Getting your small businesses online is a vital first step, but it’s important to remember that it’s still just the “first step”. You may know how to make a small business website, but you also need to know how to reach your full potential.
Even if your company offers great products and services, it doesn’t mean customers will find you on their own. Getting your site found through search engine optimization is one way to move forward, but media coverage can also play a huge part in getting your business on people's radar.
So how do you get media coverage for your business? The answer to that is by implementing a good PR strategy.
PR is short for public relations. Its primary focus is building a brand's reputation through how information about the business is communicated — good PR positions a brand as trustworthy and authoritative. There are three kinds of PR: owned, paid, and earned media.
Owned media: This is content that your business creates. It can include blog and social media content, or even guest posts on other websites. Owned media is often the first port of call when people seek information about your business. Especially if they’ve landed on your website because of the content you’ve created. Needless to say, having good content on your website is essential.
Paid media: This is similar to advertising in that it relies on your company getting noticed through avenues such as pay-per-click advertising, traditional and influencer marketing. Additionally, many well-known websites, blogs, and media outlets offer advertorials or “sponsored posts” where companies and brands can pay to write an article that is featured in a publication.
Earned media: This is what we'll be focusing on in this article, and is content written about your company by third-party news outlets and industry. In other words, media coverage! An example of this can include your product or company getting featured in review blogs, industry publications, or even getting mentioned on the local broadcast news. Whether your business is talked about by online outlets, print publications, or various broadcast media, earned media is the most effective way of getting your business, product, or company noticed.
There is a reason why it's referred to as "earned" media, however. There is a lot more work, preparation, research, and strategy involved in getting the media to first notice and then cover your business. While it will inevitably take more legwork, it's not impossible.
So, how do you execute an effective earned media campaign? This article will cover the main strategies every small business should focus on to get noticed by the press.
These strategies are:
Your product or service may be the best of its kind, but it's going to take more than that to cultivate consumer loyalty and appeal to the press. For this, you'll need a newsworthy hook. Humans are more likely to have an emotional response to interesting and intriguing stories – we can't get enough of them. Thousands of years of honing the craft will attest to that. That's why mundane details \ of superiority aren't going to cut it, and you need to build an appealing narrative.
You need to think about what makes your business, product or service unique, and make it the central focus of your brand narrative. Can you prove you’re the best or the fastest with data? Are you the first at something? Think about how your business came to be, and the story behind why you decided to launch in the first place. What is the biggest problem you wanted to solve, and how are you solving it? Don't simply talk about why you needed it – talk about how you are making the world a better place by doing it.
Always consider your customer and target audiences. hat would appeal to their emotions or interests? Ultimately, the brand narrative you decide on should be genuine and uncomplicated.
Whatever approach you decide to take with your brand narrative will lay the foundations for the kind of owned media you produce and will underpin your communication with the media.
Central to PR is connecting with journalists and media outlets and convincing them that your product or company is worth covering. This can be more difficult if you don't already have established connections. Relying on cold calls and emails alone can be a futile act, not unlike approaching a stranger for a favor. It may rarely work on occasion, but journalists and media outlets already have a wealth of connections to deal with and to choose from when looking for a story to cover. So you're going to have a harder time standing out if you and your business are virtually unknown.
This is why you need to continually reach out to new journalists, and once you establish connections, maintain them by staying in touch. Additionally, it’s important to establish yourself to press and influencers as a valuable source of information about your industry, not just about your products or services. That way journalists may think of you as more than just someone peddling a product, but a thought leader in your company’s industry. Then they might even come to you for a story!
Emailing or “cold-calling” a stranger rarely generates a positive return response, if you receive a response at all., However, reaching out to a friend, a colleague or new business acquaintance will give you a better chance at your target receiving and considering your message (or pitch)l. This is why making connections with writers and editors who cover your industry is essential but nurturing those relationships is vital. It may sound a bit intimidating, but media outreach isn't rocket science, a lot of it is just common sense.
Think about how you talk to people in the real world, and how you make friends. Establishing connections doesn't have to be difficult, and the Internet has made it easier than ever to make new connections. Follow the writers, editors, and influencers you're interested in making a connection with on social media sites like Twitter, Linkedin. or Instagram. Read their articles, engage with their content, retweet, comment when you have relevant information to contribute to the conversation.
Don’t be someone who shamelessly promotes your company or product in your social media engagements, and remember that in most cases, journalists prefer to be pitched via email — but more of that later.
First, you need to figure out who is the right person to reach out to.
There are a lot of journalists out there covering a wide range of topics. You'll never have time to maintain a rapport with all of them. Luckily, you don't have to. If you're a small business trying to catch a break, you'll have a lot of other things you need to focus on too. That's why focusing on writers that cover your niche area is vital. You need to be selective; quality is better than quantity.
What use is reaching out to a seasoned tech blogger if your company makes hammocks? You need to focus most on hitting those within your specific niche. Check out who's the authoritative voice in your niche by googling relevant keywords, researching who has already written about similar companies or products. Take one step further and seek out the influencers and bloggers who are specifically or personally into handmade outdoor furniture and decor.
The Internet is filled with niche blogs and social influencers on every subject you’ve ever dreamed of. If you look hard, you're bound to find an abundance of writers and influencers specific to your industry, service, or product category. Make a list of the most relevant sites and individuals with their contact details and social media platforms, and start reaching out. Use Google spreadsheets or Excel to continually build and store your media database.
There are a number of online tools you can use for connecting with journalists that will make life a little bit easier. Some may even help you uncover leads for stories or interview opportunities.
Sometimes a journalist may seek you out, so it's important not to make life hard for them to get in touch with you. Your website should have a dedicated, easy-to-find page that lists your PR person’s contact information.
Also, if you have several people on your executive team, include pictures and a brief biography for each member of the leadership team. This will give your business a more personal touch, and gives reporters a chance to reach out to speak with specific people to suit their story. For instance, a reporter might want to talk to your CFO about financing in the outdoor furniture industry, or they may want to ask your CEO to provide a list of the best place
If you do get covered by the media, make sure to include a press section on your website and post it on social media. By doing so, the blog or news outlet may be more inclined to cover you again in the future, especially if you have a sizable engaged audience to share your news with.
A good chunk of PR involves crafting a solid press release and convincing journalists that the content contained within is newsworthy and worth covering in an article. Like we said earlier, pitching a press release should ideally come after you have already dedicated time to building relationships with journalists, bloggers, and editors, and after you've put together a quality, well-researched media list.
Press releases are the key tool for announcing news and hopefully gaining publicity and press coverage. And knowing how to write one is crucial for your brand identity and chances for online coverage by big media. A press release is a formal news announcement about your company. When sending a press release to your media list, you need to make sure the journalists and influencers who receive it, will find it interesting, and newsworthy enough to share with their audience.
Press releases can boost your company’s visibility. If your media list is carefully researched and curated, your potential customers are reading the blogs and outlets you are sending your press release to. And when your press release is covered online, more people find out about your company, product, or service.
Media coverage usually looks more trustworthy to people because it comes from a credible source, and not from paid advertising or the company’s website. Press releases also benefit your SEO. When major media outlets publish your press release, you automatically receive numerous backlinks from trusted websites with high domain authorities.
Tip #1 - Make sure your story is really newsworthy.
Before you write your press release, you should think about why journalists would find your announcement to be interesting to their audience. While all your news might be exciting to you (it's your business, after all), not everyone is likely to feel the same way, so make sure your announcement contains information that is intriguing, informative or valuable to your industry and potential customers.
Tip #2 - Make a convincing subject line.
Imagine you are a journalist from a large publication, receiving hundreds (if not thousands) of emails every week. What makes you pay attention to one email, and ignore the other? The answer is - the subject line. That is why it is important your subject line conveys the summary of your press release in as few words as possible. Your subject line should stand out.
Tip #3 - Avoid being too wordy.
No one likes to spend more than a few minutes reading a press release. That is why, include only facts and be concise conveying them. No need to write a long introduction. It is best to reveal the main points in the first paragraph. If you don’t clearly explain why press should care about your message/announcement in the first few sentences, chances are low that they will ever finish reading your email. Also, always be aware of the five W's of media relations while writing: who, what, when, where, and why. However, don’t be too short on facts. If your story lacks vital information or details, it most probably will not be covered.
Tip #4 - Create an informative boilerplate about your company
Every press release needs a smart boilerplate. A boilerplate is a brief paragraph at the very bottom of a press release about your company. A strong boilerplate will include historical info, general facts, achievements. If you are a small company, there is a big chance that people have never heard about you. So, it is a good idea to tell them about your business in one short paragraph, and finish your press release by providing your contact information. If your company has some major achievements or winning awards, don’t hesitate to include that into your boilerplate.
Tip #5 - Before writing a press release, check AP style basics
All editors and journalists follow the Associated Press Stylebook in their writing. And since you are writing a press release for media, you need to stick to AP style requirements as well.
These rules are only the tip of the iceberg, though. Feel free to check Namecheap’s press releases and how they are structured here.
These days, the most effective way of pitching press releases is via email — according to Cision, 90% of journalists prefer it. When it comes to pitching, it's essential to have reasonable expectations. Not everyone is going to respond to your pitch or even respond positively.
Don't treat rejection negatively, but as a learning opportunity. If you do get some hard nos, don't take it personally. Reply to them, thanking them for their response, and ask them if it would be okay to pitch again at a later date. Don't burn bridges because you didn't get it right the first time.
Depending on your goals and your budget, there are several options for sending out a press release.
If you're still unsure where to start creating an effective PR strategy, it won't hurt to check out what your competitors are doing and figure out how you can do it better. Follow them on social media. Check out their ads and the kind of content they produce. Carefully examine how they're covered in the media. What type of press releases are they pitching, and what angles are they taking? How can your business do things differently? How can you learn from their success or mistakes?
Some key metrics you should keep an eye on include social media mentions, blog articles and comments, media and user reviews, round up inclusions (“best lists”) and other PR mentions. Analyze the kinds of things that media and their audience are saying about your company/product/brand – good and bad. Create Google Alerts to be notified of the latest news of your top competitors and key topics related to your business. Although, don’t only rely only on Google Alerts. Regularly research your competitors and industry news online. Always start your day by checking the latest news in your niche.
When it comes to building a media list, looking through your competitors' backlinks is a handy way of finding out the kinds of websites you should be contacting. Majestic and Moz's link explorer tools can do this for you.
PR success can be a little hard to measure, especially since the ultimate goal is to strengthen your brand rather than driving sales and increasing website traffic (although it can certainly contribute to the latter two). When it comes to getting media coverage, it's best to focus on the quality of media mentions rather than quantity. PR efforts usually have a snowball effect. So the more you try, the more you communicate with the media, the more you put your company on their radar, the better is the result.
Measuring PR success can be tricky. It’s much easier to measure the success of paid advertising or a particular sales promotion. However, you should not underestimate the power of PR and how much it can improve your brand’s exposure, and ultimately drive more sales for your business. If done right, PR builds your brand’s reputation and awareness among potential clients. While getting press attention for your business may be a slow burn and take some hard work and dedication at first, the pay off will be worth it in time!