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June 12, 2009

How to get into the Big League PR game

It has always been very clear to me that if you want to get people to notice you then the best way to do that is to be the news rather than the ads.

Your ability to drive sales is far enhanced when you are the reason why they are reading, rather than the distraction along the side of the web page.

In the past, whether you mean press relations or public relations, the whole game of PR used to be very tightly controlled by a number of gatekeepers.

Editors, reporters, columnists and TV hosts used to be the holy grail of PR. And to some extent they still are.

If you crack Oprah as a book publisher then you are set...your book will fly off the shelves and your career is assured.

Crack a positive interview near the front of the WSJ and likewise, the telephone would ring off the hook.

PR was an arcane art involving media kits, videos, references, interview sheets, connections, "the pitch" and listing yourself as an expert in every place you could imagine.

If your brand was pretty strong, then you could do this without too much assistance. But, if you were in the stage of developing your brand, then effective PR was going to cost you a packet.

New Technology, New PR.

Today, effective PR is within reach of everybody, and it is potentially more powerful than old PR ever was.

The key to this, are blogs and bloggers...

Instead of pitching to 100 newspapers and radios, try to cultivate relationships with, say, 10 of the leading bloggers within your area. Comment on their blogs, establish email contact with them, and try to build the beginnings of a relationship with them.

When you want to start publicizing something, send them a copy. Ask them for their reviews, email them and ask them if you can guest post or do an interview.

Or better yet... sponsor posts! This is such an undervalued means of building your brand. A reasonable blogger may have, say, 10,000 or more readers. Instead of pitching to one newspaper, a big one, with a diminishing chance that it will come off - instead purchase reviews on (say) 100 blogs.

Even better yet, LinkedIn is filled with groups of people who regularly interact with one another. The early days of LinkedIn groups was a bit like the wild west. Everyone was in it for what they could get out of it, and they only hung around long enough to post some form of interruption message there.

However, slowly but surely, people are spending more time within these groups networking, helping each other out, and trying to forge long term commercial relationships.

If you have a blog, then post in the groups that are relevant to you. Not all will be, some will be absolutely useless to you - but others will be of great value.

Try to post a new release every second day, with a catchy headline, captivating content, and lead the reader down to what you are pitching for. 

Think I'm grasping at straws a bit here? Dan Rather as bought down by Bloggers, while the established media sat on the sidelines.

President Obama would not have come nearly as far, nor raised nearly as much money, without the army of inspired bloggers banging the drum for him.

The release of Tribes last year really made me sit up and take notice. The entire internet was abuzz with talk of the book. Blogs, Twitter, even The whole place lit up with talk of Tribes and Seth Godin's bold new in your face book on how to change the world.

If you want to be the news and not the ads, then you have two options. You can pitch to the big news organizations, betting that mass exposure will be what does it for you. Or you can pitch to dozens of smaller but more focused audiences.

People who want to hear what you have to say, being told by people who want to write about your stuff.

Not a hard choice really is it?

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