In our wildest dreams, we’ve got a great, multi-million dollar idea or service that’s going to revolutionize our industry. We’ve got our systems down pat and have some incredibly happy clients under our belt, but there’s a problem: we can’t get any press coverage.
And suddenly, this dream has turned into a nightmare.
So what is the secret to getting coverage from journalists? How do I get my company’s name some exposure?
That’s where this guide comes in. It covers the mindset needed to approach journalists, the basic assets you’ll need for press coverage, and specific tips and tricks to get your emails noticed and opened.
Believe it or not, journalists are not climbing all over each other to help promote startups and businesses out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. Likewise, you won’t be doing anything drastic to jeopardize the success of your business just for the sake of a good headline article.
If you go into the task of contacting journalists and the media with the wrong mindset—say, “They owe me some exposure because my product/service is amazing”—then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Your company may be revolutionizing your industry, but it doesn’t mean a thing to journalists if it doesn’t make a headline.
For example, let’s look at something as commonplace as a product launch. Anything from video games to vacuum cleaners, a product launch is just a product launch. It’s a thing that will soon be available for purchase.
“Axel Corp. Announced Release of New Organizational App".”
There’s no story here. There’s no headline. You have to be in the mindset of a journalist in order to determine the value that you can provide.
The journalist is always going to ask to themselves, “What’s in it for me?”
Maybe a notable, popular figure said something interesting about your company. Maybe during development something dramatic or groundbreaking happened. Or maybe you’re going to sell your company off your own personal backstory.
Let’s say that in our previous example, during Azel Corp.’s third reinvention of the app, they got a famous IT guru to try it out, and got him saying something along the lines of “If I’d had this a decade ago, I can’t imagine what else I would have accomplished by now.”
To a business owner or marketing agent, this is a windfall of an endorsement soundbite. To a journalist, a line like this can be mined for drama. It’s your job to put yourself in the journalist mindset. After all, drama makes good headlines.
So, when Axel Corp. reaches out to journalists about the organizational app, instead of putting themselves in the mindset of releasing a new product, they focus on what a journalist might be interested in.
“Never settle for excellence —See what prompted this IT giant to dream what could have been!”
Axel Corp. has intrigue, big name recognition, and a potential for a story all in a simple tagline.
Now, you won’t always have a marketing golden goose like in the examples (and let’s be real, the simple act of business isn’t so simple and is plagued by more pitfalls than windfalls), but if you keep the journalist mindset in your back pocket, you’ll have a much easier time identifying opportunities and improving your chance at getting some exposure.
The Perfect Pitch
In the perfect world, you wouldn’t need a perfect pitch: every person who heard about your business would be immediately, 100% on board and you’d just be wasting your time trying to build hype with clientele that’s already at maximum levels of investment.
But we live in the real world, and in this cruel, imperfect world, you need your perfect pitch. Not just to hook in potential clients, investors, and business partners, but also to help you establish the correct frame of mind and focus for your business and marketing campaigns.
Your perfect pitch is a distillation of everything attractive about your business. And because what’s attractive about your business will vary based on your target audience (clients vs. journalists, for example), you’re actually going to have more than one perfect pitch in your arsenal—all stemming from a basic template.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Think about your perfect pitch as a choose your own adventure book: based on who’s reading, the story is going to change a bit, but it’s all the same book. It’s up to you to present the options that lead the reader through an exciting experience and to an ending they’re satisfied with. Not to mention that a good journalism pitch sells a story.
So unlock your inner novelist.
Different target audiences will require different methods (do you hit them with the rags to riches story of your company’s founder, or the innovator in an industry of stagnation pitch?) but it’ll all revolve around a strong core template: the message you want the media to report (and remember, that message should provide value to journalists and media outlets).
In other words, what story would your clients want to read about you? Give the journalist something to run with, something you know has value to your commonly shared audience. Different journalists have different specialties and areas of expertise, so make sure to tool your pitch to appeal to their particular niche.
And keep it brief.
The goal of your pitch is to get the journalist on board, so leave out the boring stuff and focus on what you know will make a good story. The two of you can deal with the details later down the line.
Ask for Permission
Remember how we said to lead the reader to an ending they’re satisfied with? That’s because nothing is worse than having to sit through a pitch you have zero interest in.
It wastes their time, and it wastes yours.
Before you pitch, ask for permission or find out what a journalist’s established procedure for accepting pitches is. Doing so will save you a lot of face and ensure that you don’t waste time barking up the wrong tree.
Press Kit Basics
No matter what line of business your company is in, if you want media coverage, you’re going to need a press kit.
How many employees do you have? When were you founded? Where are you based? Your sales figures for last year? Notable awards? Any promotional images or videos?
These are all basic, factual, straightforward questions that can be invaluable to a journalist in writing an article. Without a press kit containing this information, the amount of time that a journalist would have to invest in personally reaching out to get these answers makes your business far less attractive.
So in order to save the journalists some headaches and to save your company some heartaches, here’s what you need to know about assembling a press kit.
Keep It Simple
Keep things simple. Journalists and other people in the media have to sort through hundreds if not thousands of requests every day, all of them vying for a very limited amount of journalistic bandwidth.
Your press kit does not have a minimum word count, unlike those school papers you used to add fluff to: in fact, the shorter you can make your press kit, the better.
Competition is fierce, to put it lightly, and even getting a journalist to read your email and pitch an article about you doesn’t guarantee that you won’t end up on the cutting room floor anyway. By keeping things simple and straightforward, you give journalists the best chance to give a successful pitch.
Unsurprisingly, the factsheet contains facts about your business. No eloquent language here: your factsheet should be a straightforward list of key information about your business. Your factsheet will contain standard information like the name of your business, its founding date, and what platforms your products or services can be found on, along with industry-specific information and statistics.
The number one thing you should be shooting for here is readability. Bullet points and lists, generous spacing and killer organization. Ideally, a quick glance at your factsheet should give a journalist a good idea of your business and where it stands in the industry: they’ll be referring to it while writing an article about you.
Your press kit stands as the first line of support for anyone in the media interested in your business, so it stands to reason that you’ll want to show off a bit of what you do or what products you offer. Promotional materials will range anywhere from videos, infographics, and product photos to staff photos and bios. Anything you think a journalist might need to put together an article should go in here: the last thing you want is them googling images of your business for the article.
The goal here is to provide all the multimedia that someone might need in order to write about your business.
And be sure to use a strict naming convention when labeling the files of your promotional material. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that any of your promotional items could be picked out of a folder full of other promotional items. Consider using your company name, followed by the promotional item type, then followed by a number if there are multiple files of that type. And use underscores instead of spaces to be on the safe side.
If your press kit is the one-stop shop for everything informational about your business, then you should make that “purchase” as painless as possible.
One click, one download, one email attachment.
If you’re sending a link to your press kit on your website, there should be just one press kit link (don’t put your promotional items on a different page than your factsheet, for example). If a visitor can download your press kit, there should be one single download. If you’re including your press kit in an email, it should be as a single email attachment (ZIP files).
It may sound like common sense, but do everything in your power to remove any barriers standing between a journalist and your press kit.
Embrace Your Competition
Yes, you’re in competition with other businesses for the very limited attention and bandwidth of the media, but you won’t get very far if you objectify journalists and turn them into something that needs to be conquered.
So be nice to competition.
Build relationships and be a good sport to your competition.
Building relationships with journalists can help bypass the “What’s in it for me?” mentality. Instead of a stranger asking for a favor, you can become a colleague or friend who has value to offer the journalist. That simple change in mindset can put you into the right channels and get your business some much-valued exposure.
Now, not every journalist is going to become an intimate inside connection to media coverage, but it’s important to do what you can to become something more than just some random stranger asking for a hand out.
You need to build rapport.
This can be as simple as querying the journalist with some short and straightforward questions before giving your pitch (the journalist will have already invested in the interaction by responding to you. Consider this your foot in the door strategy), or as complex and in-depth as following certain journalist on social media and interacting with them to build up familiarity.
There are going to be a lot of journalists and a lot of flubbed meetings, but if you’re able to click with a journalist, you can turn that into a long-term mutually beneficial professional relationship.
A rising tide lifts all boats, right? There’s very little to be gained from trash talking or backstabbing your competition. In the Age of Information, it’s incredibly difficult to hide this kind of behavior anyways. So play nice.
Interact positively with others in your industry, whether it’s on social media platforms, blog guest posts, or just professional courtesy. Doing so will give you a better shot at creating mutually beneficial business relationships.
Email Tips and Tricks
A press kit isn’t rocket science, but it’s important that yours is a precision piece of marketing engineering. With the creation of a strong press kit out of the way, it’s now time to turn to the actual rocket science: cold contacting journalists.
Get an Email Sales Tool
These tools allow you to create email templates, contact lists, and, most importantly, track open and click-through rates of your emails.
Without an email sales tool, you’ll be taking shots in the dark in regards to your cold emailing.
By being able to create separate contact lists and track your open and click-through rates, you can not only modify your templates but also experiment with your emails. With an email sales tool, you can effectively split test different email strategies to find out what works and what doesn’t. You probably won’t hit pay dirt on your first round of emails, but after tweaking and modifying and fine tuning, you’ll be able to increase your chances.
Ninety-nine failures and one success is still a success when it comes to emailing.
Do Your Research
While you’ll want to be emailing as many journalists and media outlets as you can, you’ll primarily want to be emailing the right journalists and media outlets. In other words, don’t waste your time contacting people who wouldn’t write about you to begin with.
Do your research and specifically target who you reach out to. Not just, say, the right magazine or online news site, but also the right person within that organization. Take the time to absorb some of what they’ve created to make sure they’d be a good fit, and since you took the time, go one step further and throw in a little personalization to the email.
With emailing, you have two equally large hurdles to overcome: getting someone to open your email and getting someone to read your email. This essentially boils down to two elements: your subject line and the first paragraph of your email.
Your subject line is all clickbait with very little substance. The singular goal of your subject line should be to get someone to click on the email.
The strategy you employ to make an attractive subject line is up to you, and it’s one of the easiest elements of your emails to experiment with. How does all capitalization work? Capitalizing certain words? What do you lead with? Even blank subject lines have been found to increase open rates.
Your subject line is the “lawless” part of your email, where anything goes and the only law is the law of attraction.
The first paragraph of the email is your actual hook. This is what turns an open into a read.
It’s vital that your first paragraph also be very attractive, but it functions in a slightly different way. Your subject line creates an impulsive hook that leads to the email being opened; your first paragraph creates a hook based on ethos, pathos, and/or logos
While your subject line may have initially got your reader’s attention, your first paragraph is what’s going to keep it. Your first paragraph will vary wildly depending on the type of strategy you’re employing, but in basic terms, there will be some kind of emotional, moral, or logical appeal. Or some combination of the three.
Let’s take coffee, for example.
If you’re a coffee roaster offering a new fair trade coffee, you could begin your email by talking about the horrible conditions workers endure on commodity coffee plantations (emotional). You could also talk about how a fair day’s work requires a fair day’s pay (moral). Or, you could cite some statistics about the measurable difference in quality between commodity and fair trade coffee (logical).
Each of these paths has an endless variety to it based on the kind of writing you’ll employ, but the general rule should be that the writing is informative and engaging. The more you can engage your reader in the first paragraph, the more you increase your chances of them reading through the whole email.
Go For Small Publications
While getting your business’s name in an article put out by a well-known large publication or other media outlet could be the spark that changes things around for you, you may find that reaching out to larger publications is not working out. The truth of the matter is that it’s probably because you’re not a big name.
Remember to keep the journalist mindset with you: “What’s in it for me?” If your name or your business’s name doesn’t carry much weight in the industry, larger publications may be less likely to want to run an article on you unless you’re making big waves.
So look to the little guys: local media outlets, smaller online publications, and less well-known influencers and content creators. Doing so may result in a mutually beneficial relationship. In essence, you may have more to offer a smaller or more niche outlet than a larger mainstream one. It never hurts to try.
Use the HARO Mentality
HARO, or Help a Reporter Out, is an online marketing tool that connects journalists with sources—over 55,000 journalists and more than 800,000 sources to be exact.
Journalists create anonymous queries which are sent out to relevant sources three times a day via email and sources with the right expertise have the opportunity to respond. As a source, you would browse through the queries and, finding one where you can lend your expertise, respond to the query and connect with the journalist.
It’s one of the few ways you as a source can have journalists coming to you.
However, in order to facilitate a smooth networking process, HARO has a somewhat extensive list of rules with strict policing (two strikes and you’re out—forever) in order to prevent people from wasting a journalist’s time or inappropriately trying to connect with them.
Once you read through the rules, you’ll see how it all comes together to create one incredibly powerful networking tool for both journalists and sources.
It’s hard to get people to report on businesses that they’ve never heard of or who may not be relevant in their industry or circles of influence. In other words, it’s hard to start a conversation.
So start it yourself. This section will cover methods for creating conversation-starters for journalists, so to speak.
Affiliates and Influencers
One of the easier ways to get people talking about your business is to pay people to talk about your business. It should be stressed that you should always be open and transparent about any affiliated or sponsored content.
Affiliates are incentivized to increase your business’s influence based on the various rewards they receive. Whether it’s sales or customer conversion, the more people that know about your business, the easier time they’ll have earning the incentives you offer them.
Influencers function in a much different way and include everyone from YouTube personalities and streamers to blog writers and product reviewers. If you’ve got some cash to throw around, you can pay for sponsored content by an influencer. This can get your business name into the minds of various different audiences and improve your business’s exposure. Think, “See what everyone’s talking about!” Not to mention that endorsements from notable people in your industry can be a golden goose for your marketing campaigns.
Put In the Effort
If you want people to start talking about you or your business, then do something worth talking about—in a good way. In your day-to-day business transactions set a goal to go the extra mile a certain amount of times. Anything from upgrading a client to free expedited shipping or taking the time to hear out a client and give them everything they could need.
Take pride in your business and your clients will appreciate the effort you put in. Follow up with a survey and you’ll find yourself with some good statistics and maybe even a good sound bite or two to utilize as you see fit.
Charity is often its own reward, but it’s also a good way to generate content and start a conversation. Pick a cause or organization that is important to you and any employees you may have and do what you can do help.
Getting media and journalist attention all boils down to one thing, really.
How do you stand out? What sets you apart from others in your industry?
Let me know in the comments!