PR is often considered untouchable by small businesses and best left to the experts and bigger players. But getting good media coverage needn’t be scary or complex. Here are some simple tips for dealing with the media, writing press releases and getting your business in the news.
PR is often considered untouchable by small businesses and best left to the experts and bigger players. But getting good media coverage needn’t be scary or complex. Here are some simple tips for dealing with the media, writing press releases and getting your business in the news, offered by SmallBusiness.co.uk and Kursha Woodgate, managing director of Mexia Communications.
Know your target media – Make sure that you are familiar with the types of magazines/newspapers that you are targeting. If you use a style and language that suits them, they are more likely to cover your story. There’s no point in writing something in a sensational, ‘tabloid’ style if you’re trying to get into a local business magazine, for instance.
Is it really news? – Think about the types of stories your target publications usually print – make sure that your story fits their usual profile. For example, a trade publication might be more interested in recent contracts that you've won and industry issues, while a local newspaper may be more likely to cover human interest stories, like the team you have entered for the local charity fun run. Remember, a journalist’s first priority is to his readers, so the material has to appeal to them.
A picture speaks a thousand words – Never underestimate the power of an image. A great photo can make a big difference to whether or not your story gets covered, particularly in local newspapers. Editors want to make their publications look good, so if you can help with that, it’s great news all round.
Killer headlines rule – Press releases should be kept short and simple, with a killer headline and opening news hook. Journalists receive thousands of releases and will only bite if the opener catches their eye. Try to write no more than the equivalent of one or two pages and make sure you include a date at the top of the release. Close the release with some general background information about your company and contact details for further information.
Build relationships with the press – Don’t be afraid to make contact with your main target magazines/papers. A good relationship with the press will lay the foundations for a successful PR programme. Even better, if you continue to provide good stories, you will become a good source of information that the journalist will come back to again and again.
Golden rules when dealing with the media – Once you start to deal with the media, you need to be aware of a few golden rules:
• Everything you say to a journalist is a matter of public record and can be referenced as part of a story unless you specifically ask to speak off the record and get the journalist to agree.
• Never ask to see the story before it goes to print – the journalist may in some cases allow this, but they are not required to.
• Be aware that your story may not get published in the next issue, or even at all, if a more pressing story comes in and the editor changes the layout, the journalist is under no obligation to print.
• Deadline is king – ALWAYS ask a journalist when their deadline is (there is always a deadline) and make sure you get them what they need within that timescale.
A little extra help… – If you decide that you would rather GSI (Get Someone In) than DIY, there are a number of good-value services available for SMEs. These include press release distribution agencies, such as Response Source (www.responsesource.com), Romeike (www.romeike.com) and Press Dispensary (www.pressdispensary.co.uk), and PR agencies that offer cost-effective services for small businesses.
Kursha Woodgate, a former journalist and now PR and marketing professional, is managing director of Mexia Communications, a no-nonsense PR and marketing agency focusing on the business-to-business sector. For more information, visit www.mexiacommunications.com.
See also: Top 10 Starting Up tips