Today’s post focuses on an oft-overlooked traditional visibility opportunity, the op ed. What is it?
According to Wikipedia:
An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page (though often believed to be abbreviated from opinion-editorial), is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper’s editorial board.
Timing is essential. The op-ed gives a CEO the opportunity to make a point around a news event or situation, a topic of interest or some trend affecting the population.
Op-ed pieces offer tremendous advantages. Your opinion prominently displayed in a print publication is credibility. It is good publicity for you and your company.
There are a couple of disadvantages, however. Lead time is important. Even though your submission may be tied to news of the day, most publications have a longer deadline imposed on op-ed pieces.
The preparation could prove daunting if you are not a good writer. The New York Times receives thousands of op-ed submissions weekly, so getting to the top of the list involves more than mere chance.
You’ll need to present or pitch your idea to the editor ahead of time. Such a presentation ensures the work involved is not in vain. If the editor likes the idea he/she will likely give you a green light and outline requirements for the piece. Local editors often prefer op-eds submitted from their region.
If you believe you have the perfect topic, draft an article of 750 words or less.
- Make a single point. The op-ed gives voice to your opinion on how to improve matters.
- Use a personal voice and define why readers should care.
- Write with active sentences.
- Tie the opening and the conclusion together.
- Make your most important point first and use the balance of the discussion to support it.
- Call for action. Offer solutions or ask for support.
Good writing is important to your effort. If your writing needs work, find a freelancer who can help. The end result could be well worth the investment.
Once published, here are six ways to use your op-ed for further visibility:
- Get reprints from the publication and send them/offer them to your present/prospective clients.
- Link to the article from your website.
- Tweet your success and link to the article; post an update on Facebook about it as well.
- Write an introductory paragraph about your op-ed and link to it from other sources.
- Revise and expand the op-ed for a white paper for your company.
- Publish information about the op-ed in your company newsletter.
These suggestions leverage content to reach multiple audiences. It works. Try it for yourself.
When did you last approach a newspaper editor with an idea for a column?
Are you an artist who refuses to keep an updated CV? Imagine going back five years to unearth classes taught, shows displayed, awards won. Difficult? Add impossible to the list if during that time you moved, had a baby, or experienced any one of life’s major change agents. Seemingly unimportant items make the difference when presenting the story of your life in written form?
Are you a young professional with a full-time job plus a start-up business commitment? Once again, the gathering of information becomes the challenge. You suddenly become the obstacle if you don’t/can’t pull your resume, or bio, or head shot, or all of the above, together.
Are you a service provider so obsessed with billable hours you can’t concentrate on your own publicity? Keep in mind the necessity of working on your business, rather than just in it.
Are you a business owner who needs to pull a proposal together quickly? Your press kit probably contains collateral pieces appropriate for journalists as well as bankers, vendors, distributors or large customers.
Begin your digital press kit file today. (NOTE: In my last ProfitMeister newsletter, I talked about items to include in the online press kit. Sign up and receive ongoing, smart marketing information you can use to build your business.)
If you’ve got already got a digital press kit, comment here and share the example with others.
You may not get coverage even though you wrote a press release and submitted it to a publication or two.
Here are 15 ways to make one publicity document work harder for you.
- Company website. Post the news story on your own website. This helps to make sure your current customers are informed.
- Facebook. Add the news item to your Facebook page. If you’re using Facebook for business, it’s important to update information.
- Additional media outlets. Identify targets for your press release. Instead of sending the release to everyone, identify specific publications or reporters who have an interest in the topic and personalize your approach, customizing the release for each media outlet.
- New angles. Identify additional story ideas and write a short paragraph expounding on them. You can use this information for media follow up.
- Follow up calls or emails. Call or email the publications with additional information about your story. Rather than asking, “Did you get my press release?” talk about new facts or a different angle.
- Questions. When you speak directly with the reporter ask, “What other information do you need?”
- Photos. Develop photo ideas to accompany your story and then request permission to submit them.
- Internet. Post your release on free press release sites on the internet.
- Newsletter. Include the press release (or a variation of it) for your company newsletter and get the word out to yet more people.
- Associations. Consider sending the information to your association; many publish member news, so you could reach another audience with your message.
- Add media. Include radio, television and cable outlets to your distribution list.
- Use Twitter. Tweet about the topic of the press release to generate more interest.
- Post photos. Use your professional photos as a way to add exposure for your company on such sites as Flickr.
- Add audio and/or video. Consider whether a sound bite could add to the effectiveness or your efforts.
- Consult with an expert. Pay a professional to discuss additional ideas. Remember. This could expand your knowledge for the next effort, rather than being a one-time-only expense.
As one client put it, 80% of the task is getting started. It only takes 20% effort to maintain momentum.
How will you leverage the power of your next press release?
Your goal is to give away several thousand books. Could a press release frame this for the media, thereby adding to the success of your campaign?
A relatively new business, you’ve just landed a partnership with the most respected expert in your industry. Should you write a press release?
In every case, the answer is yes. Each business in the scenarios listed above could use a press release to garner additional visibility and tell their firm’s story.
Press releases help you get the word out. If you’re preparing a press release, read on to avoid five common errors that could kill your story before it begins.
- No lead time. When contacting publications to distribute your press release, research deadlines. If you’re posting your release online, some services require a two or three day period in which to review your information. Weekly papers, magazines and many trade publications have even longer timeframes. Allow plenty of time in order to earn maximum coverage and avoid error number one.
- No contact information. Journalists receive numerous solicitations daily. An interesting idea gets trashed if it’s too much trouble to find out more. Avoid this error by supplying all contact information, including an after-hours telephone number and make it easy for journalists to contact you.
- No relationship to the audience. Spamming (the art of sending unsolicited press releases via emails) endears you to no one. Most of us understand the restaurant critic doesn’t choose to hear about a book giveaway. Without a specific tie-in, your release will be trashed. Select an audience that cares about your topic and avoid error number three.
- No call to action. Dozens of do-it-yourself press releases fail to get results simply because there is no call to action. Build your news release around what you want the public to do. If you want to sell tickets, mention all the details of the event and explain how the public can purchase tickets. Give options for readers to get more information.
- No picture or additional information. When your press release focuses on an award, or information about the founder, include a headshot. If there is a particularly compelling photo opportunity, be sure to include it. At the very least, be sure to add a paragraph with “About the Company” information. Typically referred to as boiler plate, this paragraph sometimes runs in its entirety. So, ere on the side of caution by providing full information.
Today’s digital world encourages the use of press releases to communicate directly with customers, prospects and the general public as well as journalists. Increase your chance of coverage by avoiding these common errors.
Do you have additional “No” messages to add to the list?
“A philanthropic effort is more likely to get press if:
- A significant contribution is made in time or energy
- People get their hands dirty
- The effort truly makes a difference
- The public is familiar with at least one of the participants (either corporate, nonprofit or celebrity)
- There is a real story behind it.”
Excerpted from Starlee, Success on Your Terms, a new print magazine for entrepreneurs.
Teaming up with causes you care about sparks enthusiasm. I experienced this with Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) as a good friend talked about the community outreach the organization performed. (See my January post: Cause-related marketing unites hearts and helpers.)
The public relations committee for CREW New Mexico asked me to speak with them about getting the word out. Here are my ten suggestions:
- Standardize info. Provide all members – especially committee members – with access to organization information including:
- “About our organization” – a boiler plate paragraph explaining what CREW is and why it makes a difference
- Fact Sheet with information about the outreach for the organization
- Complete guidelines for talking about CREW services, events and people
- Promote the name. Encourage board members and committee members to list the organization in their extended profiles on various social media sites. In return, these participants can request a link from the non-profit website to their company, if appropriate
- Use social methods. Activities get promoted on social media sites by committee people. Invite others in the organization to link to the blog posting, Digg a comment, or otherwise share information
- Get detailed information about future and past events on the website. Establish a media room for the organization and update it with news on a monthly basis
- Use press releases. Prepare a press release about the next big event and send it to traditional media outlets. AND, more importantly, publish the release on your website, make it available to sponsors and vendors.
- Daily newspaper
- Weekly business paper
- Various print publications of a weekly or monthly nature
- Local magazines
- Radio stations (especially those with a news department)
- TV stations (especially those with a morning show who talk with members of the local community)
- Concentrate on social media
- Include major city blogs
- Add a Facebook fan page if someone in the organization can maintain it
- Inquire within the organization to find members with blogs or active pages who might be willing to publicize specific activities in conjunction with the organization
- Plan to publish event info via email
- Provide a paragraph to all board/committee members and sponsors for inclusion in company newsletters
- Make it easy for volunteers to participate and promote the organization
- Be clear about the benefits of your event/program/request
- Add information to media calendars. Many media outlets provide non-profit calendar items for free. Note that events must usually be submitted separately and in advance
- Develop relationships. Form long-term relationships with media reporters, photographers, and media salespeople who might have special interest in your cause.
- Say thank you. Take the time to thank any publication or person instrumental in helping you get the word out. This extra step goes a long way towards future publicity.
Put your enthusiasm to work with a concentrated effort. It takes just a bit of planning. In the long run it will pay off in visibility.
For those who plan to use a traditional press kit, make your previous publicity work harder for you. Here’s how:
- Highlight your mentions in previous articles. This saves the recipient from searching for your name, your quote, your specific. If the article is all about your company, highlight a key point or pertinent quote. On the other hand, your highlight will make you more prominent in a compilation article or series.
- Make sure credits show on your publications: names, dates, contributing author. (NOTE: The time to get permission to use this information is when it is printed. Contact the publication and ask about their reprint policy.)
- Give special attention to the organization of your stories. Include most recent materials on top, filing in reverse order to oldest dated information.
- Be selective. If you have dozens of press clippings, include only the most significant or those most pertinent to the target.
- When sending your press kit to multiple locations, keep a duplicate so you know where materials “live.” You can then find referenced information quickly, or you could direct someone else to do the same. (HINT: If this kit is available at the office then other employees can be taught to refer to it as well.)
- Include a personalized cover letter when you send your press kit. HINT: Refer to a particular item (you’ll notice …) and thus direct the recipient inside the kit.
- In addition, take the time to target the recipient and customize your communication to him/her. For example, if the publication has a section for which you’d be perfect, mention it. As a storefront, if you are a tourist attraction, make a case to be included in a regular column about highlights of a city; a service provider who is a subject matter expert, might site examples of quotes or feature articles pointing to his/her specialty. Give the publication a good reason to make your story/idea work.
- Most of all, make it easy for the publication to like you and showcase your business in a future issue!
- Include contact information on all materials.
While there’s no magic formula to capture the attention of the media, one thing is certain: If you don’t work at it you have no chance.
“Newspaper is too expensive,” he stated. “We did it once and got no results.”
I didn’t discuss what section he advertised in, what he said, or any of the specifics connected with the problem of doing something only once and expecting results.
Instead, I asked “How do you keep in touch with your best customers?”
“Call them?” he asked.
“PWOP,” I thought. (Person without a plan.)
When you consider keeping your customers and/or finding new ones, think about your systems. Here are 10 things you can do to get the word out with minimal systems and planning:
E-mail. Stay in contact with your best customers through email. Use Constant Contact, iContact, or one of the many other services out there to start and build your list.
Calendar your content. Think through your month and list four events. Write a specific email for each event to send later. HINT: Do it now before you get too busy.
Table tents, counter toppers, or other signage. If you have a retail establishment, find a printed way to engage customers while they wait. One local restaurateur, Myra Ghattas of Slate Street, added table tents so customers could review specials or upcoming events while waiting for their food.
Newsletter. Betty’s Bath & Day Spa sends out a chatty, newsy missive every month “Dear Bettyites.” The newsletter promotes specials and lets customers know about special happenings at the spa.
Use social media. Let employees know about offerings and ask them to help get the word out. WESST, a nonprofit, does just that. Nina Anthony regularly posts to her Facebook page or Tweets about upcoming events.
Publicize through traditional means. Clare Zurawski from WESST was quoted as a subject matter expert in an article on SEO, search engine optimization in the New Mexico Business Weekly. WESST regularly lets local media know about upcoming events through press releases. Do you have a system to do the same?
Advertise. Traditional advertising can be an effective way to get the word out if you’ve carefully targeted your audience. CPA firms, for example, might advertise in a local publication to get new tax return customers.
Network. If you belong to an association it may offer publicity options: include a blurb in the regular newsletter, provide announcements or flyers for a meeting and get the word out to dozens of people at the same time.
Collaborate and cross-promote. Take the time to form an alliance with a complimentary business. Let them distribute your coupon and you do the same for them.
Plan. Take a few moments to jot down your goals for this month and next. Then, list three tactics to make your plan happen.