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How to Work with Editors

February 18, 2000
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The staff of Workforce offers a few guidelines - from the editor's point of view - on how to get publicity for your product or service.

  • Treat the Editors As You Would a Good Customer
  • Identify Your Publicity Options
  • Understand the Objectives of Your Publicity Program
  • Don't Use Advertising to Try to Guarantee Publicity
  • Don't Be Discouraged Easily
    Treat the Editors As You Would a Good Customer
  • Put the magazine's editor on your promotion list.

You probably have the editor on your list for news releases, but don't stop there. An editor also should receive direct mail promotions and newsletters that offer information about your products and your company. In addition, send product brochures and anything else you send to customers to help explain and sell your product.

In reading these materials, an editor might find a story idea that hadn't occurred to people in your organization.

  • Know your customer.
  1. Call and get a sample copy of the magazine; most business publishers are happy to supply them. If you're a regular advertiser, someone in your organization probably receives it.
  2. Look at the publication. Read the letters to the editor, the editor's page, a sample department, and a sample feature. Once you have a feel for the editorial style, you're in a much better position to talk to an editor. You don't have to be an expert. Most editors simply appreciate the fact that you took the time to look at the magazine before calling.
  3. Get a reader profile. Again, the person in charge of advertising in your organization probably has a reader profile. If not, call and ask for one.
  4. Ask for a copy of the magazine's editorial philosophy or mission statement.
  • When you call the editor, assume the role of salesperson with a new client.

With a new client, you find out about the client's needs first. The quickest way to an editor's heart is to understand his or her needs.

The quickest way to end a telephone call is to launch into a sales pitch about your product or service and then pause expectantly for the editor to tell you that the next cover story will be a verbatim review of those sales points.

The reaction after such a conversation is: "So, where's the story idea?" Instead, ask a few questions about the magazine, its future editorial direction and upcoming projects. Find out what's happening first, and then suggest a way in which your company can fit into those projects.

A few questions to ask: 1) How often do you feature articles on "xyz" topic? 2) Do you have any articles on that subject scheduled in the next few months? 3) What kinds of angles are you looking for? 4) Do you need experts in the field to interview? 5) Are you looking for submissions? 6) Do you need any ideas? 7) If so, would it be helpful to speak with someone in our organization to brainstorm story ideas? 8) How can we work together in the future?

  • Understand the editor's job.

The editor's job, in essence, is to sell subscriptions. To that end, he or she must develop editorial that meets the specific needs of the readership. If you can help, you become an ally.

 

    Identify Your Publicity Options
  • Information about a new product or new product development

If your company has developed a new product or enhanced an existing product, then you have a prime opportunity for publicity in a "new product news" section of the magazine, provided there is such a section. (Look at the magazine before you call. If you're not sure, ask before you go into a lengthy discussion about your new product upgrade.)

If there is a new product section, find out: 1) What are the requirements for submitting information? 2) What types of information are included? 3) Does the magazine seek photographs? If so, what are the specifications? 4) When is the deadline? 5) Is there much of a backlog? 6) Does the section run every issue? 7) What will enhance the chances of getting my information published?

If you're going to call about new product announcements, call in time to incorporate what you learn into your press release.

Keep in mind that most news releases are about products. They're important to you, but generally have the least priority to an editor. Ask the editor what you can do ahead of time to help you get your release into print.

Don't send a blind release and then call the editor three days later to ask if he or she received it. Most of the time, the editor won't know. It may be buried in a pile, or it may have been forwarded to another editor on the staff that handles a particular subject area.

A good editor will call you if the material can be used or raises further questions. If an editor does call, be sure to respond promptly.

  • Company announcements.

Company announcements generally fall into two categories: 1) Financial/business news, such as mergers and acquisitions, quarterly profit figures and so on; 2) Personnel changes, such as the naming of a new president or new executive in the HR department. Review each magazine to see if space is devoted to these categories before sending a release or calling to pitch a story idea.

  • Letters to the editor.

Editors are always looking for thoughtful and thought-provoking letters about the industry or profession. A letter to the editor allows you to express an opinion and position your company as an authority in the field.

  • Personnel topics.

Although not appropriate for most business magazines, personnel/human resources magazines are looking for story ideas about personnel management. Therefore, don't focus only on products; look at employee and HR management in your organization, too.

Your company may have a model HR program that would make a good story. Talk to your human resources manager to get a sense of what he or she thinks is most interesting in your organization. Then talk to the editors to find out if you may have found a good article topic.

  • User stories.

Sometimes, editors also are looking for user stories: How a customer developed an HR program and used your product or service in the process. Be careful here; there's a difference between a case study and a testimonial. A testimonial is written from the sales point of view and explains why readers should buy the product or service.

A case study focuses on the customer's problem and how it was solved; mention of the product or service may be made only in passing.

 

Understand the Objectives of Your Publicity Program

In the best of circumstances, you first identify your publicity and public relations goals. Define those first, and you won't be disappointed with your efforts. Without defining goals, you'll be disappointed with anything less than a free sales pitch disguised as editorial. With more clearly defined goals, however, you can better focus your publicity efforts. Some examples might be:

  • Increase your name recognition.

If you are in a highly competitive market and several of your competitors are household or business-world names, one goal might be frequency of mention of your company in the media. That could mean a quote here or a statistic attributed to you there.

  • Establish your company as an authority in the field.

Your name could be well known, but what's your reputation? By providing experts to be interviewed or by writing an article, you can help establish your company as an industry leader.

  • Create need by raising issues.

Suppose you have a nationwide chain of day care centers that could be used by employees. Not many companies, however, offer childcare. You might develop an article that outlines birthrates, labor force participation among women with children, turnover and absenteeism problems because of a lack of affordable day care, and so on. By raising these issues, you create awareness of the need for your product.

  • Explain the issues your product addresses.

Suppose you are a recruitment-advertising agency creating help wanted ads for companies. Your salespeople repeatedly are faced with the objection that a company does not need to hire an ad agency to write a help-wanted ad.

"Anybody can do that," says a potential customer. You might develop an article discussing what a recruitment ad should do, what it should include, and why it's important to consider copy, graphics, media and other aspects in marketing a job opening.

  • Explain how to be a better consumer of your type of product or service.

You have a better product or service than your competitor, but you're losing sales because the competition charges less. You might want to develop an article that outlines all the features to look for in purchasing your type of product.

Your salespeople might say all the time, "I wish our customers understood X about the field." That wish might be the genesis of an article that explains X.

  • Explain how to expand the uses of your type of product or service.

Your product is not new. Everyone knows what it is, but you want to expand sales. Explain the alternatives. For instance, you're a temporary services firm. Everyone knows what temps do. But you have a client that is hiring management-level temps from your organization and has found it's a cost-effective way to get top management experience for special projects. You may have a story.

 

Don't Use Advertising To Try to Guarantee Publicity

Don't preface or close your editorial conversations with pointed references to your advertising schedule or veiled threats about continuing your schedule if you get coverage.

If the editors are doing what the publisher has asked them - getting and keeping subscribers - then the staff first must focus on the magazine's readers. Remember that the reason you chose to advertise in a particular publication is the publication's audience. Quality editorial drives readership - especially when a magazine's circulation is paid.

The editorial creates the environment for your advertising and publicity. Work with the magazine to build a long-term relationship.

    Don't Be Discouraged Easily

If your first idea doesn't work, try again. What's important is your relationship with the magazine.

  • Be a constant resource.
  1. See if the magazine has an editorial advisory board. Find out its role. Is someone from your firm well suited to serve on that board? Provide the magazine with a list of resource people who are in a good position to comment on various human resources issues (and who will return a reporter's telephone calls).
  2. Write letters. Let the editors know - pro and con - how you react to their coverage. Make suggestions.
  • Explore other options.

Many industry publications don't have the staff, time or travel budget to attend press conferences. In this age of electronic communications, however, there are other options.

Find another way to get the information to an editor. We've seen too many organizations fail to follow up with a press kit once we declined an invitation to spend two days on the road traveling across country to attend a 30-minute press conference.

Workforce editors also get invited to attend users' conferences. It's usually not cost effective for an editor to go. But you can find out what an editor would look for if he or she was there, and you might be able to find a story idea or generate publicity anyway.

Sometimes advertisers review a magazine's editorial line-up for publicity options. They see that one of the articles applies directly to their product. They call to see if they can somehow be included in the issue. The editor indicates that the article is already written. The caller says goodbye and hangs up, but he or she has missed an opportunity. For example, suppose that the magazine has a piece on drug testing scheduled for the September issue. By asking a few questions, you might find that he or she is looking for material for a chart to accompany the article, or for a follow-up scheduled for November.

Industry publicity is a good adjunct to your sales and promotion efforts. It's no mystery, just hard work. Editors can become your allies if your first goal is to find out how you and your company can help them meet their editorial goals.

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