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Nothing lends more credibility among potential buyers of your services than free publicity. Not advertising. Not direct mail. Not even hot air balloons. People's perceptions, their decisions on whether to buy or not to buy, are based on what they hear, see and read about you. Few of us will ever gain national prominence without the help of the news media.

A story with a positive spin on the NBC Nightly News can turn you into an institution. Good examples: Zig Zigler, Billy Graham, Madonna.

Okay, you say. I'm a believer. But how do I turn the media spotlight on myself so that sales this year will soar?

The plain truth is this: Public Relations is not brain surgery. There are but three gifts you need to be successful in the not-so-mysterious world of self-promotion:

  • An ability to write clearly in a compelling fashion.
  • An ability to sell others on what you deliver.
  • A rudimentary knowledge of how the media works.
It all begins inside you. If you're not convinced that you really have something to say that is unique, then you'll have a tough time persuading those hard-nosed folks in the news media to spin a tale about your company.

If you're seeking media exposure ask yourself what is it about you and your business that would make a reader, a viewer, a listener sit up and pay attention? What it it about you that would prompt a reporter, an editor, a producer to knock on your door for an interview?

How does your information educate, inspire, entertain? Begin first by carefully studying the media. Read stories, read columns, read bylines. Ask yourself what was it about that story that prompted a reporter to write this? What is it about your area of expertise that is special? What makes you different from your competitors? What makes you newsworthy?

Before you jam 100 news releases down the mail slot, pause and ask yourself: Why? and Why so? Who's going to be interested in this opus? After all, it may not be of interest to The Philadelphia Inquirer or KYW NewsRadio. Carefully study a publication or broadcast outlet before you submit. If you cry wolf too frequently at some media outlets, they won't take you seriously.

Here's a seven-way test to determine whether you have a story to tell. Does your story respond to at least one of these hot-button items? If it doesn't, start over. It may be a better alternative than winding up in the trash. Here are my seven rules to grab the media every time.

  1. BE THE FIRST IN A CATEGORY. 7-11 was the first in a category until WAWA did them one better in the area of service. Open 24 Hours. Here's a local example: Herb Monheit has become the nation's first personal injury lawyer with a unique home page on the Internet. It's called: Do I have a case?
  2. FORECAST: Cemetery owner Ed Clapper is forecasting that by the Year 2010 the average cost of burying your loved one will double. What's a body to do? Buy now, advises Clapper.
  3. TREND: Women dentists must love their work. For the past five years Trenton dentist Roberta Martin has been tracking the lifestyles of her counterparts across the country. She reports there are no suicide deaths among female dentists.
  4. SURVEY: 520 business executives in the Philadelphia area are joining a new tax relief organization created by CPA Tom Collins. Collins just published a booklet: Beating the IRS at its own Game.
  5. KNOWN PRINCIPAL: Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell made a special appearance in Bala Cynwyd yesterday to honor travel agent Pat Walsh for establishing cruise line trips for same sex partners. Rendell says the program is a model for his administration.
  6. CONFLICT: A group of area chiropractors picketed the offices of Gerri Epstein yesterday to protest what they term unfair marketing practices. Dr. Epstein's has been distributing 2000 business cards in the area. The cards carry these words in large print: Free First Visit. Affordable Chiropractic Care.
  7. ODDITY: How did Ed Eisen wind up in the national magazine, Self-Employed Professional? The story carries this news peg: How can a Jewish kid from Brooklyn wind up doing PR for Pope Paul II? That's how!
Ed Eisen is President of Eisen & Associates, a marketing communications company based in Philadelphia. He spent 15 years of his career as a journalist with three major metropolitan newspapers including The Philadelphia Inquirer. If you have questions about growing your business call Ed at 215.885.7253 or e-mail: greatpr@buzzunlimited.com.

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