Which begs the question, what’s a scrappy, do-it-yourself business owner to do if he or she wants to get some major publicity at Fast Company?
Fortunately, PR isn’t rocket science. You too can learn to pitch like a PR professional with some basic PR pointers and a little chutzpah!
Here are 8 tips on how you can prepare for and pitch reporters with national audiences like Fast Company:
Key message: ask yourself what makes you special, unique and memorable to customers. Is there something idiosyncratic in how you serve customers that really sets you apart from the competition? Is it a marketing strategy or new technology that has been really successful at finding new customers? Don’t be shy about asking your customers and vendors for ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come from outside observers!
News peg: it’s what makes your story interesting to a mass audience. It’s not enough to be an interesting business; there are thousands of those. What really helps is making case that you represent a larger trend or a radical departure from a trend. For instance, an Austin real estate broker called Give Realty donates 25% of all home sales commissions to charities and in just over six years has given over $340,000 in total donations to nonprofits. A news peg for Fast Company might be in relation to the increasing popularity of social good companies donating a percentage of proceeds to charities in hopes of making the world a better place while gaining a competitive market advantage. Tie your company to a larger story trend and you just might find yourself featured in the news.
Eye-popping headline: whether you write a press release or just an email news pitch, take time to come up with 5-10 different headlines that could help hook the attention of a journalist. Often the success or failure of pitches comes down to how effective the subject or headline is at conveying the core idea and why it’s of particular relevance to a given journalist. [For tips on how to write a killer news pitch check out my post: “Wham! Email pitch subject lines should pack a punch.”]
KISS: the old adage of “keep it simple stupid” has perhaps never been as apropos as it is for pitching a busy journalists. Make that doubly so for a journalist at Fast Company, many of whom receive 100s of pitches every day! When pitching, stick to the facts and avoid rambling sentences. Be sure you answer the Who, What, Where and Why of your story as concisely as possible. But be careful not to omit key facts in your search for brevity. You can always give a journalist a teaser in the email and tell them you have copied more information below your signature line or attached a press release.
Twitter follower: Twitter is a great way to learn about a journalist and his or her likes and dislikes. Twitter can provide a level of insight into the personality behind the writer that you just don’t get to see when reading past articles. The trick to winning over a busy journalist is to be an opportunistic retweeter of the journalist’s musings over time. What’s more, if you can’t find an email address for a Fast Company journalist or editor, then Twitter can work as a great initial pitch platform. A carefully worded Twitter pitch, or even a simple request on how best to pitch your idea, will sometimes net you a reply and even email address. [See my article in Hiscox’s small business blog for tips on how to use social media for your next PR campaign.]
Bulldog: it pays to be persistent when pitching national outlets like Fast Company. You may not actually win coverage for your business the first time around (or even the second or third) but keep in touch with occasional news updates to let a journalist know you’re still around and willing to be a resource for an article. After each pitch, be sure to follow-up with either a phone call (assuming you have a phone number to call) or a second email. Bottom-line: be politely persistent, not a pest.
Responsive: if you finally do get the attention of an Fast Company writer and are asked to schedule a phone interview, be sure to respond immediately. Journalists are often working against a deadline so if you procrastinate you could lose out on your golden opportunity for national publicity.
Appreciation: if you do end up getting an interview that leads to a mention in Fast Company, then don’t forget to thank the reporter over the phone and in email. Whatever you do, don’t send a gift. Better to mention the article frequently in your social media streams and give the writer props for the great work – remember, writers, like brands, love to see their names get lots of mentions and new followers.
So the good news is you don’t have to be a media expert to get national media coverage from outlets like Fast Company. You just have to let your passion shine through – and follow the steps I outlined above.
Final note: some small businesses just don’t have the time or comfort-level needed to successfully pitch the likes of Fast Company. In a situation like that, I would recommend looking into hiring a PR consultant or PR agency. For tips on how to do that, please check out my articles on how to hire a PR firm and how much you should pay for PR.
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin PR & content marketing agency for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. He specializes in highly integrated PR & inbound marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. If you have any PR questions about your startup or small biz, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)manzercommunications dot com.