Q: Which media should I target?

A: Unlike advertising space, you are not directly paying for publicity coverage, so target every media vehicle imaginable. But give primary focus to the media avenues most relevant to your customers and those that you are most likely to get a story aired on or published in. If you have a highly specialized product or business, for example, you may want to start with Internet sites or blogs that may be interested in covering your product.

If you have a small local service business, the local newspaper and its website may be a great place to start. Then, if you can get a story in the newspaper or on a website, you can forward a copy of it to other media outlets, such as local radio and TV or cable stations, to show the growing interest in your product or business.

Once you scope out the local media and either succeed or fail in your attempt to receive publicity, begin calling on the less-obvious media choices. You never know! The more stories you can get published, the more company awareness you create, and the more sales potential you build.

Q: Does publicity work consistently?

A: Not at all. The results of publicity are highly erratic and dependent upon many factors. The reach of the medium is very important. So, of course, is the viewpoint of the media. Did the media like your product or hate it? Did the product receive enough attention to actually motivate people to “drop everything” and run out to purchase your product? Or will they just be more likely to check it out the next time they are in a store that carries your product?

There are many other factors that affect the results of publicity, ranging from “Was it a sunny or rainy day when the publicity ran?” to “What other products were being featured by the same paper?”

Often even the most experienced public relations professionals can’t figure out why a particular publicity piece worked or didn’t work. So, because media results are difficult to predict, get as much different media coverage as you possibly can.

Q: Should I plug my product aggressively in radio or television interviews?

A: The ideal situation in a radio or television interview is for the host—not you—to recommend your product. A radio or television host who sees that you are blatantly plugging your own product isn’t going to do it for you. Wait a moment at the beginning of the interview to see whether the host is going to name your product or service and recommend it to the audience. If the host doesn’t do this, then you need to kick into gear.

But do it with finesse. Don’t sound like an advertising pitchman, but work your product or service name in with subtlety. For example, “Any good house painter typically spends as much time on preparation as on the actual painting. At Central City Painters, we’ve determined that we spend an average of four worker days on prep time, although that can vary from house to house.” You’ve mentioned your company’s name and service without being overbearing, and you’ve even given the impression that you have significant experience in and knowledge of your field.

Q: What is the big difference between radio and television interviews?

A: Generally, it is a lot easier to obtain radio features for your product or service than it is for television features. In either case, you need to find a feature show that is appropriate for your product. If you are in the home repair business, try a handyman show; if you are in the landscaping business, try a lawn and garden show; or if you are in the catering business, try a cooking show.

Maybe you can come up with a good reason why you should be interviewed on a public service show. Or you can try to tie your story into a recent news event. Just remember, television, except for local cable stations, generally offers fewer opportunities for local guests, the competition for interviews is high, and your likelihood of obtaining publicity through this venue isn’t as high as it will be through radio.

During a radio interview, you need to focus on repeating the name of your company and product or service more often than you would on television. People who listen to radio are typically in their cars channel surfing or listening with only half an ear while negotiating traffic. Television viewers, on the other hand, are generally captive to the programs they are watching.

Radio hosts, on the whole, tend to choose interview topics that are of personal interest to them or are, in their opinion, of value to their listeners. Prepare carefully for a radio interview so that you can maintain the attention of your host. Television hosts, on the other hand, are driven by audience ratings—how they are perceived as personalities—and their chances of moving up in the world of television hosting. They will not be as concerned with the intricacies of your particular product or service. It is always wise to be well prepared.

Q: How should I handle newspaper interviews?

A: Newspaper writers like to feel that they are making a discovery for their readers, not promoting your business. Most newspaper writers hate to write puff pieces on business products or services. Some, but by no means all, think of themselves as soon-to-be-discovered Pulitzer Prize winners.

So don’t plug your product or engage in any hyperbole with newspaper journalists. Stick to the facts and let them “discover” and develop the story. Let them ask their questions first. Then, after they are done, try to add a summation. Mention a few important points about your business or product that they may have overlooked.

Q: What about interviews with Internet media sites or bloggers?

A: I’d apply the same approach as to newspaper writers.

Q: Do I have to sound like a polished pro on radio or TV?

A: Not at all. I’ve done hundreds of radio and TV shows, including a weekly feature on a major Boston radio station and a daily feature on a national TV show. I don’t have a perfect broadcasting voice or smooth intonations. You don’t have to be an actor or a radio announcer—just being an expert in your business is what is important.

Q: I’m nervous about being on the radio or on TV. What can I do?

A: Do lots of shows, and then any nervousness will fade away. I was especially nervous when I did my first television show locally, and when I first went on national television. But after you’ve done a bunch of shows they become old hat.