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After the Story Runs: How to Get the Most From Your Ink

OVERVIEW [top]The first time a magazine or newspaper writes about your company, it is a pretty heady experience. Everyone in the company sees it on the lunchroom bulletin board. You mail a copy to your mom, your best friend, even that teacher who encouraged you so long ago.

Unfortunately, some executives stop there or lose interest in subsequent coverage. Positive free media exposure is far more valuable than paid advertising; but if you don’t make sure the right people see it, you aren’t getting the most from your ink.

In this Quick-Read you will find:

  • Ways to add mileage to your media coverage.
  • Keeping track of your media coverage.
  • Legal issues around reprinting and excerpting media coverage.

SOLUTION [top]

Increasing Your Mileage

Often, even if the front page of your local paper writes a glowing story about you, the people who are most important to your company won’t see it. Your customers may live in other cities, states or nations. Many of your investors probably do, too. Even your competitors, who might see you as a more formidable opponent after hearing the story, could be out of earshot.

So it’s your job to spread the word.

  • An article by a third party is likely to have more credibility with your customers and potential customers than one of your ads. To make sure the news reaches them, print excerpts of the story in company brochures. Include portions of it in your advertising campaign. If the whole story is wonderful, consider purchasing reprints and mailing them to your prime customers or giving them to your sales staff to hand out at sales calls.
  • If you are interested in raising capital or attracting investors, what others say about you is far more powerful than what you say about the company. So make sure the financial community also receives copies of your favorable press clippings.
  • When you advertise, think about adding an excerpt from a positive story, particularly if the story rates you — including you, for example, in “Best Of” lists or consumer tests of your products.
  • Enlarge a copy of a story and display it at your next trade-show exhibit. Be sure to pass out reprints at the show as well.
  • Create a “news about us” spot on your Web site to post stories others have written, or to include at least a list of the headlines, publication, date and a small excerpt.
  • Give each employee a copy. Encourage employees to take them home to show their families. It should add to their feeling of pride for working at the company.
  • When you interview job candidates, hand them a packet that includes news clippings. In this hot economy, it’s a tool that will help you attract the best workers.

Keeping Track

Before you can get a bigger splash from your ink, you’ll need to find these stories and keep them at your fingertips.

  • Web sites change from day to day. If one writes about you, make a copy as soon as it appears. By the next day, the story may be moved to an archive or removed entirely.
  • For radio and television stories, you may need to call the station to order a tape of the story. Most will charge you a fee. Copy the station’s tape to your own high-quality tape, and store both under archival conditions so you will have them for re-use. See “How Can You Prevent Magnetic Tape from Degrading Prematurely?” at http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub54/5premature_degrade.html for guidelines. Also, keep a list of everything that’s on the tapes, so it can be found when you want it.
  • News clippings are easy to misplace and can be damaged by repeated photocopying. The best way to keep them safe is to store each one in a plastic sleeve. Note the date and the publication name for each one on a separate label.
  • As your company grows, you may want to consider hiring a clipping service. Three national services — Luce, Burrelle’s and Bacon’s — will clip print stories and provide you with a copy. They cover literally every publication with an established circulation in the country.

Legal Issues

You don’t own the stories written about you. If you want to reprint copies of newspaper or magazine stories for distribution beyond just a few office copies, you will need written permission from the publisher. Often, quick-print companies, such as Kinkos, will not allow you to make multiple copies without written permission. In many cases, the publisher will require you to pay a fee, though it is usually nominal. Most national magazines work with a reprint service that will automatically contact you and offer you nicely prepared reprints for a fee. Remember: it’s in the publishers’ best interest for you to “distribute” more of their work to others, so they are generally happy to accommodate your needs.

Reprinting a story on your Web site is still a murky business. You are indeed “distributing” it, so make sure you have permission to do it.

You may excerpt a small portion, such as a sentence or phrase, from a news story to use in your own materials, as long as you provide complete attribution: publication name and date. Never take parts out of context, for instance to make a negative comment sound complimentary. Publications have taken action over such matters.

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE [top]

HealthNotes sells and services information kiosks in the health and beauty aids sections of supermarkets. The company includes copies of recent news stories in its sales packets because it believes the clips contribute to the company’s credibility.

In a recent story advising grocery stores on how to sell herbal nutritional supplements, Supermarket Business magazine extensively quoted HealthNotes’ head of strategic retail development. She explained in the story how to set up a nutritional supplements section and how to market to interested customers. Public Relations Manager Caroline Petrich especially liked this story and made sure copies were sent to potential grocery store clients.

“It demonstrated our expertise. It was better than a piece on just our kiosks because it positioned us as experts in the category; it showed that we do more than provide kiosks, we offer expertise as well.”

Such stories create a “halo” effect, Petrich says, convincing future customers that the company is an authority in its field.

DO IT [top]

  1. Assign someone in the company to regularly find and file news clips, and make those files accessible to your sales staff and all new hires.If you would like to supplement what was said in a print story, write a letter to the editor — even if there is no letter-to-the-editor column. It could get used in an editorial column or trigger an interview for another feature.

    If you or your company are featured in a print article to which you’d like to add detail, send a copy to the editor of another publication or to a station manager with a cover letter saying what you’d like to add, and indicate that you or a representative are available to interview. The article is likely to get more attention than a pre ss release.

  2. Plan an advertising campaign around a strong media story.
  3. Make sure that at monthly or quarterly company meetings, everyone sees recent clips.
  4. Include money in your marketing budget to cover the cost of reprinting and distributing to your customers at least two news stories a year.
  5. If you or an employee have an article or book published or are featured as an expert in someone else’s work, treat it like someone else’s feature on your company.
  6. See the Quick-Read titled “Dealing With the Media” for much more on preparing yourself for when the media call on you again.

RESOURCES [top]

Books

Handbook of Strategic Public Relations and Integrated Communications by Clarke L. Caywood (McGraw-Hill, 1997). Chapter 4, “Global and Local Media Relations” by Matthew P. Gonring provides thorough checklists for encouraging media coverage.

Internet Sites

Bacon’s Information Inc.

Burrelle’s Information Services

Luce Online

The Publishing Law Center

Article Contributors

Writer: Kathy Watson

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