If you take your time and do your homework, you can absolutely get media coverage for your product or service without having to hire outside help. In fact you’ll probably end up doing a better job, if you dedicate yourself to it. As an entrepreneur, I firmly believe in the power of building relationships yourself — in tearing down walls so you can control your own destiny.
When I founded a guitar pick company back in the early 2000s, I read everything I could on the Internet about how to get press. I didn’t have the resources to hire a firm, but like I said, I’m also a do-it-yourself kind of guy. What I learned worked! At least it did some of the time. I will never forget being picked up in a limo in New York City to appear on “The Big Idea” with Donny Deutsch. There I was, sitting in the green room, nervous as hell for my first national TV spot.
It felt like a huge victory. Because I desperately wanted to be on the show, I had watched every segment and read everything I could about it. When I felt like I knew who Donny’s audience was, I sent a pitch to the show’s executive producers, whose names I had written down by pausing the screen when the credits rolled. I wanted them to know how my company Hot Picks had turned a simple piece of plastic into something special. To that end, I included a bunch of guitar picks in the letter itself, which I hoped would spill out when it was opened. (I needed to do something to stand out, I’d been told.)
Sure enough, it worked. The producer called me wanting to know if I was available right away because they needed a story next week, but they were looking for a different angle. Did I have a ‘down-and-out’ story? Yes of course! I pitched them right then and there over the phone about the time one of my products stopped earning royalties and I was forced to pivot. They loved it.
Remember: It’s never about your story. It’s about their audience and what they need.
These days, the shoe is on the foot. Meaning now that I attend trade shows to report on the state of open innovation for online publications including this one, companies and entrepreneurs who are selling their products or services reach out to me. They flood my inbox, actually. Some companies I respond to. Others I ignore.
This is what I’ve learned over the past 16 years. Please, if you do one thing in your search for media coverage, it’s this.
Make it personal.
If I receive a request for an interview that looks like it was sent out to a huge mailing list, I avoid it like the plague. In advance of CES, I was cc’d on an email that included at least 400 others. For some reason, it didn’t make me feel special. So many of the requests that came in weren’t persuasive, actually. Most were far too long. It wasn’t clear how their product or service benefited consumers and I wasn’t motivated to do my own research because I don’t have that kind of time. Requests that didn’t look like a good fit for my audience I moved on from quickly.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it when someone has done a little homework on me before reaching out. If you know my audience, if you understand what kinds of angles I am looking for… your pitch is so much more likely to be successful. Doing this kind of research doesn’t take that much time.
If you want to get coverage, personalize your pitch. When I receive an inquiry from a company that reflects a familiarity with my work, I’m quick to reply. Done right — meaning short, to the point, very personable, and relevant to my target audience — why wouldn’t I? It’s a no-brainer. Flattery works. It always does. It breeds familiarity. You already know me, and I like that!
The truth is I’m always looking for stories my readers will love — stories that have a unique angle. I’m looking for a gold nugget I can bring them, because my readers are my number-one priority.
My advice? Do your homework. Before you reach out to a journalist, take the time to think about their audience.
The second most important thing you can do to get press? Make your entreaty extremely easy to digest.
What that means in practice:
1. Keep it short. Pitches that are too long do not get read. Like I said, I’m pressed for time. Everyone else is too! I read pitches that are easy on my eyes. Design your pitch, including spacing, accordingly.
2. Choose your subject line and headlines carefully. If you don’t grab me quickly, you’ve lost me. We all know this, but it seriously bears repeating: Brevity is powerful. You must condense the benefit of what it is you’re offering in to one powerful concept, be it a headline or subject line. This is not easy to do. I struggle with it all the time.
Please remember: There are so many ways to tell the same story. Tailor the attention-grabbing benefit statement you come up to the individual you contact for press. This is crucial.
3. Consider including photographs. From a design standpoint, they may help you convey more information quickly. They’re also pleasing to look at, which is a bonus.
4. Approach a specific person in the news by name. The scattershot approach doesn’t work. Neither do press releases. Please, make your pitches personal. That means contacting a specific individual. Use their name and be sure to spell it correctly. Compliment some of their latest work.
5. Don’t bother including the other news coverage you’ve already received. Immediately I wonder whether there is anything new that I can offer my audience. I feel like I’m last to the party. If that is the case, at least give me something a little different. A new take, if you will.
I don’t think people realize how much the experts who cover their industry want to hear from them. I certainly do. I’m always looking for some fresh insight. This is a two-way street. If you pursue getting press coverage like you’re kicking off a two-way relationship, you’re far more likely to actually get it.
Written by Stephen Key