Have you ever wanted to know how some people manage to get fabulous coverage for their business or brand? You know the kind of people: the ones whose just keep popping up in newspapers, magazines or radio and TV. Over and over again.
It's not about having great connections with journalists (although, invariably, they do). Nor is it about being more persistent in their pitching (although they're usually pretty tenacious). It's because they don't wait until they have news to go after press coverage. They also look for media opportunities every day - and not just in the obvious places.
Here's some of the strategies they use:
One of the most effective ways to get press coverage is to ‘piggyback’ onto news stories that are already being covered in the media.
There are many ways of going about this, but the most common is to offer yourself (or your client) as an expert voice on the topic.
Let’s say you run a fitness business. You notice an article in the media about the first plus size model being featured on the cover of a running magazine, so you contact the Huffington Post and offer them an opinion article on the topic. Like this article.
Or perhaps you’re the author of a parent booking and blog. You read in a newspaper that a top retail executive is having a baby at 50. So you offer to write an opinion article for a national newspaper like the Guardian like this one.
The great thing about piggybacking is that it isn’t just reactive i.e. responding to current news stories. You can also anticipate stories that will be covered by the media e.g. changes in government policy, new books, films or exhibitions and offer to pen an article - or be a ‘talking head on radio/TV’ - well ahead of time. This is what Mark Woods did ahead of the publication of his book about bringing children up around the world - resulting in media coverage like this.
2.Share something personal
Unless there’s something really unusual about your business or brand, there’s only so much journalists can say about it. So if you want to get consistent media coverage, you need to think creatively.
Sharing personal stories can be great way to get media coverage, as if people feel they can identify with you, they’ll naturally want to know more about your business.
In this article on how leaving my business behind helped me feel more like a leader, I hardly mention my PR training business, but it's led to tons of social media engagement and signs up to my email list. I believe this is because people can identify with my vision and values.
In this powerful article on giving up alcohol Carrie Armstrong doesn’t even mention her career as a TV presenter, but her Sexy Sober Summer campaign (more about campaigns later) says a lot about her and her values. She comes across as articulate, motivated and interesting and the fact she is showing people that (rather than telling) makes her message far more powerful.
Jeff Brazier’s piece on how his son has coped with the death of his mother is another example of powerful PR; when you’re willing to show your vulnerability, people can connect with you more easily.
3.Launch a campaign
Launching a campaign about something you feel strongly about can be a great way to get media coverage - and can be as easy as throwing up a web page or creating a social media hashtag.
Belinda Parmar, CEO of Lady Geek gets great press coverage for her business, which advises big companies on how to embed empathy into their organisations. But you rarely see her speaking directly about Lady Geek in the media; invariably she’s talking about her mission to inspire more women to change the world through technology. Here she is talking about her campaign - Little Miss Geek in Forbes, Wired and Stylist.
I’m not suggesting you start campaigns just to get press coverage, but when you let go of the need to get 'business famous' - and just focus on doing the things that matter to you - getting press coverage can be as easy as firing off an email or making a quick phone call.
4.Do/say something interesting
Journalists aren't interested in ‘helping’ you promote your business. Nor is it ethical for them to do so.
So if you want to get them to feature your business or brand, you need to offer them content that is a perfect fit for their audience.
That means looking beyond news about your business or brand (e.g. the funding bid you just won, the conference you’re writing or your latest hire) and thinking more creatively.
Even if what you do is very unusual (as in this example) there is only so much a journalist can write about it. So you need to think laterally.
Maybe there’s something different about the way you do business (as in this example). Perhaps, like Belinda Parmar, there’s a compelling story about what got you started in the first place (in her case, being patronised by a sales assistant in a mobile phone shop).
Most editors - particularly on online publications - are increasingly hungry for content they don’t have to pay for. And they’re particularly keen to commission thought leadership (opinion) and ‘how to’ articles. Why this isn’t good news for freelance writers for me, it’s great if you’re looking to get coverage for your business or brand.
I’ve written a series of articles for the Guardian’s Small Business Network on how entrepreneurs can get more press coverage - which has helped me connect with more business owners (in fact, if you’re reading this, you may well have found me there). It’s also helped me land some high profile speaking gigs and I’ve recently started teaching masterclasses on the topic at the Guardian.
The brilliant thing about content like this is that it allows you to show what you know - which can be far more powerful than telling people.
This Huffington Post article on why women should lift weights by Amy Willerton is a great example of this, as is this Red magazine piece by Rebecca Campbell on why being single is awesome. Neither talk specifically about their work but they show their authority and expertise - which is exactly what great PR is all about.