Guide to Managing Media and Public Relations in the Linux Community

Peter Kitson

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Sample Chapter From Guide to Managing Media and Public Relations in the Linux Community
     Copyright © Sheldon Rose

Chapter 1. Introduction

1.1. Who Should Be Reading This Guide?

This document is intended for people who want to learn practical and cost-effective ways to raise the profile of an organization or promote new programs.

This guide provides useful information on how to generate positive public relations and news media coverage for Linux. By no means does the guide intend to teach all there is to know about public and media relations, but it does support you in building and maintaining a healthy public image.

1.2. What is Public Relations?

You have news to share—information that would benefit the Linux community. You have some idea of the people you want to reach with your news and views. Now the problem becomes: How to reach them in the most effective way? The better the communications between you and your audience, the higher the profile of your organization.

Generating publicity is not as complex as you might think. Most of the success of public relations centers on knowing what to do and when. Implementing these initiatives can dramatically increase awareness of your business.

Public relations (PR) is often confused with advertising, merchandising, promotion, or any of a dozen other buzz words in the marketing communications vocabulary. (By the way, marketing communications is a broad term that encompasses all of these disciplines.)

Public relations is about doing something newsworthy that you want to communicate, and then telling your audience (or very likely, several audiences) what you have done.

One of the most common public relations vehicles is the brief \'New Product\' announcement you see in magazines and trade publications. Often only a few lines or a paragraph in length, these announcements herald the launch of future products or services. These short announcements are typically triggered by a new product release, which may be accompanied by various forms of communications such as internal announcements to the organization\'s employees and external news releases to the media, stockholders, user community, and other groups. News releases trigger a chain of events that result in visibility.

There are some important terms that may help you understand public relations. News media refers to all the places where people read or hear about news, including newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and the Internet.

A news release, sometimes referred to as a press release, is a printed or electronic document issued by organizations who want to communicate news to editors, journalists, industry writers, or other media groups. Journalists write about the story for publication (if it is considered newsworthy), while editors control whether the story actually appears in a newspaper, magazine, website, or broadcast.

A news release contains important facts, quotes from key people, dates that the news happened (or will happen), and contacts for additional information. The news release is concise and usually runs no longer than two pages.

Public relations, then, can be thought of as the process that delivers your news to the people you want to reach through a broad, influential, and far-reaching news media community.

1.3. How Public Relations Differs from Advertising

International humorist Stephen Leacock defined advertising as: \'the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.\' But the textbook definition of advertising is: \'a form of persuasion that informs people about the goods and services they can purchase.\'

Advertising is very different from public relations. One key difference is that you always pay for the space and time of an advertisement (or commercial, which is an insert appearing on radio, television, or the Internet). By contrast, editorial coverage generated through public relations is not paid for by the organization issuing the news release. The media will pick up and publish the story because they consider it newsworthy, not as a paid advertisement.

Another crucial difference is that, in advertising, you have virtually full control over the message. Because you are paying for advertising, the ad or commercial runs your exact text (called copy), provided the copy complies with generally acceptable standards for advertising. In the case of public relations, the media outlet you are targeting is under no obligation to run the story in any form. If a media outlet does decide to run the story, an editor will generally rewrite the news release, or use pertinent information from the news release to create the news. (For instance, your news release might be used as part of a larger story on players in your industry or profession.) In addition, you have no control over when the release or news will run. All decisions are made by the editor.

As you can see, public relations is a cost-effective way of getting your story out. Taking the trouble to write effective news releases and to build a relationship with the relevant media will, in time, pay dividends in the form of exposure and prestige. Best of all, public relations probably costs less than a single advertisement.