If you’re keen to learn how to get media coverage for your small business, you’ll be pleased to hear that it can be done in six simple steps.
Read on for my top tips and to download a free cheat sheet.
So, you want to be featured in the media?
Step 1 – Define your target audience
One of the first things you should do, before spending time and energy on proactive PR work, is to drill down on exactly who you are trying to attract.
Who are those dream clients you love working with?
Your in-depth knowledge of who exactly that person is fundamental to every subsequent step in this process.
So, I’d highly recommend that you develop an understanding of this before you start contacting the media.
Related reading: Learn to define and attract your perfect photography client
Step 2 – Work out which media publications could help you to reach your target audience
Once you know the person you’re trying to attract to your business in great detail, you’ll have a good insight into their lives.
As you and I do, your dream client will likely consume a variety of media. And in developing an in-depth understanding of who they are, you’ll know which media they love and engage with regularly.
Knowing this will help you to start developing a target ‘media list’.
The target media list is simply a list of magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, radio shows, TV programmes and podcasts that you would like to be featured in. It’s your media ‘wish list’.
PRO TIP: It’s important not to limit your ambitions at this stage. Be ambitious when you come to draw up a target media list. And don’t necessarily just think local – your clients may well be prepared to travel from further afield if they like your work – so include regional and national media too.
While it has been said that ‘any publicity is good publicity’, it’ll benefit your business more if you’ve been strategic about the media you choose.
So, you should focus on trying to secure mentions in only the magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows, podcasts, blogs and websites that you know your perfect prospect enjoys.
Going for a scattergun approach to media relations, and securing a mention in any media that will have you, will potentially not move your business forward one little bit (although it may well massage your ego).
Step 3 – Get familiar with your choice of media targets
Now, with a media list drawn up, the next step is to spend time getting familiar with the media you are planning to target.
While it’s possible to cold-pitch a publication, the chance of it being successful are slim to none if you haven’t done your research beforehand.
No editor, journalist, podcaster or blogger will be too impressed if your pitch clearly demonstrates that you know nothing about them or their target audience.
In fact, it almost guarantees that your email will immediately be ignored or deleted. Lazy PR pitches very rarely get the desired result.
So, do your homework.
If these media are not ones that you are already familiar with, then make it your mission to get to know them.
Take the time to read, listen, watch and take notes on what you find. A quick flick-through isn’t enough.
You need to really drill down into the nitty-gritty of what types of stories they run. You’ll also need to know when and how regularly they run them.
Also, just as important is getting to know what stories they are unlikely to use so that you don’t waste your time pitching something that they wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.
These are some of the things that you’ll want to consider when reviewing your target media:
- If it’s a printed publication, what are the regular sections that you could target? If it’s a TV or radio channel, what is the programming schedule and what do they cover?
- Who are the most relevant writers/people to contact? Is there a generic newsdesk? Or a specific writer/editor/presenter?
- How do they prefer to be contacted? (It’ll likely say on the Contact page of their website)
- What have they already covered? Not covered?
- What is likely to be the ‘lead time’?
National monthly magazines usually have a 3-6 months lead time. So, to be considered for inclusion in a December edition, you’ll need to be contacting them around July! In contrast, a daily newspaper will have a shorter lead time. They will potentially accept stories up to a few hours before publication or at even less notice if it’s for their website.
Now at this point, we are only three steps into a six-step process. I know this may seem like a lot of work. But, honestly, in order to get a level of understanding that you can use to your advantage when pitching yourself to the media, it’s so important.
By doing it in this logical order and being thorough at every step, your media pitch will be far more likely to be successful. There really is a lot to be gained from making your media pitch as targeted as possible, based on what you’ve learnt during this vitally important research stage.
Step 4 – Prepare your story ideas
The next step is to start pulling together ideas for stories that you believe could interest the media on your wish list.
The key thing to keep in mind here is that you must ensure that your pitch demonstrates how you can add value.
Much like when you are creating any kind of marketing content – your website copy, your blogs – you must constantly keep your ideal client in mind as you formulate story ideas.
What do their readers, listeners or viewers want or need to know?
Remember, it’s an editor or producer’s role to act as the gatekeeper. They control what gets included in their publication, on their website or in their programme, and what doesn’t.
As they read or listen to your pitch, you can guarantee that these questions will be running through their minds.
- Is this relevant to our audience?
- Is it something our audience will want to know about or need to know about?
- Is this news?
- If not news, is it unexpected, different, surprising, noteworthy, controversial?
- Why do we need to run this story now?
- And, are you a credible source, worthy of being mentioned/included if we chose to run with the story? Or would someone else be a better fit?
If you aren’t giving them compelling reasons in answer to all these questions, your pitch will likely flop.
The media don’t exist to promote your business. So, you need to ensure that you are adding value to them. Otherwise, why should they bother running your story or giving you a mention?
Related reading – What is Public Relations?
Step 5 – Make the pitch
For most people, pitching yourself to the media will likely be a challenge. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone and may make you feel a bit uncomfortable.
After all, there’s a chance that you may be rejected, and no-one enjoys being told ‘no’, right?
But, it’s so important to follow through. Now you’ve got this far, the next step is to make the pitch.
While it’s important that you do it as well as you possibly can, don’t let perfectionism prevent you from making the pitch at all!
Pitching to the media could well terrify you. But if the fear of pitching is holding you back, try to be brave just for a few minutes and just go for it! Give it your best shot!
There will never be a shortage of competition for those valuable free mentions in the press, so there is no time better than the present to give it a go. What have you got to lose?
You may even be surprised at the positive reaction you receive!
How to ‘pitch’ to the media
In terms of how to pitch, a well-written press release is usually appreciated by local newspapers.
Or, an alternative approach is to send a succinct email pitch summarising the main points of your story.
Whichever method you choose, keep it brief, concise, and write a compelling email subject header. And include your contact details so that they can easily contact you if they want to know more.
Also, let them know that you have high-quality photos/video to support the story.
Step 6 – Be prepared to follow up
Once you’ve made the pitch, don’t think that all the work is done. The final step is the follow up.
If you didn’t receive an email or call back from the journalist concerned, don’t lose heart. And don’t presume that what you pitched was not of interest.
The truth is, it’s unlikely that you’ll get a positive response immediately (although that can happen if the story is timely and highly relevant).
Considering journalists receive hundreds of emails each day, it’s very easy for pitches to be missed.
And you’ll also probably not hear anything back if you pitched the wrong person or made a spelling error in the email address. So, it’s definitely worth checking you didn’t make these mistakes before you tell yourself that you’ve not been successful.
Sending a gentle reminder could well result in bringing the pitch to the journalist’s attention for the very first time. There are loads of reasons why it may get missed the first time.
In the fourteen years that I’ve been working in PR, following up is something I’ve always done, and it’s paid off on many, many occasions.
So, my advice to you would be don’t be afraid to get in touch again.
A polite nudge by email is appropriate. Something along the lines of ‘Hi xx, I wondered if you’ve had a chance yet to consider my story idea about xx? Here’s a reminder of the details (below). I’m looking forward to hearing from you if this is of interest, thanks.’.
Or even, give them a quick call if the story is more time-critical.
What I certainly wouldn’t advise you do, though, is become a pest!
While there is occasionally a case for following up more than once, you should be gracious. Accept that there has been no interest if you’ve followed up several times to no avail.
If this happens, don’t be discouraged though!
When it comes to getting featured in the media, one thing is almost guaranteed. You won’t get interest from every journalist you pitch to.
If you don’t get pick-up on the story, just pitch it to another publication or try a different angle.
Keep your chin up, keep going and good luck!