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PR 101: How to Use PR to Help You, Your Farm, and Your Business

Have you ever seen a really great story in the paper or on TV? Do those stories remind you of something you might have done? Well, then the next story should be about you. And I’d like to give you a few pointers on how to get your story out there for the world (or at least your corner of it).

The first step to get in print or on the air is to think like a reporter or editor for a moment. These days, the first question that a media person asks is whether or not a story will interest their audience. You need to ask what sort of story would interest you. You have to be able to provide an answer to that question. You have to make sure whatever story you want to share is interesting to you and the average person in your area. You then need to be able to tell that story so the editor or reporter can “get it” right away, which brings us to the second step of the process: The pitch.

Let’s say you are using a very new cutting edge technique on your farm to solve a long standing problem. Or maybe you want to address the recent egg recall for members of the public. Is your technique very economical? Is it a unique discovery or invention on your part? Are you involved in egg production? Editors love things that are new, unique, of local interest, or localize a national story, so you need to present your story, emphasizing those areas that they’ll see as interesting. Make sure you can easily answer the six questions all reporters ask: Who? What? Where? When? Why? And of course, How?

OK, now you have the pitch or presentation. The third step is to decide who to deliver it to. Most people are served by radio, TV, and print, so you need to decide where it makes sense to place the story. If it’s highly visual then go for TV or print as radio would not work. Otherwise, go for whichever one you’re most comfortable with.

Now that you have the media selected, the fourth step is to make the actual pitch. There are two ways to do this: Directly or via a press release. For most people, the best way to start is simply call the paper or station and tell them you have a news story. If you know someone there, go right to them; it always helps to have a personal connection.

When you get on the phone, tell them you have a story idea. Keep it short and sweet. Answer any questions they may have. Be prepared to e-mail or fax the story as some places want things in writing. In fact, some will require a release in writing first, before speaking to you; it varies. So the fifth step is to either send in the release or tell the story. That’s pretty much it.
So let’s review the process before moving on.

  1. Think like a reporter
  2. Create the pitch or story presentation
  3. Decide who to deliver the pitch to.
  4. Deliver the pitch.
  5. Send the release or tell the story.

Now comes the hard part- seeing if they’ll run the story. Keep in mind that most papers and stations get a lot of stories. I spoke with an editor not long ago who had about 1,000 e-mails in his inbox. This is what makes doing this so hard,  you have a small amount of space and a lot of people who want to get into it.

So let’s say they go with the story. What next? Chances are if you spoke with the editor, you’ll be visited or called by a reporter and/or photographer. Again, keep things simple. Answer all questions simply, keeping in mind that you’re being quoted. Give the photographer access to whatever he/she needs and stay out of the way unless they ask you for help. Keep in mind that these folks probably have several other stories to do, so the easier things go for them, the better for you as they’ll feel positive towards you when writing the story.

So now you’re about to enjoy your 15 seconds of fame (this is the Internet age, so 15 minutes went out a long time ago). Let all your friends and family know you’re going to be in the paper or on TV or radio. If the paper or station has a website and the story ends up there, make sure to e-mail everyone a link to it. Make it available on your FaceBook page if you have one. Buy extra copies and keep some around and maybe even frame one for your office. Finally, if you’re really lucky and you have a story with wider implications, don’t be surprised if you get calls from other media outlets. With our modern interconnected world, this happens more often than you think.

This article focuses on print, but there are some specific things to consider if you choose to try non-print media. If you decide to pursue radio or TV, or they call, there are some things to keep in mind. Being on camera is not natural for most people, so try and relax if you find yourself staring into a big lens. The best strategy is to focus on having a friendly conversation with the interviewer (this goes for radio too) and you’ll look and sound natural and relaxed. You’re not an actor; you’re just having a chat about a really interesting story. Keep that in mind, you’ll do well.

Getting your name out there is an integral part of running a successful business in our modern era. If you’re smart enough to run a farm, which is no mean feat, then you’re plenty able to deal with the media. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. You can reach me at michael@nysdra.org.

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Michael Seinberg

Michael Seinberg is Marketing/Communications Specialist for the New York State Dispute Resolution Association and the New York State Agricultural Mediation Program. You can learn more at www.nysdra.org and www.nysamp.com.

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