Your business can benefit from local news coverage. The following guide will help you target the right people to get meaningful, local news coverage, which will move sales.
The Keys to Local Publicity
First, define your target. Thinking broadly, your company will probably have two types of targets:
1. Local “Mass” Media Coverage
Publications that will have interest in your business because of your location. Your local broadcast stations, radio stations, and newspapers fit into this category.
2. Local “Interest Based” Media Coverage
To continue with the restaurant theme, this group would include food blogs that cover local restaurants or perhaps sites that cover local weddings (if your business conducts events).
Finding the Mass Media in Your Area
How to Find Local Newspapers
While you probably know the local daily newspaper(s), you may not be familiar with all the weekly papers, the college newspapers, or small neighborhood papers.
A good starting point is the USNPL that lists newspapers by state and city. In putting together your list of newspapers, try to include newspapers that cover your city, county, an adjacent city or county, or your state as a whole.
Depending on your business, you may want coverage in the local college or even high school newspapers. Also worth thinking about are ethnic newspapers (which may not be in English) or community newspapers (like church bulletins) in your area.
How to Find Local Radio Stations
The signal of a powerful radio station will carry across the county or even state lines.
There are 14,728 radio stations in the United States (as of 2011). Chances are there are dozens of stations whose signals reach your area. Radio Locator will identify which signals reach your area by zip code, where the signal originates, the format of the radio station, and in many cases, contact information.
How to Find Local Television Stations
I think most people are familiar with the TV Guide.
How To Find Local Online Websites
The biggest online network of local coverage is AOL’s Patch Network with individual websites for several hundred neighborhoods and cities.
For local business coverage, Business Journals have unique coverage of 43 different major urban areas.
To find additional local websites in your area, do a Google search with the name of your area and the words “news”, “blog”, or “event calendar”.
It may also help to think of the website associated with the local newspaper and TV stations as separate entities. They may produce separate content for the web.
How To Find “Interest Based” Media
This is all about doing Google searches and it’s not necessarily about finding people that typically write articles about your business.
In the case of restaurants, it might be finding local people that submit to recipe sites and sharing with them a “secret” recipe. It could be local food blogs or a local celebrity blog that carries photos of the celebrity eating at different restaurants.
Depending on the size of the newspaper, there might be up to four or five people to target with a story about your business. You can target reporters from different sections, as well as their editors. In the example of a restaurant, who would you target at the local paper and for what type of stories?
1. Food Critic and/or Editor of the Food/Dining Section
- Your top goal would be to get a review of your restaurant.
- The paper might have a recipe section that you would want to contribute.
- There might be an opportunity to pitch stories about foods that are in season.
2. Entertainment/Cultural Events Reporter or Section Editor
- Are you participating in a fair, charity event, or hosting an event open to all? If the paper has a calendar, you want to get the event listed. But more importantly, you want to be part of the paper’s coverage of the event.
3. Business Reporter (this may not apply to restaurants as much as other businesses)
- Has your business done something newsworthy or interesting? Have sales increased because you changed the menu, like offering family size portions to help large families save money when going out?
As you can tell from the examples above, a single media outlet may provide the potential for multiple stories.
In general, I might start with contacting individual reporters and move on to contacting their editors if there is no response or a negative response. The reporter might have to get approval from the editor to pursue a story.
By going after the reporter first, you get a chance to contact the editor directly to try and change their mind.
In some radio and TV stations, each program may have editorial freedom.
Which guests are interviewed may be determined by a combination of the on-air personalities or the show’s producer. If the show is large enough, it may have a booker who specializes in obtaining guests. When going after TV coverage and radio coverage, it’s important to target specific shows or even segments.
With radio and television programs, I would focus on targeting producers and bookers.
Killer Radio Tip For Restaurants
The hosts of radio talks shows tend to be on-air for long periods of time, often three or four hours at time. Like most people, they tend to get hungry.
Sometimes, a gift of free food sent to the station can generate lots of great, free editorial coverage. For example, I listen to WFAN 660, a NY sports station. The overnight personalities always seem to give fantastic reviews when they receive a gift of free pizza or food attached with the following note: “We’re big fans. Please enjoy the following complimentary pizza from (Your Local Pizza Place)”
Free Radio and Television Press From Advertising
If you’re paying for advertising is the press free?
Most media outlets will tell you dollars cannot buy free editorial coverage. However, there are a couple ways in which you can structure your advertising in order to get editorial coverage. Specifically, if you are a good advertiser, they will “remote” from your place of business. During the show, the guests will often comment about how they are broadcasting from your place.
How to Pitch to Get Media Coverage: Hint It’s Not Press Releases
When most articles talk about getting media coverage, they focus on press releases. While press releases have their place, they are not the key to getting local press coverage. In fact, I think drafting a general press release can distract a business owner from developing individualized pitches for their media targets.
What are the chances of your press release being picked up by a regional news website?
So, even being conservative, the newsroom at The Lincolnite can receive upwards of 500–600 press releases per day. And now here’s the killer bit. The Lincolnite aims to publish around 15 stories per day. Or a few more if it’s an exceptional news day. So if you’re sending them a press release, you’ve got a one in 40 chance of getting it published on The Lincolnite. – Paul Kirby
Which do you think has a better chance of being read by a journalist or producer; one of the hundreds of press releases sent to them or a personalized e-mail?
First, it’s important that you establish this is not a form email; the email is specifically written for the recipient. This can be done by using the name of their show in the subject line of the email, using their name in the greeting, and referencing a recent story they have covered.
Second, tell them what you want and give them a reason that their audience would be interested in the review or story.
Let’s say that you want them to review your restaurant. You might make the following types of pitches:
1) We are new – you have the chance to do the first review. There are lots of variations of the idea of new; you will be the first to review our new chef, you will be first to review us following a complete renovation.
2) We are special – we are the only (type of cuisine) place in this (neighborhood). Also, this has many variations as well. For example, we are the only place to specialize in this type of dish or style of cooking or having a wide range of choices for people with food allergies.
3) We are popular – find out why we are the most popular (cuisine) in (neighborhood). Perhaps, even send them a picture of a recent night in which the restaurant was packed.
Lastly, tell them how to get in touch with you and make them an offer:
I would be glad to provide you with a complimentary service or product (meal). I would be glad to do a demonstration (show you how we make a certain dish). I would be glad to do an interview.
An Email is Not Enough
Getting a reporter to cover you is like selling to a major client. It will usually require follow-up, persistence, and a positive attitude.
If they respond to your first email consider yourself lucky. If they do not respond, wait a week and then follow-up with a phone call and another email.
Once you make initial contact with the reporter or producer, connecting with them over social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can be beneficial. As you promote your business, they will get updates about it through social media.
Ask What They Want
I have conducted dozens of interviews as the publisher of Fit Small Business. Great public relations professionals always ask what I would like to discuss before I conduct the interview. This helps both the interviewer and the subject of interview, as the answers are likely to be higher quality and more detailed.
Asking what the press wants goes beyond finding out questions in advance. The press might want to be able to interview a couple clients for the story or visit parts of your facility (like the kitchen). You want to be prepared for these types of requests.
Do a Walk Through
As the expression goes, “practice makes perfect”. If you’re doing an interview, write down the question that you expect to be asked and role play the interview with a colleague or friend.
In the example of restaurant, you might want your best waiter and busboy to take care of a critic’s table. Making sure everyone knows their role in advance prevents snafus.
Make it Visually or Musically Appealing
You want to make sure that there are great visuals for stories that appear online, in a newspaper, or on TV. With online stories, you want to provide a number of high quality photos of your storefront and customers using your products for them to insert into the story. With radio, you want to provide a musical or sound background.
A restaurant might have people celebrating and singing a happy birthday song.
Despite what Donald Trumps says, there is such a thing as bad publicity.
Donald Trump once famously remarked that there is no such thing as bad publicity. In his mind, the goal is to get attention.
There are examples of bad initial publicity turning out to be positive for companies in the long run. However, for small businesses, bad publicity is generally far worse than no publicity. The responses of a small company to negative publicity are less likely to get coverage, leaving the public only hearing the negative.
Before you go after publicity, try to anticipate if it will be good or bad.
This is easier than it sounds. “Investigative Reporters” make their living exposing scandals. You probably don’t want to court attention from them.
The first rule of thumb when dealing with reporters or media types is to look at the stories that they write. If they tend to do “feel good” human interest stories, chances are the publicity will be good.
A paper might have two critics that review restaurants. Chances are that the paper will not be doing two reviews on your place. It would be in your best interest to court the critic that is generally the most positive or tends to give restaurants that serve your type of cuisine good reviews.
When thinking about where to target, it’s important to consider who will be reading the article (or watching the video).
Earlier in my career, I led the marketing department for a small company and spent a tremendous amount of time courting reporters. The reporters that were most interested in listening to my pitches and printing stories on my company worked for industry publications.
For a while, I thought the publicity was working. People would contact me after the article was published and it was a thrill to see my name in print.
However, eventually I realized that the publicity did not lead to any new sales. My target customers were end users and not industry professionals. The press coverage was not leading to new business because my customers were not reading industry publications.
You may participate in an event that is likely to get local media coverage. Where I live, there is an annual “Taste of 5th Avenue”, where local restaurants provide samples of their food. Local reporters tend to attend the event, talk to people, and take a few pictures.
If you had a choice, which would you prefer to have: a picture of the reporter eating your specialty dish, with a caption that mentions your restaurant? Or a quote in the paper about the event?
The answer is the picture. A picture of your beautiful looking dish may elicit the response like “That looks good!”, and serve as a catalyst for new people trying your restaurant. A quote about the event will not have the same impact.
To increase the chances of getting the picture in the paper, you might email reporters about the event beforehand and ask them if they would mind having their picture taken tasting your “special” dish. After snapping a few high quality pictures (the reporter eating the dish, the owner and reporter in front of the restaurant, people sampling the restaurants food), you should email the reporter the pictures.
When they go to write up the story and choose pictures, you will be on their mind.
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