Welcome back to the last of our PR series on GrowBiz.
We brought you two posts (read them here and here) packed with advice from PR and marketing experts. Public relations is a lot more than media relations, and these pros offered some great tips on getting your story out there. However, media relations is a topic I know a good bit about having been a journalist for 30 years at the Miami Herald and San Jose Mercury News, most of the time covering business news.
I was on the receiving end of hundreds of pitches every year from small businesses, both as a reporter covering small businesses, technology and entrepreneurship and as a business editor. Oftentimes the correspondence would come through a PR pro, but I never minded being pitched directly by small business or startup founders. So here’s some advice about successfully pitching the media – from my side of the table.
Be thoughtful about the reporters you choose to target. Identify reporters that typically cover companies or industries like yours. These days, the reality is that there are many fewer reporters covering broader and broader beats, so come up with a realistic target list of reporters and bloggers. If it is a good fit, most reporters (including me) would welcome an email intro about you and your company. If there is a more appropriate reporter to receive it at the publication, ask the reporter to forward it along. Invite the reporter for coffee or ask if you can come to their office for a short introductory meeting. Introduce yourself to the reporter at a networking event. Follow them on Twitter (I’m @ndahlberg).
Be thoughtful about your pitch angle. Again, keep in mind who you are pitching and the types of stories the reporter typically writes. For general interest publications, it may be the strong consumer angle that attracts them and be sure to offer up customers. If the reporter writes Q&As, send them a sample of an interesting viewpoint or topic idea. If they write profiles, your pitch better be compelling about why your story is different and more interesting than the other 20 recent pitches they received. Often it is the human story that is most compelling and pitches that are on-trend or off the news can rise up too. Keep your pitch short and professional.
It’s about the relationship. As Nile Kirec, marketing and PR consultant at Florida SBDC at FIU, said in a previous post, earned media is a great get but it is probably not going to happen overnight. I second that. Sometimes a business would pitch me five or six times before I wrote about it. It’s nothing against the business, but journalists are working on 10 things at once, and sometimes the news a small business pitches about is not going to be the news peg we write about. But maybe it will be the next development. Maybe it will be a trend story that your company’s story fits perfectly with. We will remember you when the time is right.
Send a reporter updates. I love to get short regular updates on your companies, and I know other reporters do also. It doesn’t need to be long and drawn out. But let me know of your significant milestones – product launches, expansions, fund-raising, acquisitions, pivots, new significant hires, etc. Or perhaps send a note about a blog you’ve published or media you received elsewhere or tag me on your social media. It keeps your company top of mind with reporters and when we do write about you, it is nice to be able to look over past updates.
Be prepared. When you meet a reporter at a networking event or in a prearranged meeting, make sure you are able to explain your company clearly in one or two sentences. As Durée Ross said in a previous post, “Have your elevator speech down pat!” It’s also a good idea to have a company fact sheet and some visuals (product and founder photos and perhaps a video) at the ready. Include this information with introductory emails as well. And when a reporter does call, yes, we will want the interview within a short time frame, often with a photo or video assignment too, so make yourself and your team available. As Brian Byrnes said in last week’s post, be prepared to be open about the facts and metrics of your company.
Help a reporter out. As part of relationship building, feel free to offer story ideas or let them know about trends you are seeing out there. Again, you are staying top of mind with a reporter.
Be persistent but not a pest. Journalists are not able to respond to every email or every phone call. Most reporters prefer email to calls. Don’t be put off if you don’t get a response or a “we’ll pass on this one.” No doesn’t mean never.