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July 2, 2003
STREETWISE COMPLETE PUBLICITY PLANS: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement
By Sandra Beckwith
Adams Media Corporation, 1st Edition (May 2003). $19.95, 341 pages, $13.97 through Amazon.com

“Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement,” by Sandra Beckwith meets the expectations of its title by providing a step-by-step guideline on the best way to get press for a client.

This paperback, textbook-like publication features five main parts. They are: “What Publicity Can Do for You,” “Publicity Plan Tactics,” “Elements of a Publicity Plan,” “Seeking Out Ways to Further Your Publicity Opportunities,” and “Creating and Executing Your Publicity Plan.”

Beckwith, the owner of Beckwith Communications, has been an award-winning publicist for more than twenty years and has worked on both the corporate and agency sides, including positions with Burson-Marsteller. She has appeared on national television programs, such as “CBS This Morning” and “The Montel Williams Show,” and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

She knows the importance of getting press for a client and the book is focused on how to do that.

She begins with an explanation of the difference between advertising and public relations saying, “Publicity is more powerful and more influential than advertising. That’s because publicity is usually linked to newsworthy events or information that make it useful or interesting. Studies at the Harvard Business School estimate that a news item that refers to your product, company, or service is worth ten times more than the advertising cost of the space or air time. That extra value – that additional credibility – is because of the implied editorial endorsement of the press.”

And she accurately adds, “Mailing a customer or prospect a reprint of an article that positions you as an expert has far greater impact than mailing an ad slick.”

The beginning of the book features such headlines such as “Publicity Can Establish You as an Expert,” Publicity Can Shape Public Opinion,” “Publicity Provides Credibility That Opens Doors,” and “Why Your Competition Is Always in the News.”

In addition, throughout the guide there are blue highlighted text boxes with eye-catching headlines such as “Great Ideas from the Big Guys,” “What’s Your Angle?”, “The Top Ten Newspapers and Who Reads Them,” “Publicity Visuals,” “Publicity Generating Event Ideas,” among others.

There are 25 chapters with such titles as “Finding Something Newsworthy to Say,” “Writing a Killer Press Release,” “Sample Press Releases,” “Writing Pitch Letters That Get Results,” “Using Tools for Opportunistic Publicity,” “Sample Publicity Plans,” and “Putting What You’ve Read Into Practice.”

Beckwith emphasizes the placement opportunities available in trade publications in the chapter “Trade, Consumer, and Internet Media – Which is Right for You?” She discusses the benefits of getting articles published in the trade press while encouraging the publicists to push for placements in consumer magazines. “Go after these outlets with enthusiasm tempered with realism,” she adds.

But she cautions the reader to make sure what they are publicizing is newsworthy. “Imagine yourself as one of those readers, listeners, or viewers and ask yourself, “So what?” If you didn’t work at your company, would you find this information appealing?”

This is one of the main problems facing PR people. Many times their boss thinks news about their company is more fascinating than it really is.

The chapter, “Writing a Killer Press Release,” focuses on the most important elements of the release. Beckwith adds, “Both a commonly used and overused tool, it is the basis of any solid publicity program.”

In this chapter she emphasizes the importance of writing a catchy headline and attention-getting lead. She covers style, use of statistics, facts, and quotes and numbered lists or tips.

She asserts that the five Ws and one H, who, what, when, where, why, and how, should be in the first two paragraphs. Press releases should also be written in newspaper style and should contain a paragraph that describes a company without exaggeration. Avoid complicated language in releases, keep them short, make them clear, and most importantly fact check, proofread, and check them again, she urges.

Because the book is broken down into detailed sections, it makes for easy referral.

A public relations professional working on a press conference could easily go to that chapter to find some helpful tips on making the conference as interesting and newsworthy as possible.

This is a helpful book for PR firms and corporations to have in their library and also to give out to junior-level staffers, who may not have studied public relations in college. In addition, the guide provides helpful reminder tips for more experienced public relations professionals.

In addition, the book features sample templates for press releases and articles and press conference checklists, along with sample pitch letters, case histories, op-ed pieces, PSA scripts, media alerts, backgrounders, fact sheets, and cover letters.

Streetwise also publishes many other business books, including “24 Hour MBA,” “Business Letters,” “Customer-Focused Selling,” “Sales Letters,” “Small Business Success Kit,” and “Time Management,” among many others. For more details on Streetwise books, visit www.adamsmedia.com.