No week goes by without a couple of very odd press releases landing in my inbox. And when I say odd, I really mean it: from PR agencies promoting the launch of the latest car models (I have never written about cars) or the classic release featuring a non-story – sometimes even price lists or other marketing pieces far, far away from journalism – I get sent it all. As you might expect … yes, they get deleted at the speed of light.
But how, actually, can small businesses and freelancers try to get featured in the media in 2022?
For a start, what PR teams or anyone working behind communications must keep in mind is: journalists don’t publish information about companies; what the media is looking for are engaging stories that can appeal to their many readers. It is as simple as that. It is storytelling, and not how much a product or service costs, that will catch the attention of professional journalists.
With that in mind – and to spare the poor inboxes of journalists working in a variety of newsrooms across the country, here are five PR hacks that might help your business land a feature or an interview in your local papers, or even national press.
Tailored media list is the key
It is not about quantity but quality when it comes to creating a good list of contacts you should be sending your well-crafted press release to. A small pool of, let’s say, 30 journalists within your niche is more valuable than sending it to 500 professionals that don’t even sporadically write on topics common between their target audiences and your target clients.
Start by cultivating good relationships with the media and create your own media list of bloggers and journalists writing about your industry. Although it is a painstaking process that you can’t cheat on, if you want to get results it is also a rewarding one. And no, never buy mailing lists off the internet. They are often loaded with contacts that are neither updated nor useful to your business.
Leverage trending content
Thanks to hashtags and social media, it is easier than ever for businesses, big or small, to spot trending topics and take advantage of them. So, if something related to your industry is trending on Twitter or being exhaustively shared on Instagram or Facebook, carefully jump on the bandwagon by sharing insights or knowledge about your business to position yourself as a market leader in your field. Every day, the news cycle brings dozens of opportunities for businesses to get great PR by relating their story to an existing news story.
Be aware of deadlines
There is no point in spending time and resources writing the perfect press release and then sending it to your news outlet of choice on a Friday afternoon. When planning press releases, make sure you are aware of their deadlines, and you will already be a big step ahead. Different organisations have different deadlines, with magazines often going to print weeks in advance. Even daily publications tend to have a schedule for special supplements featuring anything from economy to gadgets and fashion. The same applies for radio and TV.
Storytelling is your friend
When sending out a press release, detach yourself from your business and ask the following question: is there a story here? And would I publish that story? It goes without saying that, before sending a press release to bloggers and journalists, you must double-check to see if the story is clear and if all contact points are included at the end of the press release, as some journalists may want to get in touch to ask questions or even expand your material into a longer feature.
The bottom line here is that a press release is a story that the media can share with their readers and viewers. It is less about your business and more about a wider appeal.
Learn to follow up properly
First things first: following up on a press release isn’t simply forwarding it again. As a journalist I can tell you this right now: nothing is more infuriating that that junior PR employee resending the same material every other day, hoping that, one day, you will open your inbox and magically fall in love with the old content they are trying so hard to plug in the media. If re-sending something, offer a new piece of insight or reassure the journalist you are contacting that you are available to talk over the phone or to organise for he or she to talk to a representative of your company to get some valuable quotes than can positively add to a possible feature.
Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, there are over 5.6 million small businesses in the UK, but not all of them will spend time trying to figure out how to work with journalists. If something newsworthy is happening within your business and you can write a press release that is both informative and features a relatable story, you are already well ahead in the PR game.