If you want to get your business in the news, the first thing to do is to work out which publications you want to target.

Of course, making the headlines in the national dailies would be amazing, but, to be realistic, you have to have something big time to make it past the editor’s red pen.  A brand new invention, results that nobody else has been able to achieve or something very controversial would be needed just to get their interest, let alone actually make it into print.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel and give up writing press releases.  Instead you need to get smart!

Step One: find out what your ideal client reads

This will require you to do two exercises – firstly, create a detailed profile of your perfect client.  It sounds easy, but it’s harder than most people think.  Don’t be tempted to generalise – and don’t be diverted by all the people you COULD help.  What you’re aiming for here is the client who loves what you do for them and that is a joy to work for.

The second step is to do your research into what kind of business reading your target audience do.  Is it local business publications, industry journals, professional publications from an industry body?  Do they read hard copy or online?  What kind of articles attract their attention?

Step two: build a press list

The results from step one will take you halfway to creating a press list.  However, the names of the publications are not enough.  Go online and search for:

  • Each publication’s website
  • The name of the editor (for big publication that might be a specific editor – e.g. the business editor)
  • An email address
  • The phone number
  • What you can find out about their reader demographics
  • Frequency of publication and deadline for the next publication

Read at least one, ideally two, issues of each publication to get an idea of the type of articles they publish and the tone and style of that publication.

Step three: create 2-3 potential article outlines

This would be a headline and a brief (2-3 line) overview of what the article will cover.  You’ll need to be clear about why the publication’s readers will be interested/get value/benefit from the article.

You’ll need these before you move on to step 4.

Step four: pick up the phone

Set aside some time to call each publication.  Rather than try to contact a dozen publications, maybe target three at a time.

Your aim is to talk to the editor or section editor and find out:

  • Do they take unsolicited or uncommissioned articles?
  • Would they be interested in occasional articles around the subjects your outlines cover?
  • What is the best way for you to submit potential material?

If you can’t get hold of the right person, talking to their assistant could be helpful.

If you have found out when their publication deadline is, don’t call in the days leading up to that – their focus will not be on what you’re saying and you’re more likely to get a ‘no’ as it’s the quickest way of getting you out of their hair.

When you find publications who are interested, follow their instructions and don’t bombard them with material.  Check your submissions carefully for spelling, grammar and punctuation before sending it – they do have editors, but the less they need to do the better and it’s your reputation on the line.

Then, as they say, ‘rinse and repeat’!