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home | Understanding Public Relations
 

Understanding Public Relations
by Cindy Edelstein

Ever wonder how a designer got his jewelry on the cover of Lapidary Journal? Or has a column written about her new collection? Or got quoted in an article in which she sounded so intelligent and knowledgeable? Or was chosen to speak at a trade show seminar? All of those things come about because of public relations.

Simply put, public relations is the art of getting free media exposure to create a favorable impression of a company, product, person, event, issue, or situation. The benefits of publicity are:

* It's free

* It's very believable (having someone else, like an editor, say you're great is worth so much more than you saying it!)

* It gives you and your company credibility and stature

* It helps establish the identity of your business

* It might be read by a large number of people

* It's remembered

* It gives you authority


On the down side, you have no control over publicity. The editors are going to put your message in their own words and there's nothing you can do about it. And they're going to publish your news or photo whenever they feel like it, regardless of your preferences.

Lastly, since it's almost always a one-shot marketing push, you can't repeat it or ensure its accuracy.

There are two types of publicity: trade and consumer. Both have the same goal, to disseminate your information to a chosen audience, but the audiences are very different.

Trade or special-interest publicity is relatively easy to do. Editors need a lot of information to fill their pages, and trade magazines have a smaller pool to choose from than general-interest consumer publications. For example, if you want to see your jewelry in the pages of Jewelers Circular-Keystone (a.k.a. JCK), all you have to do is get the right stuff on the editor's desk at the right time on a consistent basis.

If you want to see your jewelry in the pages of Vogue, you'll have to work a lot harder. These magazine editors are inundated with news, trends, new products, and old favorites from many different industries all trying to get on relatively few pages per month.

General consumer PR takes time and persistence, and it almost always means building a personal relationship with the editors in question. To mount this kind of consumer campaign, it's best to consider hiring a PR professional who already has the experience and the contacts.

The way to ensure that your publicity efforts will be successful is simple: be consistent, be honest, be concise, and most of all, just do it!

There are many reasons that trade or specialty magazines will write about you -- from the most banal (new hirings, change of address), to the common but necessary (new product photos), to major news (invention of new machinery, creation of a new gem cut, winning an award, indicted for forgery!).

Items get printed depending on their urgency, what space limitations there are, and the size of the upcoming issue. Be polite, helpful, and to the point.

Themed product sections -- i.e., what's new in pearls, gold, or new stylings -- are the one place a news peg doesn't matter -- much. Your photo may be held up for a while, though, until it fits in.

THE PRESS KIT

To begin your publicity plan, you should create a press kit. Here's what goes inside:

* Personalized cover letter. Briefly describe your news in the first two paragraphs, then describe your expertise and answer the why I'm-worthy-of-your-attention question. You have a very short space in which to hook the editor -- do it with an honest news angle and not just puff.

* Background press release. This includes your and/or your company's biography, including (not necessarily in this order): schooling, years in business, points of expertise, awards, famed clients, special projects of note, etc. This can be written in a story style or in bullet points.

* News release. This is where you make your announcement regarding a new product line, invention, expansion, award receipt, or other such news item. This should be tailored to your audience: general news for general-interest magazines and targeted news with the proper slant to appeal to a special-interest group. The same basic info can be sent to multiple places, but you rewrite the lead to rope in each audience. For example, you would promote your new line to Professional Jeweler magazine by leading with "Jane Doe Launches New Collection for Spring"; for Lapidary Journal you could lead with "Jane Doe's Spring Collection Features One-of-a-Kind Gems."

* Photos. Include any photos you feel would be useful to illustrate your news or give a general idea of what your work is like. Now everyone sends a digital photo so make sure it's a jpeg and a least 300 dpi. The size should be at least 3"x5".

If you don't have digital images then you have to do it the old-fashioned way. Color photos are often not good enough to reproduce; they show the editor what you're doing but make it difficult for her to use in her publication. Color slides and/or chromes (also called transparencies, 4x5s, or positives) are usually the best format for PR, but a black-and-white glossy can also be used effectively. Just remember, they'll use what you give them, so why not give them your best -- which, for jewelry, means color.

One or two pieces in a photo is best with simple backgrounds. Follow this tip and your jewelry will always look good and will probably get used often, since it makes the art director's job easier and the magazine look better. Study past issues to see what has and hasn't worked for other photos.

* Optional photo: Include in your kit a black-and-white shot of yourself; this is useful if you, rather than your merchandise, are the news. It's always a good idea to make sure you send one to each magazine at some point so that they have it on file.

Don't forget to label each piece of artwork with its description, your name, and if your photographer expects a credit line, the photographer's name. Avery labels #5267 ( 1/2" x 13/4") are just the right size for slide mounts. You can write on most slide frames or have your photo lab print your name directly on the plastic mounting when they're developing the slides.

For transparencies, use a blank label or tape a small piece of paper to the outside plastic sleeve. Send artwork you can afford never to have returned to you. That means no original film. It's more valuable in their file drawer than yours -- you never know when an editor or art director will raid the file to fill a hole in a story.

* Copies of media attention you've already won: articles, photos of your jewelry used in a publication, mention of your name or business in any editorial context. Make these copies clean and neat. Trim the edges of magazine tearsheets; get rid of the other articles that appeared on your page. Make sure the publication name and date appear on your photocopy.




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