Every entrepreneur just loves the idea of getting media attention for their business. You too?
Who am I to argue! Having media coverage certainly does help in terms of a ‘stamp of approval’ and is a great conversation starter on your own platforms.
It’s not bad for the ego, either.
So let’s jump in and find out:
If there is one lesson I’d like you to take away from this post, it’s that the KEY to scoring media coverage for your business is to provide an interesting story for the audience.
It’s not about you (GASP!), and media coverage is not free advertising (HORROR!).
It’s not about the journalist, either. In fact, it’s all about their audience. Any self-respecting journalist has their audience front and centre in their mind at all times. If you have something that their audience would love, you’re half way there.
With that in mind, let’s work through my three-step process to getting media coverage for your business.
Unearth your story
Target a specific audience and publication
Be prepared to be great
OK here’s the first step.
If your goal is to get media attention, doing a fantastic job at running a successful business isn’t enough, I’m afraid.
You need a good story (an ‘angle’), and sometimes that’s hard to identify when you live and breathe your business every day.
An angle gives a journalist a reason WHY they should talk about your business at this particular time. If there’s no angle, it’s simply a plug for your business, which does seem to happen sometimes especially in regional newspapers but that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
Finding an ‘angle’ is what journalists are good at, but rather than sitting back and waiting for the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald to come knocking on your door with ideas for how your business can be propelled into the spotlight, a better strategy is to come up with your own angle and pitch it to a journalist.
I’ll use a local example to demonstrate a dead simple angle.
Symbio Wildlife Park is a well-known zoo in the Illawarra. As I write, they’ve just had a story published in the local paper, the Illawarra Mercury, about the fact that they’ve reached 100,000 likes on facebook. That’s an angle, albeit a pretty simple one, but you get the idea.
Even if you don’t have any super cute fluffy native animals handy, you can still find an angle for your biz.
Here are some pointers for figuring out a newsworthy angle:
Are there any elements of your business about which people say ‘wow really, that’s interesting’ – there’s a clue!
Do you have any staff members with interesting stories or backgrounds?
What are you doing that’s different and/or innovative?
How are you contributing to your community above and beyond expectation?
Have you had any interesting swings or trends in clientele?
Do you serve any VIPs or celebrities or particularly interesting customers?
Talk to your customers and find out what they come to you – they might have some great insight that you’re not aware of.
More often than not, your angle needs to be new. Ever wondered why the ‘news’ is called the ‘news’?
Sometimes a great angle might land in your lap and it could even be something that is, on face value, a blow to your business.
For example here in Wollongong, a new barber business was targeted by graffiti artists – presumably with racist motives – and this led to a range of positive and supportive media coverage by the local newspaper and TV news and great exposure for the business.
If you’re still having trouble unearthing any little gold nuggets, you could take a proactive approach and organise a live event. This is a solid strategy as it gives the journalist something to talk about and point the audience to.
Ideas for an event could be a public seminar, an open-day, a competition, a pop-up freebie stall somewhere, a surprise community service. The great thing with events is that they give the media a visual element to the story. Plus, even if the media doesn’t turn up, you’ve just orchestrated a great way to meet more potential customers.
The key with the event is that, ideally, you still need a good story to go along with it, and even better if it’s one that links to an existing topical story, trend or theme.
Ever wanted to do something for your community? This is an extra incentive.
For example, during the recent flooding in the Illawarra, I saw a story about a café or restaurant who visited their local SES to provide huge platters of food and coffee to say thank you.
My feeling is that you do these sorts of things anyway, if that’s something you like to do, and it’s a bonus that local media loves these stories of communities coming together to help each other.
So you’ve got your angle. What next? Let’s figure out WHO to target and HOW.
As tempting as it is, you definitely shouldn’t target every everyone.
Gone are the days when you’d send a media release out to every journalist you’d ever heard of.Tweet This
These days, media pitching is targeted quite specifically – usually to one key publication and journalist. If it’s a super great story, it’ll develop a life of its own from there.
So in terms of who to target, you have several options. Getting coverage in a major metro or national publication isn’t easy unless you have good contacts and a great story of interest to this wide audience, so my suggestion is to start local.
Most people have a local publication of some kind – a local paper, radio or even local TV news. Even the major cities have their community newspapers. These are a good start if your angle is of interest to your local community (which, chances are, it is). The journalists are approachable and they’re always looking for great local stories.
Zooming in a little further, you could think about which section of that publication would be most suitable, and by then you’ll only be left with a small handful, if that, of potential journalists.
You can also look at publications in your industry or niche. These will typically be looking for more in-depth stories rather than a bit of positive news. This is when some networking could come in handy as you may well have the opportunity to introduce yourself in person to journalists and editors of industry publications.
Pitching a guest post on something else’s blog is another thing altogether, with a different process.
A note about targeting ABC radio. Local ABC stations can be wonderful for local stories and have large audiences, but if your story is purely a commercial one – forget it. The ABC is not meant to promote or recommend one business over another and so any blatant promotion is a no no. For the ABC, make sure your angle is well and truly of interest and value to their audience and go very easy on the plugs!
Once you’ve figured out who to target, you simply need to get in touch! As it turns out, journalists are humans too and generally go by the same rules of etiquette as everyone else.
Some businesses I come across are annoyed that their competitors get media attention and they don’t. The difference? One business reaches out to the media, the other simply does not. The journalists are not going to come to you (unless you’re really lucky). You do have to be proactive.
Find the email address (sometimes there are generic news@ accounts or similar, try to bypass these and get a real person’s email address). Then I suggest you get to work writing an email.
Emails should be succinct, personalised and show how your story is of interest to their audience.Tweet This
In your actual ‘pitch’, standard practise would be to send a short email with a media release, either in the body of the email or attached (I do both).
Writing a good media release takes more research and practise than I’ll go into here, or it’s best left to the PR professionals.
There’s no reason you can’t contact a journalist without a media release, and I’d recommend this approach over spending a day trying to craft the perfect release. Just structure a short email pitch and tell them the (brief version of) your great story. Include contact details and a link to more info like your site.
Remembering when writing your pitch that unqualified statements like ‘awesome, unique, leading’ mean nothing. Ditch them. Use numbers and facts to SHOW what you’re trying to say, rather than tell.
During the ten years I was in the media, whenever a business or PR agency would call me I would half-listen then say ‘put it in an email’. So now that I work on the other side of the fence, I pretty much exclusively email except for the journos whom I know prefer to work on the phone (many radio and TV journos do, I find).
When you’re pitching a story for the first time, to a journalist you don’t know, I definitely think email is more polite and less annoying, but ultimately it’s up to you.
In terms of the best day and time to pitch, a Friday afternoon before a long weekend is probably not great, but overall my advice would be to just get it done instead of worrying about this kind of detail.
Feel free to follow up with the journalist if you don’t hear back after a couple of days. I suggest following up once, then dropping it. You don’t want to be a punisher.
Using a PR agency will get you the strategy, the angle, the contacts in the media and the pitching. That’s quite a lot of brain-space and time that you don’t have to worry about yourself.
Using a professional will also get you a nicely written media release which will sometimes be published pretty much as-is, which is pretty awesome! Also you can use it on your own website.
There are still no guarantees using a professional, but in my opinion, your chances are better and at the very least, you’ll have some professionally written copy you can keep using.
Working with an agency is more of a long-term strategy. Engaging someone to write and pitch a one-off media release, in my experience, hugely pales in comparison to an ongoing campaign where you work together more holistically rather than just trying for results from one campaign.
The thing to remember about working with a PR agency is that the magic still won’t happen without a bit of effort from you. You’ll need to working closely with the agency, sometimes adjusting your business to suit and certainly allowing plenty of time to workshop ideas and plans.
A potential story opportunity could pop up at any time, so you want to be ready to roll when the journalists start ringing.
A press kit is a nice (but not essential) ready-to-go package (usually a PDF) that explains what your business is all about, in the language that a journalist needs (i.e. not marketing-speak). It includes the facts, the stories and some photos and links to relevant information. A public relations business can whip up a press kit for you.
If you’re proactively seeking media attention, you do need to be ready to be available. Journalists, especially in TV, work to crazy deadlines and you need to work around them as much as you can. It’s not a good look to pitch a story then head out of state for a week.
Another thing you need to prepare is visual elements to your story, i.e. photos and/or video.
You’re not getting on page one without a photo!
More and more, I am providing to the press professional image, whereas in years gone by, images would always be taking by the publication’s official photographers. It’s worth investing in professional photos if you do a planned media campaign.
Even if you’re not supplying photos (or video), you need to be ready to answer the question ‘what visuals are there’? The answer doesn’t have to be mind-blowing, the photographers and camera people can do amazing things with very little, but there needs to be something.
In terms of being prepared to talk to journalists, I’d prefer you didn’t think too hard about this. The whole concept of ‘media training’ doesn’t really sit that well for me.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of people for radio and print, what I was looking for was what we liked to call ‘colour and movement’. Personality, passion, knowledge, experience and honestly.
What I wasn’t looking for was someone who was spinning the safe company message.
As clichéd as it sounds, the most important thing is to be yourself, and then you simply have to answer the questions.
The more measured you are, the less interesting you are. So take a deep breath and go for it – talk like you’re talking to a friend.
If you’ve got this far but you’re not sure you want to take this on as a DIY project, well 10 out of 10 for keenness, and you’re always welcome to get in touch to find out how Foxed can help make all your media attention dreams come true*.
*depending on the specific dreams.
PS. I’m giving a freeeee presentation on Tuesday 26 July at Illawarra Working Mother Networking Group – PR 101 for Mums in Business, I’d love to see you there!