Over the years, I have got to know many journalists. They are very busy people, under constant pressure with information overload and pressing deadlines. They know the stories their readers enjoy.
Achieving press and media coverage – it’s a fine art
Over the years, I have got to know many journalists. They are very busy people, under constant pressure with information overload and pressing deadlines. They know the stories their readers enjoy. They have done their market research. They know the demographics of their readers: income levels, age and hobbies. They also know where they live. So, with this in mind, try not to waste their time. Approach a journalist only when you have something newsworthy. I was always taught that you need to a ‘peg to hang it on’:
• A new product, design, image or story.
• A celebration of a major milestone like X years in business or a particular turnover. Celebrate in style!
• Perhaps you have won an award or competition?
• Maybe you have just completed a commission?
• Do you have a special event coming up?
• Have you been working with a celebrity or well-known personality?
• You may have written a book or a small publication?
• Perhaps you’ve been accepted for a big open exhibition or fair.
• Are you fundraising for a charity?
• Are you giving a talk to a specialist interest group?
• Perhaps you have been appointed to a board?
• Maybe you are commentating on current affairs.
• If you're brave, could you pull off a crazy stunt?
These are the things journalists like to hear about. So, if you haven’t got anything like this going on in your life, now is a good time to get savvy and start your PR plan.
Do you have a story to tell?
Tell the stories behind your life, business and home. You may need to dig deep and get help from a PR professional. For instance, creative people often have very photogenic homes and gardens. Go to your local news stand and get inspired. There are many lifestyle and women’s magazines who want to show homes and gardens in all their glory. I love allotment gardening - growing and cooking my own fruit and vegetables. In 2011, Country Living Magazine chose to feature us in a wonderful series called Grow and Cook from May to December. They secured some fabulous stories and images while our business Colour in the Cotswolds achieved national profile to over 165,000 readers. I self-published a Cook Book to coincide with these features. This book achieved a huge amount of press coverage for our business and to date, I have sold about 550 copies. Everyone is happy!
Before you go any further, have you thought about the images you are sending in? Over the last three months, I have been running a PR campaign for our Cotswold Open Studios event here in Cirencester. The glossy magazines cannot use many of the photographs I have been sent. Magazines need images 600 pixels wide or 6 x 4 inches 300dpi. Also, you should always set the caption into the file name so that nothing gets muddled up: your name, title, date, size and medium. Use a professional photographer. Use Adobe Photoshop to tweak the colour. If you have an aspirational, design-led business, you may need to work with a stylist as well. You need to tell the story in both words and pictures.
Who should I approach?
Once you have unraveled your news and stories, you need to research the publications who might be interested. Broadly speaking they fall into these categories:
• National glossies
• Local glossies
• National TV
• National radio
• National dailies
• Local weeklies
• Local TV
• Local radio
If you are running a campaign, they should be approached roughly in the order listed above. Create a PR schedule and keep detailed contact records. Consider using a CRM system. Never send out blanket press releases. Ring and get the name of all the different journalists. Under one umbrella, there will be a different editor in charge of each page. For example, on your local newspaper, there will be different journalists for what’s on, arts, business and news. Tailor the information according to their individual agenda. Also, get to know the journalists, including freelancers.
Your PR plan should be integrated with social media. Your press coverage needs to build your brand and raise your profile. Creative people do not need to spend a fortune in advertising. Journalists and picture editors are always looking for great stories and stunning images which (of course) you have!
Your press release
Write your press release so that the journalist can cut and paste. Send it to a named contact. Be brief and fit to one side of A4. Start with the release date, a headline and at the end of the copy, put ‘ENDS’ so that the journalist knows that this is where the release finishes. After this, include your name and contact details if they need more information and images. Don't be shy! Follow up with a phone call. Stand tall. Remember they need you as much as you need them. You will feel confident if you have done your research and your press release is appropriate to the editor's needs. Shameless plugs are perfectly acceptable when presented in an informative and professional manner.
A journalist will always check you out online, so make sure that your website is up-to-date and in line with all your communications. Films are great for bringing you and your business alive.
Where to go for help
© Tessa Webb, June 2013