Friday, March 4, 2011

How To Attract Media Coverage For Your Small Business

It’s easy to get media attention if you’re a celebrity or a big organization with a sexy product or service that people love and that directly touches the lives of millions of people.

But what if you’re a small business that is not making or providing anything that is traditionally considered interesting or is simply ...boring?

A Florida-based printing services company is called Boring Business Systems (no kidding!)
An interesting choice of name?

As a PR and communications professional, the most common question I hear from small businesses is how can they attract media coverage given the lack the resources available to bigger organizations.

The challenge for small businesses is not so much about getting their news out. Even if you have a small budget, there are many tools and channels – free press release distribution sites, blogs, social media – that can help you share your story. The bigger challenge, these days, is to make yourself interesting, especially in the age of information overload where everyone is competing for attention – from the media and various target audiences.

But then if Blendtec can sexify a blender, there is hope.



Based on my experiences, here are a few tips on how small businesses can attract media attention:

1) Tell a story
Journalists are much more than storytellers but they are primarily storytellers (ever wonder why newspaper articles are called stories?) As storytellers, their job is to present information in the most interesting way possible (remember, they are vying for attention too!) And if your business or PR person can achieve this for them, you have a better shot at successfully pitching a story. Unearth the stories behind your work and weave a narrative. Follow the 'show don't tell' principle and focus on the solutions you provide and how they are helping people, rather than just talking about your business and products.

Bottomline: Think like a journalist

2) Piggyback on the hottest news/trends
When I worked for the Sunday edition of a popular weekly newspaper in Mumbai, a news story that caught fire during one particular week was of a news channel that had conducted a sting operation on the casting couch phenomenon that existed in the Bollywood movie industry. Very soon, this story captured the interest of all print and news media channels and was all most people were talking about.

Red Couch Project Set 8 (14 of 19)
Flickr Creative Commons - The Red Couch Project by DaveAustria.com

Being a Sunday paper,  my editor came up with a fresh approach – a story on the most stylish couches in the city that would be featured in our lifestyle section. We generated interest in our story by carrying teaser announcements of our own exclusive 'sting' on casting couches, creating a great amount of curiosity on what we were about to reveal in our weekend issue. This was a perfect opportunity for anyone who owned a furniture store to pitch a story on the hottest or most stylish couches while the casting couch story was in the news but no one actually did.

Bottomline: If you’re not big or interesting enough to generate news on your own, look out for what’s already in the news or an emerging trend and how you can tie your own product or service to it.

Word of caution: Be sensitive when dealing with events or tragedies in the news that have affected human lives. Trying to get press coverage at an inopportune moment can come across as being callous, even predatory.

3) Offer your expertise
Services such as Help a Reporter Out (HARO) are quite useful because they help connect reporters who are looking for sources for a particular story with organizations or individuals who can provide expert opinion on the same. It can be a perfect opportunity for a small business to get quoted and receive coverage without having to send press releases to dozens of news organizations, hoping that at least someone will be interested in their story. News organizations such as NPR also have Facebook pages where they ask questions and invite sources and monitoring these pages for a suitable opportunity may also help you attract coverage. Apart from newspapers, trade publications offer the best opportunity to reach a targeted audience through media coverage.

Bottomline: Be proactive in looking out for opportunities and responding to them.

4) Organize community programs and events
What does a pizzeria have to do with scholarships for kids? Absolutely nothing. But that’s how a restaurant in Chicago is driving its public relations efforts. Instead of spending on advertising, the restaurant invests in social responsibility programs that actually help the community and this brings in new customers and generates a lot of buzz. (Read the case study here.) If you’re a local business, it makes even more sense to focus on direct community outreach through such programs and generate local press coverage in the process.

Bottomline: Do good, keep it genuine and the rest will follow.

Do you have any tips to share on how small businesses can generate media interest and attract coverage? Please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

6 comments:

  1. Be creative in your online marketing as well. This helps increase awareness about your business.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The challenge here is to market it with creativity, which unfortunately is absent in many companies.

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  3. Not a lot of companies have enough traction to do something like this, but when they do, they really tend to captivate their audience.

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