PR pros help businesses navigate muddy media waters

In order to stay in the minds of most consumers, businesses need to put themselves in the public realm through...

By Lance Henderson

When Rick O’Connor, owner of Blu Sky Creative Services, wanted to get the word out about a new iPhone application his company had developed, he turned to his trusted freelance public relations professional, Dave Brumbaugh.

Brumbaugh said he quickly put together a press release and got it out to reporters and editors. Soon the iPhone app, Tap Champion, a game where users tap the iPhone’s touch screen as many times as they can in a certain amount of time, was featured in a weekly syndicated column on the front page of The Seattle Times business section.

“It really pays to hire a PR professional to do that type of thing for us. because he has the contacts and he knows what media wants,” O’Connor said. “It’s a crowded marketplace and that is one way for us to stand out.”

In order to stay in the minds of most consumers, businesses need to put themselves into the public realm through news releases and advertising, but knowing the difference between the two will result in the most effective public relations.

Many large corporations have marketing and public relations people on hand to manage the public’s perception, but smaller companies must rely on their own media savvy, or better yet an experienced freelance public relations professional, to help them navigate the muddy media waters.

Brumbaugh launched his public relations company, Brumbaugh Co., in 2002 after more than 20 years in journalism. He said his journalism experience has been a big plus for his business because he knows how media works and what information they use and don’t use.

“That kind of knowledge makes for a more efficient process for a business looking to get publicity,” he said. “I have heard people complain a number of times, ‘Well, I sent a press release and they didn’t use it and I don’t know why.’ I believe in most cases, it is because their press release was not newsworthy.”

“News is what the local media decides is news, so a PR professional should have a good idea of the guidelines of local media and be able to say with a high degree of certainty what they will use and what they won’t.” — Dave Brumbaugh, local public relations professional and owner of Brumbaugh Co.

Brumbaugh said, ideally, good PR is a win-win for a business and the media because the business gets the exposure and media gets the story that enhances their publication. So he works with businesses to cultivate press releases that he knows will be used by local media.

“I try to be in regular communication with local reporters and editors and if I am not certain about how they will handle certain information, I will talk with them personally about it. I want my clients to know ahead of time what they can realistically expect when I prepare a press release,” Brumbaugh said.

Taimi Dunn Gorman is another public relations professional with longstanding ties in Bellingham. She has done publicity for her own businesses since 1985 and  opened Gorman Publicity in 2001.

“I seem to have been born doing PR. I was always a writer and photographer. My father was a school district public relations director and a photographer. His mother was a photographer, too,” Gorman said.

Gorman said that most businesses are not very media savvy and don’t really understand the difference between news and advertising.

“An ad is something you buy,” Gorman said. “News stories cannot be bought unless you’re dealing with unethical media that gives you a story in exchange for buying an ad with them. When that happens, it’s obvious, and people generally see through that. Both the business and the media then lose credibility as an information source.”

Brumbaugh said that news is more factually oriented and tends to deal with events and people who have some significance to the community.

“To a larger extent, news is what the local media decides is news, so a PR professional should have a good idea of the guidelines of local media and be able to say with a high degree of certainty what they will use and what they won’t,” Brumbaugh said.

Gorman said if a business is going to send its own press release to a media outlet, it should remember to send it by e-mail to the right person, focus on one subject, attach an appropriate high-resolution photo, and most importantly, do not harass the reporter with subsequent phone calls and e-mails.

“A good press release can generate a good news story. If it’s not newsworthy, buy an ad,” Gorman said.

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