Every business owner or professional wants press coverage. It legitimizes your business in the eye of the public. It creates awareness about you and your services. And of course, it makes you feel proud and accomplished.
Press coverage, or simply getting quoted in an article as an expert in your field, is hard to come by. That’s part of why it feels so good and means so much to successfully get press. More importantly, this means you need a strategy for your press efforts from Day 1 inside your business.
Here’s where I believe most people screw up. They shoot for the stars, thinking the only valuable coverage is in big magazines like Inc and Forbes. They draft congratulatory press releases and pay $900 to have them distributed via PRWeb. They cold email journalists at these big magazines and ask for a favor, with nothing offered in return.
It’s all backwards, and unlikely to produce results.
What does work and what I have learned through trial-and-error over many years, is focusing your press outreach on a local level, and creating relationships in advance of desiring coverage.
Now, I want to get on all the big websites and bask in the glow of a journalist saying how great I am just as much as anyone else, but you have to start at the beginning. The beginning is local, because local press is mathematically much more likely to take an interest in your story. It doesn’t matter if you are in Seattle or Lawrence, Kansas, the local “pool” is smaller than the national or international pool of Inc and Forbes.
So start local. Think publications like local TV stations, your local version of the business journal, and local newspapers. In San Diego, it’s places like the SDBJ and DiscoverSD.com.
The other step is creating relationships in advance. Don’t make your first email to a journalist at your local business journal be something like “Hey! I just launched a new product and you should cover it!” No. Instead, you want to follow people, comment on their articles, and engage in conversation well before you launch that new product.
Think about being in the shoes of the journalist. They get pitched all the time. They want to write about interesting, relevant business news and people in their area (of focus, or geography).
Journalists are also people. They value relationships. They will return a favor if a favor is given. A good friend of mine who is a local attorney and runs Free Legal Aid put it best: “For value shown, value is given.” It’s classic reciprocity. And you have to give first.
Here’s an example. When I was with a private equity firm here in town, I saw that the local journal syndicated press releases from our firm about acquisitions. It wasn’t a story, but it was a mention. I knew that eventually, it’d be great for recruiting and awareness if we had some quotes or even a dedicated article about us published. So I sought out the two contributing writers who covered our field, and started commenting on their stories. One article that graded San Diego an “F” for its investment culture was harsh, in my view, so the journalist and I debated it via email. Then I sent some additional statistics his way to further my point.
It was a good debate, and afterward, I mentioned I was with a firm in town and would love to get together for coffee some time to discuss the climate in San Diego. Once our schedules aligned, we met and chatted for 30 minutes at their office. No big deal, but it put a face with a name, and placed me at the front of his rolodex for any stories about private equity in town. It paid off months later when we had a spotlight done on a deal, and we ended up hiring a new CFO who reached out after reading the article.
In the same vein, my partner at PolicyZip moved back to Kansas City two years ago and slowly struck up a relationship with some of the business journalists there. Once again, when we announce company news or make a recruiting push, we have an outlet with those journalists. It’s not like PR Web where you try to pay money to get attention. It’s relationships, and it’s much better.
Stay local, and plan ahead. You’ll see your press coverage increase dramatically, and have plenty of clippings to mail home to mom and dad.