Get the Word Out
By now, you’re probably well aware of the value of getting your company’s name into a trade publication. When it comes time to bid that next big job, the recognition afforded by a trade-magazine profile can be an invaluable resource in securing the contract. But how do you make sure your project stands out from the many others on an editor’s desk? Keeping in mind a few small details will go a long way to ensure your place at the top of the pile. As the former editor of an industry trade publication, here are some tips for success:
Tell a good story. Sure, each project has its own unique challenges, but there are some that are more noteworthy than others. Learn to identify these projects, and to communicate why they are so exceptional. For example, was your project the first in your area to use a revolutionary new technique or piece of equipment? Did your team work together to overcome extraordinary obstacles-such as unusual weather, budget, or schedule constraints? Present your project in light of its newsworthiness, and it will likely catch an editor’s attention.
Say cheese! As much as editors wish we had the time and money to cover every job-site story in person, the fact is that we don’t. That’s why a story pitch accompanied by photos will really make your company stand out. While you could hire a professional photographer for this purpose, a hobby photographer (a friend or staff member, perhaps) with a relatively high-end digital camera (four megapixels or higher should give you the resolution you need) can be just as good. Remember to take plenty of candid shots (from a variety of different angles) throughout the job, showing the full spectrum of work completed.
Keep it simple. Once you decide which projects you want to pitch, the question becomes how to best do so. While you might think it’s a good idea to write an entire story and submit it, most editors will warn you against doing this. Instead, jot down a few of the project’s top selling points (such the unique obstacles and innovative techniques mentioned above) and explain each one, clearly and concisely, in three to four sentences. Add an introduction that includes information about your company, and you’ve got a great story pitch on your hands. If possible, include any background information (brochures, pamphlets, previous published articles)-if your pitch is accepted, these will be invaluable resources for the editor writing about your company. Keep in mind, too, that submissions for awards you’ve won often make great pitches-and because you’ve already completed the entry form, crafting your pitch should be relatively easy.
Know who you’re dealing with. You’ve got your story pitch ready and have plenty of photos to go along with it-now where do you send it? If you don’t already have a publication in mind, leaf through a few of the magazines cluttering up your office to determine which would be best suited for your story. When you find one you think might work, take a look at a few back issues and really get a feel for the type of stories the magazine covers-for instance, are they all about equipment and specs, or do they focus more on the business side of things? It may sound counterintuitive, but targeting your pitch to just one or two niche publications can often bring more success than if you shop it around to as many titles as you can find, as editors value pitches that are geared toward their publication’s mission.
Once you have a magazine in mind, scan the masthead (the staff listing that’s usually somewhere near the editor’s letter) and look for a managing editor. This is generally the person who receives pitches and decides which stories to run. No managing editor listed? Try the editor in chief. Present your pitch via letter or e-mail (addresses should also be listed on the masthead, or on the magazine’s website), then follow up with a quick phone call if you haven’t heard anything in a few weeks.
Get a professional opinion. Feeling a little lost when it comes to identifying stories, drafting pitches and contacting editors? Why not leave it to the pros, then? Teaming with a reliable, industry-specific PR firm puts you at a huge advantage. PR professionals have established relationships with editors and know the ins and outs of the process-which publications to target, when to get in touch with editors and how to present stories. Not only does this free you up from some of the dirty work, but it also ensures your story will be heard every time.