How to build a relationship with the press
Central to PR is reaching out to journalists and media outlets and convincing them that yours is a story worth covering. This can be 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 might work some of the time, 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. You’re going to have a hard time standing out if you and your business is virtually unknown to them.
This is why it’s a good idea to establish connections ahead of time, before you even need to pitch your press release. This is where outreach comes in.
The importance of outreach and how to do it right
While approaching a stranger to help you out may not be a guaranteed success every time, approaching a friend or acquaintance is more likely to be. This is why not only making connections with writers and editors is important, but nurturing them too. It may sound a little bit intimidating, but media outreach isn’t rocket science, a lot of it is really 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. Follow the writers and editors you’re interested in making a connection with on social media sites (sites like Twitter and Linkedin are best for this).
Keep up to date with their work on blogs and news outlets. Engage with them. Respond to their posts and retweet them. Share stories they might have an interest in, or even seek advice. Do whatever you need to do to establish a rapport. By doing this, when you do eventually contact them about covering your business, you will be seen as a connection reaching out, rather than a random stranger pitching cold.
Building a media list and deciding who to contact
It’s all well and good talking about how to connect, but how do you know who to connect with? 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. Chances are, 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 key. You need to be selective; quality is better than quantity.
If you’re a crafter of bespoke hammocks, what use is reaching out to a seasoned tech blogger? You need to focus on hitting your specific niche. Of course, go for the outdoor goods market, but then go further. Check out who’s the authoritative voice in the outside things-you-lie-on market and reach out to them. Take one step further and seek out the folks who are specifically into handmade outdoor items. The Internet is bigger than you could possibly imagine and filled with more blogs on subject you ever dreamed. If you look hard, you’re bound to find the writers you need. It’s also a good idea to check out who has reviewed your competition and reach out to them.
How do you go about finding writers and editors who cover your area of interest? As so often is the answer in the modern world, Google is your friend. In all likelihood, if you use social media at all you already follow outlets that cover your niche, so take a look there first. If not, get yourself to a search engine and look for the top blogs and bloggers in your field, as well as news outlets and online magazines. Seek out influencers who are known to promote such products of services. Make a list of the most relevant sites and individuals with their contact details and social media platforms, and start reaching out.
Handy tools for media outreach
There are a number of online tools you can use for connecting with journalists that will make life a little bit easier.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO): The aim of HARO is to easily connect journalists and bloggers to expert sources in order to bolster the credibility of an article. Journalists submit a source request, while brand’s respond with a pitch. It’s a win-win situation; writers don’t have to go out of their way to find sources, and you get the opportunity to tell your brand story while positioning yourself is an expert in your niche. With so many brands pitching, it can be hard to stand out, but it’s definitely a prime opportunity for sharpening your pitching skills.
Pressfarm: Pressfarm is an extensive database of journalists’ contact information and social media profiles, created with the aim of helping startups to easily find writers to cover their budding businesses.
Muck Rack: Muck Rack is a PR software platform that focuses on building relationships between journalists and brands. It monitors the news and keeps your media list up to date.
SourceBottle: A similar idea to HARO, SourceBottle is a free resource that connects journalists and expert sources. You can set up an expert profile for an extra fee.
Make sure you’re easy to contact
Sometimes a journalist may seek you out, so it’s important not to make life hard for them. Your website should have a dedicated, easy-to-find page that clearly lists your contact information. If you have several people on your team, include pictures, a brief biography, and the contact information of each individual member of staff. This will give your business a more personal touch, but also gives reporters a chance to reach out to specific people to suit their story. For instance, a reporter might want to talk to your CFO about financing in the bespoke hammock industry, or a baking blogger might want to find out the kind of capital someone might need to launch a pastry shop.
If you do get covered by the media, make sure to include a press section on your website, and post it on social media too. By doing so the blog or news outlet may be more inclined to cover you again in the future.
Give guest posting a try
You don’t have to wait for your new contacts in your media list to cover you, why not try your hand at guest posting on those niche websites you’ve discovered? Instead of just pitching your press release to the media, try pitching a byline article. This will help with establishing you and your company as an expert voice in your field. Focus on writing content that is informative and engaging, that will leave your readers wanting to know more.
This doesn’t have to only be specific to your niche. You can of course talk about your love of hammocks to outdoor enthusiast blogs and the ins and outs of pastry to baking blogs, but you can also talk about other aspects of business in general. Pitch stories to business blogs about important things that you or someone else in your business has learned along the way. This could be anything from financing, or asset management, to manufacturing. Always stick to talking about the topic at hand and don’t get bogged down in advertising your company’s products – blogs aren’t likely to take too kindly to that.
Having your name and business connected with respected names in your niche will lend further credibility to your brand, leader readers to owned media on your own site, and ultimately increase exposure and drive sales.