As a brief follow-up piece to the article I wrote this week on Search Engine Land, “Three Ways To Optimize Business For Local Search Via Online Newspapers“, I thought I’d list a few tips on how to pitch stories to local newspaper reporters in order to get coverage of your business along with the almighty links and reference citations which can help your site and listing rank higher than competitors.
8 Tips for Getting Reporters to Promote Your Business:
- Issue a press release or “media alert”. Prepare when you pitch a story idea to local news editors and reporters. Reporters and editors are not at all lazy, but they are pulled in many different directions and are presented with multiple story options every day. So, if you want to increase your chances of having your story idea get taken by them, prepare it a bit. Do a brief write-up of the concept and prepare it like a written news release. Write it up in clear, “Who, What, Where, Why, When” format. For the “What” part, explain exactly what your concept is and why it should be considered compelling.
- Hop on a media feeding-frenzy! Watch the current news and see what’s hot in public perception, and when some bursty bit of news is emerging into public consciousness as The Next Big Thing, be prepared to exploit it for your own advantage. Formulate a story idea linking your business/product to the current hot news item, and issue your media alert so that your local reporters will have a hot story item handed to them on a platter, ready to run with!
- Be unusual! Run-of-the-mill story ideas are yawners and will cause your story idea to get ignored. Think in terms of attention-grabbing headlines. Can you state in one sentence why a story about your company or product would attract the attention of an average man-on-the-street? Make this your press release headline. Even just a clever turn of phrase about a moderately run-of-mill story concept could be the differentiating factor that gets your story some media coverage.
- Do your homework. If your story idea involves making some sort of significant claims or is founded on some sort of facts external to your company, help the reporter by finding the information they’d need to check out your claims and verify facts. Provide them with links to independent reports, phone numbers of experts who back you up, and other supportive documentation.
- Provide free photos. I’ve written previously about how free photos is good for SEO. In this same vein, providing photos that illustrate your press release or story idea for a reporter helps save them time and makes the story that much more compelling if it’s done right. Furthermore, provide an easy-to-use Press Kit on your website with a number of images that help the press and bloggers illustrate stories about you. Press kits should include a few sizes of your company logo, for both print and online, pictures of your company, employees performing typical services, customers having fun at your place of business, and pictures of prominent employees who may be frequently quoted. Be sure to have signed image releases of any recognizable people appearing in these photos, though!
- Offer to be an expert commentator. Whenever stories come up about your industry, businesses type, or area of expertise, it’d be great if reporters would think of you as an expert they can quote. There are a number of places on the internet where you could register yourself as an expert commentator for particular subject matter, and you can also provide your credentials in advance to various TV news channels, local newspaper offices, radio station, and to local reporters and bloggers.
- Build rapport with your reporters! Be friendly, accommodating and easy to work with for any reporter who calls you up! Let’s face it – they’re doing you a big favor, and you should be thankful. If you’re fun to work with, they may think of you much more frequently as a person to go to for stories. Send a thank you note after a story about your airs, and even send them a freebie or discount coupon from your business.
- Manufacture a PR stunt! It may be cheap and, frankly, very blatantly engineered as a self-serving effort to get attention, but if you can arrange it for a “slow news” period, it can work just as well as any meatier news idea. Just be restrained about doing such a thing too often. Use this for slow business seasons and when you may’ve had a long dry spell from any media attention. Do it too often and you’re risk audience fatigue and it will not be as effective.
These tips owe quite a bit to Emmy Award-winning reporter, Jeff Crilley’s book, “Free Publicity.” You can read his book for even more ideas.