A beginner’s guide to by donovantatehe


									        A beginner’s guide to

Maximising the Power of Publicity

        Issued by the Press & PR Department

       There can be few businesses in the tourism sector that do not want to
increase the coverage of their product or service in the media. Indeed, when it is
positive, any coverage is enormously effective in raising awareness, often leading
to direct enquiries and bookings.
       This document aims to help the UK trade – particularly smaller businesses
that do not have their own in-house public relations (PR) professionals – to
harness the power of the media.
       PR is not an arcane art and many of the ways you can gain media
coverage are quite straightforward. Businesses with small promotional budgets
will usually see a better return by investing in PR and incorporating it in
promotional activities.
       Public relations is not „free‟. It requires dedication and attention to detail to
be effective. When used correctly, it is the most cost-effective way of reaching
your audiences, through newspapers, magazines, television, radio and the
What is publicity?
       Publicity is all about spreading the word about your organisation, product
or service through non-advertising channels. Whether you use media campaigns
or media familiarisation visits – or simply distribute a press release – you are
engaging in publicity.
       Editorial publicity is generally considered more effective than advertising
because it has more credibility to the public. In many cases it also carries a
wealth of information, or a „personal touch‟, that adverts cannot.
       The grouping known collectively as „the media‟ covers a great variety of
outlets, which are growing in number all the time. As well as newspapers (local,
regional and national, daily and weekly) and magazines (specialist and general
interest, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly and quarterly), there is of course radio (local
and national, increasingly accessed more widely through the Internet and cable);

television (terrestrial, cable and satellite); and the Internet itself, which is
constantly broadening in number and type of on-line outlets.

Getting media interest
       Studying the various media outlets is always worthwhile. If you are able to
analyse the type of story a chosen outlet tends to publish or broadcast you are
half-way to getting your story covered. Every journalist has his or her reader,
viewer or listener in their mind‟s eye when preparing material. If you are able to
do the same when addressing that journalist, you are another step on the way to
success. This is called „pitching the story‟, i.e. suiting the story you have to tell
according to the audience. For example, it is common for tourism businesses to
think only in terms of travel stories, when they may have as much chance of
getting coverage through health and fitness, lifestyle, gardening, motoring or food
titles if they present the right message to the journalist.
       Similarly, it is important to understand the difference between news and
feature journalists. Whereas a news editor will be looking for straightforward news
stories likely to appeal to his/her readers, a features editor may be more
interested in an anniversary, a personality, an unusual event or activity as a lead-
in to an in-depth feature in their publication or broadcast.
       Much of the media is image-led, rather than relying purely on words. This
means that a photo-opportunity you set up, or a picture you supply, if unusual or
visually stunning enough, may be used in a magazine or newspaper with only a
few words or an extended caption to back it up. Television also relies on a strong
visual element, of course, and may not run an otherwise newsworthy item if that
element is lacking.
       Also think of the media‟s catchment area when pitching a story. A local
newspaper or radio station may be likely to use your story because it is just that –
i.e. your business is based locally, but the farther away the reader or audience is
based from you, the more clever you have to be at coming up with a viable story.

Keeping a sense of perspective
       Don‟t be offended if your story isn‟t used -- there is so much competition
for media coverage. Remember also that what is important news for you is not
necessarily so for a reader in Newcastle or a listener in Singapore.
       A sense of perspective is important – a refurbished set of hotel bedrooms
might not be news but the fact you have built a spa on the roof or in an old dairy
barn might be.
       When you haven‟t got „news‟, look for a news „angle‟. A tourist attraction
that opened four years ago isn‟t news, but the fact you have produced a guide
book in Japanese and have staff who speak the language could be an angle. Or
how about something quirky? The latest sighting of a resident ghost, or an event
like a toe-wrestling contest may be a cliché but can still gain valuable coverage.

Advance planning
       Lead time is another phrase you will hear frequently in PR circles. It is
important to plan the timing of your publicity campaign carefully, working out key
messages, where you want publicity and creating suitable materials well in
       A list of media organisations and the people you want to target should be
drawn up. For TV programmes it will contain researchers or producers, for feature
stories it will be the feature editor or specialist writers, for newspapers or news
bulletins it will be the news editor.
       Approach media according to their lead time. While newspapers can work
with a day or so‟s notice they often prepare their feature pages and photo
coverage a week or more in advance. Radio stations operate a similar time-
frame. Magazines and TV require much more notice: features in a monthly
magazine may be planned six months or more in advance; in-flight magazines
and TV programmes often like to know a year ahead.

       Seeking paid help from a journalist or PR consultant is always worthwhile
as they will have suitable contacts – and specialist knowledge – at their fingertips.

Tips on writing a press release

       The press release is among the most basic and fundamental of PR tools,
yet it is also the easiest to get wrong. To a busy journalist, a well composed
release that explains what the „story‟ is and answers all practical questions in a
straightforward manner, will make the difference between an item that will get
coverage and one that will not. A few tips to bear in mind:
            Where possible, keep your release to one page of a single sheet of
   paper (or single screen of a „Word‟ document).
            The essence of the news story you want to tell should be explained
   succinctly in the first sentence. Readers will not go beyond this if you don‟t
   seize their attention. Your headline is important for the same reason.
            More detail can be given in the following paragraphs: try to place
   these in order of news value/importance.
            Use simple language – try to avoid jargon. Do not assume the
   reader has prior knowledge of subjects that you may take for granted.
            Every release should answer the questions „who, what, why, where
   and when?‟ Don‟t forget dates, prices, locations, telephone numbers or
   websites relevant to the consumer.
            Finish your release with your contact details or those of a senior
   colleague who will answer a journalist‟s or fact-checkers questions promptly
   or be available for interview. The details will normally include your
   telephone/fax numbers, e-mail address and website. Your company‟s full
   address is also helpful.
            Timing of your release is critical. While local newspapers and radio
   stations will talk about events/openings happening next weekend, most media

   need much more notice. Many travel supplements and events listings are
   written weeks (if not months) in advance; monthly magazines are planned up
   to a year in advance. Freelance writers need time to „sell in‟ their stories to
            Journalists will appreciate hearing from you on a regular basis, but
   try to limit this to when you have news to impart. Sending releases too
   frequently could have a negative effect.
            Before you commit your release to paper – or e-mail – ask a
   colleague to read your work through. They will tell you if it „makes sense‟ and
   assist in spotting mistakes in spelling, grammar or punctuation that may affect
   the credibility of your release.

Distributing press releases
       Traditionally, press releases were printed and distributed by mail. While
many journalists still prefer this, mainly because of the volume of material they
receive, e-mail distribution is now widely accepted. Where possible, paste your
release into the body of an e-mail rather than adding it as an attachment. Do not
attach hi-resolution images unless you know these are wanted – it is preferable to
state their availability at the end of your release.
       As well as the media, don‟t forget the other organisations that may be able
to assist in publicity if they receive your release. Your regional tourist board,
regional development agency, local chamber of commerce and tourist information
centre – and the press office at VisitBritain of course – are obvious candidates.
       The travel trade press is another important outlet – magazines like Travel
Trade Gazette, Travel Weekly, Caterer & Hotelkeeper, Group Travel Organiser
and Travel GBI are read by thousands in the industry.

Preparing a media kit
       While the press release is the ideal medium for announcing your news,
there are occasions when you need to have something more elaborate to give to
the media. For situations when a journalist has made contact to say he is
preparing a feature about you; when journalists come to visit; when you are
attending a trade show where media will be present; or when corresponding with
media who have mentioned you in the past – the tool that will serve you best is
the media kit. It is also useful if you simply wish to profile your business in more
detail to key contacts like travel editors.
       A media kit should contain facts and figures about your business, details
of what you offer the customer, your unique selling points, recent awards, what
you are planning in the coming year (and maybe longer term), the latest prices
and special offers, your up-to-date brochure or guide book and a CD of high-
resolution images.
       It is also worth thinking about the kit‟s presentation – journalists receive a
large quantity of information daily – so anything that will make yours stand out is
beneficial. Suggestions include unusual or colourful packaging and a small gift
relating to your business or a sample of your product. However, the world‟s most
creative packaging will not be able to disguise materials that are poorly written,
contain last year‟s publicity or are not newsworthy: your kit will simply end up in
the waste-bin.
       As well as the „paper‟ kit, think about producing versions that can be e-
mailed and faxed. With most journalists working to tight deadlines, being the first
to get your information on his/her desk could mean your business is featured
instead of your competitor‟s.

Using images
       “A picture is worth a thousand words,” goes the old adage and that has
never been more true than it is today, when the media‟s appetite for photographs

is enormous. If powerful enough, an image can actually „sell the story‟ and a
professionally produced set of images may help a magazine editor, for example,
decide to run a particular story over several pages.
       The crucial word here is professional, for you shouldn‟t expect your
amateur snap-shots to come up to reproduction quality. If you invest in a
professional, however, they will know about lighting, depth-of-field, exposure,
colour and, most importantly, what does and doesn‟t make a good shot.
       The majority of publications are now geared to work with digital images,
though transparencies are still important, particularly to high-quality magazines
and supplements. When supplying digital shots, make sure they are hi-resolution,
i.e. 300 dpi at a minimum width of seven inches (18 cm). As the resulting files will
be large, bear this in mind when e-mailing. When you have a selection of images
it is best to present them on a CD, which is easier to handle than a series of e-
mail attachments.
       Whether you send digital images, transparencies or prints, every image
should be captioned with key information about the subject, including the names
of the people and/or locations featured.

Media events and launches
       Holding a media event is a good way of showcasing your company and a
chance for face-to-face meetings between journalists and key people in your
organisation. It is best to issue a diary date to your target media some time in
advance and follow this up with a media alert (a short release giving the reason,
location, time and other relevant information) about a week beforehand. If there
will be a photo opportunity, make this clear also and issue it to the picture desk as
well as the news editor.
       It can be worthwhile to make a follow-up telephone call to key contacts a
day beforehand if you have not heard from them – especially if you are targeting

TV news, radio or newspaper reporters -- as they may have forgotten, but do not
          The watchwords with events are be realistic. Ask yourself: is my news
important enough to attract media interest? Is the event conveniently located for
everyone (other than the local Gazette reporter)? Have I got the company‟s key
spokespeople in attendance and properly briefed?
          Small and medium-sized businesses will often find they will attract more
media interest if they combine with similar businesses, or other tourism ones, in
the locality and act as a consortium with a united message. If you are already a
member of a consortium, do consult its PR specialist, who will know what does
and doesn‟t work.

Inviting a journalist to experience your product

          One way to get your property, tour or other tourism product „in the news‟ is
to offer a familiarisation, or „fam‟ trip, free of charge to journalists. Members of the
media can be sceptical and many will only write about your product if they have
tried it for themselves.
          But before you send off the invitation, make sure to do your research to
find the right journalist/media: it is worth spending time studying the magazine or
newspaper, or listening to the radio programme you plan to target, to ensure it
„fits‟ with what you have to offer.
          Once you have identified your media, send an invitation to the journalist,
together with information on what you are offering, for example a night at your
farmhouse, one of your themed walks etc. Remember journalists are always
looking for a story, a news angle, or a „character‟ such as a walking tour leader
who has written a book about his subject. So make sure you highlight any unique
selling points you have – but avoid exaggeration, as this may only lead to
disappointment and bad feeling if a journalist arrives and feels let down.

       While the media are VIPs, they will want to experience your product as an
ordinary consumer does. Hotels may wish to offer them an upgraded room, but
don‟t provide them with extras not provided to other guests: they may write about
them, leading to other consumers feeling upset when they don‟t get the same
extras. On the other hand, make sure you offer a quality experience, not the
worst room in the house!
       Consider extending an invitation to a journalist‟s partner as well: they are
likely to get a much more pleasurable and „normal‟ experience if they bring a
partner - and a good experience is likely to be converted into a good article or
       Be hospitable – but don‟t believe the stereotype of hard-drinking
journalists. Travel media are conscientious, hard working journalists, and are
much more interested in checking out your product than getting a „freebie‟ or
going on a „jolly‟ – a word which is likely to get many backs up.
       Be friendly and helpful, but not over-eager: the more subtle approach can
work wonders.      Journalists do not, for example, need to see every room in a
hotel to get a feeling about its atmosphere. Give them space to enjoy it on their
own – particularly if you market your property as being off-the-beaten track,
secluded and a stress-breaker.
       Bear in mind that being offered a fam trip does not place a journalist under
an obligation to feature the product. Be aware, too, that any resulting coverage
may not appear for anything from a month to more than a year afterwards.
       Consider working with your local tourist board, who may be able to offer
some assistance with the press.

       Make sure you have the relevant media information available, notably
prices, website address and, where possible, images they can use in their article.
Journalists are busy, and if you can make their job a little bit easier by providing

information before you are asked, they may be more disposed to cover your

VisitBritain’s International Media Programme
           VisitBritain‟s international media visits programme provides travel
operators, large and small, with a unique opportunity to access the world‟s media
and showcase their product in key markets around the globe.
    Every year, VisitBritain hosts an average of 1,000 international print and
broadcast journalists. Publicity generated from these visits had an advertising
equivalence of almost £75 million in the first six months of the 2003-4 financial
year - more than 40 per cent of our total PR coverage gained world-wide of £181

           We target several segments of the print and broadcast media. Journalists
travel to Britain individually, with a photographer or as part of a larger press
           Print journalists are drawn from daily newspapers with mass readership,
glossy monthly magazines and appropriate special-interest publications.
           Broadcast media, which plays an increasingly important role in
VisitBritain‟s world-wide publicity, has the potential to access huge audiences and
generate publicity worth millions of pounds.

           We frequently host travel and lifestyle programmes from the USA, Asia,
Australia and Europe, for example.

How it works
           The Press & PR Department at VisitBritain in London co-ordinates the
programme with assistance from its overseas offices.

       Publications, broadcast programmes and freelance journalists are
carefully targeted under a 12-month media plan designed to address the needs of
each market.
       Once a journalist has accepted an invitation to travel to Britain, our PR
managers send a detailed brief, outlining the journalist‟s story objectives, to the
International Press Visits officers in London. We then work closely with our
national and regional tourism partners to design a suitable itinerary.
       Destinations and tourism operators included in such an itinerary have an
ideal opportunity to gain substantial media exposure in a publication or broadcast
programme previously identified as targeting key potential travellers.
       Each year various airlines, ferry companies and rail carriers generously
provide tickets to assist the programme and to generate positive publicity for
themselves and the destination.

What can I offer?
       Do you have a fantastic hotel, B&B, unique tour or a gourmet restaurant?
If you can offer any part of a total quality travel experience, we‟d like to hear from
       VisitBritain is looking to work with professional operators who understand
the value of publicity and who are prepared to support the international media
visits programme by offering free of charge or discounted in-kind contributions.
       If asked to participate in the hosting of a media visit, you will receive full
details of the relevant publication/broadcast, its circulation/viewing figures and the
journalist‟s story objectives. VisitBritain asks operators to offer free of charge or
discounted rates according to the promotional benefit they believe they will

What can I expect?
        Journalists who visit Britain under the media visits programme come highly
recommended. Their publications/ broadcast programmes are carefully targeted,
and journalists are thoroughly briefed and story objectives and story placement
negotiated before they arrive in Britain.
        Newspaper and magazine staff writers have specific commissions,
generally for large features, on Britain. Freelance journalists must have an
established track record and produce details of the publications that have agreed
to buy their stories. Broadcast programmes also offer tremendous audience
reach and publicity value.
        Press visits are therefore one of the most cost-effective marketing tools
offered by VisitBritain. An investment in this programme can produce publicity
results far outweighing the free of charge or discounted rates you may provide.
        The overseas PR managers send copies of all stories and broadcasts to
VisitBritain‟s London office. Operators mentioned in these stories are sent a copy
of the resulting story, along with the date of publication and publicity value.

How do I get involved?
        Simply contact Kirsten Freeman in the International Press Visits team of
        Tel: 020 8563 3207
        E-mail: kirsten.freeman@visitbritain.org

Correcting published errors
        Everyone makes mistakes but when a journalist does, a much wider public
reads or hears it – which is problematic if the subject happens to be your
business or product.

       Ask yourself whether it is a mistake, or whether the journalist is purely
voicing an opinion or making a personal judgment. If the last two apply, you have
little redress as that is his role while, in the case of an error, you may be justified
in getting the matter addressed.
       Call the journalist and ask whether the mistake can be corrected in the
next issue or broadcast as your livelihood and reputation is at stake. If you get
nowhere, you could write to the editor, asking for your letter to be published,
setting the record straight.
       However, prevention is better than cure, which is why it is so important to
ensure your PR materials, and all briefings, are clear and professionally done in
the first place to avoid misunderstandings. Journalists often have to research and
write thousands of words, covering several different subjects (many of which they
are not overly familiar with) to pressing deadlines – every day, week or month.
So, if the errors are not major ones, try to put things in perspective and build on
the relationship for next time.

Journalist likes and dislikes
       Here are a few general do‟s and don‟ts gleaned from journalists
             Do deliver material on time and to deadline. Try to have everything
   at your finger-tips – statistics, information, photos and candidates for interview
   etc - if you haven‟t, say what you‟re going to provide and by when – and stick
   to it.
             Don’t be a nuisance on the telephone. Follow-up calls such as “will
   you be using our release?” or “when will the article appear?” are guaranteed
   to annoy.
             Do, when sending releases by e-mail, use the „blind copy‟ (bcc)
   function to avoid a long list of journalists appearing on each recipient‟s mail.

           Don’t complain unless you feel you have a genuine grievance. Bad
   cutting or „subbing‟ of an article is often not the journalist‟s fault anyhow.
           Do try to meet a visiting journalist (on a fam visit) in person and ask
   if there is anything else they need, rather than presuming to know.
           Don’t panic. Most journalists are not of the investigative/Sunday
   Times Insight type, there to catch you out or file derogatory copy. They are
   keen to write accurate, positive things.
           Do use tact and diplomacy in your dealings with the media.
           Don’t highlight negatives or negative issues – always highlight the
   positive angles.

Create a media-friendly website
       The Internet is a wonderful method of communication, which journalists
are making increasing use of when researching their stories. If you do have a
company website, there are several ways you can ensure it is of optimum use to
the media – helping them to generate the words that will send customers your
       The most obvious piece of advice is to make sure it is accurate and
contains up-to-date information, indicating this by giving the date (or at least the
month) it was last updated in each section.
       Secondly, include your full address and telephone number so the press
can make contact. Many journalists use the web for research purposes but then
need to talk to someone to verify information or ask a supplementary question.
       If you really want to win Brownie points, establish a dedicated on-line
press centre linked from your home page. This could include an archive of press
releases, a downloadable press pack, management profiles, fact sheets, advance
events information and the names and contact details of your press officer(s) –
possibly even downloadable high resolution images. This will be appreciated, as

it can be tiring to search through screens of promotional „blurb‟ or navigate
through „Flash‟ graphics in order to find a few simple facts.

Prize promotions and advertorials
       Though „free‟ media coverage is most people‟s aim, it may also be worth
thinking about advertorials, the paid alternative.
       These usually appear as special features or supplements in newspapers
or magazines promoting a designated product, service or destination. They
normally look like ordinary features but are actually promotional stories paid for
by your business and others like it. The other difference is that it will say „special
feature‟ or „advertorial‟ to set it apart from the rest of the publication.
       Though they may seem expensive, they often generate a large response
from customers and are therefore more cost-effective than advertisements.
       Another publicity idea is the promotional prize or give away. Consider
offering the media samples of your product; tickets to an event you are organising
or dinner, bed and breakfast in your hotel, as prizes if they run a competition in
their publication or broadcast. The media will often give you free publicity as a
result: they will see it as a value-added service for their audience.
       Try not to impose too many restrictions on the media concerned, so they
can design the competition to fit their house style.

Handling crisis relations
       The last few years have brought a number of crises in the tourism
industry, from flooding to the foot and mouth outbreaks. Often such crises occur
with little or no warning and many businesses can find themselves unprepared –
not only for the incident itself, but also for media reaction.
       The media loves nothing better than a crisis – often devoting acres of
column inches and hours of air-time to the issue. By keeping abreast of trends
within the industry and economic and political factors, much can be done to

identify potential crisis situations in advance and prepare yourself and your staff
to deal with the resulting media attention.

Crisis checklist
      Issues monitoring
           Identify the issues that could develop into a crisis as early as
           Attempt to diffuse situations before they develop into a crisis

       Establish a crisis management team
           Select key members
           Meet regularly
           Share information and ideas

       Assess the crisis
           Gather relevant information
           Assess the type, extent and ramifications of the crisis
           Be aware of rumour and plan to counter it with fact

       Choose a spokesperson
           Must be articulate, well briefed, confident
           Must appeal on a humanistic level, be compassionate and caring
           CEO/owner is preferable
           Must be available

       Message delivery
          Media release
          Media conference
          Individual interviews

       Dummy run
          Anticipate likely questions
          Draft responses
          Conduct a dummy run interview with your spokesperson

       Dealing with the media
           Be available
           Be open
           Keep your cool
           Provide honest factual comment, remember the truth always gets

             Establish who in your organisation is allowed to talk to the media
   and brief everyone accordingly

      Log calls
          Log all media calls (useful for follow up later)
          Record what was requested and the action taken

      Cover all audiences
          Establish key audiences
          Allocate team member responsibility for each audience
          Keep your own staff well briefed

      Post-crisis follow-up
          Assess what went wrong and why
          Formulate steps to prevent similar crises
          Assess the handling of the crisis
          Devise follow-up strategies

Things to do now
      Monitoring and awareness
           Keep abreast of issues in the media or by consulting VisitBritain‟s
   website, www.visitbritain.com/ukindustry
           Identify issues with particular resonance for your business/clients
           Prevention is better than cure – act responsibly

       Establish a crisis management team
            Decide who should sit on the team and from which departments
            Decide whether you need strategic and operational teams
            Assess the risks of potential issues: how likely, who will they
            Identify audiences and key messages for each
            Draft responses stating your position on the issues

          Anticipate media reaction and questions
          Rehearse spokespeople for interviews

Things to do if a crisis occurs
      Assess the situation
          Research and gather the facts
          Get employees „singing from the same song-book‟

      Choose spokesperson
           Preferably senior representatives
           Personable, authoritative, capable of exuding reassurance and
           Brief well and in advance
           Ideally contactable at all times – use a rota if necessary

       Dealing with the media
            Ensure information is passed to a single contact to convene the
   crisis management team
            Produce initial „holding‟ statements
            Decide further options/strategy
            Direct media to a single contact, preferably the press office
            Log media enquiries and provide comment as soon as possible
            Consider going to the media proactively
            Be available, be open, be calm
            Keep to the facts

After the incident
       Post-crisis follow up
           Assess how the crisis occurred and how to prevent it in future
           Objectively assess your relationship with the media
           If necessary, redevelop strategies and key messages

Results and follow-up
       Reading an article featuring your business; seeing yourself on TV or
hearing all about your attraction/hotel/event on the radio is always satisfying and
very rewarding.
       Though it is likely that the calls to and interest in your business will
increase as a result of this coverage, it doesn‟t mean you can rest on your
laurels. Publicity does not make a business, it merely adds to it. You should
certainly never expect it to be the main way customers are delivered to your door.
       Build on early achievements by asking permission to place a positive
article on your website or distribute copies to prospective customers. If
appropriate, stay in contact with the journalist and keep him/her abreast of your

future plans. But don‟t be pushy, for journalists are always looking ahead to the
next story: as soon as yours is written, in a way it is „old news‟ to them.
       Once you have received several months‟ worth of coverage it is worth
evaluating it. Are the features/broadcasts likely to be read or heard by your
potential customers? (For example, many attractions‟ visitors come from within a
radius of two hours travelling time, so it is pointless aiming for coverage in
overseas markets to the detriment of the local or regional press.) How much
would you have paid for the equivalent space/time if you had taken advertising
instead? Is the coverage and photography „on brand‟? What lessons have you
learnt for future PR work?

And finally…
       PR and publicity is not an exact science. It relies on generating and
nurturing contacts, being approachable and helpful and responding to enquiries
promptly and to deadline. But the relationship between business and the media is
mutually beneficial: you will find most journalists easy to get on with.
       The Press & PR team at VisitBritain is there to help, so do get in touch
with us if you have any questions about how to proceed. Good luck!

       Useful VisitBritain websites
      Marketing       advice        for        the     UK        Tourism      Industry:

      Press        information   for           media        writing    on      Britain:

      Press      information    for            media    writing       on      England:

     Issued March 2004

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