For a small business, exposure on a TV news show or in a newspaper or magazine can bring in big business. Whether a small business is pitching a local or national news outlet, there are several ways to set yourself apart from the competition. At a recent Meet the Media event, a panel of journalists and public relations experts shared a few tips to help small businesses increase their odds of media coverage.
- Provide an angle. Most media outlets are looking for a good story that will draw viewers and readers in. NBC producer Alex Presha emphasized the importance of pitching a unique story idea that includes a news peg. A peg, also known as a hook, gives the reporter a jumping-off point and helps set your story apart from other stories currently being covered.
- Research before you pitch. Rather than blanketing various media outlets with press releases, the panel recommended carefully researching each outlet and tailoring your release to their specific needs. Keep in mind the audience for each media outlet and alter your news release to meet that specific demographic. For some members of the media, certain times of day are better than others. Presha said at NBC, for example, pitches received at noon are more likely to get coverage than pitches made after 4 p.m.
- Start small. The panel pointed out that many reporters find inspiration by doing the same thing you do to learn about the latest news–they Google. Don’t discount the value of coverage on web-based news sites and local media outlets. The panel pointed out that Huffington Post Live, a very search engine-visible news video site, provides insight from non-reporters from all over the country on a variety of issues.
- Help the producer. Instead of simply writing a news release with generic information about the event, the panel advised giving the producer a boost by suggesting how the story could play out. Suggest interview subjects and an angle that would appeal to that outlet’s audience.
- Build relationships. One of the best way to get consistent coverage is to network with select reporters. Instead of waiting until you need a favor, retweet your favorite media personalities and occasionally expression your admiration for stories they’ve reported.
- If it Bleeds, it Leads. You’ve probably noticed the news tends toward the negative. The panel recommends pitching your story as a solution to a problem that regularly appears in news stories, such as crime or teen bullying.
- Avoid Media Pet Peeves. The panel listed several absolute don’ts to avoid your release from being deleted without ever being considered. Avoid huge attachments, don’t ask a journalist what he or she covers (you should do research beforehand), and keep your pitches to one paragraph.
The panel also provided advice on social media coverage, emphasizing the value of a social media post going viral. Networking is everything, the panel stressed, noting that by retweeting and replying to others, you’ll be able to build followers of your own. For Twitter, the panel reminded everyone that hashtags are essential. The panel also recommended uploading a professional picture of yourself for all of your social media accounts, as well as avoiding engaging in negative online banter.
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