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Getting Personal: 5 ways to get your story out without advertising

As a public relations practitioner, you'd like to think that content is what makes a publication tick and that advertising dollars really have nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, that is an idealistic, if not unrealistic view of the world of PR. The truth is that advertising dollars do sometimes dictate who gets more coverage. It's frustrating, but it's true. However, there are ways to get attention without resorting to advertising.

One reason why journalists don't pick your story over that of someone who advertises in their publication is simply that they don't have anything invested in you. They don't know you personally, they have no reason to help you out and, let's face it, they don't owe you a thing! Maybe it's time to change that and build some serious relationship clout with the journalists that matter to you. Here's five ways to get their attention.

1. Tweet Tweet

If you want to get someone's attention, you have to know what's important to them. Start following a journalist on twitter and get to know what matters to them. Once you've got a good idea, feel free to respond to their tweets or retweet. This will get you on their radar and when the time comes to pitch your story, you know the journalist has at least seen your name before.

2. Your Two Cent's Worth

The great thing about the digital age is that most publications have gone online. This means that you can find most journalists’ stories on a website and you can comment on the story. Ask some in-depth questions about the piece or point out additional resources that can inform readers but remember not to 'show up' the article. Complement, don't compete. This will get the writer's attention quickly but be sure to be transparent about who you are and where you're from. Also, commenting on every single story a journalist writes might be a bit stalker-ish, so practice a little discretion here too.

3. Reach Out and Have a Conversation

Once you're relatively sure that the journalist has at least seen your name, you can take the next step and make contact. Be direct and ask them straight out what they are working on and what type of stories they need. This can transition to asking them if they are working on anything you can help with, even if it's connecting them to someone else who can help. The point is that they will remember you as someone who is willing to help and will start coming to you independently for help with the future articles.

4. The Personal Touch

If you've already made an introduction, then you are now set to send the journalist information they need. Now that you know what they are looking for, there is no excuse for sending them information they can't use. If you're pitching, make it a personal pitch with the message that since they cover a particular field, you wanted to share something that you thought would be really relevant for them.

5. Practice the Five 'R's

Above all, be Respectful, Responsive, Reliable, Realistic and (most of all) be a good Resource. If you're checking all the boxes on this, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to get on a journalist's good side.

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