For a lot of small to medium size businesses, there's a fine line between success and failure. And sometimes a story in the media can provide a significant boost in terms of immediate exposure and the credibility needed for ongoing success.
While bigger companies are increasingly focused on controlling their own content, nothing beats a journalist covering your business in mainstream media whether it's metropolitan media coverage (print or online), TV, radio or an influential website.
The independent article or review gives comfort to people who had not previously heard of your product or service or had some passing knowledge but have now become more acquainted to the background story of the company, the owners and the array of services/products on offer.
The exposure provides reassurance and confidence to elicit a transaction.
How do you get media coverage?
There are many ways to get media attention, but there are some fundamentals you need to have in order first.
1. Make sure you have a news angle worth covering. Everyday journalists and editors receive dozens of press releases and in some cases they can receive in excess of 50 per day, so you need something that stands out. A hard news angle that is significant enough for a journalist or editor to stop what they are doing and read past the first paragraph. Work anniversaries, funding announcements (unless they're in the multi-millions), opening a new store in a suburban location or a new appointment generally receive little attention.
2. Ensure that your press release is well-written, grammatically correct and addressed to the right person with their respective title noted. Many press releases have bad spelling and grammar and aren’t even addressed to anyone in particular.
3. A press release should also have the most important news first. Again, this is often a common mistake most public relations people make waffling on about industry statistics or some other irrelevant point. If you saw a friend at a train station and you were heading north and they were heading east and you had only a minute or less to chat, you would get straight to the point. For example, “Earthquake in India, three Australians escape death by catching a last-minute helicopter ride”.
4. Make sure whoever is the contact person in your organisation is prepared to speak to the media and is aware of what type of questions he or she might be asked. The journalist or producer may have a slightly different agenda to you. For example, your business might be part of a bigger story in the industry or there might be a crisis in the industry that has happened in between you sending out the press release and the journalist/producer getting around to write the story.
5. Stick to simple and consistent messages. You shouldn’t be trying to get across more than two or three points. Don’t complicate an issue or introduce unnecessary terminology. Speak intelligently about the subject matter and follow up with an email later outlining the points you raised and any additional issues you might have forgotten at the time but are relevant to the story.
6. Be yourself. So many people I have interviewed put on personas that are not their true personality, having received bad advice prior to the interview. Let your natural personality shine through and if you do that you will be more relaxed and give more thoughtful answers.
7. Be original where possible. Don’t repeat standard phrases or rehash old news. The more informative, original, interesting that you are, the better the chance a journalist or producer will remember you and contact you again next time they have a story that is relevant to your business. Building a good rapport with the relevant media person will help you in the future.
8. If you receive coverage, great, but don’t get disheartened if you don’t. A journalist or producer may love the story but unfortunately their editor doesn’t. This happens more than you think. Look for other opportunities to receive media coverage by commenting on industry news, or any announcements that are made by the Commonwealth/State governments that may affect your business or other opportunities that you are aware of.
9. Think ahead. Look at what is happening in your industry or sphere of influence in terms of forthcoming events and see if you can play a role in shaping the media landscape. Sending out a thought leadership article or white paper puts your name out there when previously the media may not have known you exist!
10. Be patient. Sometimes it can take months before you receive coverage through no fault of your own. Stories can be put on hold due to macroeconomic or even major microeconomic events that are out of your control. Due to timing, the story may be shelved altogether but that doesn’t mean another opportunity won’t come your way soon.