Getting coverage in newspapers, magazines and on radio & TV, can be a great way to promote your new book, product or service. But what’s the best way to contact journalists with ideas? Should you send a pitch or a press release (or both?) and how far ahead of your launch should you get in touch?
If you’re serious about about getting media coverage, you need to start your PR campaign weeks - if not months - before your launch. Monthly magazines can work 3-6 months ahead, weeklies 5-6 weeks ahead and some radio/TV programmes are made as much as a year ahead. So, if in doubt, always pitch earlier than you think you need to. It’s far better to have a journalist come back and say ‘this is interesting, but can you try me again in a couple of weeks’ than miss out completely.
The other thing to bear in mind is that sending a press release to a bunch of journalists is both the most common - and least effective - way to get press coverage around a launch. Essentially, it's like throwing a pack of playing cards up in the air and hoping they land where you want them to. Some might, but most won't. And do you really want to leave your PR to chance?
To give yourself the best possible odds of getting press coverage, you need to take a much more strategic approach. So here’s five things you can do to to generate press coverage for your next launch.
1.Invite journalists to review your product/service
Sending out a press release (or even just an email) to journalists inviting them to review your product or service - along with a sample - is one strategy you can use to get media coverage.
Sadly it's often the least effective and here’s why.
Journalists get sent tons of press releases - along with samples and review copies - every single day of the week. During a brief stint at a parenting magazine, I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff that was sent to the office each day: books, beauty products, pushchairs, car seats...the office was teeming with the stuff. At another publication I worked on, review copies of books were used to prop up wonky table legs and beauty samples often ended up in the staff loo. The Guardian holds ‘swag sales’, where free stuff is gathered up and sold to raise money for charity. So it doesn't matter how amazing your product is, there are no guarantees it will hit the right person's desk at the right time.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that many publications and programmes plan weeks or months ahead, which means your product can be 'old news' before it even arrives in the office (and journalists hate 'old news'). At a recent event I held in London, the features editor of Psychologies magazine explained that editorial themes were decided months in advance (which is typical of women's glossy magazines). So it doesn't matter how brilliant your new handbags are, if your target publication isn't 'doing' handbags over the next few months, you're not going to get a look in.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't try to secure product reviews - you absolutely should - but do be aware that it's a scattergun approach, so it's a numbers game. And this is probably the only time you'll ever hear me say something like this... but when it comes to product reviews, the more publications and programmes you can approach, the better.
Do your research first though; some publications don't do product reviews, so sending a pitch or press release can be a complete waste of your time. And don't discount bloggers; getting reviews on popular blogs in your area of expertise may actually be more effective than traditional media coverage.
While sending a press release can work well for a product launch, do ‘top’ it with a short, tailored email pitch. Not all publications and programmes approach reviews in the same way; some prefer to get their own journalists to ‘road test’ products and write about them, others might have a list of set questions or themes, others might want you to submit some copy. The more you can show that you’ve looked at the publication/programme and thought about how you can help create content that's a good fit, the better chance you’ll have of getting a ‘yes’.
Do be aware that unless your product or service is really unusual or 'disruptive' (e.g. the taxi-hailing service Uber or a novel like 50 Shades of Grey), journalists probably won't be interested in writing a news story on it. But there's plenty of other kinds of media coverage you can go for.
2.Share something interesting
People love personal stories, so instead of pitching journalists about your product, look at the areas of of your life that intersect with your business for inspiration. This is a technique commonly used by authors. For example, when chick lit author Adele Parks publishes a new novel, you often see a first person article (otherwise known as a 'confessional') in the press - usually on a topic that relates to the theme of her book e.g. being 'divorced' by a friend or being proposed to nine times. At the end of the article there's a big juicy mention of her book and where to buy it.
There's a growing appetite for content that teaches people a concept or skill (otherwise known as 'how to'). For example, Colin was looking for a way to promote his podcasting training and consultancy business. Instead of trying to get journalists to write about his business, I encouraged him to pitch an article to the Guardian's Small Business Network about how starting a podcast can help entrepreneurs promote their business. Bingo.
Gwen wanted to promote her children's sleep app (which is designed to help kids with their bedtime routine). Instead of trying to get journalists to write about her app, I encouraged her to pitch articles on how small businesses can develop apps (and whether it was worth the investment). She was also successful.
Melanie is a relocation consultant based in Denmark. This Huffington Post article on how to bring Danish hygge into your home (wherever you happen to be in the world) is a great way to show what she knows and promote her business.
Do bear in mind that you don't necessarily have to be teach something: it could simply be sharing the lessons you've learned from a particular experience (e.g. starting your own business or losing 20 pounds). The key thing is that the audience can (a) relate to your experience (b) take away some actionable points.
4.Say something interesting
Pitching opinion articles can be a clever way to get media coverage for your product. Let's say you've written a book on failings in the education system, for example. Pitching an opinion article on something related to the topic of the book can be a great way to get a 'plug' for your product.
Nathalie - an app developer - successfully pitched an article to a national newspaper arguing that it's easy for women to get on in the tech industry (which is exactly the opposite of what you usually hear on the subject). In it she talks about her own experience - providing an effective (but subtle) opportunity to plug her own app.
5. Do something interesting
Sadly a launch alone isn't always enough to get journalists interested in covering your new product/service. Holding an unusual event to mark your launch can be a clever way round this problem. Think silent disco or tropical ice-skating (OTT but hopefully you get the picture). You could even do a survey or commission some research on a topic that relates to your new product or service - like this research on parents taking their children out of school in term time using a tool like Google Consumer Surveys for as little as $100 (thanks to Danny Lynch for that tip).
The key thing to remember is that while journalists (particular on the nationals) may not be interested in writing or broadcasting about your new book, product or service, there are plenty of creative ways to get it mentioned in the media. So you'll still get your desired outcome - you just need to take a different route.
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