Getting press coverage is great for your small business, but it's not easy to do. Here are four tips for generating press for your business.
"There's no such thing as bad publicity." That quote is often attributed to Phineas T. Branum, the circus owner and general showman. He was among the first to truly understand the media cycle and how to manipulate it. But, while good press can be very helpful for boosting your business's profile, bad press can turn on you. You need only look at Volkswagen or Wells Fargo to see that. But sometimes you just want to get people talking.
Kiyomi Petite, a Business.com community member, asked, "How can I get more press for my website?" It's a common question for small business owners. We asked business owners and PR professionals to find a definitive answer. Here are four tips.
1. Have a story to tell.
Reporters aren't interested in promoting your business. Their job is to share newsworthy stories. The first step to generate press is to determine if you have a newsworthy story to share.
“Figure out what is unique about you and your offerings, the challenges you overcame, and how they shaped the business," said Sara Parker, vice president of PR and communications at Wix.com. "If it's authentic, your story will resonate first with the reporters you are trying to engage, and ultimately with their readers."
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Business owners should think about how they can help reporters, said Parker, such as by keeping an eye out for breaking news that's relevant to their industry.
"Watch for opportunities where you can offer your industry expertise," she said. "If you get quoted in a story, you can share it more broadly on social media to boost your brand visibility and credibility, even if the story isn't necessarily focused on your business."
2. Research and reach out to reporters and journalists.
Journalists and reporters receive dozens of emails a week – and many aren't even about topics they cover. You should research and find media outlets and journalists that cover your industry. Once you identify potential news outlets, send personalized emails to journalists.
"Reaching out to reporters or editors directly with meaningful updates is more likely to get their attention than issuing a press release," said Parker. "Keep a running list of reporters you're interested in and who are consistently following your industry or local community."
It wastes everyone's time if you send emails and pitches to journalists who don't cover your industry.
"Based on your business objectives, choose outlets that would help you meet your goals," said David Martin, founder of Heed PR. "Put another way: be where your target audience's eyeballs are. Then find the reporters at those outlets who write about topics related to your business."
Consider registering with a service such as Cision's Help a Reporter Out. Three times a day, it will send out requests from reporters seeking sources for stories. You can also try to connect to journalists via social media such as LinkedIn. Or attend industry events where reporters are likely to be and network.
3. Be helpful and flexible.
Your original story or pitch won't be a good fit for every media outlet. However, if you are flexible and offer other angles, a media outlet is more likely to provide coverage. You can also ask journalists if they need an expert source for an article they're already working on. This way, you'll seem helpful, not like you're just looking for free marketing.
"It's easier to join a conversation than to start a new one," said Martin. "Research your target media list, and approach the reporters on that list as a resource or contributor to topics they're already covering. By doing this, you won't come across as an attention hog. Instead, you'll be viewed as a resource."
Also, perhaps try your hand at writing your own press. You can join sites, like Business.com, where you can sign up to become an expert contributor. Here you can write your own press and establish yourself as an expert in your field.
4. Know when to generate press.
You should try to generate as much press as possible. However, if you have nothing newsworthy to share, wait. Trying to create press all the time will hurt your reputation, and media outlets will ignore you when you have an actual story.
"The worst thing you can do is to get the reputation as a business or website that is attempting to produce mentions and press at all costs, regardless if there's anything new to actually talk about," said David Bakke, CEO of Money Crashers.
If you aren't seeing results, you should try to stay patient and accept that you'll see a lot of rejection.
"Be persistent and patient, and steel yourself against rejection," said Martin. "I liken press pitching to sales. You have to know who to approach, present what you have as something that will benefit them, and be persistent and patient."