You Can Quote Me
Jan Reisman's company is stepping up its public relations efforts, and she is now responsible for getting its name into print. "How do media people decide whom to interview?" she asked (Your Name in Print, October 1990, [Article link]). "What are they looking for?"
As assistant managing editor for a computer magazine, I can provide Ms. Reisman with some perspective. We return to the same two or three dozen people for comments in many stories. Those people return phone calls promptly, know their subject, and speak in a lively, quotable manner. Also we usually search out company principals -- not PR people. Ms. Reisman must persuade her execs to speak to the press, then tell the local press that she can set up interviews on short notice. If she delivers, they'll keep calling.
Assistant Managing Editor
Here are some steps Ms. Reisman can take while developing a PR strategy for her company:
* Ask employees which trade journals they read, and research those and other publications through media directories. The Standard Rate and Data Service (published by Standard Rate & Data Service), the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media (Gale Research Inc.), Gebbie All-in-One Directory (Gebbie Press), and Working Press of the Nation (National Research Bureau) all provide media listings with addresses and phone numbers.
* Contact newspapers and magazines -- write rather than call -- and ask them what kind of stories they want. Obtain their editorial calendars and tailor stories to the topics the publications are addressing.
* Send each feature idea to only one magazine. It's OK to mass-mail press releases and news items, but features should be targeted to one publication based on careful study and discussions with editors. Above all, be factual, truthful, and informative, and avoid hype.
Three Bridges, N.J.
Ms. Reisman should look at Bacon's Publicity Checker (Bacon's Publishing Co.) for PR contacts and The 1991 Writers' Market (Writers' Digest Books) for information on what types of articles editors want.
Melissa E. Giovagnoli
Service Showcase Inc.
Caldwell Davis is thinking of setting up a library for the business incubator in which he works in Charleston, W. Va. But he's confused by the variety of books, video-and audiotapes, and software (Pick of the Litter, October 1990, [Article link]). So much material is out there, and so little is really focused on small companies. How can he determine "what would best serve the entrepreneurial spirit here in Charleston"?
Mr. Davis might want to familiarize himself with an organization called the Special Libraries Association (1700 18th St. N.W., Washington DC 20009, 202-234-4700), an international association of some 13,000 information professionals and special librarians in business, the media, trade associations, museums, and other organizations that use or produce specialized information. There is no West Virginia chapter of the SLA, but I'm sure executive director David Bender could offer Mr. Davis some substantive help, probably through the association's consultation committee or its information resource center.
Guy St. Clair
OPL Resources Ltd.
New York City
Just Do It
Alex Popov provoked strong reactions with his October Network letter. He's getting tired of climbing the corporate ladder at Hitachi America and thinks more and more about starting his own business, as many of his friends in Silicon Valley have done. What's stopping him? "Perhaps I'm insecure," he wrote, "but I wonder if I should get an M.B.A. first" (College Prep, October 1990, [Article link]). Most readers counseled otherwise.
It's taken me six years in my own business to convince myself I really don't need an M.B.A. to be successful. Mr. Popov doesn't need one, either. Full-time programs cost too much in lost opportunities, and part-time programs are a waste of time and can drag on forever. Executive M.B.A. programs are unbelievably expensive, and they just prepare their graduates for more ladder climbing and corporate infighting.
Mr. Popov would do better to think about his business. An M.B.A. won't convince the money men that his plans are any good. He has to ask himself what his product is, who his customers are, how big a market he has, what resources he'll need, and more.
How-to titles may sound trite, but they fill in gaps for a self-starter. Two books I recommend are The Portable MBA edited by Eliza G. C. Collins and Mary Anne Devanna and The Entrepreneur and Small Business Problem Solver by William A. Cohen, both published by John Wiley & Sons.
PNT Marketing Services Inc.
I earned my M.B.A. in entrepreneurship at night while I launched a company during the day. What I learned has helped me grow a company from zero in 1988 to more than $1 million today. Sure, I probably would have succeeded without the degree, but I'd rather learn from other entrepreneurs' experiences than from personal trial and error. The bonus to getting my degree in entrepreneurship was that I wrote my term papers on my own company, not on a hypothetical case study. Now I have a terrific network of advisers and research people.
Lisa A. Smith
President and Chief Executive Officer
Mr. Popov might benefit from some formal business education. I suggest an accounting course, a corporate-finance course, and several human relations and psychology courses. But forget the sheepskin. It may impress corporate types, but it won't mean a thing to customers.
Fred Atkins Jr.
Omni Business Machines