Presently, Lenz is orchestrating a PR campaign for—a free web site that helps doctors and nurses administer current chemotherapy treatments in a more accurate and efficient manner. While it may not sound exciting, may revolutionize the way cancer care is delivered to millions of patients. But only if people hear about it.

So, our challenge is to take a new product and make it a household name…without the luxury of an advertising budget. That’s where PR, or public relations, comes in. We need the media to write and talk about for free. Thankfully, we’re not asking for favors. That’s because PR is “at its best, a win-win partnership between publicists, the clients whose products they promote, and journalists,” according to Eric Yaverbaum, Co-founder and president of Ericho Communications. That means a good story benefits everyone. We’ve got the story. Now, we just need to push persuasive messaging to the appropriate media with repetition.

Here’s how we’re doing it.

PLANNING To organize the process, we developed a publicity plan that includes a product summary and key messaging, goals and timelines, the media we’re targeting, and the distribution channels we’ll use. The publicity plan spells out where we want to go and how we’ll get there.

PRODUCT SUMMARY AND MESSAGING Step one is understan ding the product you are pitching so you can recognize and communicate its relative benefits. With, Lenz is in a unique position because we assisted in product development––we helped create the site’s intricate coding that matches patient-specific information with an appropriate treatment plan at the touch of a button. So, we know the product, but need to tell its story to everyone else. Unlike many PR campaigns, this one isn’t marketing our product against others, but against the status quo, or current way of doing things.

Therefore, our messaging aims to meet two objectives.

1) Explain’s benefits over the standard way of prescribing chemotherapy. To do that, we state in our press release that enhances patient care in three measurable ways: a. By providing oncology professionals the latest treatment protocols, with strict adherence to the published dose, schedule, and administration guidelines. b. By dramatically increasing the efficiency with which chemotherapy orders and related documents are generated. c. By significantly reducing prescribing mistakes, administration errors, patient risk, and physician liability.

2) Address any perceived barriers to entry, i.e., reasons doctors and nurses might be hesitant to start using our new product. Persuading people to change behavior is difficult under any circumstances, but it’s nearly impossible if it takes more time, costs more money, or yields unknown results. We needed to communicate that, here, the opposite is true, so we developed the tagline “Fast. Free. Reliable.” and extended this theme across our messaging.

GOALS AND TIMELINES After some preparation in December, we decided the first phase of the campaign will run January – March. After three months, we will measure the results, evaluate our status, and determine what to do next. It’s always a good idea to set measurable goals, and to recognize the difference between PR goals and product goals. A PR goal would be 50+ media hits. A product goal would be a 50 percent increase in web traffic.

TARGETED MEDIA For starters, we identified three primary media audiences that will help us promote the product. Dozens of media outlets fall within each category.

1) Trade publications Oncology professionals read oncology publications, which are often hungry for relevant content. Getting coverage here shouldn’t be too difficult, but will raise the web site’s profile among our target audience.

2) Local media In Atlanta, we consider local media to be everything from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to the free dailies that collect dew on your front lawn. The audience isn’t as targeted, but doctors and nurses also read mainstream media, and the cumulative effect of a dozen stories in the Atlanta press could dramatically increase web traffic and catch the eyes of our primary target, the national media.

3) National health and business media This is unquestionably the largest investment of resources, but offers the greatest return as well. Whereas the trades and local publications might reprint your release the day they receive it, landing a story in the Wall Street Journal usually takes connections, weeks of effort, and plenty of luck. But the pay-off is huge: A single article in the WSJ business section could transform into the new standard of cancer care.

DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS With the release, we’ll use three primary distribution channels. I’ve listed them here from most narrow to most broad.

1) Mailing Members of the media love personal attention, and so small, memorable gifts that don’t insult their integrity can go a long way. We’ll pick a targeted group of reporters we want to cover our product and send them a package with the press release, some information about Lenz, and a token gift that is relevant to the story—perhaps a pen or mouse pad. Each package goes out with a personal note. One week later, we’ll follow up, ask about the gift, and see if we can help with a story.

2) Blasting Through the years, Lenz has developed a deep database of local, regional, and national media contacts that we push our clients’ news out to on a regular basis. It’s too long and varied to deserve the personal attention described above, but they’ve covered our stories before, know our names, and will return our calls. We hit each of these contacts with a blast email or fax, depending on their preference.

3) Wiring Like many PR agencies, Lenz subscribes to a newswire service that distributes our clients’ releases to thousands of media outlets nationwide. These are people we don’t know personally, but want to reach. The distribution can be specified state-by-state or nationwide, to a general or specific news field, or to a combination of both. Equally important is the service’s ability to post our release on dozens of news wires where reporters often go looking for an interesting story on a slow news day.

CUSTOMER SERVICE is one customer of ours. Each of our media contacts is another. We try to serve them well. Reporters are more likely to cover our story when it’s easy for them. We give the media our cell phone numbers and return their calls immediately. We supply additional product details and background information on their interview subjects. We ask what else we can do. Like all sales, selling to the media is about developing a relationship. We make sure ours are good ones.

TRACKING There’s nothing more satisfying than learning that all your effort produced a story, and nothing less frustrating than wondering if your product was covered somewhere without your knowledge. That’s one reason we track the media we get. Another is to show our clients that their investments are paying off. We track the media in these ways

1) We read everything we can Don’t make this your only tracking method because you’ll miss something. But, reading for yourself provides a sense of your product’s visibility to the average consumer.

2) We ask the media to let us know if something is running Be careful with this one, too. Most reporters are too busy to let everyone they write about know when something is running, and some resent the request. Still, your media relationship should be a partnership focused on producing quality news. When this is the case, your contact might be as excited about the story as you are, and more than happy to call with the big news.

3) We use media alerts Google, like most of the search engines, offers free and unlimited news alerts. We get an email when our selected keywords appear on their news page, and they get another web visitor. It’s win-win, but not 100 percent reliable. A lot can slip through the cracks. You’ll learn this when the local paper covers your story, but Google never lets you know.

4) We use tracking services Tracking services are the most reliable way to determine if your story has run. They use similar technology as Google––with an added manual component––but cast a much wider net that picks up more news. There is an expense involved, but Lenz, like most PR agencies, offers the service to its clients for free.

SAYING “THANK YOU!” Journalism can be a thankless profession. When a reporter covers our story, we let them know how much we appreciate it with a hand-written note and phone call. They deserve it, and will remember us next time.