When Pitching Your News, Reporters Are Your Customers

While selling reporters on your latest news is not all that different from selling customers on your products or services, you have to pitch reporters in a way that makes the decision to use your news an easy one.

In other words, you have to know exactly what reporters want first; then you have to deliver your content in a way that will ultimately please their audience.

Take TV producers and reporters as an example. You must approach them with a story idea that includes plenty of visual elements – scenes that a reporter can film to create a visual narrative. The story idea must also inform, and potentially entertain, so that the viewing audience won’t change the channel. You must paint a picture and give them a date-specific call-to-action such as an invitation to a celebration, fundraiser or award ceremony.  Anything short of that and your story pitch will fall on deaf ears.

The simple fact is if you keep your pitch brief and do your homework about the reporter before pitching him or her, then your chances of getting in the news will go up exponentially.

Happy pitching!

10 Reasons NOT to come Meet Statesman Reporter Brian Gaar

Here is a list of really good reasons why small businesses should not come meet Brian Gaar, roving small business reporter for the Austin American Statesman:

  1. You might hear good advice on how small businesses can approach busy reporters!
  2. You could meet Brian and he might be interested in learning about your business!
  3. If you got an article in the Statesman, then you would have to answer annoying phone calls from new potential customers!
  4. Website clicks would almost certainly grow from news coverage!
  5. You might meet new people, leading to new friends and (who knows?) customer referrals!
  6. Word-of-mouth buzz about how great your product or service is would start to spread without your approval!
  7. You might enjoy the coffee we serve from our beverage sponsor Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf more than your home brew!
  8. You could discover a customer or vendor to help you grow your business!
  9. You might like PR over Coffee’s Dave Manzer and his style of showing you ways to target the media!
  10. Your negative perception about PR could forever change to a positive one!

So there you have it. If you come to see Brian Gaar in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, May 28th to learn how to pitch your stories to Statesman reporters like him, then do so at your own risk.

Here’s the really bad news: registration is still open. If you want to cast your fate to the fickle PR winds, then click HERE now!

Should you make a PR strategy for your small business?

The year is rapidly coming to a close, which means many small businesses will soon start the annual soul-searching and budgeting process.

One thing I have noticed over the years of running PR over Coffee is that most businesses rarely come up with an PR strategy to execute throughout the year. The famous dictum that comes to mind is “Most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.

Why plan for PR, you ask? Because there are media opportunities happening ALL the time, opportunities that you can create on your own, as well as ones that are happening in the news any given day. Wouldn’t you rather the media talk about your business as opposed to your competition?

Since this post is about PR Strategy, let’s review what some of the questions you should ask yourself as you look to create one for your business:

  1. What is your key differentiation as a business in your community or industry? Are you best known for: Donuts, Gardening, Bird Watching, Goat Cheese, Spa Treatments, Tutoring, Tatoos, etc.? Your primary differentiation should be your overall guide as you create your strategy. In other words, seek to gain as much attention for your “claim to fame” as you possibly can.
  2. What are holidays or national Days, Weeks or Months that have been set aside to commemorate what you do? For instance, September 18 is National Cheeseburger Day, September is National Yoga Month, and the 4th week of June is National Camping Week. Design a special offering around one of these national awareness campaigns and you will make an appealing (and timely) subject for news coverage!
  3. What are competitors doing to get news coverage? If it works for them, then it will work for you!
  4. What media covers your business type or industry the most? This can include your local newspapers, morning TV news shows, magazines, trade journals, blogs, e-zines, etc. Any of these can be a great source of media coverage for your business. Also, check to see if they have an editorial calendar so you can pitch them when they plan to cover your topic or industry. Leave no media stone uncovered!
  5. What are you upcoming promotions, initiatives, and accomplishments? Part of your strategy should be to translate your marketing plan into message “hooks” for the media. (Be advised: selling the media on a story is much different than passing along a marketing message, which is guaranteed to annoy even the most mild-mannered reporter.) Company milestones, hiring plans, product roll-outs, a round of funding for a tech startup – all can and should be incorporated into your PR strategy.
  6. Is your website ready for the traffic? A pleasant byproduct of great media coverage is more website traffic. Making sure your website is worthy of the attention should be part of your PR strategy, even if it’s more of a marketing task. The website should be both functional and pleasant on the eyes (a well optimized website for search engines is a must have).
  7. Finally, how are you holding yourself accountable? If you don’t have a hammer over your head, then you may not take the execution very seriously. Find somebody who won’t let you get away with mediocre performance and make sure he or she will slap you upside the head if you drop the ball!

These are just some of the questions that are important to consider when coming up with your PR strategy. There are always more to ask and I’m happy to answer any you have in the comments section below.

So as you ponder your PR potential, don’t forget to find your support group, create a PR strategy, and hold each other accountable. You too will soon see the media buzz begin to build around your business!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR & marketing agency for startups and emerging-growth 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.

Billions of Buzzing Cicadas? Could Be Great for your PR Buzz!

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They’re down there. Right below our feet. The Rip Van Winkle of the insect world, cicadas, numbering in the billions, are about to hatch after a 17 year snooze. The East Coast is bracing itself for what’s being labeled “Swarmageddon.”

What in the world can billions of insects have to do with your PR? For some of you, quite a lot, actually.

National news outlets like Mashable and FoxNews.com are buzzing with reports about the imminent arrival of the reclusive cicada. Many are looking for experts to interview. Others want to interview local business owners about how cicadas outnumbering humans 600-to-1 may impact their business – either positively or negatively.

The result is that most media outlets – TV, print, blogs and radio – will be reporting on the economic impact of this pesky critter throughout the summer.

That can translate into BIG PR opportunities for small business owners like you.

For those of you not too proud to ride the PR coattails (or wings) of an insect, here is what you should do immediately:

  1. Scan the media: start looking at what media are talking about cicadas. Pay close attention to local news media, as they are your best chance of getting news coverage. Be sure to note the names of reporters so you can reach out to them when the time is right.
  2. Angle: figure out how your business most closely relates to the story. Are you an restaurant with outdoor seating, pest control specialist, or tour company? Maybe you’re planning to hold a special Cicada Tour for science tourists who may want to come from around the world to see this rare event.
  3. Facts: be willing to share facts about your plans to deal with green-winged menace. Are you offering discounts to lure tourists worried about the swarms? Do you plan to hire extra employees to clean your Bed & Breakfast veranda and walking paths? What is the cost impact, or the incremental revenue opportunity? Be precise, honest and forthcoming.
  4. Photo Op: don’t be afraid to take a few pictures and videos of how you’re coping with the icky creatures. One thing media outlets like is when a picture tells a story that will interest an audience. It makes their job of selling a story that much easier.
  5. One-Two Punch: Most media professionals I know from my three years of running PR over Coffee say they prefer to be contacted by email. So start with an email that follows the KISS principle: Keep it Simple Stupid! Come up with an eye-catching (but not hokey) subject line, then briefly sum up the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY and HOW. Tell the reporter you will call in 24 hours and then don’t forget to call. On the phone, be concise and courteous. It will go a long way toward winning some great PR!
  6. Follow-up: you may not connect with a reporter right away. Keep trying. They may seem aloof and uninterested but more often than not it’s because they deal with 100s of story pitches from businesses every day. So keep trying, but avoid being annoying or rude or you can kiss your chance at publicity good bye.

Entrepreneurs like us need to be ready to hop on any news trend that can shine a media spotlight on our small business. Even if that means embracing the great Cicada Crisis of 2013!

Keep the stories coming. And may the media be with you!

10 Common Small Business PR Mistakes

imagesSmall businesses and PR are like Oil & Vinegar. They can be at odds, tasting acidic and unctuous without accomplishing anything special; or they can be vigorously combined and result in a unique product that pleases the palate and makes the mealtime more memorable.

Okay, call me a hopeless foodie with that comparison – but it’s accurate. Small business PR can help small businesses in many surprising ways, but it can also fall short of its true potential and leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

Here are some common mistakes small businesses make when contemplating and executing PR:

  1. Fail to plan for success: perhaps the most common mistake made, and one that can be rectified with just a little strategic planning. Some small businesses approach PR like it’s a one-and-done event rather than an ongoing component of a marketing strategy.
  2. Give up too easily: sometimes when small businesses do decide to use PR and they don’t see any immediate results (e.g., an article about them in the local newspaper), they may dismiss PR as ineffective or just not applicable to their particular business.
  3. Fail to experiment: when at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Many small businesses fail to tinker with PR until they find the right formula for success.
  4. Ignore or miss current trends: sometimes the best opportunities for media coverage are trending in today’s news. Because many small businesses are so busy, they often miss golden opportunities to promote themselves to the local (or even national) news media.
  5. Forgetting social media: while social media is not the same as PR, failing to do both is a critical error. So many businesses miss out on integrating a PR message with messages on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  6. Confuse marketing with PR: a lot of business owners do their own marketing, which means they may occasionally confuse marketing and PR when it comes time to write a news release and communicate with reporters.
  7. Think PR is only about a press release: thanks in part to online distribution websites like PRWeb, the press release (or news release as it’s often called by marketers) has become a popular way to communicate with customers and prospects – NOT, however, to the news media.
  8. Unrealistic expectations: think you should be on Dr. Phil, CNN or the Wall Street Journal? Thinks again.
  9. Missing the singles: many business owners fail to make the easy “singles” that can get them incremental media coverage and instead swing for the fences only to strike out each time.
  10. Neglect the trades & blogs: business owners also overlook a potential goldmine of referrals that can come from getting mentioned in industry trades or blogs. These specialized vertical media outlets are often hungry to learn about new innovations and news in general, so ignore them at your own peril.

So enough bashing on small businesses! The good news is that they are only mistakes, and we can all learn from our mistakes, right?

It’s time to take a new, fresh look at PR and start owning it like we do at PR over Coffee everyday! Your business will never look the same if you do.

Got some good suggestions you want to share? Leave a comment below or feel free to visit the PR Over Coffee Facebook page and leave your thoughts (don’t forget to like us)!

How to Ask a Reporter out for Coffee

coffee-black

Coffee, it’s not just for breakfast anymore. Turns out, it’s a great way to get to know a local reporter you have been hoping would write about you!

Why leave coffee strictly in the realm of sales prospecting, chats with long, lost friends or a pit-stop on the way to work? Why not use it, and the opportunity it affords to enjoy another person’s company while sipping your favorite coffee beverage, as a means to promote your business, your brand, your PR?

Some considerations to weigh as you look to invite a local reporter or TV news anchor:

  1. They are very, very busy people
  2. They get a lot of invitations to coffee (and lunch, drinks, dinner, etc.)
  3. They look at anybody trying to cozy up to them with a natural amount of skepticism

So how do you win the trust of such an elusive creature as that? Try a few of these tricks:

  1. Get an introduction from a mutual friend (even ask that friend to set the meeting up if neccessary)
  2. Email the reporter and briefly let him know what you do and how you would love buy him a cup of joe and hopefully get to know how you could be a resource (in other words, just be honest and be yourself)
  3. Tweet or email relevant information that might help the reporter by adding details to a story she recently wrote (retweet her tweets as well, just don’t overdo it)
  4. Meet the reporter at PR over Coffee, ask for a business card and a chance to grab a cup of coffee “on the house” – it’s hard to turn down an offer made out of goodwill and in front of others
  5. Blog about the reporter’s work and reference how your business is somehow related or in contrast to what he has written in the past (don’t forget to tweet the blog post and put the reporter on @ copy)
  6. Pick up the phone and ask the reporter out for a cup of coffee

In other words, don’t miss out on the pleasant opportunity to both enjoy a cup of coffee and indulge in a little PR over Coffee! In as little as fifteen minutes, you could be on your way to some local news coverage courtesy of the humble coffee bean!

Got any comments you’d like to add or care to mention how coffee has proved instrumental to your PR success? Please elaborate below. Or just invite me to a cup of coffee!

Anatomy of a Press Release

A press release is a written communication piece typically between 1-2 pages in length that consists of a straight-forward portrayal of information about a company, event, or person. It is a formulaic communication between an organization and the news media, as well as stake holders such as customers, shareholders, volunteers, etc. The ultimate goal of a press release is to influence the perception of the organization by the public.

What follows is a description of the parts that make up a press release. By understanding the “anatomy” of a press release, you will be better able to write them and persuade interested parties to take action.

press release parts

As you can see from the graphic, an inverted pyramid best describes how much time you should spend on each part of your press release! In other words, spend more time on the headline as it is what sets the “hook” in your reader; the PR contact info and Boilerplate should take the least amount of time.

  • Headline: This is where you will really capture the reader’s attention. Use action verbs, relate it to a trending news story, and use keywords to make sure your release is helping your SEO strategy.
  • Sub-Headline: The headline and sub-headline should tell 80% of the story. Use the sub-headline to provide a supporting fact that grabs attention, but make sure to save the most important fact for the actual headline.
  • Intro Paragraph: This is where you continue to hook the reader and add some quick info – it’s a summary of your whole press release. Mention the company name immediately. Be specific and keep the intro to two sentences over no more than 3-4 lines. Be sure to either embed (anchor text) or use a direct URL that links back to your website’s home page or to an appropriate landing page.
  • Main Body: The part where you really flesh out your intro paragraph and add on key facts. Keep the each paragraph short, no more than 4-5 lines if possible, for readability. For best results, include a quote from a company or nonprofit representative, as well as one from 3rd party if applicable. Also, include a call-to-action at the end of the body to prompt readers to act. Include a URL for about every 100 words so your releases are not seen by the search engines (and readers) as thinly veiled SEO vehicles.
  • About Us (“Boilerplate”): A quick about us section that just gives the reader a short summary of what your company is about. Be short and brief, no more than 5-6 lines. This part should focus on an overall description of your business from a strategic perspective. Don’t overdo it on the fact, though. Keep it high-level. Another URL for your company is appropriate here.
  • PR Contact Info: This is where you provide all of the contact information and links for journalists or readers to use to contact you. Without this, you will make it a lot harder for a journalist to write about your latest news.

That’s it! A press release stripped down to the bare basics.

With all of that – plus a few hours of blood, sweat, and tears – you will have your very own press release to share with customers, prospects and media outlets. They will be putty in your hands!

Have any other tips you’d like to share about press releases? Post them on our Facebook page or in the comment section below.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded his own PR firm in Austin in 2009 as one of the only PR firms in the country to provide performance-based PR pricing. Dave Manzer PR and Marketing helps startups and emerging growth companies become recognizable brands through innovative, value-driven PR campaigns, PR stunts, blogging and ghost writing. He also launched PR over Coffee to provide small business PR advice so that entrepreneurs and startups could practice “DIY” PR and promote themselves to a much wider audience. For more information about Dave or PR over Coffee, email info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

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