You see it all the time when you turn on the local news or flip through the morning paper – a “blurb” or article about a business or person in your community. Depending upon the reason or the subject matter, it can be great publicity as their name is thrust, front and center, into the spotlight for all to see.
Best of all? It doesn’t cost a dime.
Sound too good to be true? Well, while many larger companies or organizations may have a dedicated marketing or public relations department or staff tasked with generating “earned media” (or news items that you don’t have to pay for) it’s possible for a small company or business to undertake a similar effort – even without having the dedicated staff to do so. If you are willing to spend a little bit of time to make it work and by learning some of the tricks of the trade, you too, can see your name up in lights.
Find your story and learn to tell it.
Think long and hard about what your company or organization has to share and who would be interested in hearing it. What makes it “newsworthy?” It could be something as simple as hiring new staff or a special event you are planning. Or perhaps you or your company has received an award of some kind. Maybe you are a brand new business in the area and you need to get your name out there. Or you may provide a unique service that positively impacts your community. These types of news events are often picked up and may even generate an interview from a reporter as part of a larger story.
Find your contacts.
It’s a fact. Most people get the majority of their news from local sources – that’s where it starts. If you see a news item on social media, you can trace it back to a media source. Where do you find your news? Your local newspaper? Television station? Radio station? An online news feed? Check out their websites and see where you can send a news story. Often websites will list a general “news desk” email or a phone number of where to send a news story. If you can, try to sniff out who the reporter may be who works in your industry or who would cover your particular subject matter. Do you have a family-friendly story or one that is more business related? Typically, there is a specific reporter assigned to various “beats” and by pinpointing who they are and honing in on their personal contact information, you will increase your chances of getting your story to run. Consider how much more effective it would be for that reporter to be greeted with an email that pertains to their area of expertise instead of being sent one that they care little about. And it shows you are serious enough to do your homework before blindly sending something in.
Tie your story to current events.
Many local news outlets covering breaking news stories or other national headlines strive to “localize” them to their own community. For example, recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its labeling on packaged foods. Perhaps you are a nutritionist or a dietitian who counsels people on diet or portion size. This would be a great opportunity for you to position yourself as an authority on this “trending” story and search out your local newspaper or television/radio reporter who covers the health “beat” and offer to speak with them. With a national story, it’s important to act NOW while the story is fresh.
Learn to write a press release.
Once you’ve figured out your story, and have a pretty good idea who to send it to, you’ll need to go to school on the proper format for getting your story across. Email is generally the gold standard for sending information to a reporter. Consider an attention-grabbing headline in the subject line of the email that will tell the reporter what the email is about and make them want to open it. One of the biggest pet peeves many reporters have is receiving an email with the subject, “PRESS RELEASE.” Rather, consider something more informative or to the point like, “ABC Company Chosen as Small Business of the Year” or “Jane Doe Opens Shelter for Homeless Animals.” Then keep your email professional in tone offering the main details simply and clearly.
Finally, a word about bragging – we know you’re great, just don’t say it. Keep it professional and business-like. Adapt this sample press release to your own stories.
With a little time and patience, and doing your homework when you have important news to share, you can build an effective media relations program over time that can do wonders for getting your name out there and increase your visibility in the community.