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Positive media coverage can be a very valuable asset for your company. To put it simply, it’s free advertising. However, garnering coverage can be a challenge if you aren’t making the right moves.
Here are six reasons why your startup may not be attracting media coverage and tips on how to increase your chances:
You haven’t reached out
It may sound like a no-brainer, but one of the most common reasons businesses don’t get media coverage is because the media simply doesn’t know about you. To increase the chances that your startup receives the attention you deserve, you need to ensure you’re on the radar of journalists. To do this, you need to develop a relationship by introducing yourself, sharing your press kit and providing details on the topics and types of stories you could be a good source for.
Proactive outreach is the best way to get journalists to understand who you are, what you do and how you can be of assistance with stories.
Pro tip: The most important aspect of outreach is connecting with the right journalists, so limit the number of emails you send to general email addresses such as [email protected] Focus on finding direct contacts at each of the publications you’re seeking coverage from, and take time to figure out who is the best journalist to connect with.
You’re focused on short-term goals only
Have you ever picked up the phone and called a complete stranger to ask a favor? It’s unlikely, but kudos to you if you have! Sending a pitch is similar to asking a stranger for a favor. You don’t know them, and they don’t know you. So, why would you just out of the blue call or send a note asking to be included in their next story?
The majority of pitch emails you send should be to journalists who know who you are and have a familiarity with you. If you’re constantly contacting journalists who you don’t know, you’re focused on the short-term and not the long-term benefit of public relations.
Long before you ever actually need to “ask a favor” or reach out to a journalist, you should establish a rapport with them.
Here are two simple ways to get started:
- Send a friendly “hello” via email, introducing yourself and your business and sharing your press kit. In the note, let the journalist know you’re available for interviews or comments if they ever need a source, and provide a list of topics of which you’re able to share your expertise.
- Follow and actively engage with journalists, editors and publications on social media. This includes liking and commenting on stories that are relevant to your business or topics that are in your wheelhouse. When possible, comment and share tidbits you found interesting — showing that you actually read the story. And don’t forget to weave in a connection to your business.
Pro tip: Becoming a source of information for journalists is a great way to build a rapport. Focus on providing your media contacts with information you think they will find interesting or relevant.
For example, if a survey is published that is relevant to your industry or business community, send your media contacts the information. If possible, create a connection to your business that affords the opportunity for you to be a resource to the journalist if they decide to use the information you share. If you keep the focus on offering rather than asking, you’ll increase the likelihood of journalists fulfilling your “asks” when the time is right.
You’re declining opportunities
If you’re not feeling confident about being interviewed or you don’t feel properly prepared, you may find yourself declining interview opportunities as they present themselves. The best way to maximize interview opportunities is to be media trained from the start.
Media training is a formal process in which individuals who plan to work with the media are disciplined to deliver messages that position your business in the best light, ultimately achieving your objectives. As a startup, most business owners won’t need to spend the money for formal media training. However, it is important to plan, prepare and practice for media interviews long before you actually participate in one.
Here are simple steps to help you implement your own media training on a budget:
- Key messages: Prepare three to five key messages that are easy to understand and free of jargon. Focus on delivering this information in your own tone of voice so they come as second nature and don’t sound memorized or rehearsed.
- Answering questions: As it’s uncommon to have advance knowledge of the questions a journalist may ask, the best way to ensure you’re prepared is to have a colleague, friend, spouse or mentor help you practice. During this exercise, the interviewer should ask different questions, including ones you may not be prepared for, to help you get better at thinking on your feet and knowing what to say regardless of the order in which the questions are asked.
- Body language: To prepare for on-camera interviews, record yourself practicing and review the footage to analyze your body language and facial expressions to ensure you’re looking engaged, confident and happy.
Pro tip: If you’re uncomfortable being interviewed via phone or on camera, consider asking the journalist to share written questions with you ahead of time via email. Written questions afford the interviewee time to think about their answers and craft well-thought-out responses. Keep in mind: answers should be direct and stay on message. If you have additional information to share, put your most desired quote first before diving deeper.
You’re not reviewing editorial calendars
Most publications publish an editorial calendar that outlines the topics and themes they will cover during a given month or within a particular issue. If you’re interested in having your business, product or service included in an upcoming issue, download a copy of the editorial calendar and find where you may fit.
For example, if you own a candle company or a custom mug business, you may be a great fit for a Mother’s Day gift guide or a stocking stuffer roundup.
Many journalists like to work ahead, creating a sourcebook of potential resources for their articles. Publications with editorial calendars often need months to develop stories and push their content through rounds of review before they can be published. Leveraging editorial calendars is a great way to show journalists you’re knowledgeable about the publication and have done your homework.
Annual editorial calendars are typically published in the fall of the year prior (larger publications usually include their calendars in their media kits). If you don’t see an editorial calendar posted online by the middle of November, reach out to the publication to ask for a copy.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a direct media contact at a preferred publication, look around to see who has previously authored similar content. Use that contact as a starting point for outreach. For example, if a blog post is authored by the publication’s internal team, try contacting the editor to have them connect you to the most appropriate writer. Be sure to mention you know they probably aren’t the best contact, but you are hoping they could point you in the right direction.
Your pitch is too generic
Never send the same pitch to different journalists, or worse, do not send an email blast with journalists bcc’d. If you are copying and pasting your pitch into emails going to different publications and journalists, you’re making a big mistake.
Every email you send to the media should be personalized and tailored to the audience the journalist serves. More importantly, your pitch should be unique. Remember, journalists get hundreds of emails a day. As such, you’ll need to grab their attention and make them want to learn more by talking to you.
Pro tip: Never type your pitch directly in an outgoing email. Instead, create a generic version of your pitch that can then be tailored to different audiences. This also allows you to keep a record of the pitches you’ve sent, helping you keep track of what you’ve already shared while also providing a space for notes and feedback.
You’re not creating your own news
Most of the time, the best person to share news about your business is you. In my experience, one of the easiest ways to get journalists to pay attention is to create your own news — giving them something easy to talk about.
Here is a list of a few different types of news you can create and share with journalists:
- New products or services
- Impressive business accomplishments (i.e., revenue growth, team expansion, customer counts)
- Award wins
- Sales or discounts
Pro tip: Don’t share your news publicly before sharing it with your media contacts. Giving your media contacts an opportunity to break the news for you is a great way to give them a little something extra to cover the story!
Key takeaways on media coverage
With the above tips in mind, you’re armed with the necessary knowledge to increase your chances of getting solid media coverage for your new business.