If you want to get high-profile press coverage for your business - without pitching journalists or writing press releases - media enquiry services like #journorequest, Response Source, and Help A Reporter Out can be a brilliant resource. These services put journalists who are looking for people to talk to in touch with people who want to be featured in the media. Most are free and/or offer a free trial, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
But how do you find opportunities that are suitable for you and your business? And what’s the best way to respond to journalists’ requests? Here’s the nine most common questions I get asked about media enquiry services (along with my answers) which should give you everything you need to know to get started.
1. What are media enquiry services and how do they work?
Media enquiry services put journalists who are looking for people to talk to, in touch with people who want to be featured in media.
Sign up for media enquiry services like Response Source, Gorkana, Journolink, Ask Charity, Help A Reporter Out or Sourcebottle and you’ll get regular email updates from journalists who are looking for experts and case studies to feature in their work. Some are free and some offer free trials, so you can start building your media contact database immediately.
If you have a product based business you might also consider a service like Pressloft or Ace Media. These allow you to upload images of your products, along with searchable ‘tags’ that describe your product. So, for example, if a journalist is searching for rose gold gift ideas for a feature they’re working on - and you make rose gold necklaces - your products should appear in their search.
#Journorequest is a hashtag journalists and bloggers use to post requests for help with specific articles or programmes. Most #journorequests are submitted by UK journalists and bloggers, but there are some international requests, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out.
2. How should I respond to media requests?
If you spot a request you think you can help with, simply tweet/email the journalist back with the information they have asked for. A journalist will quickly be able to decide if you’re the right person to help with the story so - unless they ask for more - a sentence or two is fine. The example below is the perfect response - short, to-the-point and offering everything the journalist needs to decide whether she's a good fit for the story.
3. What if I don’t spot any media requests that are relevant to my business?
When I tell some business owners about resources like #journorequest, they take a look then say ‘I can’t find anything that’s relevant to my business.’
This is pretty short-sighted. You wouldn’t expect your business to explode after sending one tweet or creating one Instagram post. So why would you expect to strike gold the first time you use a media enquiry service?
If you’re serious about using this as a way to get press coverage, you need to think long-term. Which means checking in daily, over a series of months and/or years.
You also need to be realistic. Journalists aren’t in the business of writing articles or making programmes that promote small businesses (if you want that kind of coverage, you have to pay for it). What they’re generally looking for is experts (people who can give their views on a topic from their experience) or case studies (people who have relevant experiences to share).
Take this example from Sarah Connelly, who owns a lingerie shop in Edinburgh. While journalists would be unlikely to write a story about the fact her shop exists, they were interested in her expert view as to whether underwired bras are going out of fashion - which was still a great plug for her business.
This example from Sally Bunkham - who creates and sells luxury gift hampers for new mums - shows how sharing personal experiences can be a great way to get press coverage for your business (she picked up this request from #journorequest).
If you’re prepared to use your imagination, you can ‘bend’ most requests to allow you to mention your business, as in this example by personal stylist LouLou Storey
Even if you can’t see a way to ‘bend’ the request to get a mention for your business, it can be worth helping out anyway (either yourself or by recommending a friend/colleague). Remember this is a long-term game; doing a journalist a favour - even when there’s nothing in it for you - means that when you do have a relevant story to pitch, they’re far more likely to read your email or take your call.
And don’t forget that people like to do business with people. Getting media coverage for topics that don’t have anything to do with your business can still be great for building your profile. Writing articles and being quoted in the press about the topic of miscarriage (something I have personal experience of) has not only helped me build my profile, it’s also brought me clients.
4. What if I have a product based business?
If you have a product-based business you may think that being featured in product round-ups is the only way to get press coverage. But as the examples above show, positioning yourself as an expert in your industry and/or sharing your personal story is a great way to get press coverage for your business.
5. What if I respond to a journalist and don’t hear back?
Don’t take it personally. Not hearing back does not mean there was anything ‘wrong’ with your response. It may simply be that the journalist received hundreds of responses and didn’t have time/space to feature all of them. It could also be that some of the responses they received were a better fit for that particular story than yours.
It’s fine to chase (just forward your original email with a polite ‘just wondering if you’d had a chance to consider this?’) but if you haven’t heard after one or two follow-ups it’s probably safe to assume they’re not interested. That doesn’t mean they won’t be interested on another occasion, so just put it behind you and move onto the next request.
6. What if a journalist says they’re going to include my story and then I get dropped?
Because of the nature of the media (the news agenda moves at an incredible pace) this happens all the time. So don’t take it personally and, whatever you do, don’t get stroppy with the journalist involved. You may need that relationship in the future.
7. What should I do if I’m promised a mention of my business and it doesn’t happen?
This is annoying - particularly if you’ve been promised a mention and/or link. But it’s not worth losing your cool over. If it happens to you, simply send a polite email to the journalist saying you loved the article/programme but were disappointed not to get a mention and ask if there is anything they can do. Most journalists will be willing to help, but remember that a link/mention isn’t your ‘right’ - this will only be included if the editor thinks it’s relevant. Remember also that even if you don’t get that link you were hoping for, if it’s a good piece of content, people will still search and find you online (which is why it’s important to have a website and/or be active on social media).
8. What should I do after I’ve been featured in the press?
Building relationships with the media is a long-term game, so when you’ve been featured in the press, don’t forget to thank the journalist (I’d suggest a tweet and an email) and let them know you’re available to help with future stories. This is also the best time to pitch an idea of your own as you’ll still be fresh in their mind.
You might want to check out this blog: How to write an email pitch for a journalist.
Don’t be offended if you don’t hear anything back. Most journalists get hundreds of emails every day, which means answering only those messages that are immediately relevant can be the only way to stay sane (believe me, after 18 years in the trade, I know!). Which means they may well have read your message and ‘clocked’ your name for future reference.
9. How do I leverage my press coverage?
If you’ve been featured in the press - particularly in a high-profile media outlet - you may think journalists on similar publications/programmes will be interested in featuring your story. In reality, the opposite is often true.
Journalists love exclusives, so if you’ve just been featured in Marie Claire magazine, it’s unlikely Red (which has a similar audience) would want to run the same story. There are exceptions (for example, a national publication might pick up on a story that’s been featured in the local press) but let your common sense guide you and you shouldn’t go far wrong.
If you want to be featured in the likes of The Guardian, Huffington Post or Psychologies Magazine why not join my FREE 10-day PR Challenge? You can sign up here.