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Four Strategies for Power Public Relations

By Nancy Drexler

Don't believe everything you read. As a marketer, I couldn't be happier that more people don't obey this common warning. The truth is that people do believe what they read in newspapers and magazines. Studies have shown time and again that the most reliable way for marketing professionals to communicate messages to the public is through editorial promotion.

Most people are more skeptical of advertising copy than editorial content, and successful public relations (PR) is all about earning awareness, trust and respect by obtaining journalistic coverage for your company.

Effective PR is one of the strongest channels available for marketing your business, and the only cost involved is time. Unfortunately, many marketers go about it the wrong way. They fax a self-serving press release to the same media list once a month and then wonder why their companies never receive coverage.

Keep reading to learn four strategies guaranteed to grab headlines, get the media's attention and boost sales.

"No comment" Is No Good

Upon returning from the fourth meeting of the day, you check voicemail. A reporter from a trade magazine has left a message asking you to provide a source for an article she's writing on wireless terminals. Oh, and would you mind calling her back before 5:00 p.m.? She's on deadline.

Reactive PR, when a reporter approaches you with questions, is the easiest way to get your company's name in the news and build positive relationships with journalists; however, far too many marketers fail to take advantage of this opportunity.

You'll need to act fast. Whether the reporter reveals it or not, it's likely that she also left messages for others in order to make sure she gets quotes before her deadline. Reporters remember the time you take to help them and tend to reward reliable contacts with positive coverage down the road.

But what if the reporter's message is not a simple query? If it sounds like she's digging for dirt or asking for a comment on a controversial topic, remember what Bing Crosby sang: "Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative."

Almost every story contains positive elements. If you can't find a silver lining, still call the reporter back. Let her know that you received the message, but cannot provide further information at this time. Reporters writing on deadline need reliable responders, and they will remember those who dodge as much as those who help.

Broaden Your Brand

If your business is located in a small to mid-size city, positive PR is a great way to get your name recognized. With the power of a brand behind you, you're halfway to completing the sale before you've said a word.

For example, when approaching merchants, they will instantly identify your company as the one that sponsors a local Little League team or the one that recently made a large donation to a local food drive.

You're an expert in credit card processing, but consider using your sales skills or marketing expertise to speak at local events. Position yourself as an expert in your strongest areas and offer these services to leaders of prominent local organizations or event planners.

(In the speech make sure to mention your company's name and the services provided to merchants.) You have much to gain by networking.

Build Relationships

Reporters are accustomed to hearing from publicists only when they have a story to push. Set yourself apart from the crowd by building relationships with key editors and writers at important publications, both in the industry and community.

Have you recently read an article that will change the way you do business, or a well-reported piece containing vital information? Reporters are only human; let them know how much you appreciate their work.

The most important thing to remember: Be sincere. "That was a nice article about public relations, Nancy, and by the way, I was wondering if next month you could mention my company..." is a sales pitch. In contrast, "Your piece gave me great ideas on how to spread the word about what I do; I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it," is a genuine compliment that I'll remember the next time we speak.

Start a Trend

In our industry, in which a narrow list of media outlets are specifically interested in writing about what we do, your options for sweet-spot feature stories, or more technically oriented pieces, are relatively limited.

Even the smallest publication will hesitate to cover the same company twice in a single issue or back-to-back issues, no matter how newsworthy the story is or how prominent the people involved in the industry are.

Expand your options by tying your company to a general-interest story and targeting a broader range of publications. Simply looking at the calendar is a great way to get ideas: Is it back-to-school season? Pitch an article about creative gift ideas for teachers, with a focus on gift cards offered by a merchant in your portfolio.

Human-interest stories about the people behind your company are also surefire hits with the media and public. If someone related to your business has a story worth sharing, share it, and make sure the article mentions where the person works.

While you shouldn't believe everything you read, believe this: Using the PR tactics I described will get your company name in front of the right people to take it to the next level. Good luck, and I hope to read about your company soon.

Nancy Drexler is the Marketing Director of Cynergy Data, a merchant acquirer that distinguishes itself by relying on creativity and technology to maximize service. Cynergy offers its ISOs VIMAS, a cutting edge back-office management software; TrackIt, a ticketing system that makes responses to customers fast, accurate and efficient; Brand Central Station, a Web site of free marketing tools; plus state-of-the-art training, products, services and value-added programs, all designed to take its ISO partners from where they are to where they want to be. For more information, e-mail Nancy Drexler at .

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