Getting your business featured in the press can help win over clients and new investors. It also opens doors for you personally, as you become known as an expert in your field.
Using PR to grow my business and my personal brand has opened opportunities I did not expect: new business partners, speaking opportunities in exotic locations and even a helicopter ride in St Tropez. Getting a press profile took a long time and considerable effort, but it offers the kind of endorsement that money simply cannot buy.
In fact, billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson said, “publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad.”
Many professionals try to get featured in the business press, to no avail. While there is no silver bullet, having a strategy, learning the rules and investing in it for the long term leads to results.
Why should anybody care?
Having a clear and interesting answer to this brutal first questions is the first step to getting press attention. Even large businesses with communications departments struggle to get press coverage unless they have something interesting to say. This means it is even harder for small businesses or startups.
Think about what news hook or social proof your company already has. For example, have you just secured a well-known investor or a high profile client? Are they willing to go on the record about their work with you?
If your news is not compelling enough, think about how your company fits into a wider trend or a news story. For example, if a large company has a data breach and its customers’ data is stolen, this will be a big story in the business press. If your company helps businesses keep their data secure and has some case studies, the big company’s news story is an opportunity to tell yours.
All of the above still stands if you know the reporter you are pitching to socially. If you reach out to your journalist friend with a plea for coverage, but do not give them an interesting story, you are putting the burden to make you interesting on them. This is not a reporter’s job, but it is what PRs get paid to do.
Who are you talking to?
Just as you would research a prospective client or investor before you make your pitch, do the same with journalists.
Each reporter covers a specific area and has different interests. This information is readily available in the reporter’s description in the publication. Many reporters are on Twitter, where you can learn more about their interests and the latest stories they have covered.
Do not make the mistake of pitching your new venture fund to a reporter covering industrials. It will show you are unprepared and have not bothered to do basic research.
Be patient and build a relationship
Sometimes, a lucky meeting with a reporter will immediately lead to a story. More often than not, a successful pitch will lead to a conversation and the beginning of a relationship. It is then up to you to check in with updates about your business or insight on events that the reporter is covering.
It took a year between me meeting a journalist at the Financial Times until she included my comments in an article. This is quite normal, so do not get discouraged. Building a press profile is a long-term initiative, usually lacking instant gratification.
Be easy to work with
The easier you are to work with, the more likely the journalist will want to cover your news. For example, if a journalist wants to feature your comments in an article and asks you for a high-resolution head shot, do not send them your bio instead. If they ask you to fact check some points, then check the facts, rather than their prose.
Good grammar and clear writing are especially important if a journalist is asking you for written comment. While your written comments will often be edited before the article goes to press, the easier and more pleasant your text is to work with, the more the reporter will come back to you.
Do not pull rank
Telling reporters that you know their boss, and thus pushing them to write about you is likely to have the opposite effect. If the editor is genuinely interested in your story and has suggested you contact their colleagues, then politely say so when you contact the reporter.
If you know the editor socially and are writing to their team with a veiled threat that if they do not cover the story their boss will be annoyed, not only will your story not get covered, you will lose that reporter’s respect forever.
Never ever offer a journalist money for a story
Like with other things that people do for love, when it comes to journalism, offering money for stories is neither effective nor respectful. Nobody who writes for a high-profile publication will ever accept money in exchange for writing articles about a person or a company. Offering them money to do so is questioning their professional ethics.
Some people who are new to press relations may not understand the difference between paying a PR officer to convince journalists to write and simply paying the journalist to write. Making this mistake will show you to be a novice at best, and unethical at worst.
Getting your business featured in the press can help grow your business and your professional profile. However, like any important pitch, it requires strategy and preparation, which most people do not do. If you do your research, learn to tell an interesting story and build the right relationships, you will stand out from the crowd.