Get Media Coverage For Your Company
I have been a journalist for 20+ years. I have found that every good business has a story, but not every entrepreneur behind that good business knows how to sell that story to the media. Consequently, some businesses never get media attention while others seem to be favorite resources.
While blogging, creating YouTube videos, your own Internet radio show, video podcast, and RSS feeds are great ways to gain exposure, being quoted in a traditional news source adds credibility. Becoming the “go-to expert” on a media list can equate to powerful exposure.
Utilizing the media to grow your business is nothing new. All businesses can benefit from the exposure and attention and the media daily turns to companies and entrepreneurs for expert advice.
However, understanding how to gain the media’s interest requires inside knowledge of the industry. That’s exactly what I am going to give you in this blog.
1. Network with reporters. Just as it’s always good to know a great attorney, it’s also good to know a quality reporter. Many reporters have blogs and Web sites. If you post comments and begin feeding them unique and interesting stories, you’ll find that reporters will eagerly welcome your posts, emails, and even calls. Don’t waste their time. Be direct and offer pertinent and timely information.
Remember that reporters typically are responsible for multiple stories in a day so they are very busy. They also get pitched ideas (many bad ones).
What makes a story idea good? It has to have widespread interest coupled with a personal aspect. So don’t just pitch your company and/or product. Instead, offer help first, information that will benefit the public. Then show how the personal element of the story plays a vital part.
For example, if you’re a company that specializes in cleaning out foreclosures, you could grab the media’s attention because the real estate debacle is a hot topic. So, you might pitch the story to the media by saying that your company cleans X foreclosures each week (assuming X is a relatively high number) and that after cleaning foreclosed homes your company has compiled a list of the top 10 items that are frequently found in foreclosed homes. These are things that all buyers need to know about before they consider purchasing a foreclosure.
Now, this assumes that what you find in the foreclosures is interesting and important to buyers. I have interviewed many people who deal with foreclosures from the banks to the real estate agents and typically there are similarities with foreclosed properties. Buyers would be wise to check the properties for these issues before buying.
The point of the above example is to use statistics and tangible information, then to couple it with a hot topic that the media is caught up in.
2. Make it easy to locate the “go-to expert” in your company for an interview. I have called companies for interviews and been told “We’d love to do this story but the only person who can do the interview is our CEO and he won’t be back for a few hours.” What a shame, so I find another “go-to expert” and get my story filed that same day. The other company gets the free publicity because that company had a “go-to expert” ready and willing to speak to the media.
What this entails is educating many people on the subject of how to talk to the media. Make sure, at the very least, that your top tier of management is prepared to do an interview with a reporter.
Also, make sure that your front office knows what to do when the media calls. Savvy companies have media procedure policies in place. The front office doesn’t just send an inquiry from a reporter into a CEOs voice mail box. Instead, the receptionist gets the information from the reporter, locates the appropriate person for the interview, follows up with the reporter via email and/or telephone, which gives the company ample opportunity to get free publicity through the media.
Unfortunately, I can’t count the number of times that successful connection doesn’t happen because the company doesn’t have media procedure policies in place or the receptionist/staff couldn’t be bothered with a call from a reporter (because it’s not viewed as a sales call). How silly! That call could generate extraordinary publicity and future sales.
3. Have real clients and people available that the media can interview. It’s vital to have past clients that you can recommend for the media interview. Sticking with the above example, the Trash-Out companies (as they’re called) should have a list of people (for instance, from the bank that hired the company) that can be referred to the media. If you’re a remodeling company, give actual clients’ names and contact information. Make sure you’ve pre-screened these clients and know that they can do a quality interview. Nothing is more frustrating than getting a lead for an interview from a company and then having the interview be awful because the referred client isn’t articulate or refused the interview.
4. Have a personal touch to the story you are pitching. The media is always looking for the personal story to tell. So, using the example earlier about the company that cleans foreclosed properties, an interesting angle would be if company X found something of value or mystery (such as the skeleton found in an LA foreclosed property). Depending on what the item was, that could make a very intriguing and possibly emotional story for the news media.
5. Think like a reporter before you pitch to a reporter. Here’s the point–not every company has a juicy tale to tell, so that’s where creativity comes into play. You have to think like a reporter before you pitch a story to a reporter. If you’re pitching a story to a TV reporter, think about what video the reporter would use to tell the story. Did you know that some good stories are turned down (or get very little air time) on TV because there just isn’t any compelling video to accompany the story? It’s like saying you’ve got a face for radio! Sometimes the story is better for print or radio.
6. Use statistics in your press release. The media loves to throw statistics into news pieces and the public really likes it too. Think about books and titles, (including this blog’s)–statistics and numbers tend to make something seem more important.
7. Don’t promote your business; instead give helpful/interesting information. Remember, you’ll get exposure if the media does a story. While your company may only get a mention, that’s a huge value. It’s often better to be mentioned in a news story than to buy a commercial or advertisement. Commercials are seen for what they are–advertising–but getting mentioned or interviewed inside a news story helps to create instant credibility. It’s value you can’t buy.
So, when you pitch a story to the media, first find the informative angle and then creatively craft a pitch that positions your company as the “go-to expert” for the interview for that particular story.
8. Talk in sound bites, even for print. Even though today there are much longer stories featured on the Internet, it’s still advisable to get to the point when being interviewed. If you succinctly convey your thoughts when you are being interviewed by a reporter, there is less chance of much of your interview winding up on the editing room floor. (Okay, that’s old school talk from the editing days before computers, but you get my point–hopefully.)
Too many interviewees go on and on in an interview and say the same thing over again in different ways. What the interviewee doesn’t realize is that will all be edited out anyway. It’s likely the reporter will paraphrase your long-winded answer (giving you less print space or air time) in an effort to make the story easier to understand.
Reporters will always ask for more details if they need them.
9. Be natural, not overly rehearsed. Canned speeches sound terrible and so does an overly-coached interviewee. Be relaxed, natural, and talk at a good, easy-to-understand pace. If you have never been interviewed by the media, it’s a good idea to hire a media coach for a few pointers. The coaching helps not only with speaking to the media but also can help you in everyday presentations to clients.
10. Just do it! (to borrow this phrase from Nike). The reason a lot of companies don’t get called by the media is because the media doesn’t know about the company. If you want free publicity from the media, you have to become a “notable resource” to the media.
Get your press releases to the media. Write articles to newspapers. Post comments on reporters’ blogs. Make telephone calls to the assignment desks at television stations. (A lot of companies don’t know that the staff handles the majority of press releases that come into a station. That staff then assigns a reporter to the story).
Build your resource and educational content on your Web site so that you can refer the media to it in the press releases. (This in itself is a tremendous marketing tool. I’ll have more on what makes good content and how you build an educational library on your company’s Web site in a future blog.)
Bottom line? The media can help you grow your business and, as a reporter, I am always happy to receive story pitches from companies that have taken the time to put together an interesting angle. It’s all the better when I call the company and the CEO or spokesperson is articulate, concise, knowledgeable, and is an entertaining interviewee.
Ready to get started with getting media attention? Visit Live Fit Films — producing video news stories for your company.