The press release is dead. This sentiment has been floating around marketing circles since the advent of digital media. Some businesses think that simply having a website and a Facebook presence will be enough to get their message and profile out into the world. Sadly, it is seldom the case. While the press landscape has changed significantly, communicating with the press remains integral to the success of small businesses.
That said, getting news platforms to feature your brand is now harder than ever. With so much competition and noise online, newsrooms are inundated with requests for coverage, resulting in short fuses and even shorter attention spans. These days, businesses must do double time to earn the coveted coverage.
Find the Right Reporter
As with any major endeavor, the first thing you need to do is research. Looking around in your industry and try to answer these fundamental questions.
Which publications are your clients and competitors reading? Who are the writers and platforms that cover businesses and industries like yours? What kind of stories do they write?
You may find that certain publications focus on informative articles such as ‘how to’ guides, while others are known for their objective and timely industry updates. Being familiar with the kind of content that each publication prefers will help you to decide if it is the right fit for your business and whether you will be able to interest them with your pitch.
Local or Global?
Similarly, every publication has its pros and cons. Businesses that rely on local traffic may find that smaller platforms such as regional news sites are more useful for reaching their target clientele.
These publications are easier to get coverage in but may not have a big effect on the brand’s reputation on a greater stage. Businesses that are not bound by geographical limits may prefer to be seen on global platforms. These publications will give your brand enhanced authority and recognition but are much harder to get coverage in. For some businesses, a sensible strategy may be to aim for coverage on both sides of the scale, but that takes a fair amount of time
Connect with Your Journo
Once you have decided on the platform, it is time to connect with the journalist or editor that will receive your pitch. Most publications will list the names of their press staff, either alongside articles or on a consolidated contact page.
Search for them on LinkedIn or Twitter and note the topics that they share and are passionate about. Engage them in conversations online regarding these topics and try to leave a good impression! Building a thoughtful relationship with relevant reporters has multiple benefits.
First, you can gradually convince them that there is value to your opinion. Second, you can customize your pitch to suit their interests. And third, they will recognize your name and be more open towards your pitch.
Help a Reporter Out
Another way to reach out to journalists is to sign up to free services such as HARO (Help A Reporter Out) or SourceBottle. Reporters visit these websites to search for opinions from professionals and experts in any number of industries.
Reporters often have tight deadlines and little time to seek out relevant sources to interview for their articles. Through platforms like HARO, they send out requests for information that you can respond to.
Your reward for providing reporters with useful information could range from a simple quote to a full feature article. At the same time, you benefit from making new press connections, which may evolve into future coverage.
Create Compelling Content
The traditional way to get something published is to put out a press release. However, for reporters who see hundreds of press releases daily, the format can be banal and boring. Moreover, press releases are often solely business-related and need to be embellished and enhanced by writers before they can be considered interesting and of relevance to the public.
For busy reporters, this is definitely not a priority. With that in mind, think about how you can transform your typical press release into an article of real value to the reader. Sometimes, this can be achieved by linking your products or services to current events such as the Covid-19 pandemic or the Olympics. You can also make your release more enticing by adding snippets of information or trivia.
A surefire way to demonstrate your knowledge is to produce original research. This does not have to be highly involved scientific tests with accompanying peer-reviewed research papers. Consumer surveys and reports conducted with standard social methodology will do as well.
A plumbing company can undertake a survey on average home maintenance expenditure, or an independent clothing label can publish a report on findings regarding fashion waste. News outlets love quotable statistics, so why not give them some?
By sharing your expertise and unique insight into the industry, you expedite the job of reporters while establishing yourself as a credible voice.
Host or Collaborate
Events and collaborations are likewise proven ways to make the news. Health awareness months, fashion weeks, comic conferences, and car show weekends are examples of events that promote a variety of industries. And the events need not be on a massive scale to be notable either.
Collaborating with a charity to create a fundraising event is a tried and tested way for brands to reach a wider audience and earn some media coverage. Established charities often already have their regular PR sources sorted and will be more than happy to acknowledge your involvement as they promote the event.
Tell Your Story
Another proven way to catch the attention of reporters is to have a compelling story. Perhaps you have a classic rags-to-riches tale about how you founded the business and overcame adversity. Or there could be an amusing story on how your business name came about.
The story may not even be about you or your business, but about your employees or the environment. Corporate social responsibility is a trending topic and publications love to feature brands that support their staff and brands that demonstrate superior environmental stewardship.
Press revolves around stories. By sharing a memorable story in your pitch, you are convincing journalists to invest in your narrative and take it to the reader.
Catch Their Attention
Lastly—and this is not about writing at all—take some professional photographs. A picture paints a thousand words and audiences are becoming increasingly visual.
According to research, you have less than a second to make an impression on the average audience. Even then, 81 percent of them will only skim your textual content, with most of them losing interest in less than eight seconds. What is the point of news coverage if nobody is going to look at it? Hence, the feature image of your proposed article must be powerful enough to first attract the editor, then the audience.
Professional photography bolsters your brand image and can add a visual upgrade to your products. Best of all, you can use the images on your website or brochures as well.
Under the Influence
What we have talked about thus far is largely conventional press relations. But, thanks to the ever-evolving Internet society, we have a new, formidable form of coverage: the influencer.
Influencers are thought leaders with an online community of followers. These followers relate to and trust the influencers, thus subscribing to their opinions and recommendations. While the influencer is not an objective news outlet per se, they can have tremendous reach with certain audiences.
Connecting with influencers need not always be an expensive relationship either. While top-tier celebrity influencers like Cristiano Ronaldo charge an eye-watering $1 million per post, many lesser-known influencers are happy to form partnerships at affordable rates or in exchange for sponsored products or services.
From Influencers to Insider
Setting up your business for successful news coverage is indeed a lot of work. This is why public relations and marketing are whole fields in themselves. If your company is unable to have its own PR personnel, it may be prudent to reach out to a professional marketing agency.
Good marketing agencies have considerable advantages over in-house PR staff, particularly for small businesses. This is because agencies are familiar with a wide range of news platforms and can help with determining the right ones for your brand.
They have access to exclusive tools and directories required to make connections to key press players and often already have relationships with the people who will screen your pitch. In addition, they know exactly how to format press releases and articles to gain the attention of reporters and editors.
Whether you decide to hand over your press predicaments to a marketing firm or to tackle them yourself, there is no shortcut to getting good publicity. Time and effort must be invested in choosing the right publication, making the appropriate contacts, and crafting the ideal content.
The press release is not dead. But, there is a whole discipline around making it truly work for your business.