An insider’s guide to getting media coverage: Part one

Some things haven’t changed since I was a reporter. News staffs are stretched thinner than Demi Moore after her breakup with Ashton. And they’re still inundated with requests for publicity. Hundreds of press releases, story pitches, emails and phone calls cross their desks every day. Break through the clutter and get coverage for your business with a few straightforward strategies.

Develop a targeted media list

Research the reporters who cover your industry. Start with Muck Rack, which lists thousands of journalists who use social media. You can also check out media directories, such as those from Bacon’s and Gebbie Press. If these are beyond your budget, you’ll need to do some old-fashioned detective work.

Look at newspapers’ websites to find reporters’ names and beats. Most major publications list their email addresses, too. If their names aren’t listed, scan the sections that apply to you and look for bylines – the names under the headlines. For example, the business section often includes features about organizations and profiles of their owners.

Magazines usually include key contacts on their websites, along with phone numbers and email addresses. If all else fails, get copies of the magazines that cover your industry and look for bylines. You can do the same thing with online publications.

TV stations are more challenging. You need to find out who the assignment and planning editors are. Most stations don’t list their names online, so you’ll have to contact them to create a list. Yes, I know it’s a pain, but there’s no other way to get the information on the cheap.

Whether you buy a media list or create your own, it’s a good idea to verify that the contacts are current. Newspapers and magazines, in particular, have high turnover.

Build relationships through social media

Connect with reporters on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Learn their beats and what kinds of stories they like, and comment on their work. Aim to become a resource for them. If you can provide useful tips that don’t relate directly to your business, you may score points. When you want coverage for your own organization, they may be more willing to help. And even if they can’t cover your story, they may be able to refer you to someone who can.

Create a strong pitch

Before contacting anyone, think about what is different or unique about your story. How will your topic affect readers? How will they benefit? Stay away from outright sales pitches. Focus on these newsworthy ideas:

  • Provide expertise for an existing national or local news story
  • Highlight industry trends
  • Suggest a profile about your business if you have a unique angle
  • Announce a new product or service
  • Create and promote a special event
  • Host a seminar and announce the information discussed
  • Promote your company’s involvement in charitable causes
  • Discuss a significant award
  • Focus on innovative uses for your product

If you’re trying to get coverage from magazines, increase your odds by matching pitches to their editorial calendars. You can find these on their websites, usually under a “Media Kit” tab. Editorial calendars show the themes or topics that each issue will feature.

Keep pitches short. Reporters and editors don’t have time to wade through rambling emails and phone messages. The more you can clarify and focus your pitch, the better chance you’ll have of being featured. Include a link to your website and a press release if you have one. If you contact TV stations, tell them what the visuals will be.

Feel like you’ve got the scoop? As long as you’ve got a great story to tell and you’re persistent, you’ll be making headlines soon! Stay tuned for more tips next week.

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