16 May 2014 Guest Contributor

Once you have a well-written news release, you need to get it in front of the right people. And while publicity success does not rely on you having media contacts on speed dial, it does rely on you identifying those media contacts most interested in your story.

Remember, you are seeking free publicity to attract more customers to your business.

Step one is to understand what media your ideal customer reads, listens to or watches. Start listing appropriate media and see who is covering topics relating to your industry or start a hit list of where you’d like to get covered. So if there’s a particular show, or magazine, you need to do some analysis. You are probably already reading magazines and watching TV, so make those hours work for you.

Step Two – immerse yourself in your target media. Go to their website and dig out contact details.  In my experience, successful media relations are 98% preparation and 2% execution. Find the appropriate reporter, producer or editor for your story pitch. Then call the media outlet’s main number and make sure the reporter is still there (they move around a lot). If not, ask who his/her replacement is and get the appropriate contact info (name, telephone number and e-mail address).

Step Three - research the reporter. Read past stories, and check out their contact preferences. The contact preferences may include how they like to be contacted (phone or e-mail, for example) and when they like to be contacted (before 2 pm., Monday-Wednesday). I’ll usually always heed the “when they like to be contacted” part, but I almost always call them, even if they say they don’t prefer it, because it is part of my successful pitching process.

But then, the last step...once you have all the ingredients listed, you really need to have a basic understanding of how the media works to achieve publicity success.

That means you need to have a knowledge of deadlines and the sort of pressures different media are under. A reporter preparing an hourly radio news bulletin, for example, will work differently to the journalist on a monthly glossy magazine.

Beyond that, you should continue to upskill by reading relevant publications or taking short courses to get a fast insight into how the media works. But the best lesson is always going to be throwing your hat in the ring and just doing it.

An award-winning print and radio journalist for over a decade, Phil(ippa) Lowe is the founder of Publicity Express, an innovative PR mentoring business offering products, programs and advice to help soloists & small business do their own PR.