How to Turn Ideas into "Ink"

By: Colleen Troy

“I want to be on page one of the Wall Street Journal.”

We hear it all the time: a very real, very deserving business focused on the biggest PR hit possible, and throwing down the gauntlet before their PR agency. 

And we understand: having a big, juicy PR hit acknowledges one’s genius. It signals to the world that all the pain and suffering of the entrepreneur and her loved ones were actually worthwhile.

As a long-time practitioner of publicity and earned media, I have lost count of the new business meetings that started with the challenge to land a big fish, ideally on our first foray into the waters. And that is usually followed by narrowed eyes and this challenge: “I mean, we’re hiring you for your contacts, right?” 

Here’s the truth: the right marriage of client and publicist has less to do with ready contacts and more to do with strategic thinking and creative relationship skills. 

It’s important to understand how publicity really works. Typically, it’s up to the publicist to do the research, help craft the pitch, find the right target (journalist), take aim, and “shoot.” We tenaciously outreach, follow up and cajole. This is true whether the target media person is a dear old friend, or a stranger. (In fact, dear old friends sometimes make us work harder, just to guard against their own bias).

We, and lots of others in our field, favor the term “earned media” to define coverage. Working closely with our clients, we earn this media by cultivating the right storytellers and sharing the right story. This is not advertising: we can’t write the script. We suggest, we influence, and then we wait.

The old saying goes: in advertising you pay and in PR, you pray. And it’s true. You hope someone picks up the pitch, writes the story as you’d like it to be, that it makes the final cut among editors, and appears in print, online or on the air. You and your publicist both pray you hit all your messaging points. And we hope it makes the phone ring or fills the shopping cart.

So when your time comes to assume the spotlight, what should you ask a publicist? 

Hah, that was a trick question! You should start by telling said publicist the following:

  • Why your product/service/discovery matters to the world.
  • What sorts of people would benefit from reading about it or seeing it online?
  • Who will be the spokesperson for your product or organization?
  • How have you measured success within your business plan?

It’s then up to the publicist to help you achieve those goals through a smart use of earned media. 

That might mean you focus on less-sexy, but highly profitable opportunities in trade publications, in online forums that build SEO, or with baby steps involving local media that build to the big leagues.

And it might just mean a shot at the Wall Street Journal. But only because you – and your publicist – believe you’ll earn the right to appear there.


Colleen Troy, Founder of TouchPoint Communications