Getting Press Coverage
Step by Step
As you progress with the PR for your brand, you will work out which way works best for you. Here are the PR In A Box most effective process we’ve discovered to secure press interest. It sounds very basic, but it’s a good foundation on which to build, and one you can fine-tune to suit your business.
Historically, press coverage was secured through simply sending press releases and speaking to journalists on the phone about ideas and plans. These days, many journalists prefer not to receive phone calls, and so many of them delete e-mails with press releases straight away. Creating an interesting press release is a good way of laying your idea out in a way that has all of the relevant information in it. Once you have your information down, look back at it and ask yourself if you honestly think that what you are sending will genuinely be of interest to the media. If your answer is no, then don’t send it.
If your idea is genuinely interesting, then use the steps below as a guide to beginning to contact the press:
- Select which of your creative ideas you are going to begin with.
- Create a press release or a simple e-mail.
- Create a press list of publications, bloggers, social-media outlets, and websites you will be targeting.
- E-mail journalists who you think would be interested in the story. Don’t spam; send personalised e-mails to people based on the research you have done on each journalist.
- Arrange for press appointments and press visits. Journalists will tend to contact you if they are interested in your story or need more information.
- Support the campaign with social media.
- Send out images and samples to journalists who have requested them.
- Expand the list of press you are sending to if the initial contact doesn’t get the traction you are hoping for.
- Evaluate the campaign.
Within your strategy, break everything down into small steps with specific deliverables. Before you move on to the next task, complete the previous section. If you look at the plan as one whole idea, it is going to seem like a daunting prospect. Make sure you reward yourself as you complete each section, just as you would when you get more customers or achieve your sales targets. This way, your communications strategy will feel like a part of the rest of the business.
Persistence is the name of the game here. You will find that the more you practice your elevator pitch to make it sound as relaxed as possible, and the more you talk to journalists (describing the brand about which you are so passionate), the easier it will get.
One of the key aspects here PR is building relationships with members of the press. When creating your press target, it is crucial that you match the pitch to the writer. A surefire way to annoy a journalist is to hassle him constantly with stories that aren’t of interest to him.
Once you start talking to the members of the press, you will see how important it is to make sure your elevator pitch is perfect. When you get thirty seconds to convince a busy journalist that your product or service is going to be the next big thing to feature in the limited column space, you have to be spot on.
It must be extremely hard for journalists to concentrate on creating the great content they deliver when they receive hundreds of e-mails and phone calls each day. Members of the press tend to prefer e-mails rather than phone calls, so, as with all aspects of PR, when you speak to a journalist, ask what works best for him. If you send an e-mail, journalists will respond if they are interested. You need to get the balance right between making sure someone has your information and turning into a stalker. As with everything, the more creative and interesting your brand or idea is, the more the press will be interested.
How to E-mail
Members of the press can get five hundred to six hundred e-mails per day, so logic would dictate that the e-mails they open first are ones from people they know (this is why it is crucial to build relationships with the journalists). E-mails with interesting or relevant subject headings (take time to decide what you are going to put here) will also help to grab someone’s attention. When you are e-mailing, try not to include enormous attachments, as the firewall will stop them, and you will also block people’s inboxes.
Make each e-mail personal; know something about the column that the person writes and explain why you think your product or service will be of interest. Just changing the name at the top of an e-mail is not good enough. I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if people did that to you, so don’t do it to other people. The more specific you make it to your audience, the more chance you will have of being noticed.
Include as much information as possible – make it easy for someone to feature your brand. Many journalists prefer to receive an initial e-mail of a couple of lines about what you are doing; if that is of interest, they will let you know, so you can send over further details later. Most people put long e-mails into the “read later” pile, and journalists do the same.
As with e-mailing, make sure what you say in person is relevant, to the point, and interesting. We all know when someone sounds like they are reading from a script, so don’t fall into that trap. I would advise that when you start the call, ask if it is a good time to speak, as there’s nothing worse than interrupting someone when they are in the middle of something else. If you get put through to the answerphone when you call a journalist, don’t leave a message. You don’t want to clog up someone’s voice mail. Call back later and reach the person at his desk.
Make sure you know something about the person you are calling, and if you learn more in the conversation, make a note of it in your contacts. There’s nothing more lovely than when someone remembers your birthday or an important date in your diary, so try and do the same thing for others.
Judge each person individually to see how formal or informal he likes to be on the phone. There is no right or wrong here; use your instinct, and remember you are talking to someone who has worked extremely hard to get to where he is and who is inundated with hundreds of calls each day. Even though you think that your product or service is the best thing on offer, not everyone will agree. Try to respect that.
Many journalists don’t have direct lines anymore, because they try to do more on e-mail. Don’t become a stalker, or you will annoy people you are trying to gain coverage from.
Chatting on the phone is enjoyable and useful, but a face-to-face relationship is always best. You can talk business but also share information about what else you have going on, giving you more of a chance to really get to know each other.
Journalists have less time to be out and about, so make the most of the face-to-face meetings. One of the great things about meeting in person, if you have a product or service for them to try, is that you can experience that product together. You’ll receive invaluable feedback from someone who truly knows the industry and your competitors.
If you or the journalist is based outside of London—and with the increase in bloggers and online coverage, this is becoming more common—it is often trickier to meet face-to-face. That said, do try wherever possible to get to know local journalists in person. It might be worth considering making a number of appointments in London over a couple of days and coming to town just for them.
It has become increasingly useful to meet journalists, face-to-face, at their desks. This means that they don’t have to take time out of their days, but you can still meet in person. If you have a product for journalists to experience for themselves, take it with you. You may also want to take one to leave behind so that they can use it in their own time.
Keep your visit brief, as you don’t want people to dread your arrival. It’s imperative that you make an appointment before going to see a journalist; they may not be there, and you will not be allowed to visit them without one. If you are visiting a large publishing house, try to set up a few appointments with different journalists while you’re there.
Large publishing houses can also give you the opportunity to set up a sampling or experiential area at their offices, where a number of people can test your product or service for themselves, giving you great and immediate feedback. Again, you must arrange this with the events team and offer something that is of real interest rather than just what you think will appeal.
Remember to cover the following when engaging with the press:
Now that you have begun your journey into PR, make it your own. See what works for you and your company and what doesn’t. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but if you always have a plan and a structure to your communications, you will be so much more successful than using a scattergun approach.