Pitching your small business news to a television station or newspaper can be intimidating. You know your news is newsworthy, but it can be hard to pinpoint why it is. In order to get buy in from the media you’re trying to connect with you have to give them a reason to latch on to the information. You have to give them the angle. It is a guiding principle for coverage that spans all media platforms and all generations of news. The angle is what makes people care about your story and without knowing the angle for your small business news, it will be hard to convey its importance to journalists. (Tweet this!)
Small Business Owners Finding Time for PR
Landing a positive TV spot on your local news station or a great profile in your community business journal can be a goldmine for your small business. There’s no denying what authoritative exposure can do for your reputation and trustworthiness, but incorporating public relations tactics into your marketing is no small task. So, how does a small business owner who’s strapped for time and resources add PR strategies into the fold? Keeping in mind the seven common points media use to determine which stories are in fact newsworthy will save you a lot of time and energy. Knowing the seven points will help you determine when to email or call a media person and when your story just isn’t quite news.
Sometimes the best angle for a story is that it impacts a lot of people. News is in the business of having as many readers or viewers as they can get, so if your story can appeal to a broad audience, you just might peak the media’s interest. Ask yourself, “Is this news important or interesting to a large number of people in my community, state or country?” The further your story can reach, the more newsworthy it is. Example: 15-Year-Old Entrepreneur Looks to Disrupt Sugary Drinks Market While being a teenage entrepreneur comes with a draw all its own, diet reform is a hot-button issue that’s impact stretches far. Schools are banning soda machines. Sports drink companies are trying to bend to the call for healthier options. And Define Bottle found a way to insert itself right into that conversation. Find the sweeping issues that connect with your small business news.
Local media craves local stories. Hosting an event that’s bringing together local community members and planning a fundraiser to benefit the community are great localized stories. And sometimes, it doesn’t even take a direct community interaction to entice journalists. There are plenty of stories that hook in just because you are the only one (or one of a few) doing what you do in your community. Example: Study Buddy to the Masses: The Blaine Vess story featured in the LA Times covers the small business success of an entrepreneurial college student turned CEO of StudyMode, “a West Hollywood network of education websites.” While the story is compelling in a number of ways, the fact that Vess was a Hollywood resident made him a much more viable news story candidate for the LA Times than if he had lived in New York. If you have a good small business story that’s different from your neighbors’, see if your residence alone is enough to angle your story. Start hyper-local with town publications and go from there to see if there is a fit for larger coverage outlets.
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Get your Business noticed: PR Tactics
This can be a relative measurement, but typically newsworthiness is increased when events are recent and fresh. If something important happened yesterday, don’t wait a week to share it. But also be aware of timely trends. Not every media pitch has to coincide with a national news story, but keep a finger on the pulse of relevant topics that might align with your business. Example: Startups Want to Be the Next Airbnb, Uber In the case of this Wall Street Journal article, the small business mentioned didn’t ride the coattails of a major Airbnb announcement. They simply hopped aboard the trend that is “sharing-economy.” Identify a few pop culture movements that your small business parallels. Is there a strong connection for a story there?
Sometimes finding the right angle can truly be about “who you know.” Or even better, who knows you. If you’ve established a reputation, earned an award or are hosting an event with the who’s who of attendees, you can leverage that as an angle when pitching the media. Events that involve well-known individuals or organizations can make something very newsworthy. Example: Oregon couple wins SBA’s small business of the year award This Oregon couple likely didn’t become famous overnight, with their Portland perfume company, but earning a coveted award from the Small Business Administration helped them leverage another organization’s prominence and earn a spotlight in the Washington Post. Who in your network garnishes considerable media attention? What accolades have you earned that elevate your small business’ status? Without bragging (or using people like pawns) find ways to wield the relationships and acclaim you’ve earned to elevate a PR pitch.
The media loves controversies. Clearly. And an easy way to insert your business into conflict is to rest on the cause or purpose that makes it different. Defining your opponents and positioning yourself on the other side of the fence can make for great news. Example: Small Businesses Trying to Stay Afloat in Chelsea’s Rising Tide of Wealth The New York business owners spoke out against the wealthy class that was squeezing them out of business. They didn’t have to start a fight in the street, they simply pointed to their adversary and took their stand. Let’s say you stand for locally made products and the national news covers a story about increased offshoring of labor jobs. Perhaps you have an opportunity to join the conversation by voicing your belief in locally made products. Your point may be controversial, but it could also pull at the heartstrings of your target market who believes in shopping local.
Make note of the three “U’s”:
A fundraiser with a cocktail reception may make news – if it satisfies one of the other six elements – but let’s say you host an annual fundraiser to collect clothes for a nonprofit and everyone strips down to their underwear in public to celebrate the event? Believe it or not, it’s an actual charity that gets plenty of local and national coverage. Being quirky is an angle most publications can appreciate. Just make sure eccentric behavior still aligns with your small business’ brand and values, taking a little risk can pay off in PR.
An idea that baffles the brain a little will get a reader's attention, and therefore gets journalists attention, too. Publications want to be able to tell their audience something they haven’t heard before. Example: Michigan men finding success in failure talks In the case of this USA Today story, it’s that a group of men were finding success by just highlighting their failures. If something counterintuitive exists in your business explore it a bit. If you can generate some off-kilter angles, you might have journalists begging for more.
7. Human Interest
This is the story where a man saves a puppy from a storm drain, or someone overcomes adversity to achieve his or her dreams. They are the stories that truly make you feel something. Whether it be sadness or joy, it is the subject that gets to the heart. A business owner who can find an angle that gives people teary-eyes and butterflies is onto a solid PR pitch. Example: Autistic Teen Inspires Mom to Launch Online Job Board for Applicants with Special Needs Often these types of features have themes like triumph, selflessness and perseverance. The above Huffington Post article speaks for itself in the title alone. Allow yourself to be a little personal and emotional and expose the side of your small business that is most human.
Multi-Point PR Approach and New Media
When pitching your next news story to the media, having at least one of the above points can let you know you’re on a good track. Harvesting multiple points within a single news pitch is even better. In the published examples above, you can often pinpoint two to three big angles in the story. A “local hero” type would cover proximity and human interest. If the governor thanked the hero on top of all that appeal, you’d have a trifecta of pitching points with prominence rounding out the trio. Keep an eye out for the signs that point to a good story before you even begin pitching so that you don’t waste time emailing journalists story ideas. Also, don’t be afraid to follow up to a great pitch you developed. Media receives hundreds of email pitches and it might take two or three emails before they get to it. If you don’t hear back after the third follow up, don’t be upset. The media person probably wasn’t interested and 9 times out of 10, they won’t follow up to tell you that. This isn’t because they don’t like you, it’s because they are just too busy. Once you’ve figured out how to identify a good piece, broaden your horizons for what you consider media to be. Think beyond your local business journal, daily publication or local broadcaster. You’d be surprised by the number of trade publications, blogs and podcasts that exist and the success you can have with them.
As Infusionsoft’s PR Specialist, Cory Fetter is responsible for evangelizing the company’s brand and helping foster credibility in the marketplace for its products. He also manages local and national media relations, awards and executive speaking engagements. In his Infusionsoft tenure, the PR team has received a PR World Award for “Event Campaign of the Year” and a the PR News Award for being named a “Top 50 Places to Work in PR.” Prior to Infusionsoft, Cory worked at a multinational Fortune 500 company responsible for supporting PR, social media and executive communications. In his free time he enjoys hiking, eating at locally owned restaurants and catching up with friends over a cup of tea. Connect with Cory on Twitter @Cory_Fetter.