How to make friends and influence journalists – a guide for small businesses

Have you ever written a press release, giving details of some really exciting news about your new company or product, fired it off to journalists and then sat back, waiting for your Inbox to overload?

And waited………..and waited…………….

Nothing.

There’s nothing more deflating than receiving a big fat nothing in return from the media, but it’s important you know why.  Chances are, you’ve either emailed the wrong journalists (who aren’t interested in that specific type of news) or your pitch is just not that interesting after all (sorry!)

It took me a while to learn that achieving great PR for small businesses isn’t all about firing press releases off to as many journalists as possible, who work vaguely in that field.  Neither is it about loading a release up to one of those paid distribution sites which will send it off into the ether for you.

Nope, it’s a bit more involved than that.

The_Guardian_Building_Window_in_London

PR agencies which focus on one particular industry are likely to know the key journalists for that sector and, since they’ll be communicating with them every day, will have excellent relationships with them and in turn, will no doubt reflect this in the fees that they charge.

As a freelance PR with clients in a whole host of sectors however, it’s my job to identify and reach out to freelance and in-house journalists so that when a new client comes along, whether they’re a fashion stylist or a building firm, I’ll more than likely know who to speak to in the media and what it is they’re looking for.

This is the key to securing fantastic editorial.  It’s not simply pushing out the news you want to promote, it’s knowing in advance what sort of products, case studies and angles will stop a busy journalist in their tracks and setting out to collect that material or adjust the angle of a press release so that it fits the bill.

Want an example?  Ok, perhaps you’ve created a new way of removing wrinkles for up to 24 hours, and are wondering why the phone isn’t ringing off the hook.  It’s likely that beauty and women’s interest journos will be reading these same claims in around 150 other press releases each day.  You need to do something to stand out.  You could arrange for a celebrity to trial the product and give their feedback or via social media, offer free samples to anyone who is prepared to act as a case study for the media, together with before and after photos.    You may strike lucky and come across someone who was so self-conscious that it affected their life but after using your product, had the courage to go out and make a difference . Remember, PR is about people, not products.

Recently, I have used this approach with my “Opportunity PR” community.  This is a collection of clients who I have on standby, when a journalist comes to me with a specific request.  In this way, the client isn’t paying out monthly fees, but only pays me when they actually appear in the press.

When I sign up a new client to my Opportunity PR database, I notify the key journalists who work in their particular field.  Not only that, but on a weekly basis, I email opt-in freelance journalists, a list of who I currently have on my books along with the related industry and keywords.  In this way, the journos can see at a glance who may be appropriate for a feature they’re working on.

Ensure you make your company and news attractive to the media by adopting this “what can I do for you?” approach.  Undoubtedly, hi resolution photography is a must, but supplement this where you can with research, statistics and case studies.

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