This article originally appeared at American Express Open ForumSocial media now makes it easy for any business, no matter how small, to generate publicity.
But there’s still a certain something about making the more traditional news. Getting a news outlet to cover what you’re doing not only saves you time (if someone else is doing the promoting, you don’t have to do as much of it yourself) but it also allows you to reach a larger, more diverse audience.
The basics to getting news coverage: Be concise, be interesting, be relevant. But what else can you do to get noticed? Here are six ways to make sure your news release isn’t put in a pile with the rest of the no-gos.
1. Don’t oversell
True, your outreach to the media should tout what your company has to offer, but if it sounds too much like an advertisement, the journalist reading it will likely lose interest. Many businesses opt to oversell their accomplishments and offerings to the media, but bombarding journalists with over-wrought language and embellished claims leaves them dizzy, not dazzled. If the successes you’ve had are newsworthy, simply sharing them with a reporter should be enough. A good reporter will sooner or later figure out if something you presented as fact is an overstatement. When this happens, you run the risk that he or she will throw out the story and not call you back in the future.
2. Know your target
Mass e-mailing an entire newsroom means two things: First, the right person will get the e-mail, and second, that they’ll see everyone else did too. You stand a much better chance of getting follow-up if you take the time to scope out the media scene where you are, familiarise yourself with various journalists’ work, and understand how your business could fit into these specialties. That way, you can personalise e-mails and better explain why you think your story pitch is a good fit. It could serve you well, too. If there’s someone who fits the bill on hand, it’ll likely be a better story if it’s written by someone with experience covering your industry.
3. Engage with reporters and news outlets
Social media comes into play here as a key way you can find reporters and news outlets who might be interested in covering your business. Vet reporters who write the things you like to read, and who cover industries related to yours. If they’ve written something you like, tweet at them and let them know. Make an effort to start dialogue with writers this way. It gets them familiar with your name and maybe even interested in what you do, which could come in handy when your story idea pops up in their inboxes. And when that happens, be smart about your presentation. “We all get so many e-mails that we’re tired of reading them,” Gordon Deal, host of The Wall Street Journal This Morning, said in Ragan’s PR Daily. “The subject line is your ticket in. It’s got to capture the idea and the readers’ interest in just that handful of words. If I get so far as to open the e-mail, the final selling point has to be those first two lines because, chances are, I’m not going to get to that second or third paragraph.
4. Follow up, but don’t be creepy
Newsrooms are busy places, so it might be difficult to get an update with the reporters you sent your stuff to. Reminding them of your story might help move you from the back-burner, but don’t be too pushy. Generally, if a reporter is interested in you, he or she will follow up. If you don’t hear back, it’s worth nudging the reporter with an e-mail reminder of your story. Maybe send a tweet too. But if you’re not getting anything back at that point, it’s time to frame a new story and craft a new release to send out. If you’re too demanding, you’ll put yourself in a bad spot by coming off as high maintenance and tough to work with.
5. Offer a few angles
When framing your story, show a handful of ways your company’s tale can be told. Not only does this demonstrate that you’re newsworthy in more ways than one, it also boosts your chances of providing a reporter with a resonant idea. When there is more to choose from, there’s clearly a greater likelihood that something will fit what the publication aims to cover. If you’re lucky, and if your pitches are good, the writer might even sit on another one for a rainy day, or come to you as an expert source for another story. By showing your depth, you provide breadth.
6. Tell stories, not your history
Reporters aren’t investors, and the history of your company doesn’t often make for the meatiest story. Shy away from too much basic info, which will probably be either too dry or too dense to work with. “When it comes to pitching a story to the media, remember that your goal is to help them uncover a good story,” advises UnderstandingMarketing.com. “If you want to promote your company, buy an advertisement.” Share what your business is really doing—on the ground, for customers, for investors. Remember that mainstream media outlets deliver news to the everyman. If the materials you provide aren’t easily digested, they probably won’t amount to a story.
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