One of the best shoestring marketing strategies is to get press mentions, yet not many small businesses go for it. Most think that the only way to do it is to hire a publicist, which they do not have the resources. Others simply find the idea of pitching their businesses to the media too daunting.
But as this posting from Chris Gosnell, owner of OutfitEZ Inc. in the LinkedIn Question and Answer proved, getting valuable media coverage can be done without any costs (except time):
Don’t forget the press. A PR agent may be out of the range of a shoestring budget but there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself. If your business is in any way interesting or unusual, you should be able to get at least your local paper to write about it.
I did this successfully for my men’s clothes buying service. An email to a journalist at the Denver Business Journal led to an interview and a write-up in the Business Journal that went over a page in the print edition (see the article). The story got picked up by the online versions of the Business Journals nationwide, then a local TV station called and I did a 4 minute interview on the morning news. Tons and tons of great exposure for no more cost than the time to write a well thought out email to the right journalist.
Tip: The journalist doesn’t care about promoting your business; he cares about writing a good story. Help him do that and the business promotion comes as a by-product.
But how do you pitch to the media?
It all starts by building a solid media list. Jon Greer of The Media Bridge “recommends building a media list with all the fastballs you can find, plus some additional curveballs to increase the odds of the story being picked up.” He defines “fastballs” and “curveballs” as
Fastballs: If you do a lot of homework, you can build a highly accurate media list that includes only those reporters who cover a certain beat or topic, using a media database and doing research (such as looking up past stories) to create that list. If you do this, you will be pitching fastballs — that is, fast, straight-ahead pitches right to your targets.
Curveballs: You can also be creative in building a media list, adding general assignment and feature reporters, or other reporters who might be interested in the story. Then, when you follow up, you tailor your pitch to what you know about that reporter’s interests.
The building of your media list will be a time consuming task (outsource it to a VA, if you must). Start by researching the journalists in your local publications, big and small. Then look for journalists who cover your industry and niches.
You can also use social media to find reporters and pitch to them. Media folks are using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. In building your media list, include in your research whether these writers and journalists use Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Start with this excellent resource from My Creative Team’s list of twittering journalists
Another excellent method of finding journalists and media opportunities for your business is by subscribing to HARO (Help a Reporter Out). You will receive up to three emails a day with requests from bloggers and reporters from leading newspapers, magazines and television shows. You then answer the queries within the given timeline (be sure to be quick in responding!). If the reporter is interested, then you can get free media coverage. I have received several good presses just by responding to HARO queries, including this interview from OrganizedFamilies.com. I tell you, HARO rocks!
Another method is to create and submit a social media release. I have never done this as the creation of an SM release seems to be daunting. Once you have a SM release, you can then submit it to sites such as PitchEngine.com.
To increase the likelihood that the reporter will write about your story, it is important that you develop your media pitching skills. The Washington Secretary of State has this advice on writing a media pitch:
- Capture the reporter’s attention by including an interesting fact or humorous element, use of controversy or issue with two different side
- Be concise; 250 words is a good length
- Include the journalistic story elements – who, what, where, when, how
- State why the reporter should write the story and why the readers will care
- Send the pitch via email, or during a conversation with the reporter
You can start practicing by pitching your story to me. I may just feature you on PowerHomeBiz.com or WomenHomeBusiness.com as I am always on the lookout for interesting stories to tell!