An important part of marketing a small business should be gaining press coverage. But attracting media attention can be an art in itself.
Journalists like me get pitched every day, often multiple times a day. With so much coming at us, we journalists have to make quick decisions upon seeing an email or press release.
Fortunately, there are some battle tested ways to get your brand in front of the media. Here are 28 ways to get media coverage for your business.
How to Get Your Business in the Media
1. Know What The Media Outlet Covers
The biggest problem with most media pitches is that they are mismatched with what the publication, show or individual journalist covers.
Every media outlet has a style all its own based on its audience. Even if they cover the same news, different media outlets will cover it from different angles. Journalists may have specific “beats.” So not only does your news have to match, but your angle has to match, too. You can only learn these nuances by reading, watching or listening to the media outlet repeatedly.
2. Choose Email Over Phone
Today, media pitches should go through email. Avoid the temptation to call, unless you have a very specific question. Voicemails take more time to listen to, and can be hard to forward to the right person. Busy editors will simply hit the delete key on their phone if faced with a long voicemail with garbled words.
3. Reach the Right Person
Part of a PR pro’s value is in finding the right person. Even here at Small Business Trends we have multiple editors and writers. An email to one won’t necessarily be seen by anyone else.
Or go through the main contact form. Media outlets may use help desk software that routes communications to the right place based on drop-down menus or certain words in the message.
4. Target Regular Features
Does the media outlet have a regular feature? You can practically schedule your story to run in a print or online publication if you spend a little time to discover regular features where your company’s story would be a perfect fit. Media outlets are always looking for subjects for these regular features. Search for editorial calendars, or follow their Twitter feed to spot recurring features.
And be sure to follow any instructions for that feature. For instance, here at Small Business Trends we do a weekly small business spotlight. But you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother to look at the Contact page for how to submit a business for consideration. Instead, they send around general email pitches. In all likelihood their email is never seen by the editor responsible for that feature.
5. Let Them Know You’re an Expert
Every three months send an email indicating you are an expert and available for media interviews. Being quoted gets you and your business recognized in your field. Editors sometimes save these emails if they should need a source. Also, create a page on your website that identifies you as an expert on certain topics, so editors can find you through Google.
6. Be Easy to Reach
Nothing is more frustrating than an expert source who is hard to reach for an interview. Journalists work under tight deadlines. Be easy to reach by phone. Put a phone number on your website for media inquiries. Return calls immediately. Oh, and if you’re working with a PR pro, you need to respond to your PR rep who is trying to set up the interview for you. I’ve lost track of how many times PR reps say two days later they still can’t reach their client! If you’re not easy to reach, you won’t be contacted a second time by that journalist or media outlet.
7. Create a Resource Center for Media
Make it easy on media to cover your business. Create a media page where the press can easily grab your logo in color and black-and-white, screenshots, images of your top products, and headshots of key executives. Include high resolution versions. Also, include basic facts and figures about your business. Remember, if your business is not a main part of the story, the editor may decide to cut out your business completely rather than hold up the entire story for one missing piece of information.
8. Tweet @ Them
Twitter is great for making connections with journalists. Follow journalists on Twitter. And tweet at them if you have something relevant to say, by including their @handle in your tightly crafted pitch tweet. If they’re mobile-savvy reporters, they’ll likely get a notification on their phones. Knowing that, you definitely don’t want to overdo this.
Inserting your business into a breaking news situation — albeit indirectly — can have great (or disastrous) effects. There are low-key ways of newsjacking, though. Think, if there’s an unbreakable heat wave and you run an HVAC business, it’d be a perfect time to lend an expert voice to any news story.
9. Take Advantage of Freebies
A lot of news and trade news websites offer free events calendars or free listings of resources. Get any special events or information on these listings.
News outlets hosting these listings are usually following them in case they need to fill news and feature holes in their coverage. A well-written and comprehensive listing of yours may grab their attention and lead to a story.
10. Invite the Media to Your Special Events
Never forget to invite the media to any special event you’re hosting. Customer appreciation day, company anniversary — whatever. Give them easy access and always remind the press that you’re available to speak to them on any press release you issue. At an event, hold special times where you can address the press or they can ask you questions and get information.
11. Engage on Facebook
Find media with active Facebook Pages. Share their stories. Comment on their Facebook posts. At the very least, you’ll get some attention from their audience. It’s also a good way to get the outlet’s attention. Remember, a lot of reporters have their own Pages, too. Be sure to Like and engage there, too. It’s a great way to get attention.
12. Start With Blogs of Media Outlets
Some outlets have outlets of their own. For example, TV stations and newspapers often have blogs on their websites. While it may be difficult to get your business in the New York Times right out of the gate, perhaps you can get covered in one of its blogs by connecting with the bloggers. And you can still technically say you were covered on the New York Times website.
13. Create Your Media Short List
Maintain your own updated roster of media outlets, reporters, and other contacts in the media industry. Break the lists down to include lists of local and regional sources and another that is industry specific. And write notes so you remember details about how to reach certain people or stories they tend to cover.
14. Offer Exclusives (Sometimes)
If you operate your business in a competitive news market, offering an exclusive to one outlet may be a benefit. Press outlets in competition with each other are always looking for ways to get a leg up.
Be careful, though. This plan could backfire and those you didn’t offer the exclusive to may feel jilted.
15. Don’t Brag About Other News Outlets Covering Your News
Would you invite people to a dinner party and tell them you’re serving leftovers from the dinner party the night before? Don’t send a pitch email that brags about all the important news outlets that have already covered your news. It’s like telling the recipient he or she is second string.
16. Attend Community Events Where the Press May Be Present
Local small businesses do wonders for themselves simply by not being a stranger. Attend local community events. Set up a booth. The press is usually at these events and being there is a good chance to acquaint yourselves with them and vice versa.
17. Offer Review Products But Not Gifts
For companies with products: get to know the journalists who do product reviews. Contact them and offer a demo, trial or temporary review copy of your products. Do not offer free products or send gifts to journalists, however, as that could violate ethics rules of their employers.
18. Create a “Complete” Press Release
A press release today should include everything a reporter would need to write or produce a story about your business. This includes your logo, product images, screenshots, executive headshots, videos, links to online demos or free trials, and social media profile links. Also, provide facts and figures about your company including how many customers you serve, your markets, and where you have offices. The more complete your package, the more likely you are to get coverage.
19. Send Bulky Mail
Sometimes snail mailing a package with an inexpensive swag item and a personal note helps build relationships with journalists. Do not send anything expensive. Many media outlets have ethics rules prohibiting journalists from accepting items of value. But a branded thumb drive that costs $2 or a small branded notepad, along with a personal note, could be memorable without crossing the line.
20. Be Philanthropic
Be a benefit to your community, especially in times of need. Help organize or contribute to charitable drives. Get your name and your business’s name out in the community attached to something other than your business. When the press covers these charities, they’ll often mention who’s involved in helping. Getting your name on that list gets the media’s attention — and the community’s too.
21. Be a Resource Even After Your Story is Covered
If you’ve gotten coverage from a specific media outlet or reporter, stay connected with them. Reporters love knowing they can rely on someone as a source. Drop an occasional email with updates about your business and let them know you’re always available as a source of information.
22. Avoid Buzzwords and Tech Jargon
Every business has words and terminology specific to them. But most times, no one else really understands these buzzwords or wants to hear them. It’s hard for journalists to write about your new tech product if they don’t even understand what it is or does. Use plain language that clearly explains it.
23. Use Bullet Points in Pitches
The media loves information that’s easy to digest. Pitch your story with some quick-hit data and facts that can be easily consumed by the audience. Use stats — but not too many — and quick tidbits in bullets to get your points across.
24. Don’t Overhype
Creating a false sense of urgency won’t get you much attention. Like the boy who cried wolf, over-hyping a story could cost you credibility in the future.
25. Never Harangue Reporters
There’s a line between being a go-getter and an annoyance. It may be the wrong timing for your story or there may be some other reason for lack of response by the journalist. Don’t cost yourself an opportunity for coverage in the future by being pushy or obnoxious about your current pitch.
26. Do Something Unique
The media is always out looking for something unique. Make a statement via your brand. It could be a one-of-a-kind unique product you’ve created or have in stock, a vibrant new shade of paint on the outside of your store — anything that gets your business to stand out from the crowd. And here’s the important part: be able to clearly articulate what is different. Don’t assume a journalist will “get it” if you don’t point it out and state it clearly.
27. Create Research
The media is always looking for facts and statistics. If you collect any data in your business or have observations about facts and figures in your industry, compile it into a research report or index. Update it monthly or quarterly, and issue a press release around it. One of the ways that Barbara Corcoran, the multimillionaire investor on Shark Tank, got publicity for her business early on was through compiling statistics into the Corcoran Report about New York real estate.
28. Give a Shout-Out
When a media outlet gives your business attention, acknowledge it on your site. Designate a press page to collect these references. Share stories on social media too. While journalists don’t expect thanks from you, remember that the media outlet’s management may want to know that a story made an impact when they decide what to cover in the future.