Writing a press release is easy - you have current information about your company that’s just happened, and you want to tell the world about it. But what do you do when you’ve gone a few months with nothing to write about? That’s when it’s time to get creative. Here are some basic suggestions to get your creativity going: Trend stories Trend stories are a wonderful way to fit your company into the larger dialogue. For example, if you’re in banking, take a look at the Check 21 legislation that banks are busy complying with today. (Check 21 essentially streamlines the check-processing system for banks.) Ask yourself - how can my company fit into this discussion? What’s unique and wonderful about what I’m pitching? If you don’t know that already, take a few minutes and jot it down. In what ways is your story different, special? In what ways are you solving a problem, offering advice or showcasing a new way of thinking and doing things? If you can fit your company into a larger trend like Check 21, editors will read on. They all like to put a local angle on a national story. The possibilities are endless to fit yourself into a trends story. Media alerts Media alerts are a lot like press releases, but rather than putting them out on the wire to be picked up by publications, you announce then on the wire to journalists. Media alerts are a calling card - they let journalists know you’re going to be announcing something that’s important, and you want to give all the journalists who will care a heads up about the news. (Both businesswire.com and prnewswire.com offer such services.) Basically a media alert lets the media know the who, what, when, where and why of an event or a story idea. It gives a reporter a heads-up - if you will - about a topic. That way, if a reporter wants to do his or her own story about the topic - all they have to do is call up the contact on the media alert to get the information - then both parties are in business. No doubt a story will follow. In proper PR etiquette, you should call the reporter to garner his or her interest in your story as well as putting it on the wire. Articles I love writing articles. They are a great way to get your point across and be considered an independent, industry expert. If you’ve never done this here’s how to start: Have a look at upcoming editorial calendars in the trade publications in your industry. Look at whether the publication has a policy of accepting vendor-submitted articles. If they do, write up an abstract outlining what you can write about, determine who the appropriate editor is to send the pitch to, make sure you have enough lead time to meet the deadline based on the editorial calendar, and fire off an e-mail to that editor. A few days later, call the editor to see if he or she has any interest in your story. Editors are busy, and they like the idea of getting a well-written article about a trendy topic from an industry expert. Once the editor agrees to run your story, find out how long your article should be, and get a deadline so you know when to submit your story. Ask if you can provide the editor with a picture of the expert, and you’re in business. You’ve now become an expert. Just make sure you provide the editor with a great story at the agreed-upon deadline. Then you’ve paved the way to setting yourself up for additional story assignments. You also can use the credit on your resume when submitting abstracts for other editorial and speaking assignments. Editorial calendars If you aren’t taking advantage of editorial calendars from newspapers and magazines in which you want coverage, you’re missing a valuable tool. An editorial calendar is a schedule that outlines specific topics the publication will address in each issue that year. It also tells you about upcoming special sections and other supplements. The calendars are printed primarily for advertisers so they can plan their advertising budget months ahead. But they’re also valuable road maps that can help you pinpoint the issue where your story might best fit. Editorial calendars from several publications, placed side-by-side, give you a high-level view of which publications you should target with your story ideas, and when. Far too many businesses learn about special sections only when a newspaper advertising rep calls asking them to buy an ad. By that time, most of the stories for the section are already assigned to reporters. For a free editorial calendar, call the publication’s advertising department or check out its Web site. By looking at a publication’s media kit — where editorial calendars are typically included — you can find out a treasure trove of demographic information about the readers of any publication. By the way, when you pitch an idea to editors or reporters, don’t expect any brownie points by telling them you’re buying an ad. They don’t care, and the insinuation that you can “buy” coverage can actually work against you. Editorial and advertising departments at most media outlets are autonomous. So the best advice is: If you buy an ad, don’t say a word about it to the reporter. All of these suggestions back up the news stories you see on the networks and in the newspapers every day. In fact, if PR people didn’t work these angles to create news, 75 percent of the time you wouldn’t have any news! Depending on what you’re competing with in the news that day or week, your story can make the headlines. Nancy Pieretti is an independent public relations practitioner. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 268-8007.