How to Get Free Press

Posted by on March 11, 2002

Heads look down and hands begin to write every time I say it in a public seminar, so I always give people time to write it down. It’s one of those things that’s so obviously true that people are surprised they never thought of it on their own. “Bad advertising is about you, your company, your product or service. Good advertising is about the customer, and what your product or service will do to change the daily world of the customer. Talk to the customer – in the language of the customer – about what matters to the customer.”

Dean Rotbart (ROTE-bart,) the nation’s leading expert on public relations, says exactly the same thing about PR. “Bad PR is sending out a generic press release to hundreds of publications and hoping that a journalist notices your story. Good PR is sending a custom-tailored press release to a specific journalist that you know in advance is going to be interested. You’ve got to talk to each journalist – in the language of a journalist – about what matters to that journalist.” Interestingly, Dean was making this statement to his public relations clients for more than a decade before he heard my similar statement in a seminar about advertising.

If the subtle difference between public relations and advertising isn’t exactly clear to you, don’t feel bad.It was only recently that I figured it out myself: Advertising is what you buy from the media’s sales department. Public relations is what you get for free from the news department. Which do you think has the greater credibility?

Dean Rotbart didn’t call the media for me and he won’t call them for you, either, but he did coach me for two days. Within a few months I was interviewed on the CNN Financial Network and was a guest on CNBC‘s ever-popular PowerLunch. Paul Harvey was quoting me by name on his radio show and my smiling face was peering off the pages of USA TODAY. Rick Dees had me as a guest on his morning show in L.A. and after the Financial Times called to interview me, the BBC broadcast a lengthy follow-up interview all across Europe. Since then, I’ve lost count of all the magazine and newspaper stories. Conversations with journalists have become an almost routine thing.

The plain and simple truth is that I’m not a bit more interesting than you are. I just happened to become friends with the world’s top Public Relations consultant. Now are you ready for the good news? I recently convinced Dean Rotbart to become an adjunct faculty member at Wizard Academy so that you’d have a chance to learn the same things that I learned. Prepare to be amazed. More importantly, prepare your friends to see you on TV and in newspapers and magazines.

As you know, I don’t ever use these Monday Morning Memos as a platform to sell anything and I hope you don’t feel like I’m doing that today. If I could share all that Dean has taught me in a series of memos, I’d definitely do it and he wouldn’t mind a bit. Unfortunately, what Dean teaches isn’t something that can be reduced to a series of short memos. I’m just elated that he finally agreed to share with Wizard Academy students all the things that he previously taught only to Fortune 500 companies.

Be sure not to miss next week’s memo. It’s the final word on Thought Particles.

Roy H. Williams

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