I get about six emails a day from people and PR firms wanting me to write about someone’s business for my USA TODAY column. But I only say yes about once or twice a month. Why do I say yes occasionally, not far more often, and how can you use that to get some valuable publicity for your business?
Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you.
But first, let me reiterate why getting good PR is so important for your business. You know your business is good, and so do your customers. Potential customers may think it is good, but they do not really know for sure; after all, your advertising is just you telling them, and these days everyone is a tad skeptical.
That is where PR comes in. Getting a writer to do a story about your business, or a reporter to do a radio or TV piece about it, is independent, third-party validation that you do in fact have a special business. And not only is it important for your business the day the story runs, but probably even better, you can reprint that story, put it in your shop window, post the video on your website or whatever, and forever more you will have that news outlet extolling your virtues. It’s like the ultimate, long-term, word of mouth advertising.
So how do you get that all-important story?
Here are the five steps.
1. Do your homework: First, you need to find the right reporter – someone who covers what it is you will be pitching. As discussed below, a surefire way not to get any coverage is to craft a press release and blast it to any and everyone. If you own a dive shop for instance, figure out who covers outdoor sports for the various news outlets in your area. The small business reporters may also be a good bet. But the metro editor will think your pitch is a waste of his or her time.
2. Come up with a hook: This is vital (actually, it all is.) News outlets are not in the business of giving your businesses free publicity. They are in the business of covering the news. So give them some news to cover. Come up with a unique angle. Maybe the dive shop can discuss an upcoming dive to a newly-discovered sunken ship. Remember the old yarn: Dog bites man is not news; man bites dog is.
3. Craft your pitch: Once upon a time, we were all instructed to create a press release that covered the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of the story.
Don’t do that.
Personally, when I receive a press release, I almost always delete that email. Why? Too impersonal. Too boring. It takes too much time to read. It’s too self-serving.
Instead, what I find, and what my experience tells me most reporters respond to, is a personal email that is short, snappy, to the point, unique, and would be of interest to my readers. For instance, an email that says something like, “Steve: I love your Ask an Expert column and think your readers would love to know about the latest twist in social media. . .”
1) A little flattery just might get you somewhere, and 2) the person clearly knows me, my beat, my readers, etc. They are not wasting my time.
4. Pitch the story: Again, I find a personally crafted email works best. Something that is generic, like “Dear editor” or “Attn: Steve Strauss” in one font with a cut-and-pasted pitch below in a different font doesn’t cut it.
5. Follow up: We are all busy these days, and things do fall through the cracks. A gentle reminder, a joke, a follow up email, all can be important.
So the bottom line is that you come up with a unique angle that fits a reporter interested in what you are pitching, and that you pitch them in a personal email that respects their expertise, time, and readers.
I say that this method is “almost surefire” because you never know why someone may or may not yes. But I can assure you of this: Follow these steps and you will be well ahead of the game.