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How to get press coverage

Inc. Magazine editor Jane Berentson shares some priceless advice on how to get press coverage.  The big ideas:

  • A press release will never beat a good conversation.
  • Talking to an editor, about who you really are, is how you get the story.
  • Canned press releases do not work.
  • Hiring an agency to send canned press releases for you is going to turn off the very people you hope will write about you.

Editor’s Letter: Where Stories Come From

A press release will never beat a good conversation.

Jane Berentson, Inc. Editor

Inc. receives hundreds of pitches from companies every week, and many of them are essentially the same. Their subjects are a promotion within XYZ Corp., the launch of a product or a service, an offer to talk to the CEO on matters as diverse as the economy and the CEO’s management theories. Often Inc. is referred to as “your publication,” which I suppose makes it possible to send the same letter to Forbes, Fortune, and Fast Company. What can I say? I sometimes delete these.

That’s not entirely fair, of course, because it’s more than possible that the goings-on at XYZ Corp. would be interesting and useful to the readers of Inc. (And congratulations on that promotion. Seriously.) But experience tells me that the best stories for this magazine are rarely the kinds of things revealed in pitches. Rather, they unfold in conversations about this and that and nothing in particular. Recently, for instance, I had a drink with Cal McAllister, co-founder of the quirky Seattle ad agency Wexley School for Girls. I asked about his partnership with Ian Cohen, and out came a tale ready-made for Inc.

Cal’s story (you can read it here) became part of this month’s cover package, a collection of very personal reflections and confessions about the joys, fears, insecurities, and triumphs of entrepreneurship. I trust that many readers will see themselves in these first-person accounts, because they speak to the emotional roller-coaster ride of owning a business. That ride seems to bind together all entrepreneurs, across all industries. I don’t doubt that they will speak directly to the worthies at XYZ Corp.

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Comments

  1. Eleanor Pierce July 20, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    I think all PR and media relations folks should start out as reporters (maybe I feel that way because I did …). You’ll quickly realize that actually knowing the media outlet is the best way to get in. Tailor your pitch to the organization – and a good way to do that is, as the lady said, by speaking to someone at the organization.

    That said, you can’t be a creep and expect to get that meeting in the first place. Be genuine. Or, you know, read an edition of the magazine/paper/blog before you start talking about what it should cover. That helps, too.

  2. Jude Boudreaux July 22, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    So how do you get to have those conversations? I’ve been able to secure lots of national press, but have had no luck at all with local press outlets (which would be far more useful for my little company). How can you generate those conversations? I can’t imagine that cold calls are the way to go. Any tips for us?

  3. Andy Sernovitz July 22, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    Just call them and introduce yourself. Seriously, that’s all it takes.

    Every local paper has to write dozens of articles — every single day.

    They need good stories as much as you need coverage.

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