Providing press clippings to journalists as background is such a common PR technique it’s like oxygen: you don’t even notice it. But, as Sherri Deatherage Green reports, PR pros are also learning that the right clips can attract new clients and breathe life into investor relations campaigns
Providing press clippings to journalists as background is such a
common PR technique it’s like oxygen: you don’t even notice it. But, as
Sherri Deatherage Green reports, PR pros are also learning that the
right clips can attract new clients and breathe life into investor
Good PR people don’t rest long on their laurels - or their front-page
stories in USA Today. Prime placements may be cheered as media relations
home runs, but the major leaguers turn those hits into grand slams to
bring home even more publicity, new clients and investment capital.
In other words, press clippings have many uses.
Sending press clips to journalists as background is routine for many PR
pros, but some argue that reporters aren’t likely to redo what’s already
been done. Even spokespeople for major clipping services don’t recommend
the practice. Sensitive writers become offended. ’It is a slap in the
face of the reporter who receives a clip published by a competitor,’
says former journalist Bill Neagus, a PR operative for Jacobs & Prosek
in Stratford, CN.
Laurie Kline, editor of Texas Technology magazine in Dallas, doesn’t
find background clips very useful. Reading them takes extra time and
doesn’t reduce the need for interviews. ’You have to check your facts
anyway,’ she says. Kline does look for quotable sources in articles, but
she prefers getting e-mail synopses and Internet links instead of hard
Other reporters enjoy reading what their peers write. ’I liked getting
clips simply because it helped to strengthen the rationale for doing (or
not doing) a story,’ says Larry Marscheck of Willman & Co. in
Jacksonville, FL. Marscheck edited several city magazines before turning
When using clips in press packs, don’t include more than five, and never
send reporters articles written by competitors, experts advise. Pitch a
new angle unique to the targeted media outlet. Tom Gable, CEO of the
Gable Group in San Diego, says his agency often sends technical articles
to journalists in ’vertical’ markets like real estate or biotech.
Good clips can have a greater impact on audiences less accustomed to
seeing their names in print. PR pros use them successfully to lure new
clients, attract venture capital and motivate employees and sales
’The greatest value of publicity is very often not the original audience
but the subsequent audiences,’ says Richard Weiner, senior consultant at
Porter Novelli, who represents Luce Press Clippings.
’Clips are a really good way to market yourself,’ asserts Bill Imada,
president of Imada Wong in Los Angeles.
Imada wooed Sprint several years ago, but it took some doing. He was
sending the company’s communications VP Asian-language clips about
competitors, along with his own English translations. ’I made a big
mistake,’ Imada realized. The company wasn’t calling him. So he sent the
next article without a translation and immediately got a call from the
Sprint exec, who couldn’t read the piece. ’How the hell do you think I’m
supposed to understand what this clip says?’ asked the VP, who ended up
hiring the firm. Now, Imada regularly sends clips to prospects with FYI
cards containing his contact information.
Eric Yaverbaum, cofounder of Jericho Communications in New York, also
aggressively uses clips to promote his agency and clients. Not everyone
reads The Wall Street Journal every day, so if a placement doesn’t
generate calls, make sure potential customers see it, he advises.
Clips can be valuable commodities for e-commerce startups, Yaverbaum
adds. ’Until a few months ago, companies were financed because of
clippings,’ he contends. Craig Olson, communications director for the
WishClick gift registry, says his company has done no advertising but
religiously posts articles on the Internet and sends quarterly clips
books to its retail partners. ’I’m sure that we will be compiling a book
to pass out to other investors,’ says Olson, who expects a ’funding road
show’ later this year. Weiner suggests incorporating clippings into
annual reports and stockholder statements.
Compiling packs for executives may be the most common PR use for
Neil Getzlow, media relations manager for H&R Block in Kansas City,
e-mails clips to managers every morning. He used a favorable clipping
from a trade magazine to get tax preparers revved up about a new refund
program earlier this year.
Unfortunately, copying press clippings can be fraught with legal perils,
though copyright holders seldom find suing small offenders
When in doubt, get permission or talk with your lawyer, advises Joe
Welch, a copyright attorney and partner in Chicago’s Pattishall,
McAuliffe law firm.
Companies should be especially careful when posting articles on Web
sites. To avoid complications with fees or copyright infringement, Welch
suggests linking back to originating sites. But online news content can
change too quickly for links to remain stable. ’We would love to do
links, but they are only as reliable as somebody who keeps them up on
the other side,’ WishClick’s Olson says. To get around that problem,
Bacon’s copies and archives text, says business development director
Bacon’s also provides customers with links and brief summaries, but
Buxbaum warns that clip services don’t pay copyright fees. Clients who
decide to reprint articles must take care of that on their own.
Companies can pay the Copyright Clearance Center (www.copyright.com)
annual fees for unlimited copying of articles from more than 9,600
publications for internal use, much like nightclubs pay ASCAP and BMI
for music rights, explains operations VP Bruce Funkhouser. Or they can
pay ’by the drink’ for individual reprints. Prices vary widely. Earlier
this year, CCC launched a digital rights management service through
which customers can order reprints, download text and pay fees online.
Dow Jones and The New York Times have signed up already.
Once legal hurdles are cleared, clips become a means and not an end to
good PR. ’What is the purpose of getting press clippings if you don’t
market them in some way?’ asks Chicago’s Jordan Miller, president of
DOS AND DON’TS
1 Select reprints that present your message most clearly or come from
2 Attach a cover sheet outlining a new angle not previously
3 When in doubt, get copyright permission to use articles, especially on
1 Send more than a few clips in each press pack.
2 Send reporters clips from competing publications.
3 Establish a Web link to an article unless you know it will still be on
the same site tomorrow.