Guest Post by Tom Antion
Does this sound like you?
You can’t understand why the reporter at your local newspaper has quoted your competitor in five separate stories but hasn’t called you once.
You send out more than two dozen news releases every year , but they result in little more than a few lines of type.
If your attempts at media coverage have fallen flat, quit grumbling and start taking a proactive approach to free publicity by identifying interesting, compelling story ideas the media need. Yes, NEED. Newspapers, magazines and trade publications have hundreds of thousands of column inches to fill. TV and radio stations have hundreds of hours of news and community interest programs they must broadcast. The number of media outlets is greater than ever, and competition is fierce for advertising dollars, viewers and subscribers. The secret to savvy media relations is knowing exactly what they want, then giving it to them.
Here are tickler questions designed to help you identify the best story ideas within your company or organization:
PUBLICIZE AN UPCOMING EVENT
Are you sponsoring an event such as classes, an open house, a free demonstration, or a fun event? Don’t just send a news release. Think of something visual that ties into the event. Then call your local TV station and ask if they are interested in doing a story a day or two before. Coverage before the event helps spark interest and boost attendance.
How are you using technology in interesting or unique ways? Have you found a way to draw lots of traffic to your web site—with resulting bookings? Are you using the latest technology during your engagements? Is your sales force using technology to stay in touch with existing customers and seek out new ones?
Does the type of clothing you wear, the home you live in, your hobbies, your relationships with your family, the food you eat, and where you travel on vacation say something unusual about you? These stories are ideal for lifestyle sections, food pages, travel pages and special interest magazines. Even though the articles are not necessarily business-related, the reporter most likely will ask you what you do for a living, and that’s a chance to plug your company or organization, particularly if it ties into the reason they are writing. (Example: You perform internationally and have an extensive collection of wine you have bought during your travels. This would be a GREAT story for food page editors, and it would publicize the fact that you are a professional entertainer.)
ALLIANCES AND PARTNERSHIPS
Has your organization formed an interesting alliance or partnership with another business or non-profit? Call the business reporter and share the information. Be willing to explain the results you expect to see from such an arrangement. And be sure your partner is also willing to speak with a reporter.
TALK ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS
What are the three biggest business problems you are facing? Find out the name of the reporters who cover your industry. Then share the information with them. Who knows? Someone might read your story and call you with a solution you might not otherwise have known about.
TALK ABOUT YOUR MISTAKES
What are the biggest you have made, and how would you advise other people from not making the same ones? Don’t be embarrassed. Everyone makes mistakes. And if you’re willing to discuss yours, there’s a good chance the media will be willing to write about you.
Have you thought about sponsoring a clever contest? To celebrate its 100th anniversary, OshKosh B’Gosh launched a six-month nationwide search for the oldest pair of bib overalls. Thrifty Rent-a-Car sponsors an annual Honeymoon Disasters Contest. Entries result in amusing feature stories printed in major newspapers and magazines throughout the country. For additional publicity mileage, the company announces results near Valentine’s Day, giving the media a perfect story that piggybacks on a holiday.
CELEBRATING AN ANNIVERSARY?
The fact that your company is celebrating an anniversary or birthday isn’t news. But it would be more enticing to the media if you could tie it in to a clever event. A button manufacturer published a lavish photo history of the button—including its uses—on shoes, clothing, furniture and accessories. An accounting firm celebrated its centennial by publishing a giveaway book of commissioned original renditions of what select artists thought it meant to be 100. A national rental car company rented out its fleet of cars for free one day.
CREATE TIP SHEETS
Can you write a tip sheet that explains how to solve a particular problem, or how to do something? It includes helpful free advice. Topics sound like this: 11 Ways to Snag More Business from Your Web site, The 7 Secrets of Profitable Self-Promotion, 9 Ways to Save Money on Insurance Premiums. Each tip sheet should have a short introduction of a sentence or two. At the end, print a paragraph that states the name of the author, the author’s credentials, and contact information such as phone number, e-mail address and web site URL. Think of the Number One problem your customers are facing, and offer tips on how to solve it.
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