A clear and strategic media outreach plan within your marketing plan is important for a number of reasons: It helps you identify your story, be consistent in telling that story, and makes it easier to secure coverage.
Many businesses are apprehensive about reaching out to reporters to tell their stories because they don't have the budget to hire a public relations agency, don't know how to do it themselves, or feel their story isn't compelling to a reporter because they're not as "big" as their competitors. Truth is, reporters seek all kinds of stories and what's more important to them isn't always the size of the business. Rather, it's that there is a story to tell.
How do you get a reporter to take notice of your business? Here are three things you can do today to help:
1. Have a story to tell.
By a landslide, nothing else matters if you don't have a story to tell. Think beyond the reporter you're trying to pitch. Think about that reporter's audience. Will that audience care about your story?
While the reporter is the gatekeeper, the audience is really who you want to think about when you're crafting your pitch. Someone asked me how to secure media coverage for her small company since the bigger, more established companies were getting covered. My response: who cares what the other companies are doing?
The company provides schools and non-profit organizations products to use as fundraisers. As a newer company, it's competing against well-established businesses already in "the system" so it's been hard to break into new schools.
Start with a media scan. See where your competitors are getting covered and what stories are being written. Using a spreadsheet, collect that data and you'll likely start to see a pattern emerge. Is a reporter constantly using a particular company in his articles? Might there be room for you to get interviewed?
One of my clients has a great story to tell, is well-versed on the subject matter, and we've been pitching a reporter for years. Yet whenever this reporter needs a source fast, he never calls us. Instead, he speed dials one of our competitors. Why? They're faster at responding to him.
Don't discount response time when it comes to reporters. You need a good story, but you also need to be available.
At the end of the day, though, a story is a story, and reporters want to tell and report on stories.
Focus on crafting a unique story that only your business can tell -- or that your business can talk about as part of a larger business trend story.
2. Be mindful of whom you're pitching.
A media scan will show you who has been covering the types of stories for which you're seeking coverage. For human interest stories, check out the Lifestyles section of your local newspaper. Is it a business trends story? Check out articles the local business reporter is covering.
Want television? Watch the news and see what kinds of talent the producer is booking.
Don't bother pitching a television producer who loves having chefs on if you want to talk about how new taxes will affect small businesses like yours. Even if your story has legs and would be of interest to viewers, this is the wrong producer to send your pitch. Call the station and ask for the correct producer's information.
A mid-day news producer I recently pitched was very interested in having my client come into the studio. Before she would commit, she asked me if I'd pitched this story to another outlet. I hadn't. Why? Because I knew she always wants exclusives. This is information you'll learn as you pitch more regularly--and it's information you want to keep at the ready because it will serve you well.
3. Keep tabs on what reporters are covering.
Are you noticing the same reporter is covering stories similar to yours? Update your spreadsheet with the reporter's email and Twitter handle and whenever she writes a story you like, send her an email letting her know you enjoyed it or send a tweet and include her and her media outlet's handle (so she and her boss see the tweet).
For this fundraising business, their spreadsheet should include stories of their competitors and reporters whose stories they love and might be a good fit to pitch in the future.
Securing media coverage from outlets you feel your clients or customers read, listen or watch, is an important part of your marketing plan. It shouldn't be done haphazard. But it's also not as hard to secure media as some people believe.
Reporters want to cover good stories. Give them good story ideas and you'll start seeing more and more media coverage on your business.