How to get media coverage for your business

Here at Namecheap, we’ve spoken before about the importance of small businesses getting online to really reach their full potential. However, when you have a business offering what you think is an amazing product or service, just having a great website isn’t enough in itself to get people to sit up and take notice. We’ve talked before about getting your site found through search engine optimization, but media coverage can also play a huge part in getting your business on people’s radar.

But how do you get media coverage for your business? The answer to that is by implementing a good PR strategy.

How to get press coverage

So, how to 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:

  • Developing a brand narrative

  • Building a relationship with the press

  • Getting featured on the local news

  • Pitching a press release

  • Monitoring competitors to boost media coverage

  • Utilizing social media and online communities

  • Measuring success

To skip ahead to a particular section, click on one of the topics above. Otherwise, keep on scrolling.

How to develop a brand narrative

Your product or service may be the best of its kind, but it’s going to take more than that to cultivate loyalty from consumers and appeal to the press. For this, you’ll need an emotional hook. When it comes down to it, humans are most likely to have an emotional response to stories – we can’t get enough of them. Thousands of years of honing the craft will attest to that. That’s why simple stats just aren’t going to cut it, you need to build an appealing brand narrative.

Take a close look at what your business is offering and ask yourself some key questions. Are you an amazing artisanal pastry chef who trained with the greats in France, or did you come from humble beginnings at a hospital cafeteria? Do you come from a long line of Italian-trained shoe cobblers and you just inherited the family business? Are you a busy mom who helped create a time management app to help out people who struggle to maintain balance between work and family time?

You need to think about what makes your business unique and make it the central focus of your brand narrative. What makes it different from others like it? Think about how your business came to be, and the story behind why you decided to launch in the first place. What is the problem you wanted to solve and how you are solving it. Don’t simply talking about why you needed it – talk about why the world does.

If you’re that pastry chef don’t merely talk about your passion for all things sweet, talk about how you want to inject a little bit of luxury into people’s everyday lives and the importance of treating yourself. If you spent years training with Italian cobblers, talk about how the majority of people don’t wear good footwear and how you’re going to change that. If you’re that time management app-maker, talk about how you can change the lives of families for the better.

Always consider your customer demographic and what would appeal to their emotions. Ultimately, the brand narrative you decide on should be genuine and uncomplicated.

Whatever approach you decide to take with your brand narrative, this will lay the foundations for the kind of owned media you produce and will underpin all your communication with the media.

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.

How to get on the local news

If you want media attention for your business, starting local is never a bad idea. Research what’s going on in your local area. If there are events related to you’re niche, look into setting a booth and print some professional leaflets and fliers. In all likelihood the event will also attract local press who you can connect with. Keep your calendar full with opportunities to network. If events feature panel discussions, book yourself for a real opportunity to show off your expertise and promote your brand.

Be generous in your locale

Giving back to the local community is also a great way of catching the media spotlight. Branding wise, philanthropy is a no-brainer. Whether it be sponsoring the local soccer team or organizing a charity event, there are numerous ways you can contribute to making things better while simultaneously strengthening the reputation of your business. If money’s an issue, there are more cost-effective ways of being philanthropic – why not donate your product or volunteer your time?

If you’re like our pastry chef friend from earlier, donate some of your delicious desserts to a community group meeting. Staff could help out at a local food bank or homeless shelter. The developers on your app-making team could offer their expertise free of charge to a local non-profit. There are a myriad things you can do in the local community if you get creative about it.

Do it yourself

If nothing local is quite a good fit for your business, and philanthropy isn’t an option, why not look into organizing or sponsoring your own event? There are bound to be other businesses and individuals related to your niche close by, so organizing a networking event like a party, conference, or breakfast will boost your brand’s credibility if those attending the event found it to be beneficial, and also give you the opportunity to make reputable business connections. If that all sounds a bit overwhelming, you can always team up with another company to help organize or co-sponsor.

Share details of the event with local media outlets and post it across social media platforms.

How to pitch a press release

A good chunk of PR involves crafting a good press release and convincing journalists that the content contained within is worth covering in an article. Like we said earlier, pitching a press release should ideally come when you have already dedicated time to building relationships with journalists, bloggers, and editors, and after you’ve put together a solid media list.

What is a press release and what should you include?

Simply put, a press release is a formal statement a business makes to the press. This could cover a number of things from exciting news, a product launch, or an event it is hosting.

A good press release should:

  • Be clear, concise, and to the point.

  • Lead with the most important information. Always bear in mind the five W's of media relations while writing: who, what, when, where, and why.

  • Include contact information, ensuring its easily found

  • Avoid tech jargon and overhyping

Before you write your press release, you should think about why you want people to know your news. 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 it’s something that’s worth sharing and ultimately valuable to your customers.

What to say in your pitch

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 important 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.

One of the most important elements of pitching through email is the subject line – if it doesn’t attract the recipient’s attention, it won’t be opened. Of course, it still has to be relevant to the topic of the press release, so don’t go overboard with trying to stand out. It also isn’t a bad idea to include the writer’s name, so they know that their email has been tailored with them in mind.

While your brand narrative should form the basis of your pitch, each pitch email should be customized to suit the specific blogs and outlets you’re pitching to. It should have an angle that appeals to the writer’s worldview and that of their readers. Remember we said to think about why you were writing this press release? The body copy of this email is where you answer this question. Tell the writer why this story is interesting, and why you think it will be important to their readers.

After your pitches have been sent, give writers and editors time to respond. You don’t want to put them off and undo the rapport you’ve spent time building by hounding them. Make sure you’re ready to answer any questions they have and make yourself available for interviews and to provide any additional information about your business they might need. Being respectful of their time and responding promptly to requests will be beneficial to your relationship with journalists, as well as your reputation.

Another option for pitching press releases is to go through PRWeb. With prices starting from $99 per press release, the service will permanently host your press release on their site. With more premium plans, they will have your press release syndicated across their media partner websites, and reach out to key journalists and industry influencers. While this might generate some interest, it’s ultimately far more effective to focus on fostering personal connections with journalists,websites, and blogs, creating your own ads to publicize your business, and creating compelling content for your site.

How to monitor your competitors to improve your success

If you’re still unsure where to start with 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. Foll ow them on social media. Check out their ads and the kind of content they produce. Closely examine how they’re covered in the media. What kind of press releases are they pitching and what angle are they taking? How can your business do things differently? How can you learn from their mistakes?

Some key metrics you should keep an eye on are social media mentions, blog comments, user reviews, and PR mentions. Analyze the kinds of things people are saying about them – good and bad. Create Google Alerts to be notified of the latest news of your top competitors and key topics related to your business. Use a tool specifically created for monitoring your competitors, such as Mention or Agility PR, to get some really in-depth insights.

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 tool can do this for you.

Successfully leveraging social media and online communities

Don’t underestimate the power of social media for strengthening your brand. Get in touch with social media influencers who are relevant to your niche. Invite them to try your product or service for free in exchange for sharing an honest review with their followers.

Online communities such as Reddit can also be an effective way of getting your brand talked about. Journalists spend a lot of time on subreddits keeping an eye out for the next big thing to write about. It may not be the first place you think of to promote your product, but depending on your niche, there are a number of subreddits that you can submit products to, such as shutupandtakemymoney, DiscountedProducts, and DealsReddit.

Aside from just using Reddit to promote your products, it provides another good opportunity to position yourself as an expert. Answer questions in subreddits for your niche and try your hand at one of the community’s famous AMAs (Ask Me Anything) where other users are invited to ask you questions about, well, anything. Interesting AMAs are often covered in the media. If you do decide to take the Reddit route as part of your PR strategy, remember authenticity is key. Be yourself and just be genuine. Redditors don’t take kindly to being manipulated and can smell a fake from a mile off.

Wrap up - measuring PR success

PR success can be a little hard to quantify, 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.

You want the right people to know about your business and you want them in turn to tell the right people why you’re worth knowing about. While the process of getting press attention for your business may be a slow burn and take some hard work and dedication, the pay off will be worth it.

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