All of us on the Funding Gates marketing team just can’t stress enough the importance of getting local press coverage for your small business. Potential customers still trust news sources more than any other resource, and the links you get from the online version of the article are the best thing for your business website’s SEO.
Enticing the media to do a story on your business is no easy feat. There are good ways to approach the media (that work!) and there are bad (that don’t work). Here are 10 tips to help your business build strong, not forced, media relationships to get you the coverage you want (and deserve!).
1. Research Journalists
Before cold calling the media, it’s best to do some research to find journalists who cover stories related to your business. The most successful way to befriend a journalist and get press coverage is to write to the relevant one! Journalists will know you’re just seeking attention if you write to them without even looking up what their “beat” is! Besides, basic news principles dictate that you’re more likely to get coverage if your press release pertains to a writer’s beat- the right message to the right person. A great place to start is on Help A Reporter Out (HARO), a free publicity service resource that brings together thousands of reporters and businesses every day.
2. Interact on Social Media
Once you’ve compiled a list of contacts, spend several weeks getting to know them via social media. Follow their professional accounts, comment on their posts, and even +1 their Google Plus content. In so doing, you’ll establish yourself as an active member of their online community. They’ll see your name pop up and be curious about who you are and what your story is. It takes time and effort to build significant media relationships.
Looking for different ways to interact with your news contacts on social? Try sending them a compliment or answering questions they pose on Twitter (even if it’s unrelated to your field, such as “Where’s a good place to eat in New York?”). ReTweet their articles with a compliment (“Great story on the zoo by @name!).
However you connect with them on social, remember not to rush it. Building relationships takes time. Spend several weeks (or more!) interacting online before asking a journalist to cover a story on your company. And use your small business’ Twitter account!
3. Personalize Your Emails
When you do reach out directly to your news contacts, be sure to use their names; “To whom it may concern” sounds like an automated message. By personalizing your emails, you show that you took the time to research each journalist and that the correspondence matters to you. Include personal anecdotes or details from their reporting. The best way to get on their good side is to show you’re a true fan, and a friendly local too! Press coverage almost never comes to mass emailers!
4. Give Advance Notice
You need to give reporters several weeks notice before springing a potential story on them. It’s in your best interest to give them time to prepare, and not to inconvenience them if you can help it (not to mention the fact that advance notice will likely make your story possible!). Newspapers create content calendars months in advance, so make sure to let them know of an event you’re hosting or a special occasion as far in advance as possible. The best way to attract media is to create an event that’s newsworthy- a community service project, a town hall meeting, or even a kid’s halloween costume fashion show! Once you have the reporter there covering your event, they can learn more about your business.
5. Be Transparent
In the digital age, almost everything is on the record. Giving journalists the relevant facts and information about your company (good and bad) will always be more beneficial than having potentially embarrassing information turn up in a Google search. You research your media contacts. It’s safe to assume they will research you. Good press coverage, and a news story is more interesting if it includes you overcoming difficulties anyway!
6. Provide Sources
Offer your contacts a handpicked list of sources, including contact information. This gives the journalists a solid set of leads (saving them time), and allows you to have a little input in how your message is shaped. Keep an updated list of extra happy customers, or customers whom you’ve helped in a special way. If you ever get a chance to network with a local official (and you should be trying to!), make sure to stay in touch- these are the kinds of sources that will immediately attract the attention of a journalist.
7. Prepare Your Message
Think of the types of questions you might be asked in an interview and come up with some thoughtful answers. If it seems appropriate, ask for the questions ahead of time, so you can prepare written responses. Keep your quotes concise and focused on your key message. This is an infrequent opportunity given to you to leave a lasting impression- this article will exist online for years to come!
8. Be Deadline-Friendly
There’s nothing worse for a reporter than a person who isn’t accessible. Reporters have deadlines, and they must be able to contact you if needed. Follow-up questions are common, so let your media contacts know how and when would be best to reach you. Update your website to include a special “Media Requests” email or phone number (it can even just be your cell). Not only will this indicate to the press that your business is newsworthy, but it will also assure them that they could complete a quick write up on your business in time for their deadline.
9. Invite Them to Your Space
Face-to-face time with journalists is crucial to building rapport. Invite them to see you in action, either by visiting your home base, or through a planned demo. You want reporters to get a feel for how your business operates. Offering photos of your storefront, products, services, etc., is always a plus. Often, photojournalists will take their own pictures, but if they’re short on time, they will appreciate yours.
10. Say “Thank You”
When someone publishes a story about your business, it is vital to say “thank you.” Send a small token of your appreciation, or take them out for coffee to continue developing your working relationship, or even offer to be a source for future articles if they need it. Small gestures will pay off in the long run. You can even employe this tactic for the usual work- a “thank you” for a well done story about your industry or town. Sending “thank you” cupcakes and cookies is a great way to remain top of mind for your local reporter.