Attracting quality press attention for your start up business can be an uphill struggle. Here are our top tips for gaining media coverage.
Make it personal
Each and every approach must be personalised. Let’s face it — nobody likes to be nameless. Avoid sending bulk emails with hundreds of recipients under the BCC tag. Most servers are auto-configured to junk incoming emails when the BCC is active with multiple emails.
Spend the extra time researching every recipient. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it will deliver results. Your conversion in terms of responses will definitely increase.
Target specific media
If you’re not clear about your target audience, then how can you execute an effective public relations campaign?
First of all, focus on the niche publications — these are your heavy hitters. Think of them as little gold mines, waiting to be found and crying out for your news. Who views them? A high majority are people solely interested in that specific topic. They are also used as research hubs for journalists from national newspapers.
By contrast, the national media titles tend to cover a broad range of topics and finding the most relevant point of contact is often laborious. Use the website search function to find relevant articles similar to your news and check the author profile.
Another great media opportunity is niche blogs. Land of the free speech, make sure they are floating high on your research list.
Make a list of all the journalists you want to target and consider making a smaller list of the key journalists that you would like to build relationships with. Keep them in the loop, invite them to your events, schmooze them! Focus your main efforts on this select group of journalists every time you have a story to convey.
The way that journalists get their hands on news has changed dramatically over the past decade. Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms are real-time news hubs. Stories can go viral before they are even picked up by media sources.
The days of Ivy Lee, who created the first modern press release, have all but gone. Fax machines and snail mail are still a viable delivery method but they just aren’t used that often.
So why not use this to your advantage and go old school? Fax your press release and avoid the cluttered mailbox of a journalist. Traditional mail is another good option — you can use fancy paper, a nice envelope or even send a gift.
When you're pitching to the media, make sure you have all the assets a journalist might need, ready to send off at a moments notice. But don’t send these first time — send them to those that request them.
• A photo to go with your story;
• A screenshot of your product/website in multiple formats and sizes;
• Your company logo in multiple formats and sizes;
• What makes you different that your competitors;
• Additional quotes from relevant persons;
• A document with facts/figures about your business.
Matthew Lobas is account manager at Pressat.
Securing media coverage is often at the very heart of a PR campaign. There is no doubt that it is a great way to drive awareness among new customers.
But the effort shouldn’t end with the successful publication of coverage.
Having secured it, the smart business will share it, particularly among existing customers.
Why sharing media coverage makes good business sense
Firstly, it reinforces the business’s credibility. Unlike an advert, a piece of editorial coverage has the endorsement of an independent journalist. It is trusted. Sharing it with customers can strengthen their perceptions of the business.
Secondly, it demonstrates that the business is newsworthy and professional. It inspires confidence.
It is also a great way of staying in touch with people. Updating customers with new snippets helps keep the business front of mind.
And it’s not just in sales that media coverage can play an important role.
Virtually any VIP that a business wants to impress, is likely to be influenced by positive media coverage. It could be an industry association, or a partner organisation, or new staff that the business is trying to recruit. The list goes on.
How media coverage can be shared
For sales guys, media coverage can be worth its weight in gold. Showing it to existing or warm customers is powerful stuff. It makes their pitch much, much more believable.
Likewise, putting it on the website is a must. Not only will it impress visitors, it will help keep the website’s content fresh, which search engines like.
Other areas to consider displaying it are: sales brochures, exhibition stands and office/reception areas.
Giving a little thought as to how media coverage can be fully utilised, can reap big rewards. After all, if a business has worked hard to secure media coverage, it would be foolish not to make the most of it.
Peter O’Shea is the founder of POS Communications; for a free PR consultation, visit www.poscommunications.co.uk .
More guidance on PR:
Ask anyone in the business of selling a product and they’ll evangelise about the benefits of having their wares featured in a magazine. Not only does a feature in a magazine — be it in the “What’s new” section, part of an article or a specific feature to drive traffic to your site — it’ll give your business much-welcomed kudos to be endorsed by a magazine title your customers look up to. It’s also a sneaky ego-boost.
But gaining PR in printed titles isn’t easy. Nor is it as cheap as it first seems. You either need to be on very good terms with the magazine editors, which takes time to foster, or you need to have an incredibly hard-working and focused PR company working on your behalf, which, let’s face it, ain’t cheap.
What many e-tailers seem to be overlooking is that the rise in the uber-bloggers provides just as precious PR as traditional printed literature channels. These blogs can provide just as much influence as the glossies and better still, these blogs often link direct to your website! I’m not just talking about you using your own blog to build relationships and generate awareness, I’m talking about you getting your products featured on top blogging sites just as you would an aspirational magazine.
So how do you get your products featured on an uber-blog?
Start by doing your homework. Read the bloggers in your niche and suss out which ones resonate with your brand and your clients. Draw up a hit list of five or so that you’d like to be featured on and start to build relationships with the writers. Network with them on social media sites such as Twitter and comment on their blogs. Ideally you want to maintain a buzz of regular exposure, so build long-term relationships if you can, rather than one-hit wonders.
Bloggers love good content! Great photos, news their clients will love, scoops, sneak peeks and so on are great for the bloggers. It adds richness to their site as well as making their lives easier. I love the ethics of bloggers such as Design*Sponge who only feature on merit rather than due to backhanders! It definitely makes the reading experience more authentic.
I’ve seen too many blogs recently that have clearly just cut and pasted badly written press releases on blogs. It doesn’t work for the blogger or the product and it looks transparent. Blogging is different to the printed media. Just as you wouldn’t want a journalist to print your press release in full (including contact information for your PR), so you don’t want bloggers to publish that info either. And whereas traditional PR may follow a very fixed format, blogging is more free and easy. When we’re reading a blog we want the inside scoop – and that means the blogger giving their opinions and hopefully endorsing your product in some way – so don’t write your usual style press release.
Make sure you send in great images and ask the blog owner what they’re looking for. Oh, and just as with printed media don’t forget to be grateful – a little thank you (I mean literally just thank you – no need to bribe…) goes a long way!
Find out more on how to write blogs:
When we received a particularly vile piece of feedback via our feedback button, I have to admit that my smile did fall for a moment… well, about the time it takes to eat a chocolate brownie actually.
And, then I saw a tweet from a lawyer who is doing great things in social media, saying how he had received some vicious feedback in a LinkedIn discussion.
It put me in mind of Seth Godin’s excellent advice on dealing with trolls in which he says:
Lots of things about work are hard. Dealing with trolls is one of them. Trolls are critics who gain perverse pleasure in relentlessly tearing you and your ideas down. Here’s the thing(s):
1. Trolls will always be trolling
2. Critics rarely create
3. They live in a tiny echo chamber, ignored by everyone except the trolled and the other trolls
4. Professionals (that’s you) get paid to ignore them. It’s part of your job.
“Can’t please everyone,” isn’t just an aphorism, it’s the secret of being remarkable.
It is, of course, important to distinguish between trolls and genuine and constructive feedback. We do, occasionally, get negative feedback (I know, I admit it… we’re human). Usually this is really useful, and gratefully received. We can always improve — and that is exactly why we have a feedback button on our website. But, when it is vicious and unhelpful you need to find the strength to hit delete and carry on.
The thing is, if you put yourself up to scrutiny — which is exactly what you’re doing by having a website or posting a blog — then you will at some point encounter nasty people. Even bullies grow up and get jobs. If you engage heavily in social media, then I’m afraid to say that you’ll find them.
If you’re not expecting it, then an ugly side-swipe can really knock your confidence. Surround yourself with a group of people who you trust, and whose opinion you value. Get them to regularly feedback on whether you’re doing good stuff. And, if you are, then hold your head up high and brace yourself… at some point a mean-spirited individual will try to burst your bubble. It is amazing how much nastier people feel able to be through a remote connection, and even more cruel when hiding behind the mask of anonymity.
When it does happen, tick it off as a social media right of passage and congratulate yourself at having generated an emotional reaction in someone you don’t even know — that’s an achievement.
Many people think that PR is about press releases, text and words — which, to a certain extent it is. However, the importance of images cannot be underestimated.
Pick up a newspaper or magazine near you and have a flick through — what catches your eye? I would guess that the stories with accompanying images are the ones that get your attention, which should be telling you that good images are essential when trying to achieve press coverage.
As PR professionals, one of the biggest problems we face is clients who don’t understand the importance of images, so here some guidelines on images and how and why to use them.
Ceri-Jane Hackling is the managing director of Cerub PR.
Just recently I read a question on a PR forum from a PR person asking whether it was still possible to achieve PR coverage without a big budget for wining and dining journalists. I was all set to reply until I realised that if she had worked in PR for a number of years and still thought that wining and dining was the way to achieve PR success, then maybe she shouldn’t even be in PR and especially not in the “age of austerity”.
Since I started Cerub PR in 2003, we have worked with a wide variety of clients, but in all that time, we have been working to tight budgets and have very rarely had the opportunity to take journalists out for dinner and drinks. Instead, our work is focused on what some people call the “donkey work” — coming up with story ideas, writing press releases and media alerts, telephoning journalists, responding to news stories and working on behalf of our clients. If we were to spend time taking journalists out for lunch, we’d probably get a lot less coverage for our clients.
The trouble with this attitude is that it gives the impression that PR really is all about wining and dining and maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all these years, but for me and my colleagues, it’s more about getting on with the work and achieving great coverage for our clients. To prove my point, we’ve recently had coverage for clients in The Financial Times, Sky News, CNBC, Something for The Weekend, Magic radio and Real People — all while sat in the office!
Ceri-Jane Hackling is the managing director of Cerub PR.