Getting the word out to the media about your products and services is a vital part of marketing. Sometimes, though, reporters can be elusive, and it's not always easy to know how to connect with them. So what can a small-business owner do?
Sign Up To Be A Source
A number of services focus on linking reporters with sources, including Help a Reporter Out, ProfNet, FlackList, SourceBottle and ReporterConnection. Sign up for an account with these services, and you'll be able to post press releases, create a profile describing your business and expertise, and respond to reporters' requests for sources. These sites are a painless way to connect with people in the media who are eager to find experts, business owners, inventors and other sources for their stories.
List Press Contact Information
Make sure you have a link on your website that says "Press" or "Media," and make sure that you give a specific contact name, email address and phone number for your press contact. Busy reporters rely on websites to get the information they need, and if they can't find contact information for a press person right away, they're likely to move on to the next site.
Use social media sites to find reporters, pitch ideas and get your name out there. LinkedIn is particularly useful in this regard, since it lets you search for media professionals and get a sense of what they're looking for, what stories they're likely to be working on and how you might be able to help them.
Another use of social media sites, particularly Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, is to get news and feature tidbits out into the stream of daily thought. Have a new product? Developing a new theory? Discover a unique angle on marketing? Promote all of these in short, intriguing status updates that will draw reporters to you.
If you don't already blog, now's the time to start. Blogging puts you out there into the media world, and reporters regularly read blogs on their beat to get story ideas and find experts. Your blog will establish you as an authority and get your ideas out into circulation.
Learn To Write A Good Press Release
If you have a new product, service or idea, a press release is one way to get the information out there to the media. These can be sent by email to reporters and editors, and they can also be posted on your website and social media sites. Include contact information, a headline and a well-written story with details and quotes that reporters can use.
Think Like A Reporter
To make your business and expertise appealing to reporters, you need to think like they do. That means thinking about timely, seasonal and eye-catching story ideas that you can pitch. It also means thinking about audiences. The audience of a particular publication, after all, is your audience as well. Consider how you can tailor your pitches to those audiences. When you contact a reporter or send out a press release, you will have done some of the legwork already—making your story idea all the more appealing.
Don't Hound Reporters
Networking with reporters is one thing; hounding is another. Reporters are busy people who have their own assignments and deadlines. The last thing they need is a pushy business owner telling them what they should cover. Always be polite and professional, and take the time to get to know each of the reporters you contact. Avoid sending mass emails. Though it takes time to craft a personal message to each reporter, it will pay off in the long run.
Reporters appreciate it when you get to know who they are, what they cover and what kinds of stories they're most interested in. Take the time to get to know particular reporters, editors and producers, and use this information to send targeted messages and updates.
Keep Detailed Records
Once you've started networking with reporters, sending out story ideas and getting interviewed, keep detailed records about all your media involvement. These records will help you as you plan future media campaigns, and they'll also help you to compile a portfolio of media mentions to include in your marketing materials.
Making contact with reporters in some ways is just like all the other business networking you do—requiring the same sense of professionalism, creativity and intelligence. Reporters want to get to know who you are, what you do and how you can help them. And the easier you can make their job, the more likely they'll come calling for their next big story.
Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio.
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