Making Headlines: How to Use the Media to Get the Word Out About Your Business
Reporters love sources who understand their needs. Getting a call from a reporter who wants to quote you as an expert for his story, review your products or services, or invite you to write an exclusive article for a publication, is a major coup. It means that your marketing efforts are paying off. Who would blow such an opportunity?
Unfortunately, a lot of people do. Those who don't understand journalists' deadlines and needs are liable to be quickly passed over in favor of sources who do. That lack of knowledge can also rack up lots of wasted time and money for those who take a shotgun approach to blasting their message or products to any and all journalists. If you don't consider their individual needs, you're likely making a futile effort.
After a decade of working with journalists, arranging for interviews with and exclusive articles by the experts our public relations firm represents, I've learned what works - and what doesn't - for them.
Here are a few of my tips for becoming a favorite news source:
- Remember - many of them are working on tight deadlines. They need to find someone immediately - meaning right now. People who aren't used to working with daily deadlines tend to think of "immediately" as "within 24 hours" or "sometime this week." That won't do for a reporter who has to report, write, and file his story today. He will quickly move on to another source if she has to wait for you.
- If a media contact wants to talk to you - whether it's today or next Tuesday - make yourself available. I've had clients say a particular requested day or time isn't good because they've got a dentist appointment scheduled or a trip to the library. If The New York Times wants to interview you, reschedule the cleaning!
- Have a high-resolution image of yourself available. Journalists often want an image to go with their story and that's great for you - more exposure! So be prepared. Print journalists need high-resolution images, usually 300 dpi (dots per inch). Instructing them to download your picture from your website likely won't meet their needs. Most images on websites have a very low resolution of about 72 dpi, which looks fine on a computer monitor, but can't be printed on paper. Instead, have a professional quality face shot of yourself, and your products, services, or location, if applicable, at the ready to email.
- To avoid wasting time and money when pitching your products or services to the media, learn which reporters and editors might have an interest in your message. The automotive writer will have no interest in tax preparation tips. Likewise, the entertainment editor won't care about the home care services you offer. You should be able to find which journalists cover what beats by visiting the publication's website. If that fails, pick up the phone and call.
- If an editor invites you to write an article or blog post, pay attention to the criteria and the deadline. If you're asked for 450 words or less, don't send an 800-word piece. They may request you focus on a specific topic, or write in a specific format, such as tips or first person. Follow instructions, make sure your piece is finalized and proofread, and file on time. Early is better!
Being prompt, accommodating, and reliable may also have some other benefits: You could become the source the journalist saves in his Rolodex and you might just hear from him again. Or, you may get a call from one of his colleagues; fellow staffers often share their good sources.
Whether the medium is a newspaper, magazine, or blog, the journalists' work can result in far-reaching exposure for your business. Their articles are likely to be disseminated all over the Internet; one story could be seen by 1 million readers. How's that for a return on your investment?
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