By Rusty Cawley
If you want create a PR campaign that is
effective and consistent, you must learn to
market your story to the news media. You must
learn to treat reporters as the customers who
will either buy or reject your product: raw
You should apply the techniques of PR Rainmaking, which
is the practice of using the news media to attract
customers and clients to your enterprise.
Any effective campaign of PR Rainmaking is grounded in
three fundamental ideas:
a) The reporter is the consumer.
b) The story is the product that must be tailored for
and sold to that consumer.
c) Reporters will buy your story for their reasons, not
The Reporter is the Consumer
Today's PR specialists often forget this basic
principle. The bad ones - the ones that reporters
ridicule as mere "flacks" - never learn it.
To some of these folks, the reader or the viewer is
their primary consumer. Others consider their client or
their CEO to be the consumer of their work.
The PR Rainmaker knows: When it comes to getting your
story into the media, you must look upon the reporter
as your consumer.
Without the reporter, nothing happens. There is no
story for your target audience to view or to read.
There is nothing for your CEO to show his directors.
There is nothing for your sales team to hand out to
Without the reporter, all you have is a story idea.
The reporter is the consumer. The reporter is the
customer. And you must act accordingly.
The Story is the Product
It is not enough that you want to sell something.
Countless enterprises have lost money trying to sell a
product they wanted to sell and no one wanted to buy.
No matter what you produce, you must find a market that
wants to purchase your product.
The same holds true when placing your story in the news
media. The PR Rainmaker knows that the story is the
product. The story must be tailored for the consumer,
who is the reporter. Then it must be sold to that
This is where PR flacks lose their direction. They look
upon media relations as mass production. They want to
build an assembly line. They want to crank out one
press release after another, send out a blast fax, and
read their story in the newspapers the next day.
By using these "spray and pray" techniques, a company
may well generate media coverage. But that coverage is
likely to be ineffective. The key messages will be
distorted. The story will go to the wrong audiences.
The company will receive no return on its investment
other than some newspaper clippings and perhaps some
The PR Rainmaker knows: The best news stories are
earned one by one.
The assembly-line approach rarely works well in
media relations. Reporters do not like to buy
"off the rack." Each wants a story of his own.
Each demands a custom fit.
So it becomes the PR Rainmaker's job to take
stock of a reporter's needs and wants. We must
tailor the story to fit that reporter. Then we
must take that product and sell it to the
reporter. We must convince the reporter that
our story solves the reporter's problems.
We must keep in mind during every step of
developing the campaign: The reporter is the
consumer and the story is the product.
Reporters Buy for Their Reasons, Not Ours
It is not unusual to spend hours designing a
story for a specific reporter, only to have the
reporter reject the idea. This can become
This is one reason why so many flacks resort to
assembly-line, blast-fax methods. "Why should I
bother?" they say. "Why not just send out a thousand
press releases and hope someone somewhere picks up the
But PR Rainmakers understand and accept the
challenge of executing an effective campaign.
They know that, when it comes to convincing a
reporter to buy any particular story, failure
is far more likely than success.
As with any sales prospect, a reporter is more apt to
say no than yes, even when you have tailored the story
especially for that reporter.
Why? Who knows?
Maybe the reporter is working on a seven-part
investigative series and doesn't have time.
Maybe the reporter is being moved to another
news beat. Maybe the reporter is coming down
with the flu. Maybe the reporter is going on
vacation. Maybe the reporter is just a jerk.
Who knows? Who cares?
When the reporter says no, move on.
Don't argue. Don't rage. Don't resort to spray and
Advance to the next proposal with the next
Reporters will buy for their reasons, not ours.
Keep telling yourself this and you will have a
much better chance of holding your temper,
maintaining your sanity and placing more
stories in the news media.
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