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Can't Get Good PR? 4 Things You're Doing Wrong

It's hard to get noticed in a crowded field of start-ups. Don't make it even harder on yourself.
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Ever wonder why some small businesses get written up time and time again, but yours has trouble getting any attention at all from the media? It's hard to get noticed in a crowded field of start-ups, but some things will all but guarantee that you get ignored. If you want positive attention from the media, don't make these three mistakes:

1. Assuming a journalist has the same agenda as you.

If I interview you for an article, we'll probably make a connection. I'll seem to like you, and I probably will. While your desire is to get something nice published about your product or company, mine is to please my editors and readers. If our two desires intersect, that's great for everyone. But don't assume we have the same goals.

Once, after I'd interviewed an executive for a story she contacted me to ask if its publication could be delayed to a time that was more convenient for her business. I explained that it was in my editor's hands. "How do we take it back from her?" she asked me. Of the many things wrong with that question, the wrongest was her use of "we" to mean her and me. In my mind, "we" is always me and the publication I'm writing for.

2. Lying to yourself about what is and isn't newsworthy.

An entrepreneur came up to me at a conference once and asked how he could get his new product in the media. He was certain it belonged in the mainstream press and network news. He couldn't understand why these outlets wouldn't give his new product the attention it deserved. The product was a newfangled dog poop scoop.

Some people (you know who you are) deeply believe that the latest version release of their software or launch of a new product line deserves more headlines than Mitt Romney's comments about the 47%. Get real.

3. Staying relentlessly 'on message.'

I know there are well-meaning media coaches out there telling their clients to pick one point they want to make and then stick with it. It's not the central message I mind--if you have one important thing to say I certainly want to hear it. But if every answer to every question is your same one point, well then I can only quote you once. Or not at all, if your point doesn't happen to fit my story. The more bits of useful information you provide, the more space you're likely to get.

4. Not being available.

If you're so busy that the soonest you can talk to me is three weeks from next Tuesday, chances are I'll go look for another source. Writers for daily newspapers and websites are always under pressure to find people who can talk to them right now, and if you're easily reachable on short notice, you may find yourself getting quoted a lot more than your competitors.

And it should go without saying that it's bad karma to promise a journalist an interview, and then cancel at the last moment or not show up at all. I don't know how other writers handle this, but... I take names.

Last updated: Sep 21, 2012

MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, 'The Geek Gap'

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Like this post? Sign up here for a once-a-week email and you'll never miss her columns.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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