Meet the Press
Getting stories placed in local, regional, or national news media can introduce your business to a much wider audience, which can mean increased sales. Yet, many independent retailers shy away from pitching the media or sending out press releases because they’re intimidated by the process or feel it’s not worth the effort. Not only is it relatively easy to approach the media with your stories (and it only gets easier the more you do it), getting covered brings in new customers and shows existing customers you have something to say—and others think so, too.
Press releases: When to use them
Generally, I’m not a fan of using press releases when pitching specific reporters. Not only will they know you’ve sent the release to every member of the media within a 100-mile radius, but it doesn’t take into account their audience, which is key to securing good coverage. Having said that, press releases are a handy tool when you need to send general information, such as information about a specific event. If you’ve never written a press release, pull up a template and quickly add in your Who, What, When, Where, Why and How, and send it off to the media.
Remember that calendar you created at the beginning of the year, the one that includes all the events you’re planning to host throughout the year? Use one of your quieter days to write your press releases and save them on your computer. As it gets busier later in the year, you won’t need to worry about writing them since they’re all done. You simply need to send them.
Keep in mind the media works on a different schedule, so plan your releases accordingly. Monthly magazines typically need 2-3 months notice, local news stations need about a month lead time, weekly newspapers about 2-3 weeks, daily newspapers about 10-14 days, and websites vary widely depending on the content of the site. These lead times are general. Each media source is different, so it’s best to reach out and ask the outlets you’re hoping to receive coverage in or check out their websites (which sometimes tell you when they prefer to receive information).
What to share with media
Another reason so many people fear working with the press is they feel they don’t have anything worthwhile to say or share. Here’s a little-known secret: Reporters often love to get stories from smaller businesses. Why? Because we all know about the biggies; discovering smaller businesses is what differentiates one media outlet from another. What you think isn’t worth sharing may be exactly what they’re looking for, and I bet if you spent 30 minutes just looking around your office, shop, or studio, you’ll find plenty of exciting things to share.
Here are just a handful of ideas to get you started. Grab a notebook and pen and start jotting down notes without worrying about the “story” you want to pitch just yet. That’ll come later.
- Trends by season. Everyone in the industry knows gift show season happens right after the new year and during the summer, but here’s some breaking news: Most of the rest of the country doesn’t know this, nor can the general public attend trade shows. Offer to give your local media an “insider scoop” on what’s trending and what new things the public will see in the coming months. Pictures are great, but if you can shoot video (which you can do with many smartphones, too), even better.
- Tip sheets. This is one PR tool I think is grossly under-used. While it doesn’t have a timely hook, which is very important when it comes to media, the fact that it’s evergreen (meaning it can be used any time throughout the year) makes it appealing when it’s a slow news day and reporters need “filler.” It’s also something you can use in other places, such as a website or e-newsletter, so it’s worth the time to create the content. Basically, the content is exactly what the sheet suggests: tips. Do you sell home accessories? Provide ways people can dress up their home using products in unexpected ways. Another tip sheet could be about great gifts for any time of the year, with options for a boss, mom, dad, or birthdays for young children. When a specific holiday comes around (say, Mother’s Day), simply pull up your great-gifts list and send suggestions to local reporters. If you sell jewelry, provide a tip sheet on how to organize the pieces at home or while traveling.
Next week we’ll be covering how to get your press release, tip sheets, and pitches into the hands of the right media contacts and outlets. Spend some time this week pulling together your ideas so you’ll be ready to start sending your material to reporters by the end of February!
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