Publicity on a Budget
You believe in your products and have an amazing story to tell (or at least you think you do).
So how do you convince journalists to share your story or talk about your products? We all know that getting into the right news publication or mentioned by an influential reporter can propel your business by raising awareness for your brand, products or services — and all it costs is some time, energy, and a little bit of patience.
But with thousands of other small businesses competing for attention from reporters, how do you break through? And where do you even start?
As a small business, it may be out of your budget to hire a
Figure Out Your Story
Journalists are always looking for interesting stories. But, before you do anything, think about yours.
Maybe you’ve already done this by creating your About Us section of your website. This is a great place to start. You don’t have a lot of time when you run a business, but before you set out to conquer the hearts and minds of reporters, think about what you find so awesome about your store, products, or services.
Reporters may not be interested in writing about the fact that you sell paper clips, but they may be compelled by the story of why and how you ended up doing so. Find that personal hook that makes your store and your journey so special.
Once you figure that part out, then you have something to work with!
Identify Media Outlets
Your story may not necessarily appeal to the New York Times (or maybe not right away), so be realistic about the publications where you see your story being told.
This may mean considering publications like local news outlets (perhaps your neighborhood daily or weekly newspaper/website) or specialty blogs (like those that appeal to parents or a niche market). Do a search online to see what blogs come up that might report on your particular niche.
For example, if you sell specialty car parts, build a list of blogs and other media outlets that cater to car enthusiasts. Start your list with publications that interest you as a merchant of car parts; once you’ve exhausted what you know by heart, then do a search for top car parts blogs.
This will undoubtedly provide a list of sites that may not be a perfect fit, but spend a little bit of time culling through the results page to find
Develop the Right Contacts
This may seem harder than it sounds, but it’s easier than you think to identify reporters who write about your market or products. You can do this on a parallel path identifying media outlets, or, take your list of media outlets and hone in on the writers who most fit the story you want to tell.
The easiest way to do this is to read relevant articles in your target publications and understand who is writing about what. This is an important step because writers are constantly bombarded with story pitches that may not be relevant to what they cover. You want your first exposure to a reporter to be positive, so make sure you understand their interests above everything else.
In the end, a reporter will be much more responsive and amenable to engaging with you.
Understand the Needs of a Reporter
There are certain universals about what a journalist may find interesting for a story.
Reporters are not only a part of the media, but they also monitor the latest trends and news. For instance, if a movie about ballroom dancing comes out and becomes a huge hit, there’s a good chance that news outlets may be interested in covering stories that focus on ballroom dancing — this could be an opportunity to offer your expertise on all things dancing (and your dancing accessories) to a reporter who writes about lifestyles.
Media also like unusual angles — so if you sell iPhone accessories, it may be more difficult to come up with a compelling story.
However, if you have a unique story, service or product, you could get the attention of a journalist willing to share it like the piece on Forbes.com titled 8 Weird and Unique Products from Startups and Small Businesses.
Reporters are drawn to stories that have an emotional component. Who doesn’t want to read an inspiring story?
Take for example the
Size matters to a reporter — so if you’re the largest supplier of fish restaurants in your city, feel free to talk about it. Whether your business has grown significantly in recent years, you have a large share of the market, or you have a huge jump in orders — if there’s a good story behind the size, then it may be interesting to a reporter.
Pitch Your Story
Once you decide on your angle, and identified your list of media and specific reporters, prepare to reach out.
Most reporters provide a myriad of ways to contact them — magazines have a masthead (usually the first pages that list the editors and/or writers along with their information), or online publications will often feature media contact information right on the articles they publish.
Remember to not be too pushy — simply start out with an introduction of yourself and a brief reason for why your story might be compelling to the reporter based on their interests.
It’s important to keep track of the reporters you’ve pitched to avoid sending repetitive and irritating emails. Create a table and update it every time you pitch someone:
While pitching your story cold may be too time consuming or daunting, consider positioning yourself as a resource for media to come to you for quotes on topics that may be related to the market you serve.
The drawback is that you still compete with many others who are similarly pitching themselves or products, but it doesn’t require as much of a time investment up front.
Share Your Media Coverage
It may be obvious, but after you see your name and story in print (or online), then thank the reporter publicly (and privately) by sharing the news through your social channels and on your website.
By then, if you don’t have a press page, you can start one! Also, check the comments section of the piece once it’s published — this is a great place to engage with readers and encourage them to visit your site.
Good luck and happy selling!