It's true that the minute you don the entrepreneurial hat, you give up your right to be left alone. There's no shying away from unwanted attention anymore. Right from your aunt, to the neighbourhood barber, to the sworn enemy of your childhood, every single soul that knows you begin to show a keen (and abnormal) interest in your progress (or fall). However, the new world demands that you have more than just your aunt or your barber as your followers. You need something more than that to be a success today. You need an audience beyond the confines of your near and dear; you need the whole wide world. You need to be in the news (it better be for the right reasons). And for that you need the support of the media. Here are five ways your business can win a ticket to the much sought after media attention.
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No matter how funky the modus operandi of your business is, there can still be room for the funkiest. That does not mean ordering bean-bags in all available colours. If you want a piece of media attention, make it worth their trouble. Do something truly creative and insightful.
Recently, Opn, a Chennai-based advertising agency, was in the news for having a cute little dog called Goofy in charge of their HR department. Read about it here.
Instead of resorting to cheap tricks or gimmicks to gain media attention and free publicity, the company implemented a truly wonderful idea that is borne out of a deep insight – a dog is a man's best friend. Dogs like Goofy are incredible stress busters. The more stress-free your team is, the more productive they will be. Your story in the news need not always be about the hale and healthy status of your market position and profits. You can also inspire people with your insights, learnings, and creativity.
Heidi Cohen, who serves as President at Riverside Marketing Strategies and manages a marketing guide blog titled after her name, advises businesses to consider whether there’s another angle that could engage the press when there’s less news happening.
You may have scripted a great story with your entrepreneurial skills, but what good is it if you have no means to tell the story to the world? If you are still an outsider to the media, bulk mailing every single publication in town with a pitch, you're not going to like the outcome very much. Begin to be an insider. Building a strong network with the media is as important as building a strong business network. It pains but it pays to establish connections with bloggers, editors, and publications. Keep yourself updated with the latest articles from all leading publications. Keep a lookout for bloggers (with substantial following) who write on topics related to your business and acquaint yourself with them. Pitch your story to those publications that pick your kind of stories. Avoid sending bulk mails. Remember, it is a give-and-take kind of relationship with media. Give them a good story, and they will return the favour by giving your story the attention that it deserves.
“Twitter is great for making connections with journalists. Follow journalists on Twitter. And tweet at them if you have something relevant to say, by including their @handle in your tightly crafted pitch tweet.” says Joshua Sophy, Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends.
You cannot arm-twist a reporter into writing about you. Likewise, you cannot hope to find favours. The only merit that can get the media to write about you is the merit of your story – is it a touching story of overcoming hardships? Does it have what it takes to inspire the world? Are there learnings for other entrepreneurs through your story? Will the reporter and publication improve their professional respect by running your story? These are some of the angles you need to consider when writing your pitch. I sell upcycled products is not a pitch. Write a moving (and honest) story about why you started selling upcycled products. Highlight a noble reason, if there's any, behind your business.
“Believe it or not, your company and product, by themselves, are not an interesting topic. But as part of a broader story or an example of a pervasive need or a message – now they can shine. Think of what that story might be and imagine what it might look like in the hands of the reporter you’ve chosen. From that point of view, prepare your pitch.” says Cheryl Conner, Founder of SnappConner PR and the author of Beyond PR.
You're not at your optimum best throughout the day. Same is the case of the reporter receiving your pitch. So, make sure you time the pitch in such a way that it does not become a nag, or an intrusion, or worst still, completely lost to the receiver. The best time to pitch him is “afternoon on any day because it’s hard to keep up with email during the morning news rush.” says TechCrunch writer Frederic Lardinois, as stated by Dana Oshiro.
Reporters receive hundreds of pitches in a day. A gentle and polite follow up is a must if you wish to be sure of your story going to the press. Sabina Hitchen, Co-founder of Tin Shingle, designers of self-guided courses in PR called Press for Success, says that “many potential stories are lost simply because people don't follow through on them, and truth be told, the media have enough on their plate and may love your story but have forgotten completely about it.”
The support of the media is one of the key factors for business success. Do it the right way – with insights, creativity, and common sense, and you will have an inspiring story to tell.