Five ways to get press coverage for your business
After many years as a business journalist on the receiving end of thousands of press releases that I never opened, let alone used, here are my five top tips for securing press coverage for your company*.
1. Look at feature schedules
Perhaps the easiest way — and something that almost all PR agencies do — is to consult your target publications’ feature schedules.
Apart from news coverage, most magazines plan their editorial output throughout the year to match specific groups of advertisers. For example, a construction magazine might have a cranes special one month to attract crane companies to advertise in the magazine, and an aggregates special another month to get concrete and asphalt suppliers to spend money with them.
However, any publication worth knowing will separate editorial and advertising functions. This means that while the sales team is busy securing advertising revenue, there is a journalist responsible for filling the editorial pages that will sit next to that advertising.
Find out the name of the journalist responsible to see what way your company could contribute to the editorial output — don’t just write something up and send it in cold. This rarely secures press coverage.
Feature schedules can normally be found on most magazine’s websites, usually in the “Advertise” section.
National press publications rarely have features schedules as such, although some of the business sections and titles like the Financial Times do have regular supplements looking at different industries. The FT’s calendar can be found by going to ft.com/special-reports and clicking on the reports link called “Future and planned reports”.
2. Connect with journalists
As mentioned above, getting in touch with a journalist to find out what kind of material they are after is far more likely to generate press coverage for your business than sending in material cold.
While features schedules are one way to find out the kind of content journalists are looking for, there are many others that will help you.
Firstly, publications with multiple journalists will normally have a contacts page with mini-biographies telling you the specific topic areas that each journalist is writing about.
Most journalists are also on twitter, so follow them to see the kind of stories they are tweeting.
However, make sure you don’t mistake following them on twitter for genuinely connecting: once you have established that they write about your sector, pick up the phone to see how you can help them with their output.
Even better, try to arrange a meeting face to face — the promise of booze and food normally goes down a treat. As most journalists are pretty time-poor, this will often need to be done near their office or at an industry event that they are already attending.
3. Be topical
Once you have established which titles and journalists you ought to be speaking to, it is no good bombarding them with your thoughts about a piece of legislation introduced two years ago.
Keep on top of current affairs in your industry. That way you have the best chance of being able to comment on something the journalist is writing about. Most publications are stretched these days, with fewer staff required to generate more output both online and in print.
A well-placed industry source that can offer a few interesting quotes (you don’t need to be armed with a comprehensive analysis) on current topics is a god-send to a time-poor reporter.
The best thing is, because journalists have so little time to actively go out and make new contacts these days, you can guarantee that if what you said was interesting and useful, they will keep coming to you for quotes in the future.
4. Join a trade body
If you aren’t a member of an industry trade body, then become one. And if you are, then get involved with the various committees that they may have.
Often a first port of call for any journalist when researching a story is the relevant trade body.
If the query is about a specific industry topic rather than something general that a member of the body’s leadership team could answer, then the PR and marketing departments will often put the journalist in touch with a member of a committee that is responsible for this area.
Alternatively, some professional institutions, such as the British Psychological Society, have an approved list of members who have been media trained and can be offered up for interview whenever they are approached with media requests. Do whatever it takes to get on that list.
5. Public speaking
Probably the most difficult to achieve out of the five, but a sure-fire winner for column inches: if you can deliver a topical speech to a room with multiple journalists desperate to file copy (not to mention plenty of potential customers also in the audience), then you are almost guaranteed to see your company’s name in print.
Most industry conferences and exhibitions are put together by companies that have links with either trade bodies or industry publications.
The best way to secure speaking slots (without having to pay for them) is to master steps 1–4.
Conference organisers will often asks editors and trade bodies for recommendations for speakers on various topics — if you are already a regular spokesman on a particular topic, then it is highly likely you will get the call.
All of this of course begs the question of why a business should want press coverage in the first place, and what they should do with it when they get it.
In other words, how can you translate press coverage into sales leads? But that’s a post for another day!
*To see how these rules have proven effective for one of our clients in the construction sector, click here.
Originally published at ampup.co.uk on September 8, 2015.