As business owners, we believe that our businesses and the stories around them are very important. However, when wanting to entice the press, there’s not much that hasn’t been brought to their attention in this media-saturated culture. The trick lies in the thought behind the delivery. Here are three tips to help you determine whether your story will grab a reporter's attention.
Tip 1: Your story idea must interest the media outlet’s audience—tailor your pitch accordingly. Form your story to appeal to as broad an audience as possible for mass media, or a specific target market for business-to-business or trade press. See the potential stories in your business by looking at what you do from different angles.
Tip 2: Look for the “news” value in your story. A story with new(s) value contains one or more of the following elements:
- Trend: Does the story tap into a social, political or economic trend? The media won’t care about your restaurant’s new children’s menu, but they may be interested to hear about your innovative babysitting service, especially if you pitch your business as an evolving trend toward “family-friendly” businesses. Note: it takes three or more to make a trend, so if you use this hook, be prepared to supply the names of two other businesses that are doing something similar. To avoid giving your competition publicity, look for businesses outside your field or geographic area. For instance, a furniture store with a play area or another restaurant that offers babysitting, but in a distant city, would all fit your trend.
- Anti-trend: On the flipside, has your business bucked a trend? A thriving privately owned pharmacy that delivers prescriptions to its customers in a region dominated by chain drug stores is certainly newsworthy.
- Human Interest: Do you have an interesting story to tell? The expansion of a tailor’s shop isn’t likely to receive press attention unless the tailor is a refugee who braved a treacherous ocean crossing, learned a new language and worked 18-hour days before becoming successful. The best stories are injected with a human element.
- Offbeat: Is there an unusual angle to your business? Charles A. Dana was an American journalist whose editor had this to say about the value of novelty: “If a dog bites a man, it’s not news. If a man bites a dog, it’s news.” Find the humor or irony in your product.
- Significant: Are you doing something that affects people in a profound way? A research lab may employ only a dozen people, but if it discovers a cure for cancer, it will make headlines.
- Timely: Can you peg your story to a current event? A small furniture manufacturer appeared in the local news during O.J. Simpson’s trial because Judge Lance Ito special-ordered an ergonomically correct chair. Had he ordered the chair six months after the trial, the media wouldn’t have cared.
- Celebrity Endorsements: Can you link your business to a well-known person? Try sending your product to local luminaries. Steve Latour of Washington, D.C., did this when he delivered his handmade Hawaiian leis to local TV weather forecasters during the blizzard of 1994. Latour got his plug when they appeared on air wearing the leis.
- Superlative: Is your business the biggest? The smallest? The first? The last? Every summer there’s a news story about drive-in movie theaters, simply because there are so few left.
- Slice of Life: These are the stories that put the reader into someone else’s skin. A reporter may spend a hot August day in an ice-cream truck, and then write about the vendor’s experience.
- Local: Do you do something that matters to people in your area? A gift shop’s grand opening in struggling downtown Jonesville isn’t going to make it into The New York Times. However, it may appear in the Jonesville Daily News, especially if the opening is tied into a broader story about downtown revitalization.
Tip 3: Never confuse a news story with an advertisement. Here’s a bit of tough love: the details of your business may be fascinating to you, but to the average news consumer … not so much. Ask yourself what news stories you enjoy. Chances are you seek out the stories that hit home emotionally, politically, financially or geographically. Think as the recipient of the story would. Does it have appeal? Does it NOT read as a “paid-for” advertisement designed to promote a specific product or service?
Real credibility is given to a business when the story is well-rounded, fits into a trend and encompasses other businesses that relate to a “bigger picture” or viewpoint.
Read more about getting media coverage for your small business.
Nancy Michaels is an accomplished veteran marketing and sales strategist whose expertise has helped grow businesses–from Fortune 500 companies to individual entrepreneurs–and retain the lifetime loyalty of their customer base.