An editor explains how businesses can get publicity

Dynamic Business magazine Sept coverWant to know how to get a magazine profile or publish news for potential buyers?

Rebecca Spicer is Deputy Editor of Dynamic Business, the national magazine and website dedicated to helping small and medium businesses (SMEs) grow.

I asked her to explain how businesses can increase their chance of getting B2B publicity in the magazine.

Dynamic Business magazine Aug coverJane: Rebecca, what’s the first step to getting a press release picked up by Dynamic Business?

Rebecca: I can’t say it enough – it’s all about relevance. The most important thing to me is that the release is relevant to our readers. So you need a good understanding of who our readership is and of the style of our magazine.

Jane: In that case, can you give a profile of your readers?

Dynamic Business magazine July coverRebecca: We focus on SMEs with 20-100 employees because we believe businesses with more than 100 begin to experience different issues.

While not all small business owners are money hungry, our readership tends to be those who are looking to improve and grow their business. Some of our readers have other agendas too – anything from establishing a business as a hobby, through to being involved with the community.

Perhaps the most telling characteristic of our readers is they’re extremely passionate about what they do – they love their product or service with a passion and want to share it with others, or they simply love being an entrepreneur and working for themselves. It’s really quite inspiring.

Jane: And the style of the magazine? What sort of content are your readers looking for?

Rebecca: In my experience, while businesses like reading about how they can implement a new strategy or technology, they mostly love reading about other people and their businesses – how they started out, how they’ve grown, challenges they’ve faced and overcome. Basically, people love reading about people.

So the articles we feature range from practical, how-to articles for SMEs around finance, technology, staffing, legal issues, right through to our regular ‘Entrepreneur’ column, profiling a successful business owner. This is all about raising your profile and reaching other businesses with whom you may have a synergy – great for B2B publicity.

Jane: How can a business tailor their press release to fit forthcoming issue plans?

Rebecca: Most magazines, including ours, have some sort of forward features list you can ask for. This is a rough plan of what we’re hoping to cover in future issues, and includes our editorial deadlines, so you know when you should be contacting us about a certain topic.

Other regular themes occur due to timing. For example, we always have a tax and finance issue in June, leading up to the end of the financial year, and for the first time in 2007 we launched some new ‘flagship’ issues: Innovation (April), Entrepreneur (July) and Young Guns (October).

A story might fit one of our regular features, such as Entrepreneur, Finance, Technology, E-commerce, Legal, Staff and Cash Flow. You’ll need to read those sections and see where you fit. Within these we include articles that are timely. For example, there’s been a lot of hype around the skills shortage lately, so we’ve been including articles focused on staff recruitment and retention techniques.

Other press releases might fit into our regular News, New Products, Retail Round-up (focused on news in the retail industry) and a Working Smarter section, which offers quick tips and resources.

Jane: Do you read every press release that arrives in your inbox?

Rebecca: I don’t read every single press release word for word the moment it arrives in my inbox. However, first impressions are vital! I can pretty quickly decide if it’s relevant to the magazine or website by reading the headline and intro. This is where you should really sum up the purpose and angle of the release. The subject line of the email will also draw our attention, and it helps if you pre-empt the press release with a brief description of its angle in the body of the email.

Jane: What happens to a release that you consider relevant?

Rebecca: I’ll either forward it to the writer who I think might use it, or I’ll print it out and put it in my in-tray for further perusal. Essentially this means it’s made the short cut. Even if we can’t use the content immediately, I might know of a future issue we can use it for, or it might even give me a new idea for a feature. It’s not uncommon for me to contact someone who has sent me a release six months previously.

Jane: What proportion of your stories originate in a press release?

Rebecca: I really couldn’t give an exact figure on this as it varies dramatically from issue to issue. Many of the articles appearing in News, New Products, Working Smarter and the Retail Round-up do originate from a press release, while larger features can involve a combination of press leads, our own brainstorming and stakeholder (advertiser) feedback.

Jane: Does a business have a better chance of getting editorial if they also advertise in the magazine?

Rebecca: One of the reasons we stand out from our competitors is that we provide objective, unbiased advice to our readers, which isn’t influenced by advertising clients. However, we are a commercial publication and as such will work with the sales team to get an understanding from their clients regarding the current trends and issues worth reporting on. We are always open to suggestions from advertising clients but NEVER promise anything and NEVER compromise on readership value for the sake of an advertiser.

Jane: Can a business pay for editorial?

Rebecca: Yes, this is what we call ‘advertorial’, and it’s the only way we allow editorial to link closely with advertising. These are always clearly marked ‘advertorial’ so readers are aware of their origin, and we have very strict guidelines for advertorial content. For example, it cannot be blatant marketing and must be practical information and advice that the readers can find value in. Nevertheless readers still tend to recognise this as advertising.

Jane: Are there any definite ‘no-no’s when communicating with a magazine editor or journalist?

Rebecca: Something I find frustrating is when a press release is emailed through as merely an attachment, with no description in the email, and little indication in the email subject line of what it’s about. I like to be able to open the email and determine immediately whether it’s relevant, without having to open an attachment.

Also make sure you don’t have an editor’s name listed twice in your database with two different email addresses. I am constantly getting double-ups, which is really annoying when we receive so many emails every day. It just clogs our inbox.

Don’t make journos or editors chase you. If they’ve come to you for more information or images, make sure you get back to them straight away. Even if you don’t have all the information you need yet, give them a call and let them know when to expect it, and then fulfil your promise.

Finally, courtesy goes a long way. Make sure you get the magazine’s name and the editor’s name correct. We have received emails that refer to our magazine with our direct competitor’s name. We also had a name change from Dynamic Small Business to Dynamic Business last year, and while we appreciate it takes a while to get over the transition period, we still get people referring to the magazine as DSB – this tells us the person knows very little about the magazine.

Jane: Do you welcome follow-up phone calls from businesses or PR firms who send press releases to you?

Rebecca: Yes, I do welcome them because they are a friendly reminder, and I understand the need to know how the release has been received. I would stress, however, that any more than one follow-up call is too much. That would be considered ‘hounding’! Also bear in mind that editors are extremely busy and won’t always have time to answer calls. While the rest of the editorial team is busy too, try getting in touch with the staff writer first. They should be able to tell you if your release is relevant.

Jane: What sort of response should a caller expect?

Rebecca: While we tend to have a standard response – “yes I did receive it, and if we need any more info I’ll be in touch” – I also have a personal policy to be as honest as possible from the beginning. For example, there’s no point giving the fob-off when I know for a fact the release isn’t relevant and I won’t use it. This will only lead to that person sending through more irrelevant releases in the future. So I try to explain why I don’t think it will work in our magazine, which hopefully is helpful feedback for them.

Jane: Do you welcome article suggestions from business owner / operators with expertise in a niche area?

Rebecca: Yes, we do. While we don’t accept uncommissioned articles in full, we’re certainly open to story ideas from experts. If the idea gets our attention, a journo will more than likely contact that person for expert comment, rather than have them write the article themselves. Having said that, we are ramping up the content on our website, which obviously opens up more opportunities for experts to supply content on topical issues more regularly. I’d encourage businesses to browse the site as a way to kick off some ideas.