How to Gain Media Coverage for your Small Business

Earning positive media coverage for your small business can be one of the most effective ways to publicize your business.

However, landing these media stories takes planning, research and time.  The following are some tips to help you understand the process of media relations and how to go about earning media coverage for your small business.

Media Relations vs Advertising

Understanding the difference between something that has traction as a story, and something that should alternatively be publicized through traditional advertising is one of the most important lessons entrepreneurs can learn.

No matter how excited you are about creating a new type of toothbrush, if your toothbrush doesn’t prevent gum erosion by 50% or whiten your teeth by five shades, you’re going to have a challenge selling your story and earning coverage. That doesn’t mean you can’t publicize your product.  It just means that PR might not be the right vehicle.

Understanding marketing and PR—how they relate to each other, but also how they differ—will help you decide when to use media relations to get your story told, and when advertising is going to be the most effective way to get your business publicized.

Finding the Story

Knowing what is a story is integral to landing media coverage.  A story is not what you tell around a boardroom table but what you go home and tell your family about.  Economic business stories are often the most difficult stories to be told as a small business.  To tell this story you need to be ready to open up your books and reveal your numbers.  While fifty percent growth might sound impressive if in reality this only accounts for a few hundred dollars, this isn’t something media cares about.

Instead of the focusing on a business story try and find the human interest story.  This will be easier to tell and will help you connect with your clients on a personal level.

Why do I Care, and why do I Care Right Now?

At the end of the day, successful media relations often comes down to reporters and editors asking themselves, “So what?” or “Why do I care?” and ultimately “Why does my audience care”.  It’s your job to help them answer this question so that they want to cover your story.

Does your story tie into the recent census numbers that were just released?  Can your spokesperson not only talk about your new chocolate product but also give tips for planning a romantic Valentine’s Day?

Connecting your story to topical issues can be key to making someone care so that they want to cover your story now.

How to Stand Out

Reporters and editors get hundreds of pitch emails a day, so the reality is that most news releases are briefly scanned over and then lost.  While news releases can be effective for large corporations with name recognition, sending out releases on the wire is costly for a small business and often ineffectual.

Directly pitching a reporter or editor with your individualized story idea is targeted and doesn’t cost money.  Make the reporter feel like you know their outlet and why your story is the one they should cover.

Get to Know your Local Media

If you have a new green waste reduction process there are many media outlets in the Lower Mainland that might be interested in covering your story, but honing in on the right outlet and the right reporter is key.

It could be a small business story for the Vancouver Sun about your business developing a new process, or a feature piece in the Georgia Straight focusing on your entrepreneurial green discovery.  Perhaps Citytv’s Breakfast Television would like to come out and discover first hand how you are helping Vancouver stay green.

There are many outlets that may be interested, but getting to the right person and giving them a story that works for their outlet is crucial.

Know What you Need for Each Medium

If you believe your business has a great story for TV, then start thinking visually.  What can a TV camera see? What can you show the reporter? What is in the background while you are being interviewed?

For print media, think about what photo opportunities are available to you.  Even if a reporter is doing a piece for the business section, a great photo will get you even better placement and a more appealing story.

For radio, especially live radio, make sure you have a spokesperson that is succinct, can stay on message and think on his or her feet and be entertaining.

With online media and bloggers, more content is better.  While print may only require one photo, online photo galleries on newspaper websites are increasingly popular, so be sure to provide multiple photos for this purpose.  Many print outlets are also producing and/or running video content as well, so help them out by supplying this up front.

Look Beyond Traditional Media

While traditional media plays an important role, it is not the singular mechanism you can use to reach your target audience.  More and more, people are connecting through new media. Bloggers and online writers have an increasingly important presence.  Just like with traditional media reporters, getting to know who the bloggers are and what they are interested in covering is the key to your success.

If a blogger likes writing reviews, find out if they would be interested in trying your product or experiencing one of the services your offer.  If the blogger typically writes about events, invite them to your next open house or customer appreciation event.

Just like reporters for traditional media, bloggers want to know that you know who they are and that you’ve cared enough to research what they do and what they like to cover.

Be Strategic

Earning any story in any media may seem like a win, but in order to make it count you need to have a plan.  Having your business covered when you are about to launch a new product will help highlight what’s new and exciting; but getting a story told six months before your event, or when you are transitioning your brand and your website is out of date, may not help your business.

Work to earn media stories when you are doing something new and works well with your other business plans and goals. This will both convert better, and show you and your business in the best possible light.