Get more media coverage – it’s free so what are you waiting for?

In a financial climate where every penny of marketing spend counts, I am always surprised at how many small businesses fail to utilise one of their cheapest forms of advertising – editorial coverage or PR, especially in local media.

Now I am not a PR expert and have always deferred to specialist PR agencies and consultants when working on national brands and large businesses. They have the contacts and knowledge about what is newsworthy and what the editors are looking for.

But getting your business in your local paper, local business pages, e-publication or trade magazine is something that is worth spending some time and effort on and doesn’t necessarily need PR specialists. And, if done correctly, this is effort that can pay off exponentially as you build relationships with editors, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Let’s start at the beginning and debunk a few myths …

1)  Editorial coverage is NOT advertising.

The clue is in the title ‘editorial’. Although your motivation is that of promoting your business, you need to put your journalist hat on and look at it from their perspective. Their purpose is to sell newspapers of magazines. This is done by having interesting content that people want to read. No one buys the magazines or papers for their advertising. So journalists won’t put in anything that is a thinly veiled advertisement.

2)  Establish relationships

This is something that many people find difficult. It must be something to do with our innate British reserve but there almost seems to be a mystique around journalists and editors that mean that most people wouldn’t dream of picking the phone up to them.

But you need to overcome this (and it isn’t as scary as you think it will be). Once you have targeted which media you want to get coverage in, you need to ring and speak to the relevant editor i.e. business editor and find out what makes them (and their publication) tick. You aren’t immediately asking for coverage but rather to know what type of stories they are looking for.

If you understand what they require you can make sure you aren’t wasting effort sending in stories that are never going to interest them or missing potential angles on stories that they would be interested in.

3)    Find a hook

This is so much easier if you do number #2 on the list. What is it that they are looking for? There is no one answer as different publications will have different needs. A local paper will be looking for human interest stories. Business pages of local papers are looking for good news stories about business so anything that says you are growing – new contracts / clients, interesting projects, awards, investments, new products or services. More difficult are the trade publications that usually want news about innovation or qualified opinion pieces.

Don’t forget the classic tactic of creating some snappy headlines through a survey. When working with Bupa on their business healthcare products they had some great PR success with a survey they commissioned which uncovered (literally) some startling and very PR’able headlines such as 1 in 5 UK workers admit to having thrown ‘sickies’ which is estimated to cost businesses in the UK £1.7 billion.

These great sound bites hit national news, radio and TV and Bupa cleverly capitalised on this by setting up a dedicated website that included more info on the survey but also talked about one of their absence management products.

4)   Write a decent press release

There is a knack and structure to writing a press release. Your press release has to present the facts to a journalist. It needs to cover the following areas –

Who

What

When

Why

And how

You need to make sure your headline is compelling yet clear (don’t go for anything cryptic, they won’t be intrigued into reading it, it will just be binned). Make our headline your subject line. A journalist is more likely to open an email with a catchy subject line.

5)   Provide the journalists with everything they need

You will be more likely to gain coverage if you make it as easy as possible for the journalist to include your story. So don’t send your press release as a pdf, they may want to cut and paste sections of the text. In fat you can copy and paste the main body of the release itself into the email, to make it even easier.

Attach images they can use (again don’t embed them in the press release but attach as separate files. Make sure they are the right size for the media. If print they need to be of sufficient size. If a web publication then a 10Mb photo is not appropriate.

Make sure you have all the contact details and that you will be contactable should the journalist want some additional information.

6)   Pimp your coverage

If you get coverage, make sure you let everyone know about it. You can scan the article and include on a news section of your site or a section ‘As seen in the press’. You can mention in a blog and seed throughout your social media platforms.

If you follow these tips you should have a much better chance of securing media coverage which is in effect free advertising, and who wouldn’t want a bit of that?