Media mentions can take multiple forms. Many business owners unreasonably expect a full-out feature story about their “exceptional” product or service. But most media outlets – whether it’s a newspaper, magazine, newsletter, TV station, blog, website or radio outlet – aren’t very interested in such stories. They are looking for helpful tips, interesting interviews or true innovations.
How you approach the media is critical. Simply issuing press releases and expecting coverage isn’t going to work. The idea is to cultivate relationships and get your business on the media’s radar.
Once that happens, you’ll have a better shot at being included in broader stories and being interviewed for your expertise. Here are 10 tips that can help you gain credibility and get yourself in the media.
1. Create a target list of media that might conceivably be interested in the expertise you have to offer, and in your business itself. This would certainly include local media, but should also include outlets with a wider audience. Cision (cision.com) is a service used by professional PR people to target the right media people. It’s a bit pricy, but an excellent way to identify the right reporters, editors and producers, and send them email messages.
2. Read the publications you’d like to be mentioned in and take note of who writes about what. For online publications, comment on posts or articles, and follow the writer on LinkedIn and Twitter. Retweet some of their posts and monitor what they do. It doesn’t hurt to praise their work.
3. Prepare a list of story ideas that include helpful tips for buyers, best practices for businesses or trends in your industry. Write these as one or two-paragraph story “pitches” that make the ideas sound as compelling as possible – but without the hype. Offering useful information is what will work the best.
4. HARO is a helpful resource I’ve written about before. That stands for Help A Reporter Out, and it’s a website where reporters list stories they are working on, and the kinds of information or expertise they are looking for. Sign up to get regular emails and contact reporters when you think you have something to offer. Visit HelpAReporter.com.
5. Think visually as well. Most media today are very image conscious – meaning they want to illustrate their stories with great photos or other graphics. If you can offer those kinds of things – original and high quality – that will give you a leg up.
6. Position yourself, or others in your business, as experts on specific topics and let the media know you are available for interviews. Then, if you do get an interview request, be sure to make yourself available when the reporter, editor or writer needs you, either by phone or in person, and even if you are really busy.
7. When pitching stories, avoid talking about product features and technical aspects. Instead, focus on the benefits of what you do, and especially the people in your business. Stories that include people are generally more compelling.
8. Line up customers or clients of your business who would be willing to talk to the media. Depending on the type of story that’s being written, reporters will frequently want to talk to the customers who are using and benefitting from what you offer. This makes a far better story – and is better for you as well.
9. Keep your emails, phone messages and story pitches short and simple. Be enthusiastic, but at all costs avoid sounding like a sales pitch. And even if you sell something technical, resist the temptation to back up the dump truck with tons of research and technical mumbo jumbo.
10. Take a personalized approach and position your story as a local example of a hot trend that’s national in scope. Oh, and avoid the cheapie press release posting services that promise to get your release into hundreds of outlets. Those will get you nowhere.
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