The thought of seeing your business’s name mentioned in the news is exciting.
It can open new doors as well.
The press coverage could potentially place you into the public eye, send more traffic to your website, and bring you more followers on social media. All things that can help to boost your sales. Depending on the coverage, and where you’re featured, it can also help to boost your reputation, helping you to become recognized as an expert in your field.
But while press coverage can be a great boost to your business’s growth strategy, it can be daunting to find journalists or publications that will write about your business.
As entrepreneurs, we often struggle with self-promotion. Perfecting an elevator pitch is challenging enough, but reaching out to journalists, out of the blue, asking them to cover your amazing new service or product can seem all but impossible.
Fortunately though, reaching out to the press isn’t as difficult as you might think.
If you’d like to get press coverage but aren’t sure where to start, this article will help to give you some ideas along with strategies that you can use to increase your chances of coverage. I’ll also highlight some great tools that can help you to find excellent coverage opportunities.
Where to Find Media Coverage
There are several places to get your brand’s story told and become known as an expert in your chosen area of business (irrespective of whether it’s service or product-oriented). Depending on who your primary audience or customers are, you can use:
- Social media (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, influencers)
- Traditional print (newspapers, magazines)
- Digital media (newspapers, blogs, e-zines)
- Radio shows and podcasts
- Video (YouTube, TV)
So where do you start? While you could try to get your story picked up by the press, you can also get covered by being a source. As a source, you’ll have less control over the medium, but the tradeoff is that you’ll open up a whole new world of opportunities for publicity. It’s a great short-cut strategy for getting into the press.
8 Steps to Gain Media Coverage
So what can you do to start securing media coverage? Here’s what you should do before you call the press, as well as some tools to help you make those crucial first connections.
Start Engaging With Writers/Journalists
First things first, before you start cold pitching, it’s worth spending some time getting to know journalists and writers. Start by looking for writers on Twitter who cover topics that are related to your niche, or who write for publications or media outlets that you’d like to be featured in.
Follow them on Twitter, engage with them, and look to establish a connection with them. Become familiar with them first, instead of pitching to them cold.
Define Your Target Audience
While you may initially assume that you want your news story to reach as many people as possible, narrow down who will pay particular attention to the services or products your company provides. Getting “more customers” is great, but you’ll want to drill down who you really want to target to find your audience, who will be more likely to covert.
Look for niche publications for your target audience. Having a clearly defined target audience and knowing what they need will help you when you start doing media outreach.
Narrow Down Media Options
Once you have your target audience, the next step is figuring out what type of media they consume. For example, do they prefer to listen to podcasts or read the news? Are there local publications for your target market? Are there particular news sites that they frequent? Are they more inclined to use social media? Is there a specialized magazine your audience subscribes to?
By narrowing down your audience and finding out their media consumption habits, you have a higher chance of getting your business, and your products or services noticed.
Have an Angle for the Story
You have your target audience and media option, and the next step is to find the angle you want to promote or pitch. While your first thought might be to gain exposure and brand awareness for your business to everyone, there needs to be an angle that will appeal to those who read the article.
Unless you have a friend who may write about your business as a favor on their website, a generic story about your business concept won’t be enough for a journalist. Try to find an interesting angle for an article idea or news story; one that will appeal to their target audience.
Pro tip: Before you pitch journalists, make sure you research the publication you intend to pitch your story to. Journalists have limited time to sift through and read all the pitches they receive. According to one survey, around half of the journalists surveyed receive approximately 11 pitches a day, and about 28% receive over 26.
If a pitch completely misses the mark on your chosen publication’s tone, audience, and content, it goes straight into the virtual bin. Sure, it helps to consistently pitch journalists queries, just make sure they’re relevant, and never spam them.
Get a List of Contacts Ready
You’ve done your research about your audience and publications – now it’s time to find the right contacts or journalists that will help write and get your story out there.
Usually, journalists write on a specialty topic (at least for the larger publications). Look at the publications you’re interested in and try to find names to contact rather than a generic email address. Plus, a few tools like Help A Reporter Out can connect you with journalists looking for direct quotes on topics. More on this below.
Write a Pitch
You’ve done your due diligence and are now ready to move on to the next phase – writing a pitch to the journalist or publication you want to be included in. A pitch is the story idea you want to “sell” to the journalist or editor.
If it’s an email you’re sending, it should include several elements, such as:
- A unique story angle – remember, will the story evoke an emotion? Is it relevant to the reader? Is it appropriate to the specific audience niche?
- A subject line that will grab their attention – try including a statistic (bonus points if you’re using in-house data), explain what the idea is about, and always get straight to the point.
- A paragraph in the body of the email explaining your story and why people will be interested in it. Be concise.
If it’s a small newspaper or magazine you’re looking to get published in, feel free to have the article or press release already written out, as they are often short-staffed. If you go down this route, pay attention to word count, publication timelines, tone of the publication, and make sure the basics of an article (who, what, where, when, why, and how) are covered.
Start with the most relevant information at the top, and include “nice-to-know” information towards the bottom. If your article needs to be cut to make way for word count, the necessary information stays put while excess information is discarded first.
Don’t have time to write articles or press releases? This is a job that can easily be outsourced to a good writer. A writer will be able to cover your news and create press releases that help to get the word out about your big news.
Boost Your Reach With an Ad Campaign
One strategy that worked well for me was to run a press release on PRWeb, and then run ads targeting people that worked at the news stations or newspapers that I was trying to reach. I would then also follow up with an email and make sure the press release was shared on all social media.
You can use Chrome app Hunter.io to gather email addresses from websites to help with this.
The press industry isn’t easy to get into – it will take some hard work and dedication to get published. But don’t be discouraged! As you start to understand the publications you want to be featured in, the journalists who write the articles, and the types of stories they’re interested in, you will eventually start to build a rapport with them.
In the media industry, contacts are important, so as you build your network, you might have a higher chance of getting your story noticed.
Your stories might get ignored at first, but keep trying and follow up if you haven’t heard back from a journalist after one or two days (sometimes stories get lost amongst all the emails). Sometimes an editor might push back on your idea or change it completely. If you get any feedback regarding your writing or pitch idea, put any ego aside and take it seriously, as this information is rarely handed out and will help you improve your next pitch.
It might take time and dedication, but when you finally get published, it will be worth the effort!
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Tools to Help Get You in the Door
While the process may seem intimidating, there are a number of tools out there that can help your company connect and get picked up by the press. Below is a shortlist of a few of my favorites.
Want a shortcut into the press? Look no further than SourceBottle. If you’re an expert in your area and are happy to be a source in exchange for free publicity, SourceBottle can connect you with journalists and bloggers in need of your knowledge.
It’s free to sign-up for emails. Or, you can scroll through and see if any journalists are looking for information. It’s a predominately Australian program, but you can often find experts who are in the U.S. as well.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
HARO boasts a network of over one million sources and over 75,000 journalists and bloggers, with journalists from top-notch media names (think Forbes, Time, Reuters) using it. It helps journalists to find credible sources and expert knowledge and brands to tell their stories.
It’s a great tool if you’re looking to get yourself featured in the press. Just sign up for their emails, selecting the topics that you’re interested in, and HARO will email you when journalists are looking for a source.
A wealth of quality, information, and experiences are to be found on the Forbes Councils. While there is specific criteria to be met to be accepted, once you are, you’re able to get your message out there by writing articles about your business and expertise. You get to shape how you want your business to be seen and heard.
(Source: Forbes Councils)
Podcasts and Radio Shows Directory
What better way to get your voice heard (literally) than by jumping on a podcast and sharing your experiences and advice? Podcasts And Radio Shows Directory is a great place to head to find a radio show or podcast looking for guest speakers.
(Source: Podcasts and Radio Shows Directory)
If you’re looking for media requests to arrive straight into your inbox, PitchRate is the tool for you. It’s a place where experts or business owners can offer their knowledge, gifts, services, or books to be reviewed to journalists.
If you’re a good fit, journalists can easily reach you via their platform as a go-to resource.
A good place for press releases, PRWeb is ideal for when you want to get the news out about a product launch, new acquisition, or funding. It’s not really the best way to get your news picked up by the press (like a pitch would do), but it can be helpful for when you have a big announcement to make and would like to have a place to direct interested journalists or writers who need all of the facts in one place, a situation where a press release will come in handy.
What to Do in Case of Bad Press
Positive media coverage is always best. Hopefully it won’t happen, but if you receive bad press, make sure you have a crisis communication plan in place before it happens. It should detail how you will potentially deal with the media (and customers). Of course, you can’t plan what the negative press might be about; however, having a few “what if” scenarios thought out won’t hurt.
So what can you do when you find your company in the headlines for the wrong reasons? First, make sure you respond quickly to the situation, acknowledge what’s happening, and correct any false information, highlight the positives of your business, and (if necessary) how the issue will be resolved.
P.T. Barnum (the famed showman), reportedly coined the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” And while he may have thrived on that, it doesn’t feel great to be caught in it. And if you do get bad press, think of it as a chance to show your human side and demonstrate how your business is looking to improve.
It’s exciting to think about reaching out to the press, influencers, or bloggers to try and get your story told. Taking the time to properly craft your story, connect with relevant journalists, pitch the right way, and going through the follow-ups are all part of the process.
At the end of the day, your best bet for getting press coverage usually has less to do with you, and more to do with your journalists or the publications’ audience; and what they want to see. So try to put yourself in their shoes and think about a good angle that you can pitch, one that’ll be exciting or relevant in some way or things their audience would find interesting.
When it comes to being a source, the same principles apply. Try to think about what advice would be helpful to the journalists’ audience, then look to make their life easier by providing a good story or quote.
Have a tip for getting picked up by the press? Is there a tactic that worked for you? I’d love to hear about it. Share your secrets in the comments below.
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