U.S. 1 first profiled Tom Szaky, the Princeton dropout who founded the fast growing recycling/manufacturing company, TerraCycle, back in November, 2004. At that time we could not have imagined that he would pop back up in our pages in 2007, caught up in a David-and-Goliath lawsuit with Scotts lawn and plant care company. Or that he would be quoted again in our pages in November, 2008, when he participated in a Princeton University panel for Global Entrepreneurship Week.
And just last month, when we profiled classical pianist Soyeon Lee, Szaky’s wife, and told the story of how Lee once performed in a gown made from 6,000 discarded grape juice containers, we did not realize that Szaky would be back in the news this week, with an appearance on Thursday, May 14, at 5:30 p.m. at Labyrinth Books to promote his new book, “Revolution in a Bottle,” excerpts from which appear on page 35.
We can safely say these serendipitous appearances in U.S. 1 had nothing to do with any public relations campaign mounted by the Trenton-based TerraCycle. But meanwhile the company gained mountains of favorable publicity from national and local media.
How did Szaky do it? His book includes some PR pointers that others might find useful. His most important rule regarding PR is to not hire a PR agency. They are expensive and do not so much strive to get you press coverage as collect a monthly retainer.
Szaky also recommends being kind to journalists. Start with a press releas that tells a good story. Journalists are busy. If they can get their hands on relevant material they don’t have to put a lot of work into, they will take it. But also remember to help journalists do their job. Make sure to provide journalists with access to the people they want to talk to.
Also remember to follow up on the phone and make sure the editors received your press release. Editors get tons of E-mails a day, and much of it is irrelevant. Even if they get your E-mail it might not have gotten read.
And in the spirit of helping journalists do their jobs, ask them when you call if it’s a good time to talk. If it is, get to the point fast; and if it isn’t, ask them when a better time would be.
And don’t get tied up trying to land stories in just the major papers. Focus on the papers that are local to your story. Whenever TerraCycle issues a new product it crafts press releases focused on each town in the store’s market — and it tells the papers covering Trenton and Princeton.
Yes, it’s time again for us to assemble the short stories and poems that will make up the contents of our last issue in July. U.S. 1 is not an academic literary journal and we have no formal submission guidelines. Just send us your stuff. But remember to include a brief personal and business biography — we openly favor submissions that come to us from the people who work or live in central New Jersey. See our ad on page 28 for details.