When you’re operating with a small budget, it’s vital that all of your marketing efforts are focused towards a good return on investment. If you’re looking for immediate impact then news coverage is one of the best ways to increase brand awareness and get a bit of attention going for your SME. The tactics we’re going to cover off got us coverage in local news, with a respected brand and lots of love on social media. Simple and actionable, we recommend you give these tips a go to reap the rewards for your own small business.
Craft genuine relationships with local journalists
As a small business, start locally. You’ve got influence as a local small business that will help you grab the attention of story-needy journalists. Find local news sites and see who writes regularly for it – ask yourself the following questions:
- What kinds of stories do they cover?
- Are there certain areas that they’re specialists in?
- Do they return to the same kind of story often – is there a crossover with your business?
- Is there a topic in the zeitgeist that your business can add value to? Jump on that bandwagon.
When approaching journalists bear two things in mind;
1) They want a story as much as you want coverage.
2) They are busy and need you to be responsive, don’t start a conversation and forget about it.
Only reach out with a newsworthy story
We can’t stress this point enough – only approach a journalist with a newsworthy story. It may seem interesting to your company but really think; does this story have any value to anyone outside of our small business?
Here’s Tony McDonough (@tonymc39) of Liverpool Business News offering some key insights into newsworthy stories for small businesses:
In the digital news age we can measure how well a story does so every piece of content has to be compelling. Apply the ‘so what?’ test before you press send… if you think most people would read it and say ‘so what?’ then it is not a story. Facts and figures have a high value. If the story is about how well your business is doing then you have to quantify it with figures. – Tony McDonough
Here are some key identifiers of a newsworthy story:
- Timeliness – It is relevant to the here and now
- Significance – The number of people affected by the story is noteworthy
- Proximity – It has a local or national impact
- Prominence – The people or company involved in the story are noteworthy
- Human Interest – The story has a strong emotive angle. Often, this final type of news can ignore the other rules due to its emotive content.
Write a killer email subject line
When approaching a journalist, news site or blog make sure your email subject line is as attention-grabbing as possible. It’s almost guaranteed that their inboxes are full of thousands of story requests, so make it as easy as possible for them to understand why you’re contacting them.
Neil Hodgson (@BusinessDesk_NW) from The Business Desk advises;
Make the headline and intro as newsy as possible, with all the main details of the story to save time going through page after page trying to find the angle. – Neil Hodgson
Tips for writing a killer email subject line to get news coverage:
- Name the section of the site you think the story would work well in i.e. ‘My take on’
- Include the word ‘story’ or similar to help guide their eye
- Fire emojis tend to perform well to show a story is hot off the presses
- Keep it as short as possible – you’ve only got 70 characters to work with
- Include an active or exciting word – pique their interest
Approach with different kinds of content
News coverage comes in many different forms. It’s not just local news and media you can approach; think broader. Are there blogs that cover an area of expertise your small business can add value to? It might be that you approach them with the following content instead of a story – it’s all still fantastic coverage for your small business:
- An infographic with startling statistics
- A visual that helps to explain something that is often misunderstood
- An opinion on a hot topic – it showcases you as an expert
- Photographs from an event – ask for credit and a link back to your site
Identify regular features you can request to be part of
On both news sites and blogs you’ll find there are regular features that your small business can jump on. Journalists and content managers love this content as it becomes a self-fulfilling feature – we’ve done a similar thing with our #FemaleFounders series. Find these regular slots and approach a journalist with that feature in mind.
Some that we’ve identified within our own industry include:
Follow the features for a while and approach with your own small business when the time is right.
Sign up to relevant newsletters
A simple but oft-overlooked tip is to sign up to newsletters. Not only will it be a weekly reminder to get some news coverage for your SME, it also gives you an idea of the stories that get coverage. Keep a keen eye on them and create a list of the ones you want to approach.
Identify niche news sites that are relevant to your industry
The more specific your story is, the better your chances are for coverage on niche news sites. Niche sites face a unique problem in that their focus is so narrow – they’re even more story-hungry than their non-specialist cousins. By building strong relationships with industry-specific sites you can build up a name for your small business in your arena.
Journalist Caroline Corcoran (@cgcorcoran) highlights the importance of relevance when reaching out to journalists:
Target the right publications and journalists. I saw a writer friend recently who writes TV reviews tweeting about how she had been sent a press release about terrorism and this kind of blanket targeting is at best lazy and at worst irritating. Pick journalists and publications who focus on your area. – Caroline Corcoran