Tips for Getting Free Press for Your Small Business
While it’s true that consumers don’t rely on traditional publications as much anymore with the online media becoming such a huge factor in the game, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be trying to get press for your business through these types of media outlets.
Believe it or not, a very substantial audience still exists in newspapers, magazines and television, and getting press for your small business through these channels still represents a fantastic opportunity for gaining customers.
Getting traditional press attention is something that any marketing and public relations professional within a small business or startup should be striving to achieve. After all, getting this type of press will end up translating to increased visits to your website and generally more attention for your business in the end.
And despite popular belief, you can still get good press in traditional media without having to pay for it – you just need to know how.
If you are ready to put the work in, here are some tips for getting free, high-quality press coverage for your company.
Create a List of Potential Contacts
Before you start contacting journalists and pitching your company and story, you need to do some research in order to create a database of potential contacts. A good way to do this is by using social media. Just as you would want to find influencers on social media in your niche to try and pitch your online content to them, you can use the same approach for traditional media.
Everyone is on social media know, whether they write for online or print publications. Follow them on social media and try to identify who you could potential try to contact.
The easiest thing to do is to create a tidy spreadsheet of potential journalists and publications to contact and start from there.
Choose the Right People
Of course, you are looking for people who write about small businesses or talk about the market in which your business operates. You should choose quality over quantity, and that starts with identifying the right people to pitch your story to.
Be sure to look at what type of stories they write. Look for patterns in their writing so that you know what type of angle to pitch. Is there a journalist you are aware of who loves writing about innovative startups in your area? Put him or her on your list for sure. Have you found journalists who are perceived as experts in your niche? Jot their info down as well.
Right now, you’re still in the research phase. Don’t underestimate the importance of this legwork before starting to make pitches.
Choose the Right Outlets
You might not want to aim for the stars right away. If you are just starting out, it might be better off to focus on local publications instead of trying to get national press with media heavyweights right out the gate.
And when you feel that you are ready to start pitching to bigger media outlets, make sure that you are picking the ones that fit your company best. Forbes and Fortune might be fairly similar publications, but they aren’t exactly the same. If you are going to send pitches to both, be sure to customize your pitches in an effort to align your pitch with their sensibilities.
Once you have a list of people you would like to try to contact, you need to develop an approach. Of course, the best option is to craft each approach on a case-to-case basis. What you don’t want to do is take your list of contacts and then just blast a press release with a generic message to everyone all at once. In the slight chance that your email does not end up in their spam folders, you’re probably still not going to get any type of a reply with that approach.
It’s a good idea to develop some type of a rapport first. Your first email doesn’t have to be your pitch. You can contact the journalist cordially and unofficially, perhaps asking him or her a question or two about the topics they write about most commonly.
You can even inquire first as to what it would take to get a write-up from them. In any case, trying to break the ice first and establishing pleasant communication with the journalist before you try pitching your story.
We’ve already covered the fact that you probably need to start off small with local media before trying to make a big, national push. The same principle goes for the type of coverage you are requesting. It’s not really a good idea to ask for a huge profile piece or front page story right away. Start small and work your way up to bigger features and stories as your company starts gaining momentum and becomes more deserving of the spotlight.
Most importantly, if the journalist is interested in your company, don’t make requests about the type of coverage you want to get. Work on it collaboratively. Shoots some ideas back and forth and discuss what type of article the journalist might have in mind for you and your company.
Remember, you are not paying for this press, so you are not really in a position to make demands. Simply take what you can get and focus on building a strong and meaningful relationship with the journalist and publication.
Make it Easy for Them
Before going into this part, it’s important to note that we’re not telling you to try and write the story for the journalist. No one appreciates being told what to write. However, you can steer them in the right direction and make their lives a lot easier by providing all of the necessary information up front.
Again, check to see how the journalist you are in contact with writes his or her stories and then provide the materials that you believe they will need to write their article. Be sure to give them some nice quotes they can use, and perhaps include links to reference material that could help them to put together a great story on topics related to what your business does.
This gives journalists a nice start on writing the article and makes their lives a lot easier. If you give them this useful material right from the start, it’s more likely that they will want to write about you as well.
Always Follow Up
Following up correctly is an art in and of itself. You don’t want to come across as pushy or annoying. This requires tact and above all, good manners. Don’t email them every week asking when the article is going to be published. Remember, this is not the only story the journalist is working on and in the end, it doesn’t just depend on him or her.
Maybe there are other articles that their editors are more interest in, which could lead to them keeping the one about your company on the backburner for a while. If you’ve asked them a couple of times over a month about the article and it still hasn’t been written or published, back off and give them a month before asking again.
You need to strike the right balance. Show that you are interested in their progress without coming off as pushy.
It’s important to stress that developing working relationships with the press is not easy work, but it does pay off in the end if you do it correctly. Remember that you shouldn’t take any type of press for granted. Even though online coverage provides an easier way for your company to be introduced to many potential customers, print and television coverage, especially locally, can help you to reach consumers who might not have found you online.
Getting press through traditional media gives your company access to a different demographic of people who might not be very computer-savvy, a demographic that should in no way be ignored, no matter what your company does.
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