But first, what makes news anyway?
A news hook is what draws someone into your small-business story. It’s something that’s compelling, captivating, unique and timely. When you’re looking for local news coverage, make sure you have a solid information that includes who, what, when, where, why and how. Content matters. Let’s dive into how to generate buzz for your business.
For instance, a new, small-business opening is newsworthy, whereas a 10% off coupon probably isn’t. An award from the Small Business Administration is a great news hook, but simply applying for the award is not.
Here are some useful ideas for generating news coverage:
Events: Events can be great headline-grabbers provided they are timely, tie into a local or national news story or need, and have a unique angle. The 4th annual employee picnic is not going to generate front-page news, but a benefit for the local animal shelter that involves hundreds of dogs taking a 5K walk might. Awards and contests can fall under this category as well.
Think visual: Reporters love great visuals. A posed “grin-and-grab” handshake photo is not interesting to most news media, so think about other great photo opportunities that are natural and involve action, color and excitement (see the “How to Create Good Visuals” section).
Partnerships: If you’ve recently developed a noteworthy partnership, collaboration or alliance with another small business, nonprofit or neighborhood group, consider promoting it to the local media.
Local angles to national or international stories: If a story that’s grabbing national headlines originated in your city, has ties to your business or is in the same industry, you can offer the important local perspective on the national news.
What do you offer that the competition doesn’t? If you are the only pie store in town that exclusively uses local, organic berries, or the only dentist with a dedicated room and special practices for kids, that might be newsworthy.
Trends: If your business has seen a 200% increase in business or a 75% decrease in energy usage, these numbers might add up to a story. Reporters like discernible trends.
Celebrity: People are fascinated by celebrities. If your local TV celebrity or sports celebrity will be attending an event or speaking at your place of business, the local media might well be interested.
Holidays and seasonal news: Be timely with your news. If your small business has developed a new product that will protect local gardens of squirrel attacks, be sure to pitch the news in the spring, rather than the fall. Likewise, consider tying into notable days or weeks, such as a back-to-school focus for your backpack company or a Halloween pumpkin- carving contest for your pumpkin patch.
Some local television and radio stations have “talk” or “magazine” format shows about subjects ranging from gardening to government. Find out which shows are taped locally and open to guests. Call the producer for that show and arrange for a spokesperson for your issue to be a guest on the show.
Radio call-in shows often have open discussions, which offer the opportunity for you to simply call from home and discuss issues on the show without having to contact the station in advance. Make your call brief, to the point, and supported by the facts. Encourage listeners to take action on the issue.
National news stories can be “brought home” to the local community. Keep an eye on national news stories covered on the TV news or in the newspaper and add a local spin. For example, after a story comes out on a new national obesity study, ask reporters to write about how school foods and beverages may be contributing to problem
For news stories, timeliness is critical. To publicize an upcoming event, send an advisory one-week before the event and follow it up with a reminder one to two days before the event. Contact editors and reporters directly via phone or e-mail.
The difference between sales copy and news copy is essentially the difference between an ad and an article in the newspaper. An ad is sales copy – it is promotional and paid for – whereas an article is news copy – it is fact-based and written by a journalist. The media aren’t interested in promoting your business’ sales copy, but they will be interested when you share genuine news that will be interesting to their readers, viewers or listeners.
Ever wonder why some businesses get press and some don’t? Getting a mainstream media outlet to pay attention to your business seems like a mystery only Perry Mason could solve.
You might see your competitors spouting a diatribe that you know for a fact is wrong, or that you could explain better.
“Why did they interview that guy instead of me?” you wonder.
Actually, it’s not you. 99 times out of 100, it’s not your qualifications, your knowledge, or your ability. It’s your approach.
After 35 years as a publicist, I’ve seen just about every bad pitch you can imagine. And I’ve also come up with a whole bunch of foolproof ways to entice the media in your city to highlight your business — approaches that make the mainstream media unable to resist you. (And lots of them work just as well with bloggers and social media influencers.)
Build relationships months in advance of pitching.
1. Connect on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or in real life in advance of pitching a reporter.
2. Monitor the Twitter hashtags of your community. Often reporters chat with the public on Twitter, and you can respond to comments they make.
3. Compliment a reporter via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or e-mail on a story he or she did.
4. Introduce yourself to reporters at big public or chamber of commerce events. Pass along your card, but don’t try and sell them the idea on the spot. Just be helpful.
5. Invite reporters out for coffee, and ask a lot of questions about them.
6. Leave a comment at the end of the online version of a story a reporter did, which you genuinely liked.
7. For local, comb through TheMediaInsider.co for reporters who cover your industry. Our lowest membership is $500 a year. If you have a national story or a service that sells nationally/internationally, muckrack.com or prowly.com are online PR software companies to find regional or national reporters on Twitter who cover your industry. Their prices range from $1500 a year to $5000 a year.
8. Write a positive blog post on your blog highlighting a story of theirs, and e-mail them the link.
9. Respond regularly to posts they’ve written either on their blog, or on a local community blog you’ve noticed they post on.
10. Sign up on helpareporter.com. Several e-mail lists are sent out daily, full of reporters needing experts for stories. Jump on those that fall within your expertise.
11. Scout publications with smaller and more targeted readerships, such as a local business weekly publication.
12. Listen to AM radio stations, especially on weekday mornings or on Saturdays. Befriend one of the regular show hosts. Often they’ll highlight any business that is doing something interesting the public might find interesting.
Making The Pitch
1. Research the media outlet and the reporter.
2. Prepare Pitch Points including more than one story angle.
3. Call your Contact with a brief pitch – in under 10 seconds.
4. Your first 4 words: “Are you on deadline?”
5. Or, Draft a short email pitch.
6. Don’t neglect your headline. It must have ‘THE HOOK’. Without a good one, you’re dead. See our post on Pitching.
7. No attachments in email without permission.
8. Follow up with patience & persistence.
9. Say “yes” without fail if a reporter wants to interview you that day, even if it has to be over the phone or while you’re on vacation.
10. Be a source for stories that fall within your expertise by letting reporters in your industry know you’re available when they need a source. This can lead to regular spots on the news.
11. Treat journalists with respect. You’ll set yourself apart just by being friendly.
12. Keep your phone camera at the ready for “spot news” photo opportunities, and then pass along to the media outlet. This can be anything from a deer crashing into a department store while you happened to be there to a good shot of an event or store opening.
13. Never call after 3 p.m.
The list might seem a bit daunting. And, it ‘s a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time. Follow these suggestions to generate buzz for your business and you’re likely to gain more coverage than any of your competitors. The bottom line is: reach out, be helpful, and get busy.
Remember you can always grab a DIY PR KIT for $99 and get LOADS of knowledge and step by step instructions on doing your own public relations.
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