(Photo by Flickr user Sean Davis, used via a Creative Commons license)
Capture Greatness! founder Melissa Rowe‘s column, Social Good and the Solopreneur, is dedicated to local change makers who are doing their part to make their corner of the world a better place. Melissa will discuss launching passion projects to build businesses on shoestring budgets and with a single-person army.
Think you need a small miracle to get some press coverage on your social good venture? Think again.
For solopreneurs, getting press might be #167 on our to-do lists, but we know it’s good for business. No matter how many Twitter followers you may have, a solid news story by a creditable outlet can get you in front of thousands of people, including decision makers and influencers.
So, how exactly do you make the pursuit of press a worthwhile endeavor? Glad you asked.
Last week, I attended the Urban Affairs Coalition’s Coalition U session, “Public Relations on a Shoestring Budget.” Here are some of the top tips, right from the mouths of local PR and journalism professionals who spoke on the panel.
1. Be timely
I bet that you’ve been thinking about, talking about, or maybe even worrying about the upcoming presidential election. And you know why? Because it’s all over the news, in your Facebook timeline and trending on Twitter.
Just like political stories are all around us, there are just as many opportunities for your venture to be featured. The key is to be in tune with the news and submit stories that add to the current conversations.
Get yourself a calendar and highlight all of the upcoming holidays, mark off relevant awareness days/weeks/months, and keep track of local annual events. Use this calendar system to help you frame and pitch timely stories that journalists are looking to add their publications. But don’t rely solely on this long-term strategy.
Darisha Miller, cofounder of TDM Associates, suggested that we wake up and go to bed looking at the news. The more abreast you are, the easier it is to identify prime opportunities to submit stories that can contribute to or put a twist on current hot topics.
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2. Build relationships
You know that one cousin who comes around only when they want something? Yeah, don’t be like her. Ernest Owens, editor for Philadelphia Magazine’s G Philly, reminded that journalists are people, too. They are more likely to cover stories for organizations where they have built rapport or relationships.
To cultivate relationships with folks who work in media, try inviting journalists to your events. Are you planning a mixer or fundraiser? Reach out to folks who cover news that pertain to your industry. Planning a conference? Invite your favorite journalist to give the keynote.
Can’t offer a face-to-face invitation? Find your favorite journalists on social media and build an organic relationship. See what types of events they attend, what content they share with their audiences, and what messages they promote. If your work is inline with what they cover you might have a friend in the media sooner than later.
Lisa Rediker of Skai Blue Media even suggested building some buzz on social media for your own organization: “Don’t underestimate the power of social media!” she said. Organizations that can garner attention on social media are easy picks for local news stories.
Owens did warn against randomly tagging journalists in your photos or flooding their inboxes with your request for coverage. It’s inappropriate and inconsiderate. [Editor’s note: Amen.]
3. Spin a good story
The key to press is constant storytelling. And that’s exactly what journalists are looking for when they are being pitched. Does your story make the public care, want to act, or more informed? In addition to “who-what-when-where,” remember that “why” is often more important. Why does your story matter? Why does it need to be told right now? Why should this particular journalist cover the story?
Maybe you’re not planning an event or don’t have any big “news” to announce. That’s just fine. Revisit your research and data and see if you have a social awareness story that the public needs to pay attention to. To make it even more visually appealing, turn the data into cool infographics that can be published, as well.
Check out how Valley Youth House turned survey data into a story that matters to all of us with its #CouchesDontCount campaign.
Brandon Szeker, PR manager for Philly PR Girl, explained that with some ingenuity, you’ll find that there are stories all around you. He suggested looking at Laurel Hill Cemetery as a great example of how to keep your name in the press. Check out how the cemetery spun a story out of losing one of its historic trees.
Monica Peters, founder of GNCPR, noted that after years in working in PR, her most effective approach has been to implement a good strategy.
In addition to sending a press release to journalists by email, call the reporter’s desk as soon as you click send. If you get them on the phone, your email will be right at the top of their inbox and they won’t have to search for it and will be more inclined to hear to you out since you caught them in the moment.
If being on a news broadcast is what you’re after, call the assignment desks of each station and find out who the AM, noon and PM editors are. Request them by name the next time you call to make a direct request to have a camera crew at your event.
Lastly, find out from the news desk editors what time they meet to review and approve story ideas. Your goal is to get your story in before the meeting, so that it can be discussed and considered for the day ahead.
While getting coverage for your business might feel daunting, it gets easier once you get some momentum going. Said Szeker, “Don’t give up. We get ‘no’s’ all the time. Get back up.”
Want to be featured on Generocity? Send your pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org.-30-
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