Wouldn’t it be great to get your business in the news? Of course, you want to make sure it’s portrayed accurately. How can you ensure that the media coverage you get showcases your business in the way that you want?
Unfortunately, you can’t. Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and web-based media all have one thing in common. Their goal is to please their audiences, not to keep the good will of the people and businesses they choose to cover. If you can provide them with an interesting story that is unbiased, informative, and entertaining, it’s possible that they may present it virtually unchanged. But you also run the risk that they will put their own spin on what you communicate.
Reporters and producers often want more than one source for a story, so they may interview your competitors or others with an opposing point of view. If they like what these others have to say more than what you have presented, the resulting feature may turn out to showcase someone else! The author of the piece will also have his or her own point of view about what you are doing, which may not agree with your perspective at all.
The first step to getting accurate media coverage is to write a news release presenting your desired story. Picking the right story to create a release around is crucial. In order for the media to be interested, the information in your release must be truly newsworthy. The larger the audience of a particular media outlet is, the harder it will be to attract their attention.
In a small community, offering a new workshop might be enough to get you in the local paper or on the radio. To get coverage from the daily newspaper or evening news in a large city, you will most likely need to tie what your business does to some major trend, recent news, or an upcoming holiday or event. With magazines and on the Internet, your story’s direct appeal to the niche audience they serve is the key to attract editors.
Send your release — and supporting material, when appropriate — to the editors and producers of the departments, features, and programs that specialize in the kind of story you are presenting. You can create your own media list by researching the publications and programs you want to reach, or you can purchase a list from companies like Bacon’s at http://www.bacons.com or Bradley Communications at http://www.rtir.com.
After sending your release, follow up with phone calls, and be prepared to pitch your story verbally. Be sure you have an answer to the question, “Why will this story interest our audience?” The larger the outlet you approach, the less likely it is that the journalist or editor will take your call. That’s why it’s essential that you prepare a targeted well-written release in the first place.
For help in writing, packaging, and following up on your release, you’ll need a good publicity guide. Three I recommend are:
“The Consultant’s Guide to Publicity” by Reece Franklin
“Guerrilla Publicity” by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Jill Lublin
“Sell Yourself without Selling Your Soul” by Susan Harrow
These books will also help you to prepare for giving a media interview. The words you use to answer a journalist’s questions, your ease in answering questions briefly and quickly, and your ability to steer the interview in a favorable direction will all affect how well the finished piece reflects your views.
If concerns about how the media might portray your business makes you think twice about approaching them as an interview subject, there are two alternatives to consider. The first is paid advertising. While it doesn’t carry the credibility of editorial coverage, it is one sure way to put your message out exactly as you wish your potential customers to see it. Of course, this can come with a high price tag.
With newspapers, magazines, and the web, however, a less costly and often more effective alternative is to approach the media as a writer, rather than a business owner. If you can write an article about your area of expertise that will interest an editor, you may be able to get the exposure and credibility boost you are wanting without paying for it. You might even get paid to write the article.
Be aware though, that publications won’t be interested in a self-serving article. You must educate and entertain their readers in such a way that the showcasing of your product or service is secondary. Study the style of the articles in publications that interest you, and see if you can duplicate it. If this mode of writing isn’t your strong point, consider hiring a ghostwriter to produce a saleable article under your byline.