Getting your small business into national news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, CNN or even reality TV shows like Top Chef can transform your business overnight. It goes by different names — the Oprah Effect, the Colbert Bump, The Fieri Effect — but it leads to the same radical results: booming sales.
Truthiness: If your story is a good one, and the media outlet is extremely popular, you might just find new customers flocking to your business like summer moths to a Coleman Lantern at the stroke of midnight in the bayous of Southern Louisiana. Orders, customers, revenue – all could literally double within months of a prime-time media mention.
Bottom-line, the media loves a good story, and small business owners who are risk takers and innovators succeeding in the face of overwhelming competition are the stuff of legend in a country raised on tall business tales.
So the question becomes how do you get your small business into the national news? Alas, if it were as easy as following a formula, more business owners would be doing it.
Still, there are some basic rules of the PR game you can follow if you want to score some valuable publicity in a national outlet. Here are 15 tips to help you with your conquest of national media:
- Uniqueness: everybody loves a unique idea, new technology or fresh approach. A lot of media coverage is given to small businesses that have found ways to innovate and gain first-to-market leads. Think Cronuts from the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City.
- Trends: many journalists and bloggers like to be the first to spot new trends like insourcing manufacturing jobs (i.e., bringing jobs back from China to the USA) or how drought is affecting winter sports businesses in the northwest.
- Research: figure out which media outlet offers the most promise for your business. If your business is very “visual” and you’re part of a hot trend like wearable technology, then going after CNN or NBC makes sense.
- Focus: narrow down your field of national media outlets to a few. Why not more? The fact is very few small businesses are compelling enough to get the attention of multiple media outlets, unless of course they are an addictive game app, like the Flappy Bird app was before its developer pulled the plug on the app store.
- Target & Engage: find a single reporter in the media outlet you have chosen that has covered stories similar to yours (i.e., small business innovations or trends; or lifestyle trends). Follow the reporter on Twitter and begin tweeting his or her stories while mentioning the reporter’s Twitter handle in the tweets. Facebook is usually not an option but some reporters actually have public profiles and encourage interaction on the platform.
- Brainstorm: work hard to come up with some clever, unique and authentic ideas that will help you stand out from the 1000s of other small businesses pitching national outlets like Mashable and The Food Network. Test your ideas with friends, colleagues and family. Pick the 2-3 that really stand out from the rest.
- Contact Information: not every reporter is easily contacted. Most reporters I have interviewed for PR over Coffee in the past prefer emails to any other form of contact; but if they don’t provide you with an email on the website then you have to get creative. Because almost none of them want a phone call, that usually leaves social media.
- Twitter Pitch: use Twitter if you don’t have an email to use or if the reporter is not responding to your emails. Twitter forces you to capture the gist of your story idea in 120 characters or fewer so be as economical in your diction as possible. Don’t tweet more than 1-2 times or the reporter will think you’re being a pest. If the reporter says to send an email pitch, follow up with an email immediately.
- Email Pitch: if you have an email, by all means use it. Make your pitch succinct, answering the all-important question of “why is this important to a reporter’s audience?” Steer clear of overly long paragraphs and don’t use overly technical jargon. If you get no response, follow up your pitch within 24 hours if the news is time-sensitive, or within 2-5 days to make sure the pitch stays on the reporter’s radar screen.
- Title: your title in an email pitch is the most important part of the pitch. It’s what allows you to set the “hook” in the reporter’s imagination and trigger a follow-up email or tweet.
- Don’t Overpitch: if you aren’t getting any responses for your pitch after trying several times, then it’s probably time to try another approach. That’s why you brainstormed 2-3 ideas so you can have other options up your sleeve.
- Responsiveness: if a reporter does respond favorably to your story pitch, be ready to drop what you’re doing to get what the reporter needs in order to write or produce the story. Failing to do that means you just lost your best shot at getting national attention through a world-class media outlet.
- Gratitude: if you succeed in getting featured in the national media, make sure you thank the reporter.
- Promotion: if you get into a national media outlet, then tell the world about it. Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social media platform you can think of. Be sure to give reporters credit on Twitter because they like to promote their work, too.
- Never Say Die: a final suggestion is to not give up if at first you don’t succeed. Very few small businesses make it into the national news the first time they try. You can’t always know what will trigger a reporter’s interest, which is why many PR professionals like me will tell you it takes up to 6 months of relationship-building with reporters before we start seeing success on the national stage.
The rest is up to you. So why not get started now? Your fame in the national news is just a pitch away!
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech PR firm agency for startup and enterprise businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.