get a story or a mention in a story. Seek out writers that cover your industry and along with a press release, provide them with white papers you have authored, links to blog posts, etc. -- anything they can easily turn into content, or that might provide them with a hook for a larger story.

Depending on your industry and your talent for writing, you might be able to simply approach a trade mag and say, "Hey, I see you cover X, would you like to republish this article I wrote about how X affects Y?" You don't plug your company in the article and you don't get paid, but your byline would mention your company, website, etc.

Again, depending on your industry and the nature of your industry leaders, you can also make inflammatory comments about each other, creating a self-perpetuating public feud that adds color to an otherwise dull business day :)
posted by mikepop at 5:57 AM on May 30, 2006

Best answer: Is it considered unnacceptable or against company standards to email a writer from a publication, or a freelance writer, and Ask to be written about?

Absolutley not. Having done some PR as well as journalism, a more personal follow-up email or 'phone call after a press release is often a good nudge to a journalist to look again at the press release and reconsider covering the story. (Just don't bombard folk - that is seriously annoying, and will guarantee you won't be covered.)
posted by jack_mo at 7:20 AM on May 30, 2006

You want to put together a prepackaged story for the news, something like a Video News Release (VNR) which have been in the news lately. There has to be some interesting angle to the business that will catch the public's eye, and hence make it a compelling story. Both the written and video press have a lot of space to fill and if you can make their job easy by doing their work for them you may very well see your story published. A PR firm usually prepares these and they also should have the contacts with the press to get it published. On the cheap? Sponsor some sort of event and invite the press.
posted by caddis at 7:23 AM on May 30, 2006

Best answer: Izzmeister, what you're asking about is known as "public relations." If you have the money, hire a professional. Otherwise, it's incumbent upon you to introduce yourself to reporters, let them know who you are and what you do, and occasionally pitch story ideas to them.

In the category of "who you are and what you do," the ideal situation is to have reporters consider you a source. If you talk to a reporter, and she sees that you are articulate and that you know everything about the Widget business, who do you think she's going to call when Waldo's Widgets comes out with a new product? She's going to call you, because you are an expert on widgets. That's what building press relationships is about. Always be friendly, always let them know that you're happy to talk, give them your cell phone number, etc.

In my experience, reporters tend to be friendly, too. That is, until they right the story. Then they use whatever quote they want, whether or not its the quote you wanted them to use. So do be careful about what to say. It is business relationship, not a friendship.

Last piece of advice: I know one PR person who says, "the best way to kill a story is to issue a press release about it." What that means is that once the press release is out, the news is out and there is no opportunity for a scoop or an exclusive. Unless you are Microsoft coming out with the new XBox, you won't get prime play. To get prime play, you should offer a reporter an exclusive. Start with the most desirable news outlet and work your way down from that. If you can give someone a story that no one else has, you're much more likely to get good coverage and good placement.

In this situation, you will often know when the story will run. That's when you put out the press release. If the story hits the paper on Tuesday morning (and hits the web site the night before) you put out your press release Tuesday morning. The reporter got the one day exclusive, and your press release (with your contact info) is out on the wire for anyone who wants to do a follow-up.

Good luck!
posted by alms at 7:53 AM on May 30, 2006

Best answer: Really, the only way to get press is to be newsworthy. So do that.

Do realise, though, that different newspapers have very different ideas of what is newsworthy. Some will go for the very latest developments in science or whatever, while some prefer daft surveys that they can put some big pictures with. Get to know different publications, and then pitch the journalists with your ideas. PR is basically just like being a freelance journalist... only more evil.
posted by reklaw at 10:39 AM on May 30, 2006

Response by poster: Lots of great answers :)
posted by Izzmeister at 8:26 AM on May 31, 2006

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