Getting press coverage is the nirvana for many businesses.  After all, it’s ‘free advertising’, isn’t it?

The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’!  No editor worth their salt would publish a blatant ad free.  There has to be something in the piece that they think will interest their readers. 

However, you may have heard that any press is good, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative.  I don’t agree with that – anything published that damages your reputation is not good news.

For a small business, coming up with interesting news even once a month, is a challenge.  You can submit a hundred press releases and there’s no guarantee any of them will get published.

Q: What’s the alternative?

A: Hire a PR agency or do it yourself.

What can a PR agency do?

They will work with you to generate good stories and then work on their press connections to get your story published.  A good agency has strong connections with a range of publications and knows the ropes and they’ll look at other options to promote your business too.

They will usually have professional writers in-house who will craft press releases to tick the boxes for the chosen publications.

They’ll also be able to suggest publications that might be good targets for your business.

Is there another way?

If you have some time and can write fluently, or have someone on your team who can, you could go about getting publishing from a different angle.

Instead of trying to come up with a story, think about your knowledge and how could you put your expertise in front of your target audience.

Firstly, you’ll need do some research.  You need to know:

  • What your clients read – and the easiest way to do that is to ask them where they keep up to date with business news and their industry updates.
  • What kind of content those publications feature. You need to be able to deliver something that matches their style and tone, if you don’t want it either rejected or edited out of all recognition.
  • Whether each publication accepts external content. The best way to do this is to ring up and try to speak to the editor.  Explain that you have some articles that might be a good fit for their publication and ask if they would be interested.  It’s all about building relationships.

Realistically you won’t get through to the editor of the Times or the Telegraph, you’ll be doing well to actually get to talk to the Business News Editor.  However, this isn’t the kind of publication you’re targeting.

Most people read their industry journals or specialist publications for the area they work in.  These publications are often smaller and frequently run by a commissioning editor who engages freelance journalists to write the majority of articles.  In addition they may pick up syndicated items (articles written once and published in several different publications). 

Even if they have a couple of in-house journalists they are likely to be interested in good content.  There are no guarantees, but nothing ventured, nothing gained!

When you call up any editor you should:

  • Be friendly
  • Know the publication you’re calling – you need to understand what they publish so you can make intelligent suggestions
  • Ask questions and be interested
  • Don’t talk about your business too much, the purpose of the call is to find out how you can help them, not the other way around
  • Have at least three potential articles with a title and one line summary ready to pitch

What not to do

If the publication agrees to publish one or more of your articles don’t:

  • Miss the deadline
  • Give them 1500 words when they’ve asked for 800
  • Include ANY sales copy for your products or services (you can include your name, company and website at the foot of the article, but you’ll know what this particular publication allows from your research – won’t you?)
  • Chase them to find out about publication dates
  • Complain if your article doesn’t appear in the issue (if something hot comes up it may get pushed to a later edition)

The plus is that if you write good quality content and stick to their rules, they’ll probably be happy to have more content from you.