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Do We Need to Buy Ads to Get Media Coverage? Publicity Dilemma 4

A well-known product development expert claims that few magazines feature new products these days, and of those that do, almost all of them print articles only about companies that advertise in the magazine. The game is "pay to play," he says, so if you write and distribute a release about a new product without buying ads in the magazines that reach your target market, you are wasting your time.

Is that true?

As a publicity expert and a former freelance writer for national magazines, I'm a bit more tuned in to magazines than the average person, and from my vantage point, this claim seems wildly mistaken.

Here's what I find in a consumer magazine that happens to be on my kitchen counter today - Everyday with Rachael Ray. This magazine covers cooking and entertaining tips, tied into a popular TV show on the Food Network. In the front of the magazine, Everyday contains a section called "Yum" that highlights new products from Orville Redenbacher, Target, Bed and Bath, Hammacher Schlemmer, and products or services from smaller companies Ilium Software, ThinkGeek and Banpresto. Not a single one of those companies has an advertisement in that issue.

Taking the same kind of look at a business magazine, Fast Company, I find in the "what's new" section near the front (which is where most publications cover new stuff), articles on new offerings from Panjiva, David Rockwell, Philips and StemSave. Again, not one of these companies has an advertisement in that issue of the magazine.

I agree that sometimes, in some magazines and papers, advertisers do get favored treatment in the non-ad pages, either in advertorial columns that are not clearly labeled as such, or through implications by sales representatives or editors that they'll be covered if they advertise. But this happens almost exclusively with smaller publications. The larger and more prestigious the publication, the less this happens. That's because it's a time-honored principle of journalistic ethics that advertising and editorial copy must be functionally separate.

By and large, then, you do not have to buy advertising to get media coverage for a new product. Follow the tips below and maximize your chances for publicity.

New Product Publicity Tips

1. Focus your release or product pitch on the benefits buyers get from the product. What can they do, have or avoid because of it? Whenever pitching, don't forget to mention the price and where people can buy the item.

2. Take advantage of three prime opportunities to promote your product: First, whenever it's brand new; second, for the Christmas holiday season; and third, for special sections related to other holidays like Mother's Day, Father's Day, or graduation season, or to a traditional time of year for promoting certain items, like cruises in January, wedding guides in February or March or back-to-school items in late August. For the Christmas holiday season, get the scoop on who's looking for which kinds of items at GiftListMedia.com.

3. Make photos available. Some press release distribution services now allow you to send a photo or even a short video along with a release for no extra charge. And if you go to the trouble of sending a product sample to publications, include photos too or indicate on your accompanying cover letter how they can get high-resolution photos from you instead of having to take them themselves.

4. Do you have a do-good angle? If you donate a portion of profits to a charity, or have something like organic or LEED certification, mention it in your publicity materials. Some publications and some product roundups focus on environmentally safe or child-safe or charity-friendly products only.

Publicity expert Marcia Yudkin is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity, Persuading on Paper, Web Site Marketing Makeover and eight other books. She has engineered coverage for herself or her company in the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Success, Women in Business and dozens of newspapers around the world. Get free access to a one-hour audio recording in which she answers the most common questions about getting media coverage at www.yudkin.com/publicityideas.htm

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