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PR: Is There Room For The Little Guy? :

PR: Is There Room For The Little Guy?

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With all the resources commanded by large companies, big associations and huge governmental agencies, it would seem as though individuals and small organizations could not compete for media attention. After all, don’t big organizations dominate the media if only because they’re so large?

In a word, no.

Every year Fortune magazine identifies the 500 largest American companies, the very organizations that should dominate the media, if domination were possible, on the basis of size, resources and influence. But how many Fortune 500 firms can you name? Suppose you stop 100 people on the street and showed them the Fortune list. How many could identify the principle products or services offered by individual companies?

There is a somewhat perverse reality concerning large organizations and the media. Although corporate giants, unions, government and other institutions receive extensive press attention, one can argue that general media coverage is remarkably limited considering the players involved.

The Missing Ingredient

Suppose General Widget, a $5 billion conglomerate with 32 factories in 11 states, increases sales by 12 percent. A news release goes out, but what gets into print? Maybe a paragraph or two in business sections or just a single line in a list of corporate earnings. What gets on radio or TV? Five seconds on a business report or maybe nothing.

What’s the problem?

Large organizations often have little to offer to reporters other than size. They’ve grown big over many years doing things that in many cases are not new (“We built the Cloverdale Works in 1903 . . .”), innovative (“We’ve been making the #407 widget for 36 years . . .”), or particularly understandable to anyone outside the industry (“The reverse camber rod flexes inversely when the glombar decelerates, causing the rear fleenstones to twist laterally . . .”).

There are many General Widgets in the world and they often compete for attention in a limited number of national media outlets. With so much competition and so little space, it’s obvious that not everyone will receive coverage.

General Widget — with its excellent information program and media contacts — is always there. A journalist who cannot find information and ideas from other sources can always go back to a General Widget.

The Advantages of Small

Individuals and small organizations, however, are rarely beset by the problems above. Being small often means being new, innovative, and highly-competitive. There may be similar companies or organizations elsewhere, but relative to a given area or industry a small firm can be unique.

Small businesses are often at the heart of terrific stories. Would you rather read about companies closing and factories laying off workers or about new technologies and prosperous entrepreneurs? Small organizations must be doing something right, they consistent generate more new jobs than the largest companies.

The absolute best case, of course, concerns the Internet. Just look at the leading Internet sites today and ask how many of the companies behind them even existed 10 years ago. These companies are often the source of great stories.

What Reporters Want

The media, for its part, loves to hear from individuals and small organizations. But for journalists, the problem of dealing with individuals and small businesses is that it’s hard to tell who represents a good story and who doesn’t. There may be 5,000 small organizations in an area or industry, but do reporters really have the time to call each one?

If you’re a professional individual, association leader or have a small business you might want to help those websites, periodicals and stations that might reasonably have an interest in you or your ideas, products or services. It’s okay to send a brief email to a few journalists, something that says, “If it ever happens that you do a story about my product (or service or industry or whatever we may be able to provide (information, a plant tour, statistics, reports, a lively interview, etc.). We’ve been in the business for 14 years (or: “We’ve developed a new technology,” or “I’m the president of an industry group,” or “We’re the largest broker in town,” etc.) and we may be a useful source when it comes time to develop a story. Please feel free to call.”

Given a choice between calling old sources time and again, or new sources who may offer different perspectives, journalists will be open to new contacts. After all, the very fact that there is a new source may justify or validate an otherwise mundane story in a business always looking for something new, something different, and something unique.

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