press releases

10 common concerns about enrolling for Soulful PR for Starters

Investing in an online course is a big decision. Not only is there the cost of the training to consider, you’ll also need to set aside time for learning, which might mean taking time away from your business.

It’s natural to worry about whether you’re making the right decision in signing up for an online course (and the consequences of making the wrong choice).

With that in mind, here are some of the most common concerns prospective students raise about joining my Soulful PR for Starters course

If you’re not familiar with Soulful PR for Starters, it’s an eight-week online programme that covers everything you need to know to get high-profile coverage in newspapers, magazines and on radio & TV - for example: understanding what journalists are looking for in a story, writing pitches and press releases, finding journalists’ contact details, helping journalists find you online and a whole lot more.

The course is suitable for small business owners who want to do their own PR. It is also suitable for those who want to offer traditional PR as a service to their clients e.g. social media managers, marketing professionals and PRs.

Concern 1: ‘I’m not ready for PR’

Some prospective students tell me they love the idea of the course - and are keen to get national press coverage for their business - but want to wait until they’re ready to launch a new product or programme.

My advice

It’s never too early to start building your media profile - particularly when you consider lead times on national publications and programmes. Monthly magazines can work up to 3-6 months ahead, weeklies 4-6 weeks ahead, while some TV/radio shows are made up to a year ahead. Wait to learn about PR and you may miss the boat on cracking your ideal publications or programmes. That aside, just because you’re not ready to launch a new product or programme - doesn’t mean you can’t be featured in the press right now (in fact, if you’re running your own business, you absolutely should be). And building relationships with national media contacts now will make it far easier to get PR around your launch.

Concern 2: ‘I’d rather wait until I can afford to hire a PR company to do it for me’

Some prospective students tell me they’d rather put off getting press coverage until they can afford to hire a PR company - usually because they feel they don’t have time to do their own PR (see concern 3).

My advice

Hiring a PR firm could cost you upwards of £300 a day (and much more in many cases). So you’ll need a budget of at least £7.2k a year for just a couple of days support a month. Do you really want to wait until you have that kind of budget to get press coverage for your business?

With the right strategies in place, doing your own PR doesn’t have to be time-consuming. And when you do have the budget to outsource, if you know how to pitch a story, find journalists’ contact details or what to include in a pitch or press release, you’ll be much better placed to make the right hire.

Concern 3: ‘I don’t have time’

Some prospective students tell me they don’t have time to do their own PR. That they are too busy running their business to contact journalists, write email pitches or press releases.

My advice

Getting press coverage can help attract visitors to your website, build credibility and raise your profile both with prospective customers and in your industry - all of which generates leads and sales. So if you can’t make time for activities that generate new customers/clients, you may need to rethink your priorities. You might be busy right now, but if you’re not generating a constant stream of leads and sales, things might look different in a few months’ time.

With the right strategies in place, doing your own PR doesn’t have to be time-consuming. For example, a short email is often easier (and much more effective) than a press release

Concern 4: ‘I’m not a very good writer’

If you don’t have much experience of the media, you may be under the impression that the only way to be featured in newspapers and magazines is by writing the content yourself. Some prospective students tell me they are worried their writing isn’t good enough for PR.

My advice

There are plenty of ways to get featured in newspapers and magazines - without writing the content yourself. In fact, if you contact a journalist with an idea, they’ll generally either interview you over the phone or get you to answer some questions via email.

So if you want to get featured in the press, the only thing you need to be able to write is an email to a journalist. That’s it. You don’t even have to write press releases (unless you really want to).

That said, there are opportunities for you to write for the media e.g. opinion articles or practical ‘how to’ articles that can be great for business. If writing’s not your thing, you can always outsource that part to a copywriter.

Concern 5: ‘I don’t have anything interesting to offer journalists’

Some prospective students tell me they can see how national media coverage could help their business - they just don’t have anything interesting to offer journalists.

My advice

In 16 years of journalism, I’ve yet to come across a business owner who doesn’t have an interesting story to tell or an expert point of view that is helpful to journalists. Doing an online course will help you understand what you have to offer that journalists might be interested in. You’ll also learn about what journalists are looking for in a story (and what they’re not) so you can identify the publications and programmes you should be targeting and the best way to ‘pitch’ your ideas.

Concern 6: ‘I’ll be inundated with orders I won’t be able to fulfil’

A common concern I hear from owners of product-based businesses is that if they get featured in the national press they’ll be inundated with orders they can’t fulfil i.e. they don’t have the stock.

My advice

As much as I’d like to tell you that a single piece of national coverage will make you millions...this is very unlikely to happen. If you have some experience of marketing, you’ll know it takes, on average, around seven or eight touchpoints before a prospective customer buys. PR is just one of those touch points. So the more times a prospective customer sees/hears a mention of of your business or product, the more likely they are to buy. Yes there are always exceptions. But if you happen to be in the minority of businesses that does manage to make a ton of sales off one piece of press coverage, that’s a good problem to have, right? You’re resourceful enough to find a solution.

Concern 7: ‘I sell products rather than offer a service.’

Some prospective students tell me they don’t think the course is right for them because they run a product-based business.

My advice

If you’re looking to get national press coverage for your business this course is relevant for you. The learning materials include strategies and resources specifically aimed at product-based businesses, including examples and case studies. 

In our group coaching calls and private Facebook group I will be able to guide you on the best ways to get media attention for your business - whether you sell products, services (or something else entirely).

Concern 8: ‘I’m not ready to be the face of my business’

Some prospective students tell me they want press coverage of their product or service - but they don’t want to be featured in the media themselves.

My advice

Here’s some tough love: journalists are far more interested in people than products. So unless you’re prepared to step out from behind your logo, your media opportunities will be limited to the odd review and/or product round-up. Investing in a PR course - created by a journalist with 16 years’ experience in the industry (that’s me!) - will open your eyes to other ways you might be able to get your business featured in the press and should help allay your fears about being in the limelight.

Journalists need people like you to help them create content for the publication or programme they work for, so if you’re not taking advantage of this, you’re definitely missing a trick. Learning about how they work and the daily pressures they face will help you feel more comfortable about being featured in the media.

Concern 9: ‘I’m worried about looking stupid’

Some prospective students tell me they don’t think the course is right for them because they don’t know much about PR.

My advice

If you don’t know much about PR this is exactly why you should be learning about it. Soulful PR for Starters students are typically small business owners (of both product and service-based business), social media managers and marketing professionals with one thing in common: little or no experience of PR.

Concern 10: ‘Traditional PR doesn’t work’

Some prospective students tell me they had an article in a newspaper in a magazine - or appeared on radio or TV - but 'nothing happened'. 

My advice

Would you expect your business to blow up after posting a couple of tweets or Facebook updates? Of course not. It's exactly the same with press coverage.

It takes, on average, around seven or eight touchpoints before a prospective customer buys. PR is just one of those touch points. So while you do hear about the odd bit of press coverage that goes viral, for most people it’s more of a slow burn. And like everything else in your business, you need to keep at it. The more times a prospective customer sees/hears about you or your business, the more likely they are to engage with you. So the more press coverage you can gain over a number of months or years, the bigger the impact on your business.

You may have noticed I haven’t included ‘I don’t have the budget’ in this list. That’s because, over ten years of running training courses, I’ve yet to meet anyone who can’t think of ways to fund training they really want/need.

Interested? You can find out more and sign up here.

Review of Soulful PR Live 2017

Attending a live event can be an uplifting experience. Taking a break from the day-to-day routine - and connecting with like-minded people - can leave you fizzing with inspiration and ideas for your business.

But with so much valuable content being shared, it can also leave you feeling a little overwhelmed and wondering if there is anything you’ve missed. With that in mind, here is a review of the highlights of Soulful PR Live 2017  on July 13 and 14.

You may also find this post useful if you couldn’t make it along this year and/or are considering coming along to a future event. If you’re an event organiser yourself you might also find this an interesting behind-the-scenes account of our sales and marketing strategy.

Day 1 guests and speakers at Soulful PR Live 2017

The concept

Having spent 16 years writing and editing for national newspapers and magazines, I know how hard it can be to attract journalists’ attention. The idea behind Soulful PR Live is to get you in a room for the day with a bunch of top national journalists so you can find out what they’re looking for in a story, how to put a great pitch/press release together, where to find journalists’ contact details and everything else you need to know to secure high-profile media coverage. It goes without saying that it’s also a great opportunity to make valuable media connections and introduce journalists to your products and services.

The annual event features eight national journalists and eighty guests (mainly small business owners) although, given the success of 2017, it looks we may need to go bigger next year. Ten delegates opted for a VIP ticket which included a two-hour mastermind with the speakers, including 20 minutes to talk specifically about their own business and get feedback from the journalists.

Based on feedback from last year’s event, we introduced a second day of training this year, which gave a small group of delegates a chance to reflect on their learning from Day 1 and get support with planning a PR strategy for their own business or brand. This proved really popular.

The feedback for Soulful PR Live 2017 has been amazing

The Venue

For the second year running the event has been held at The Trampery, a co-working space in trendy Shoreditch, East London. We used the ballroom, a versatile space that includes a 12-metre long art installation by acclaimed London designers, Bad Marriage.

The Trampery's Ballroom function suite

The speakers

This year’s speakers were: Keir Mudie (reporter, Sunday Mirror/People), Andrea Thompson (features director, Marie Claire magazine), Maya Wolfe-Robinson (opinion editor, the Guardian), Anoosh Chakelian (senior writer, New Statesman), Catherine Carr (Reporter, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour), Adrian Butler (producer, Good Morning Britain),  Abigail Radnor (features editor, Guardian Weekend), Lynn Enright (news & content editor, The Pool), Sara Tasker (Instagram Pro & Expert) and Nicola Snell (founder, Press Loft).

The sponsors

Soulful PR Live 2017 was sponsored by: XeroJournoLink & PressLoft

Goody bag gifts were provided by: Ananya CardsAwake OrganicsBushbellsJing TeaLittle Soap CompanyScrubbingtons

The generously donated goody bag spoils

Biscuits and cakes were provided by Corporate Cakery Ltd and Nine Tea Cups Bakery

Sam Whittingham - who runs an online cake shop for businesses (Corporate Cakery) brought cakes and biscuits with the Soulful PR Live branding on

The marketing strategy

Tickets ranged from £210 + VAT for an earlybird ticket for Day 1 only to £610 + VAT for a last minute VIP ticket. They went on sale on April 15 and sold out a month before the event.

To create ‘buzz’ about the event, before the tickets went on sale, we shared our ideas for the event artwork in my Facebook group and invited members to give their feedback.

The event was mainly marketed by email with regular updates on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I also talked about the event on the Soulful PR Podcast which definitely led to ticket sales.

In the run up to the event, I created 12 blog posts aimed at helping guests to get the most out of the event. You can read them here:

Want to attend a conference but don’t have the budget? Here’s how…
Seven reasons to attend live conferences and workshops
11 reasons to attend Soulful PR Live 2017
Which UK marketing and PR conferences should you attend in 2017?
How to prepare for a conference or workshop
8 common concerns about attending Soulful PR Live
5 reasons to blog about attending a live event
How to write a blog post about an event you’ve attended
How to use social media to stand out at a live event
7 non-sucky networking tips for live events
How to benefit from a conference (even if you can’t attend in person)
Five things you should do after a conference or workshop

I also created a dedicated Facebook Community, Twitter list and held a pre-event briefing call, using the video conferencing software Zoom to allow guests to ‘meet’ one another ahead of the event.

I encouraged guests to create preview content ahead of the event, which led to a staggering 16 pieces of content, which you can read here.

How to take better smartphone photos at events by Antonina Mamzenko

Four reasons why I’m attending Soulful PR Live by Helen Packham

Comfortable networking for introverts: how not to waste an incredible networking opportunity by Lucia Knight

How to dress for a conference or workshop by Dara Ford

Why I’ve decided to attend a PR conference by Adanna Bankole

How to overcome secret nerves about attending networking events by Clare Josa.

How to overcome the fear of talking to journalists at Live Events by Samantha Kirton

How to stop your fear of feeling like a fraud get in the way of networking or pitching your ideas by Clare Josa

How to prepare for an important conference by Cathy Wassell

Into the lion’s den: five mindset strategies that will have you waking into a conferences feeling like you can take on the world by Rebecca Morley.

Why I’m glad I didn’t resell my ticket for Soulful PR Live by Raphaelle Cox

Why you should always carry a scarf to a business lunch or conference by Dara Ford

Keeping your energy high at live events – five top tips by Raphaelle Cox

4 questions to ask before spending money on your business by Debbie Clarke

4 reasons why I wear vintage fashion to business events by Kate Beavis

Comfortable networking for introverts (1) – how not to waste an amazing network opportunity by Lucia Knight

A ten-day email ‘countdown’ sequence helped create excitement ahead of the event (and make sure all our guests were completely clear about where they needed to be, when). Including shareable images like the example below encouraged guests to start using the event hashtag - #SPRLive17 -  well ahead of the event.

4 Days to Go until Soulful PR Live 2017

So it was no surprise to hear we were trending on Twitter by lunchtime on Day 1.

The workbook

I set myself the challenge of creating the ‘best workbook ever’ for this event and I hope I succeeded. As well as the standard programme information, I included a glossary of key terms e.g. press release, pitch, newswire, lead times etc, suggested questions for speakers and sample pitches and press releases. I also included information - and examples - of the different types of media content journalists talked about during the day e.g. news story, feature, opinion.

Soulful PR Live guests seemed to love the workbook

Day 1

Session 1: PR Primer with Janet Murray

Janet Murray Introducing Soulful PR Live 2017I kicked off the first day of the event with a 30 minute PR Primer with the aim of bringing everyone up to speed with the basics, including how journalists find content, what they’re looking for in a story and how to set out a pitch. I decided to do this, based on feedback from last year’s delegates - some of whom were completely new to PR and said they’d have found this useful.

Tweet Engagement at Soulful PR LIve

Session 2: How to get coverage in a national newspaper with Keir Mudie, Sunday Mirror/People

Keir Mudie at Soulful PR LiveKeir endeared himself to everyone by admitting he was ‘really nervous’ the moment he took the mic. He also explained how news is gathered on a daily newspaper (including the times of the morning meetings where stories are decided) and shared some inspiring examples of small business owners who had used their expertise and experience to get national coverage. Keir also urged small business owners not to be dismissive of local newspaper coverage and reassured them that journalists like him definitely want to hear from them.

Tweet Engagement Soulful PR Live 2017

Session 3: Finding your voice: how to pitch and write articles for the national press with Maya Wolfe-Robinson, the Guardian and Anoosh Chakelian, the New Statesman

In this session Maya debunked the idea that big name publications are only interested in commissioning opinion articles from established writers, saying: “We’ve got Polly Toynbee. We want you!” Both Maya and Anoosh also explained how topical new stories can used as a hook/peg for opinion articles and gave specific advice on the best ways (and times) to pitch ideas. Tip: do NOT write and send a pre-written article - send a short email pitch instead. Maya also talked about how to write an effective opinion article, reinforcing my often repeated advice about avoiding complicated language and using a conversational style (think ‘email to a friend’ and you should have it about right).

Session 4: Online matters: how to get featured in high-profile online publications with Lynn Enright, The Pool

Lynn opened her talk by sharing a video which explains The Pool and its readership. One of the most useful takeaways from this session was how important it is research the publications/programmes you’d like to be featured it in so you can offer them ideas that are a really good fit. Researching online publications can be more difficult than print, but Lynn suggested checking out the different sections of the publication and looking out for regular series e.g. ‘life honestly’ ‘today I’m channelling’ and ‘parenting honestly’.

Session 5: Standing out in a competitive space: how to get featured in high-profile magazines and weekend supplements with Andrea Thompson, Marie Claire magazine and Abigail Radnor, Guardian Weekend magazine

Andrea and Abigail are both editors on high-profile publications that receive far more pitches than there is space to fill. Both shared valuable information on how far ahead content is commissioned and examples of stories that are a perfect fit for their publication. Abigail reminded business owners of the importance of looking outwards not inwards i.e. instead of pitching ideas about something you are doing that is interesting, consider how this might be part of a bigger trend. This might mean finding others who are doing similar things - or even highlighting your competitors’ work - but this is much more likely to get journalists’ attention.

Session 6: How to get more national TV and radio coverage with Catherine Carr, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Adrian Butler, ITV’s Good Morning Britain

 

Both Adrian and Catherine shared valuable information on how stories are gathered, lead times (how far journalists work ahead) on the shows they work on and the best ways to pitch to the shows they work on. Adrian also talked about what makes a great TV or radio guest (‘light and heat’ apparently) and how to increase your chances of being invited onto a popular radio/TV show. Catherine urged small business owners who are keen to raise their media profile to start with local BBC radio stations, pointing out they are often looking for experts to review the papers, give expert comment and make regular guest appearances on popular shows. As stories - and staff - are often shared between local and national programmes this can be a great way to get noticed

Day 2

“We [journalists] are in the business of stories.” This soundbite, from Marie Claire’s Andrea Thompson, said it all for me and seemed an apt way to kick off Day 2 of the event. We spent the first hour of the day exploring the three main ways small business owners can help journalists - products, expertise and experience - and exploring some stories from our own lives and how they might be used to get media coverage.

Day 2 delegates at Soulful PR Live

Next we looked at how to research a publication/programme and practised ‘flatplanning’ (i.e. writing down what you see on every page) a publication as a quick way of scouting out opportunities for media coverage.

Our first lunchtime speaker was Nicola Snell, founder of Pressloft, who shared some really useful information on how to work with bloggers and influencers, including how to find bloggers and influencers to work with, how much to expect to pay and how to measure your return on investment. You can see her slides here.

Next up was Instagram pro and coach Sara Tasker who shared how she has built an incredible audience online (171k followers on Instagram) and how she has turned this into a number of income streams in her business.  Sara also shared her top tips on promoting your business on Instagram.

The last part of the day was devoted to pitching skills. After making a shortlist of 3-5 publications/programmes they plan to ‘crack’ in the next few months, every delegate wrote a short pitch, some of which were shared in the group (and afterwards in the FB group).

While there are always things to improve, overall it was an incredible, value-packed event.  The speakers provided immense value and guests benefited from spending a couple of days with like-minded business owners who share their visions and values. With the support of my team, I put my heart and soul into creating an unforgettable experience at Soulful PR Live, so it was touching to see relationships being formed that will last for years to come.

Post-event content

A number of guests have already published post-event content, including:

What happens when a conference is organised by women? by Kat Quinzel.

12 takeaways from attending Soulful PR Live 2017 by Samantha Kirton

5 mistakes to avoid when pitching to world-class journalists by Helen Packham

9 journalist tips on how to get PR for your business by Cathy Wassell

Why it's important to never ever give up by Michelle Purse

5 reasons why you're not achieving PR coverage by Paula Hutchings

What I learned from a day with journalists by Raphaelle Cox.

Canny Janet does it again; a review of the Soulful PR Live conference by Tim Lewis

Is media coverage relevant for your business? by Adanna Bankole

7 tips to take away from Soulful PR Live 2017 by JournoLink

Comfortable networking for Introverts - How was the lion's den? And a Cinderella moment... by Lucia Knight

Want to attend Soulful PR Live 2018?  Register your details here and you'll be the first to hear when tickets go on sale.

 

How to get your business featured in a local newspaper

If you run your own business, getting featured in your local newspaper can be a great way to get in front of prospective customers. But how do you go about it? Read on and find out.

1.Read the newspaper

It sounds obvious but if you want to get featured in your local newspaper, you actually need to read it. And I don’t meant a quick flick through; I mean reading it carefully - from cover to cover - so you can get a feel for the kinds of stories it generally covers. Some local newspapers are happy to cover award wins and charity fundraisers, while in others (bigger regional titles, for example) the bar to entry is much higher. Your local newspaper may have a specific business section, where it covers new enterprises, events and launches. It may feature stories on local businesses in the main part of the paper. You’ll only find out if you invest the time in reading it carefully.

Although it’s tempting, please don’t skip this part. Taking the time to understand what kind of stories your local newspaper will be interested in - and what it definitely won’t - will save you tons of time in the long run.

2.Develop some story ideas

Once you’ve read your target publication carefully, it’s time to start thinking of ideas. But instead of thinking about the story you want to tell - consider the kinds of stories your local newspaper usually runs - and what you could offer that might be a good fit. While every publication is different, as a general rule of thumb, most are interested in stories that that will matter to local people. So before you pitch an idea, ask yourself whether the guy who runs your corner shop, the local bus driver or the retired school teacher who lives at the end of your road would actually care  about your story. If not, you may need to go back to the drawing board.

Do remember that the fact your business exists, is not a story. To capture a journalist’s interest, you generally need to be doing  something interesting: hosting an event, raising money for charity or launching something new, for example. And the more unusual or unexpected it is, the more chance you’ll have of getting coverage.

Examples

Who will succeed local dog Ginger to take the Nose of Tralee Title

Why did this story make the news? It’s unusual, quirky and will appeal to local dog owners who may consider entering their own dog into the competition.

Mum sets up scholars programme for disadvantaged teens

Why did this story make the news? Local person helping other local people - a strong angle for a local newspaper.

Meg’s getting into the zone with her adult colouring book success

Why did this story make the news? Local person ‘done good’ - often a winning combination in a local newspaper.

Henry hoovers marry in Belfast electrical shop to celebrate Irish referendum

Why did this story make the news? Unusual, quirky and controversial.

Teenagers novel aims to make girls feel body positive

Why did this story make the news? Unusual (teenager publishing novel, written with her mum), controversial and also a local person ‘done good’.

3.Be aware of timing

When you contact a journalist with a story idea, the first thing they will ask themselves is: ‘why do people need to hear about this now?’ (or next week or next month - depending on when you approach them). And journalists generally aren’t interested in ‘old’ news. So it’s no good contacting a local journalist about an event you held last week or a trip you took last month - get in touch in advance.

While there are no hard and fast rules, weekly publications tend to work a week ahead and dailies a day or two ahead, but some plan further in advance (this is usually referred to as the lead time).  Don’t try and second guess this kind of information; if in doubt, pick up the phone and ask.

As well as finding out how far your target publication works ahead, it’s a good idea to find out its press day (usually the day prior to publication) although do bear in mind that many local newspapers now have a strong online presence and may publish stories at any time. The more you understand about how things work on your local newspaper, the better.

4.Source journalists’ contact details

If you want to increase your chances of getting a ‘yes’, finding out the name and email address of the person who can make (or get) a decision about whether to run your story can be a smart move. If you’re pitching an idea for a news story (a short 3-400 word article) this will generally be the news reporter or news editor. If you’re pitching a longer, more in-depth feature or interview it’s more likely to be the features editor.

Many publications list contact details for journalists and email addresses are sometimes included. If not, you can usually work out the email format by looking at addresses that are listed (advertising sales contacts usually are).

Most journalists can be found on Twitter in a few clicks. Read more about how to find journalists’ contact details here.

Steer clear of generic email addresses (e.g. [email protected] or [email protected]) as, in many cases, these are not checked regularly. And don’t be fobbed off by people who say they will forward your press release or email to the journalist or editor concerned. Make it your mission to get the name and email address of the person who can make/get a decision about whether to use your story or not.

If it doubt, just ring up and ask. And don’t take it personally if people are bit short on the phone, as newsrooms are busy places. Ask nicely and you should get the information you need.

5.Write an email pitch or press release

First off, please don’t send a pre-written article, as these rarely get published. Instead, send a press release or email pitch outlining your idea. If a journalist is interested they will either interview you and write up the piece themselves or (depending on the type of article) ask you to write it up to their brief.

Local newspapers are often short-staffed, so a well-written press release, with all the relevant information may be printed with very few changes. Learn how to write a press release for your small business here.

If you don’t have the time to write a press release, please don’t let that put you off suggesting a story idea. A short email pitch, that explains your idea in a paragraph or two, can be just as effective. Learn how to write an email pitch for a journalist  here.

If you’re not confident in your writing skills, consider outsourcing the job to a freelance writer. Most have websites, so a Google search of writers in your local area should throw up some possibilities. Look for someone with a background in journalism as they will also be able to give you feedback on whether your story will grab journalists’ attention (and, if not, suggest tweaks that will make it more newsworthy).

6.Consider your email subject header

Most journalists get hundreds of email pitches and press releases every day - many of which remain unopened, so a compelling email subject header is vital.

An email header that includes the phrase ‘story idea’ and a compelling one-liner that describes your story is more likely to get a journalist’s attention.

It’s fine to pitch ideas over the phone too, by the way. Just avoid obviously busy times (like press day) and have an email pitch or press release to send if you’re asked (most journalists will).

7.Be prepared to follow up

If a journalist is interested in your story, they will generally get back to you within a day or so. But in a busy newsroom, stories can get missed, so don’t be afraid to chase up pitches or press releases by phone or email. If you’ve chased a few times and you’re not getting anywhere, it’s probably safe to assume the journalist is not interested and offer it elsewhere.

It’s fine to offer the same story to different programmes or publications - as long as you’re upfront about what you’re doing. Bear in mind that there can be rivalry between different publications - even on different sections of the same newspaper. While it’s tempting to go after as much press coverage as possible, if a journalist who wants to cover your story sees it somewhere else (particularly before theirs is due to run) they won’t be very happy with you. And it’s never worth risking a relationship for short-term gains.

8.Be persistent

Securing press coverage isn’t always easy. Building a media profile can take months - or even years - so don’t be disappointed if you’re not successful immediately. Some journalists will ignore your press releases and pitches completely. Others will knock back your ideas - over and over again. But if you’re persistent, consistent, willing to learn from your mistakes (and you will make them), you will get there in the end.

9.Stand your ground on advertising

Journalists should report the news in a fair, unbiased way - which means covering stories based on their merit. Sadly, I’m hearing more and more reports of small business owners saying they have been told their story will only be published in their local newspaper if they pay for advertising. Please be reassured that if your story has been selected on editorial merit, there is no obligation whatsoever to take out advertising with the newspaper (although you may decide to do so of your own accord, which is quite a different matter). If a reporter is insistent that you pay for advertising, you may want to raise the matter with the editor (who might need reminding of the National Union of Journalists’ code of conduct).

 

Why not join my free 10 Day PR Challenge?  Click here to get involved. 

 

How Twitter helped this business owner get featured in Stylist magazine

In this interview, psychotherapist Samantha Carbon shares how she got coverage in Stylist magazine and other national titles - without writing a single press release or hiring a PR company. 

Here's what you'll learn in this video:

  • How Sam has used Twitter to get high-profile media coverage in publications like Stylist, Glamour, Country Living, the Daily Express, Daily Mail and Huffington Post
  • Why Sam believes her website has helped her get more media coverage
  • Sam's tips on building relationships with journalists (and responding to media requests)
  • How being featured in high-profile publications has helped Sam get noticed by TV/radio producers - and be invited to write a regular column for a best-selling women's magazine

 

[053] Why most people are horrible at telling stories with Peter Shankman

Peter Shankman is probably best known for founding Help A Reporter Out (HARO) - which connects journalists with people who want to be featured in the media. 

Today he's a speaker, consultant and bestselling author who regularly appears in the national and international media, including Fox News, CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

In this episode, Peter explains where most people go wrong with telling their story in the media - and how to do it better.

Here’s what's covered in this episode:

  • How Peter created Help A Reporter Out and had a quarter of a million users within months
  • Why Peter believes listening is the key to selling your story in the media (and how to do it better)
  • How skimping on the basics - like researching the publications/programmes you're pitching to - can stop you getting media coverage
  • Why 'trend' stories are so compelling to journalists (and how to create 'trend' stories around your business or brand)
  • Practical tips on how to network with journalists on social media and get more appearances on radio & TV

Key links and resources

Peter's website 

Shankminds (Peter's mastermind group)

Faster Than Normal (Peter's site  about living with ADD/ADHD)

Peter on Twitter 

Can we do that? Outrageous PR stunts that work - and why your company needs them (Peter's book)

Help A Reporter Out 

Journolink

Soulful PR Live 

The Soulful PR Business Club 

New Media Europe 2016 (I'm speaking on how to get big media coverage on a small business budget)

My FREE Soulful PR Facebook Community

What to do next

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How to tell your story in the media (without being boring)...

We all love telling stories. What’s more, we’re generally pretty good at it. Each and every one of us has our own ‘library’ of stories to draw from when we want to impress, empathise or entertain. Mine include: a government minister shaking his fist at me in parliament, being airlifted to hospital following a car accident and a teacher putting me in a ‘ginger identity parade’ at school (yep, that really happened).

We also love trading stories about things that happen to us, day-to-day. Not the mundane stuff, like unloading the dishwasher, taking the dog for a walk or helping our kids with their homework. We share things that are a little bit out of the ordinary - the rude shop assistant, the nightmare holiday apartment or the ex who’s turned into a stalker.

So it fascinates me to see what happens when people start trying to tell their story in their media. While they wouldn’t dream of telling their friends about their new industry benchmark standards, content management system (CMS) or the fact they've painted their boardroom yellow (ok, the last one might be a teeny exaggeration, but hopefully you get the point), they think people might be interested in reading about it in a national newspaper.

Journalists are professional storytellers. So the more you understand about storytelling - and the parts of stories people find most appealing - the better placed you’ll be to get media coverage.

Narrative Theory and Storytelling

Applying narrative theory can help. There are various theories on narrative structure, but my favourite is Tzvetan Todorov’s which states that most stories or plotlines (i.e. in books, films and TV) follow the same path (explained here, in my own words):

  1. The story opens with a state of equilibrium or balance
  2. Something happens to disrupt the equilibrium and/or create a problem
  3. The characters recognise that something has gone wrong
  4. Characters attempt to solve the problem
  5. The problem is solved and a new equilibrium is restored

Media stories are exactly the same - with one significant difference: journalists aren’t terribly interested in the ‘equilibrium’ stage i.e. the company that’s doing fine, the happy marriage or impeccably behaved children. They’re far more likely to share stories about the equilibrium being disrupted and/or how people are trying to put it right e.g. the company whose share prices have fallen, the celebrity marriage that’s falling apart or rising school truancy. In fact, media stories rarely give you the full narrative 'arc' (i.e. stages 1 - 5). They generally focus on one or two stages (generally 2-4). 

Applying narrative theory to PR

Applying narrative theory to PR

That doesn’t mean journalists only share negative stories - ‘disruption’ can simply mean something that’s out-of-the-ordinary - like this yarn-bombing granny:

Yarn bombing granny

Or the chocolatier who created a 'Cumberbunny':

Chocolate make makes Cumberbunny
Chocolate make makes Cumberbunny

What businesses get wrong

The biggest mistake I see businesses and brands making with their PR is pitching too many ‘equilibrium’ stories e.g. the ‘isn’t my business wonderful?’ story or the ‘we’ve won an award no-one has heard of or even cares about about’ story.

If you want to get journalists interested in sharing your stories, you need focus far more on being disruptive which, as the examples above show, isn’t about what you’re doing badly. It can simply be about how you are doing things differently or solving problems that affect other people in your industry or ‘tribe’.

You also need to ensure your story has characters. The reason journalists aren't interested in sharing stories about the equilibrium (and people aren’t interested in hearing them) is because they’re very one-dimensional.

Pitch a story about how well your startup did in its first year of business and you’ve only got a hero (you).

Pitch a story about how you started your business because you didn’t want to take maternity leave and you’ve got a small cast of characters: the villain (big corporates with inflexible work ethics), the hero (you - because you broke the mould), the helper/sidekick (your parents who joined the business to help you), which immediately adds drama and tension. It’s also disruptive: leaving behind a great career to move to the country and run a business with your parents goes against perceived wisdom about what defines career success.

If you want get more detailed, you might also want to look at the work of Vladimir Propp who breaks down narrative structure into 31 functions and identifies seven character archetypes including the dispatcher (who sends the hero off on his/her quest) and the false hero (who takes credit for the hero’s action).

Personally I think there is an awful lot of fluff out there on PR and storytelling and doing these two things alone will improve your chances of getting media attention:

  1. Recognising that journalists aren’t generally interested in ‘equilibrium’ stories (and people aren’t interested in hearing them)
  2. Ensuring any stories you pitch have a small cast of characters e.g. hero, villain, helper

So the next time you find yourself wanting to pitch a story ask yourself this:

Is this a story that people will want to share with others?  Something they will actually care about or have an opinion on? Or is it the professional equivalent of an anecdote about washing the dishes or clearing out my sock drawer?

If it's the latter, you might want to have a rethink.

Did you find this article useful? If so, you might like: how to write emails journalists will actually read.