The internet has made it possible to create news releases that spread across the globe, but it's important that businesses not completely lose sight of traditional marketing media. Although consumers aren't turning to newspapers, TV, and radio as much as in years past, there's still a substantial audience for each of these media, giving small businesses a prime opportunity to gain customer business.

Local PR efforts are important whether a business has a storefront or operates solely online. Hometown media outlets are always looking for great stories about nearby businesses, especially if those businesses are doing something exciting and innovative. By reaching out to local reporters through an old-fashioned news release or story pitch, your efforts can reach customers who might not have otherwise known about you.

Here are five tips for effectively approaching local news outlets.

1. Select a Contact

It's important to know how to approach reporters. Blasting press releases to every local media outlet will probably result in a quick trip to everyone's spam folders. Successfully pitching a news idea involves careful research, pinpointing the exact journalist at each outlet who will be interested in your story, and customizing your pitch to that person.

Don't simply scour the business section for a reporter who can feature your story. You may have a great idea for a story in the fashion section if you're a clothing retailer, or the arts and culture section if your business applies to that area. No matter which area you choose, be sure to spend time reading that section to help pinpoint a reporter who would probably be looking for stories like yours.

2. Send Story Ideas

Once you've spent time reading a journalist's stories, it's time to approach that reporter with an idea. Create a press release that gives the reporter all the information necessary to get started, including quotes. Study the basics of writing a news release that gets results, paying particular attention to tips on creating eye-catching headlines and lead sentences that include the five W's and one H of journalism.

Another way you can help journalists is by providing an engaging yet relevant quote that can be sourced for articles. Make sure the quote sounds interesting rather than canned, and make sure it's attributed to the person who would be interviewed on air if a TV or radio journalist needs a sound bite. In the event a journalist does schedule an interview with one of your company's VIPs, make sure that person is prepared to discuss the newsworthy event in detail.

3. Be Newsworthy

It isn't enough to tell the world how great your product or service is. Your press release must usher in an event, whether it's the launch of a new product line that will change the way consumers live or a new partnership between your business and a nonprofit organization. Before sending the release, ask yourself the same question a reporter would ask: "Why is this important enough to merit space on a newscast or in a newspaper?"

If you don't have a newsworthy event, consider hosting a survey and asking consumers to participate. There are several tools you can use to put together and deploy surveys online easily and quickly, and the information can be used to create surveys related to your field. An app development company could compile a series of surveys that speak to the growing popularity of certain types of apps, for instance, with the results demonstrating that these types of businesses are valuable to today's consumer market.

4. Think Outside the Box

Depending on your business's specialty, consider offering to serve as an expert source on stories. A technology entrepreneur could connect with a local technology reporter by offering to act as a source for stories on an ongoing basis. Help a Reporter Out, or HARO, facilitates this by delivering expert source requests right to your inbox on a daily basis, allowing you to choose ones that fit your expertise. If a reporter contacts you for a quote that isn't within your realm of expertise, make a referral to a respected source in your field. By being helpful, you'll increase your chances that you'll be the one that reporter thinks of the next time a story is needed.

One way to ensure you'll never miss out on an opportunity is to follow your chosen reporters on social media. Occasionally, journalists post requests for sources for articles. Even if a reporter doesn't publicly post such requests, by occasionally retweeting, sharing, or replying to their posts, you'll begin to establish familiarity, which will pay off when you pitch ideas later.

5. Network Locally

As you work to gain publicity for your small business, local networking becomes more important than ever. Attend local events and forge business relationships with local journalists. With each new reporter you meet, hand over a business card and make it known that you're always available for a quote or a specialized perspective on a topic in your niche. Include contact information that will ensure reporters can reach you when they're up against a deadline for a story.

Conclusion

While online press releases can help your small business get publicity on a national level, local coverage can help you reach consumers who might not have searched for you online. By establishing working relationships with local reporters, you'll have a platform for your future publicity efforts, while also becoming a valuable source when journalists need a local expert on a matter related to your industry.

Published on: Sep 15, 2014