This is the first installment in our series on the new rules of PR, helping small business owners get the media coverage they deserve for the great work they do.
Journalists, reporters, and bloggers are busier than ever these days and their inboxes are fuller than ever, receiving literally hundreds of pitches each week. If you’re still sending out the same-old, same-old press releases, they’re going to hit the “delete” button. So how do take your small business publicity to the next level and get your announcements noticed?
It’s all about targeting and packaging.
Here are five rules to follow:
1. Know the journalist’s “beat”. We can’t emphasize this one enough—it’s crucial to know what a particular journalist writes about. Otherwise, you’ll end up sending pitches about your new pet products to a mommy blogger or asking a finance journalist to review your new tech tool. There are ways to learn more about the journalist so you target your small business publicity well. You can check out their bios on Twitter or on the author pages at the websites where they contribute.Google them to get an idea about their body of work. But there’s no better way to know what they’re interested in than actually reading their stuff.
2. Get to the point. Journalists are just like you—they’re swamped and scanning through tons of emails a day to get their jobs done. Subject lines matter, and straightforwardness works best. If your subject line is cutesy or cryptic, your email may never get opened. Clearly state what you have to offer, whether it’s data, advice, interview availability or a product for review. If what you’re offering is counterintuitive or surprising, that’s a great way to capture their attention. For example, I write about small business and I’m always looking for statistics and surveys, so a subject line like “Survey: 90% of SMB Owners Admit They Sleep Till Noon” would quickly grab my interest.
3. Help them out. Journalists, and particularly bloggers, are under huge pressure to “feed the content beast” by churning out multiple blog posts, tweets, etc. a day. Make their jobs easier by including multiple suggestions for possible story angles. For instance, suppose the survey above found that business owners actually only sleep till noon one day a week because they’re so exhausted from working 18-hour days the rest of the time. You could suggest articles on “Are you getting enough sleep to succeed?”, “How to start a business where you can sleep till noon every day,” or “How to better manage your time.”
4. Provide backup. Give reporters the tools they need to research your story right away. Provide links to your survey results or other data, relevant articles written about your business, relevant articles you’ve written and your website (which does have an “About” page, right?).
5. Be responsive. Someone bit your bait and a reporter wants to talk to you—now. Get back to the person immediately and provide whatever they need, be it additional data, a high-resolution photo, overnighting a book or product for review or setting up an interview. Opportunities at small business publicity don’t last very long–if you travel frequently, are heading out on vacation or have another reason you won’t be able to respond immediately, put someone else at your business in charge of checking your email and phone messages and responding to media inquiries, stat.