I’ll be running again, next month, another PR Mentor program for small businesses. Every time I run this type of PR training program, the question that’s by far the most popular on participants’ mind is: ‘How can I get my business in the media?’.
Many organisations and experts are keen to become the go-to entity in their field, which can be achieved by delivering good media interviews and expressing their views on their industry. But is that something reserved only for the big end of town?

Small businesses can have their place under the sun too, but if your business doesn’t claim the space quickly, others won’t wait for an invitation…

So to help your small business gain that much desired media exposure and raise its profile, follow these simple 10 tips:

1. Prepare a media list

Your first step is to identify the media where you would like to feature. These could include industry magazines, blogs and newsletters, your local media and those related to your target audiences (for example, a food-related business might like to get exposure in consumer lifestyle media). Create an Excel spreadsheet with names of media outlets, editors, contact numbers, emails and other useful information.

2. Understand the media

A good place to start is by reading the publication, listening to the radio program or watching the television show you are planning on liaising with. Understand the sort of story they are covering and their style. Also, be aware of these simple rules for each media type:

Print

-         Daily newspapers file their stories in the afternoon  – Contact them in the morning

-         Monthly and quarterly magazines have long deadlines of up to three months – Plan ahead of time

-         Good, high resolution photography is very important - Invest in professional shots of your directors, products, etc. You will be able to use these not only for media requests, but on your website, brochures and more.

Online

-         Online news is instantaneous and forever

-         Low resolution images are sufficient

-         If they have an e-newsletter, avoid contacting them just before the e-newsletter is due to be distributed (e.g. the SmartCompany e-newsletter is distributed everyday around lunch time, so it is best to contact them in the afternoon)

Broadcast

-         Will it be pre-recorded or live?

-         Keep your answers as succinct as possible

-         Use this interview technique to get your answer across: Point – Reason – Evidence – Point

3. Meet with key journalists

Organising a face-to-face coffee catch up with key journalists is a great way not only to discuss developments in your industry, but also to learn more about their interests and needs for the publication. This should be seen not as a sales pitch, but as an opportunity to exchange information and form better relationships.

Before contacting a journalist, read articles they have written or stories they have covered so you get a better understanding of what they report on, their interests and their writing/broadcasting style.

4. Be newsworthy

Identifying the right angle for your media release is the first step in trying to secure media coverage for your organisation. Whether it be through creating a competition, launching a new service, developing a ‘top 10’ list, releasing the results of a survey, making the most of a national day, discussing industry trends or a case study or arguing a hot topic, there are plenty of opportunities for your association to be newsworthy.

5. Understand what’s topical

Making sure your story is newsworthy is one way to get you noticed – and published! But media outlets also often have their own pre-planned agenda. Many publications develop features lists for the year ahead with main topics to be covered in each issue and content deadlines. These lists can be obtained from the editor or advertising representative.

Knowing in advance what topics your key target media will be covering will help you tailor your approach and present them with information that will be relevant to them. A win-win situation!

Another way to identify upcoming story angles is through SourceBottle (www.sourcebottle.com.au), an online service that broadcasts journalists’ and bloggers’ requests for sources of information. Topics of interest can be chosen when you sign up to SourceBottle so you get only those requests relevant to your area of expertise.

6. Tailor your story

The more tailored your story is to the specific media outlet where you are sending it, the higher your success rate will be. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that information is shared so quickly through social media these days that traditional media are asking for more in-depth stories.

To help you develop a story angle with a bang, put yourself in the journalist’s shoes (and the ones of their readers) and answer these questions: ‘What’s in it for them? How would they benefit from reading this article? How might it help them?’

7. Follow up

Journalists receive hundreds of media releases every day and so sending a media release is hardly sufficient to get some media exposure. Follow up your story with a phone call, offering the journalist images, an interview, additional information not already included in your media release or even a different angle. Most importantly, have a reason for giving them a call – not just to check they have received your story.

8. Stand out

Be interesting, be controversial, be different, be bold! Think of ways your organisation can stand out from the crowd. ‘An image is worth a thousand words’… so make sure you also have some fabulous professional images on file.

9. Deadlines

The media work on deadlines. It could be three months, three weeks, three days or three hours. No matter what, the more responsive you are at providing them with the information they require within deadline, the higher your chances of publication are (or at least keeping a good relationship with the journalist).

So if a journalist asks you for information on your association, the first question to ask should be: ‘What is your deadline?’. And stick to it!

10. Be persistent

You may not make the headlines the first time around, but keep persisting. It can take time for journalists to write about your business, but at every contact you make with them (in a non-salesy or pushy manner!), you become a bit more top of mind. Likewise, your first article may not result in an inundation of phone calls as it is only through repetition that people start taking action. But hang in there and your business will soon reap the rewards of its efforts!

By Kim Larochelle, PR Mentor

You can find Kim on LinkedIn and Twitter

Kim will be running PR Mentor Accelerator, a two-day interactive PR training workshop for small businesses in early May. Participants will develop their own public relations plan, learn how to liaise with the media and engage on social media.