When Making News Beats Just 'Making the News'

by Rusty Cawley

There is a major difference between making news and "making the news." It is the difference between a shotgun and a slingshot.

Amateurs can "make the news." They can entice a morning TV crew to take video of a charity event. Or land a mention in a local newspaper column. Or even score a feature story in a trade magazine.

But these are one-time shots that are unlikely to leave an impression on your target audience. Simply "making the news" will rarely attract a steady stream of prospects to your door.

Yet even top PR pros tend to focus on "making the news." There are two reasons for this. First, it's relatively easy to score. Second, the boss rarely understands that simply "making the news" is virtually worthless to the bottom line.

For example: Taco Bell "made the news" a few years ago by piggybacking on an international story. The space station SkyLab was losing its orbit and was about to crash through the earth's atmosphere. The world press was obsessed with the possibility that the debris might strike a major city.

Taco Bell hired a boat to tow a gigantic target out onto the Pacific Ocean. If any debris hit the target, Taco Bell told the world, every American would get a free taco.

The stunt gave the news media a strong visual to associate with the more abstract story of potential space debris. It also lent a lighter side to a completely out-of-whack media obsession.

Now, I'm not criticizing Taco Bell. This was a great one-time stunt. But in the end the news coverage did little to attract new customers to Taco Bell. There were no follow-up stories to tell. There was no exciting idea at the heart of the company's tactic.

It was a stunt. And a funny one. Nothing more.

Taco Bell "made the news." But it didn't make news.

Here's another way of looking at it: "Making the news" is pure expense; making news will generate revenue.

The PR Rainmaker understands this crucial difference.

Sometimes "making the news" is all you can manage, given your time and resources.

But your primary goal should always be to make news. You accomplish this by helping to make your company, your product, your service or your idea so fascinating that reporters stand in line to write stories about you.

Example: Steve Jobs at Apple consistently makes news because his designs and concepts are so beyond that of his peers. His visionary ideas do not always translate into profits, but they almost always generate national news stories: the Macintosh, the Newton, the iBook, the iMac, and now iTunes.

The lesson here is: If you want to make news, you must become "remarkable."

"Remarkable" is not something you bolt onto the company or paint onto your product. It should be the seed of your company's culture from Day One. If you lack this quality, then reinvent yourself. Find a remarkable product, service or idea around which you can grow a remarkable company.

This isn't as hopeless as it sounds.

Consider water. Who in their right mind, during the 1980s, would ever have predicted that bottled iced tea would inspire a marketing war in the 21st Century? Then came Snapple.

Consider off-road vehicles. Then came the Hummer.

Consider trading cards. Then came Pokemon.

Here's a note for aspiring CEOs everywhere: A team of topnotch PR Rainmakers should be at your side from the first day you begin to develop a new product. Why? Because they can help you build "remarkable" into your product.

The pattern today is for the designers and the marketers to create a product, then to call in the PR team to churn out media kits and press releases. News flash: That doesn't work any more.

Reporters are burned out on the flash of the New Economy. They want real stories that will pass muster with editors and with readers.

If you want to anyone to notice your company, you must make news. And that means you must hire a PR Rainmaker to help you install "remarkable" into your company, your culture and your product from the start.

Copyright 2003 by W.O. Cawley Jr.

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About the Author

Rusty Cawley is a 20-year veteran journalist who now coaches executives, entrepreneurs and professionals. For your free copy of the new PDF ebook "PR Rainmaker: Three Simple Rules for Using the News Media to Attract New Customers and Clients," visit http://www.prrainmaker.com.

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