We would all like our businesses to be featured in the media, right? (Unless we’ve done something scandalous of course!). Actually achieving however, that is another matter, and a lot of us struggle to make it happen. So at this month’s Sevenoaks Mums in Business Meeting I invited along super-experienced PR specialist Islay O’Hara to share her expertise and give us a few tips.
I met Islay last year on a public speaking course with Aly Harrold and even in our practice talks on the course her knowledge shone through, so I knew she’d be the perfect person to help us, and she was indeed, fabulous! Here’s a snapshot of some of the knowledge and advice she shared with us…
So to start with, what actually is PR?
PR is fundamentally about stories, relationships and making magic happen by educating, influencing and motivating your target to act and think in a favourable way about you and your products. It’s at the far right hand of the selling spectrum in that it’s a more subtle approach to encouraging people to buy things, often by using a 3rd person to talk about you/your business through “earned media” (as opposed to “paid media or advertising”).
It uses some sort of story that’s of interest to the readers/viewers, who are ideally a huuuuuuuuuuge crowd of your target “avatar”.
Some of the goals of PR are:
- To talk to your either target audience OR the people that influence them, as if they’re in the room with you
- To tell them them a story that interests them and/or they can relate to
- To give them something that answers their wants, needs or desires.
There are lots of forms of PR, you’re probably doing some of them already e.g. networking, social media etc.
PR isn’t a quick thing either, it takes a lot of planning and a proper strategy to make it work well. More on that later.
“It takes a long time to be an overnight sensation”
What makes a good story?
A good story is not about you and what you want to tell people, but about what they want to hear. So your story needs to resonate with your target avatar on an emotional level in order to have an effect and influence them. It doesn’t need to be in words either, for example it could be an image, a testimonial or a quote.
So basically, a piece in the media just profiling you or your business, or a picture of your products, probably isn’t a story unless you’re very fortunate to have a really fascinating journey that people are interested in hearing about.
“If you look at your story and ask yourself ‘so what?’ without a great answer, the story isn’t strong enough.”
So how do you find a story interesting enough to get in the media? Well, there are two main approaches to doing this:
1. A standalone story A standalone story in it’s own right – what it’s about really depends on what your audience is actually interested in. It could be you’ve noticed a new trend, an emotional story, something related to e.g. how you’re helping the environment, that you’ve created x jobs and how that will help the local economy, something to do with a charity or helping people, that sort of thing. Have a think about what would interest your audience and how you could tap into that to benefit them.
2. Newsjacking This means tapping into something that’s come up in the media that you can comment on or relate to in some way. For example phoning in to be a contributor on a radio show. One of our members Anne Bayati is contributing to an article about hypnobirthing because Kate Middleton will be using it – often if a celebrity is doing something it becomes news. Something to be aware of though, to newsjack you need to be extra quick to jump on this and respond.
3. Journo Requests When journalists are looking for someone to comment on a story they often post it on Twitter using the hashtags #journorequest or #prrequest. So keep an eye on them and be ready to respond quickly.
How to choose your media and find the journalists
1. Choose your media The first step is to research and decide on which publications / media channels your ideal customers are using so that you can narrow down the list. To give an exaggerated illustration, there’s little value in having a piece in the Racing Times if you’re target audience is mums with young babies. But mostly, aim for the best quality form of media you can for your audience.
2. Buy and examine every inch of that media If it’s a magazine for example, read every inch of it. What sections do they have, what is the content and writing style of them? Who are the editors for each section? The more you know all these things, the more effectively you can pitch a story that fits into it.
3. Get to know the journalists and editors Magazines will typically have a page at the front which lists the different editors for various elements. Most of them are on Twitter, so follow and start to comment and build links so that they will hopefully recognise you when you email them.
How to pitch your story to editors and journalists
There are two kinds of pitches:
- A press release – this is usually news / topical related or newsjacking
- A pitch – this is for your story and is effectively asking them if they’d like to publish it.
Editors and journalists often receive hundreds of pitches every day, so it’s important to try not to get lost in their inbox by:
- using a punchy headline
- giving a 10-15 word synopsis of the article (the length of a tweet)
- telling them briefly who is going to write it and why you’re qualified to do so
- Not writing the actual story before you hear back from them so that you can ask for their editorial guidelines i.e. word-count, image size and resolution, submission deadline etc. before starting work.
Timing is often crucial with the media so it’s worth making a strategy well in advance so that you don’t miss the boat.
One of the key things to remember is that editors and journalists are super-busy people working to tight deadlines. So don’t send your pitch on days they are going to press as they’ll almost certainly be too busy to notice your email. You can often find out which days are best to send them by phoning the publication’s main switchboard.
Also bear in mind that the press is often working towards seasonal events a very long time in advance. For example, Christmas features are typically written 6 months in advance in the national press, or 3 months in the local press.
If you get featured in the press, what then?
Make the most of it! If you have relevant coverage, put it on your website “as featured in…” Tweet about it, post about it, and don’t forget to get in touch with the editor or journalist to say thank you. The stronger links you can make with them, the better.
How to find out more
And if you’d like more information about our meetings and networking events and to see what’s planned for future talks, visit the events page of our website.