There are few greater pleasures as a business owner than receiving a positive piece of coverage in the media. Whether it’s a personal profile, a pithy comment in a feature, or a write-up of your latest news announcement, it’s a definite boost for the ego, and the bottom-line.
But, as you may have experienced, securing exposure like this is rarely as straightforward as it seems. While it pays dividends to have a specialist PR professional on hand to guide you through the process, it also helps enormously if you as the client understand what makes a good story and what the media are looking for.
The media, and how it works, can sometimes seem like a mystery, particularly when you’re new to PR. So, it pays to get to grips with a few tricks of the trade before diving in. Here are some of our top trade secrets on how to boost your chances of getting in front of journalists, and most importantly, securing that all important coverage!
- Know your audience: Make the time you spend on media engagement count. PR success is all in the planning. Spend time researching both the publications and the journalists covering your sector and build a carefully curated and bespoke list. While many businesses dream of a profile in the Financial Times (and there is nothing to say it won’t happen!), you’re likely to have more immediate success securing coverage in publications that focus on your sector and with journalists that cover your beat. Think niche rather than national when you’re starting out.
- Build rapport: Remember that journalists are human beings, trying to do their job as well and efficiently as possible. So, once you’ve identified your target journalists, spend time connecting with them on social channels and observing and engaging with the content they’re producing. Before pitching , there’s no harm in sending a very quick email explaining that you have spent time following them and observing their content and asking if they would be happy to hear from you and receive a few bullets on x, y and z. Journalists often receive hundreds of blanket pitches a day - a short and well-constructed email from a business owner will often cut through the noise and help build rapport.
- Press releases aren’t always the answer: Press releases have a purpose, but they are becoming less and less effective due to their promotional nature. A press release is worth distributing when you have a genuine piece of ‘news’ that you want to share broadly with the industry. But beware, a press release rarely leads to a huge surge of media coverage. For example, a press release announcing the launch of your company or a piece of research may result in some coverage, but journalists are rarely interested in covering verbatim news. Longer lead success on the launch story will come from pitching into specific opportunities within that publication and tailoring your story to their format and interests, as well as offering exclusive content. Press releases have their place and are an excellent way to mark milestones and news on your website. However, always think twice before blanket emailing one out to all your target media.
- Pitch - don’t bore: If press releases are out, pitches are definitely in - and the shorter the better. It’s no wonder that journalists like to receive pitches on Twitter, where they only have 140 characters to digest. Whatever information you’re sharing with a journalist keep it short and sweet. A journalist will often only read your headline - so make it count.
- Speed is of the essence: A fantastic way to secure media coverage is to respond to a journalist request (check out journorequest on Twitter), or comment on a news story that has just broken, and that you know certain journalists will be likely to cover. However, with any of these opportunities it’s imperative to be quick off the mark, before the journalist files their story or a competitor beats you to it. If possible, try to find out about upcoming news stories before they happen - for example the Office of National Statistics publishes a calendar of its upcoming releases online, so you can see when new government figures will be announced.
- Controversy is your friend: Whenever you’re pitching to a journalist, think about the story they are writing. You rarely read an article where everyone agrees with each other. Make sure you have a unique perspective on the subject at hand, whether that’s in-depth knowledge that no one else has, or a controversial opinion to offer. The more your perspective stands out, the more likely you are to be included.
- Be prepared to talk numbers: A real frustration for journalists is when business owners are cagey about the figures. So, before approaching the media to talk about anything relating to growth, profit or investment, make sure you’re prepared to share the key metrics. If you’re not, don’t bother them with the story.
- Stay professional: Having spent time forging contacts and making connections, always remember that it’s a journalist’s job to uncover stories. So, while they’re usually don’t have an alternative agenda, they also won’t ignore an unexpected scoop! Therefore, if there is something you don’t want to see in print, don’t say it. This could include anything from confidential details on your financials to your opinion on your nearest competitor.
Keep in touch: When you do manage to secure coverage in a target publication, after you’ve rejoiced in your success, make sure you stay in touch with the publication and the journalist. Once the initial groundwork has been laid, you are far more likely to secure future coverage by nurturing this important business relationship. Don’t let it fizzle out!
- Be authentic, available and aware: Finally, remember the three ‘A’s’.
- Be authentic: Journalists want to hear from businesses with genuine views and opinions. They can easily sniff out a comment that has been through several rounds of internal approvals, and it makes them run a mile.
- Be available: Respond to that phone call or email immediately, be respectful of any incoming media enquiry, and process them swiftly.
- Be aware: Journalists are writing about what is going on in the world (or within your industry). Keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on around you and ensure you apply an external lens and keep an eye on the bigger picture when talking to journalists.
Securing press coverage is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, patience and effort, but it all pays off once the coverage starts to trickle in. And when it does, always make sure you make copies of any coverage you achieve - whether in print or online. It’s a fantastic tool for everything from new business development to award entries… or just showing off!
And if you need a helping hand in getting your name out there, working with an expert PR freelancer is a great place to start. The Work Crowd has a huge community of experienced freelancers, spanning a whole range of specialist areas. To find out more, just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0203 828 8440.