Sometimes running a business is like being alone in a dark room – you know you are there, but no one else does. So how do you turn on the light and let potential customers learn of your business?
There are a few ways:
- Advertising and marketing: This of course is the tried and true way to get more business. Here, you are telling people that your business is great and hoping they find your message compelling enough to check you out.
- Word of mouth: Even better than advertising, this is other people saying that your business is special.
- Media story: A TV or radio segment about your business, or a newspaper, magazine, or Web story may be the best of all because it combines Numbers 1 and 2. That is, it offers the power of the mass media with the trustworthiness of someone’s independent judgment. That is a combo that is tough to beat.
So how do you get a writer or producer to do a story about your business? This is something I know quite a bit about since over at my USA TODAY column I probably get 20 pitches a week from businesses and PR firms that want me to write about some company or product.
From my experience and speaking with my colleagues, here is what works:
Offer something unique or new: Reporters, writers, producers, and editors are not in the business of giving you free publicity, but they are in the business of offering their readers / viewers great content, and hopefully something that is new (after all, that is why it is called the “news.”)
So come up with a unique angle about some aspect of your business and craft a pitch around that. For instance, maybe your computer consultancy can hold a contest, looking for the oldest computer in the area still in use.
Start smart: Contact the right person. Sending a mass email or press release to writers or reporters who don’t cover your proposed story is a waste of everyone’s time. Our computer business would be wise to contact the tech editor and reporters of its local paper.
Be snappy: Your best bet is to reach out to the reporter with a short email explaining what your pitch is, why it is interesting and newsworthy, and why it fits this reporter. Note: A long press release may not get read in this day and age.
Compliments can get you everywhere: I can usually tell which pitches come from people who actually know my column and have read it and which come from people who found my name on some list. When the pitch mentions a recent column I wrote for instance, or says that they like my take on X, Y, or Z, I find I tend to be a bit more receptive. People have egos. Use that.
Follow up: A gentle reminder or follow up a few weeks later is also a good idea.