how to get reporters to write about your business

It’s probably the most common thing a new client will say to me.

I want the media to cover my business.

Actually, it’s usually more like this.

I want the New York Times to cover my business.

At that point, I can’t help but get a little sassy. Who doesn’t want to be in the New York Times? And what did your business do to deserve that kind of coverage?

It’s a tough question for many business owners, who are like parents, and their business is their child. Their child is wonderful and deserves recognition for getting an A, for learning to cartwheel, for sharing his toys.

Except it’s a business, not a child, and the media doesn’t work that way.

You want press coverage? You’ve got to do something worthy of coverage. In this post I’ll give you actionable steps to get news coverage for your business.

I. Newsworthiness
II. Story Ideation
III. Free Worksheet
IV. Picking the Outlet

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Newsworthiness

In order to understand how to get your business in the headlines, you’ve first got to know what makes headlines in the first place.

Journalists don’t just write about whatever they want, willy-nilly (although sometimes it certainly seems like it).

You’d better believe there’s a clear strategy behind every story they cover.

They cover what gets clicks. They cover what sells newspapers. They cover what makes people hold off from changing the channel just a little longer.

In general, the media covers stories that fit one or more of these criteria:

1. Timeliness

timliness

It’s called news for a reason.

I’m always trying to help clients understand that many times, it’s not the best or the most deserving pitch that receives coverage—it’s whoever pitches it first.

When you have a potential story, move on it! Don’t sit on it for longer than 24 hours–48 hours max.

If something happened more than a week ago—unless you’re pitching to a long-lead outlet, like a magazine—don’t even bother pitching it.

You can also pitch timely stories surrounding major events, like holidays.

2. Impact

Meat recall

Does it affect a lot of people?

There’s a reason consumer recalls always make the headlines, no matter how mundane. They affect millions of people nationwide.

Part of the key to getting coverage for your business is to make the story applicable to a wide audience. Why should people care about what you’re doing?

3. Proximity

county fair

This one should be a no-brainer.

When you pick up the local paper, you expect to read about things that happened within your local community. When you turn on CNN, on the other hand, you expect to see stories that affect a national audience.

The proximity of your story should match the outlet you’re pitching.

Local outlet = story with local impact.

National outlet = story with national impact.

This should help you understand why the New York Times doesn’t print any old story. It has to have relevance to a national audience.

But wait! People will always say to me.

Then they proceed to send me a clipping of Farmer Joe from Kentucky who made the front page of USA Today. Which brings me to our next point…

4. Novelty

Internet cat videos for the win.

If something is rare, unusual, intriguing, hilarious or tragic, there’s a much greater chance of it being covered, perhaps even on a national level.

Farmer Joe we just talked about a moment ago? He was probably covered in USA Today for growing a 568 pound pumpkin.

Novelty, my friends.

5. Prominence

Just like us

If you or I get a speeding ticket, we’re pissed off all day. If the pope gets a speeding ticket, it’s international news.

The actions of prominent figures, like celebrities, athletes, musicians, politicians, and yes, unfortunately, the Kardashians, are of high interest and are therefore considered newsworthy.

If you can tie an event or cause to a prominent figure, you’ve got a shot at getting some coverage.

6. Conflict

AKA the reason reality TV exists.

People love conflict—reading about it, hearing about it and watching it.

This is typically the type of news angle you want to avoid as a business owner, but there are some ways, when done carefully, you can even make conflict work for you. Read on for an example.

Story Ideation

Now that you know what makes a story newsworthy, it’s time to start thinking about how you can put these aspects to work for your business.

We’re going to take the six concepts above and come up with a handful of story ideas that pertain to your business for each one.

For example, let’s say you run a bakery (I went with the first thing that popped into my head here, and baking is definitely not the most newsworthy profession, so this should prove you can do this exercise for your business, no matter what it is).

For your bakery, here are a few story ideas you could run with:

Angela’s Bakery – Story Ideas

1. Timeliness

  • This week you’re approaching filling your 100,000th order. Pitch a look back at your shop’s long and storied history within the community.
  • The week of Mother’s Day, partner with a local women’s shelter to deliver cupcakes to the moms there.
  • It’s wedding season. Pitch a how-to story for brides who want to have a homemade wedding cake.

2. Impact

  • There’s a nationwide egg shortage. Pitch yourself as an expert to offer comment on how it’ll affect small food service businesses and trickle down to consumers.
  • There’s a salmonella outbreak and people around the country have died. Pitch a story showing home cooks how to keep their cooking spaces clean and safe.

3. Proximity

  • Host a free after-school program for underprivileged kids in the area. Teach them how to bake homemade bread and let them take home what they make.
  • Have a presence at local events like festivals and fairs. Contact the media ahead of time to let them know you’ll be there and your cake tasting booth will make a great photo op.

4. Novelty

  • Attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest apple pie.
  • Turn something unusual, like hot dogs, into a new flavor of cookie (hello, have you seen how the media goes crazy when anything bacon-flavored is released?!)

5. Prominence

  • Enlist a celebrity (or local celebrity) to participate in an upcoming event
  • Partner with someone in the public eye, like a city council member or celebrity with local ties, to host a charity fundraiser

6. Conflict

  • Take a timely local issue that affects your business, like the tax rate or a zoning ordinance, and pitch yourself as the media’s go-to source for comment on how it affects the “little guy”
  • Take a stand on an important but controversial issue that affects the community, like homelessness or crime. Give the media a heads up that you’re available for comment on the subject.

See? If I can come up with nine story angles for Angela’s Bakery on the fly—literally, this took less than ten minutes—you can certainly come up with some newsworthy ideas for your business.

Freebie Alert!

I’ve created a free story ideation printable to help you work through the process. Get it now by entering your email below.


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Picking the Outlet

There’s one thing you may have noticed about all of the story ideas mentioned in this post. Not all of them will be relevant to all media outlets. That’s where the next step comes in. It’s time to decide where to pitch them.

Some will be obvious, like pitching the tax rate story to the city reporter at the local paper. Be sure to find the person who covers that beat regularly.

Some will be not so obvious, like the crazy hot dog flavored cookie idea I mentioned above. Sure, you can pitch that to a feature reporter for the newspaper or the local TV station. But you can also think bigger.

Buzzfeed. Mashable. Thrillist. Huffington Post.

I could see any of these outlets running a blurb on your Oscar-Mayer-infused baked good.

That’s the beauty of the Internet—there’s an outlet out there for nearly everything. You’ve just gotta be tuned-in and creative enough to find them.

When you start to think of your PR strategy in this way, you’ll begin to notice an interesting shift. When you realize what actually makes a story newsworthy, you’ll notice that great story ideas pop up in the most unexpected places.

Need help brainstorming some great attention-getting angles for your business? Get in touch.

Now tell me—what’s one story idea you’ve come up with for your business? Leave it in the comment section.

Tami Brehse

Tami Brehse

Tami is a television news anchor turned digital marketing consultant who helps small businesses achieve their PR and marketing goals.
Tami Brehse
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