“The media hates us small business folks. They never contact me. They write about my competitors, but ignore me.”
I hear that a lot from small business people on a regular basis. I gently have to explain to them that for the most part, they are wrong.
In my 25 years-plus experience in media relations, I find most businesses get exactly the media coverage they deserve. Some folks expect a reporter to contact them and write a puff piece about how great their business is, how great an owner they are, and—of course— put it on the cover of the publication.
The reality is reporters receive several hundred of emails, letters, phone calls, news releases, etc. each week asking/begging/demanding editorial coverage. The vast majority of the solicitations are like junk mail and tossed into the circular file never to be seen again.
Keep in mind, media outlets—particularly newspapers–are reducing staff at an alarming rate.
There are fewer journalists and their beats are bigger than ever. It is a high-pressure environment.
Publicity doesn’t just happen. It takes work and effort. You have to know what is “news” and then you have to get reporters interested in your story. And no one can guarantee 100 percent positive results.
The reality is small businesses generally can’t afford to have a public relations staff. They have to either hire a media professional to help them get coverage or try and do it themselves.
While some small business folks are very successful generating their own publicity, most fail miserably.
When I talk about media coverage I am speaking about generating non-paid editorial coverage of a business. If you want your brand to be in the minds of consumers you need to have an integrated marketing approach that involves an advertising program combined with media relations efforts.
Advertising can be very effective. However, studies have shown editorial coverage to be considerably more valuable than advertising. Editorial coverage is a third-person endorsement that gives a business much more credibility than can frequently be achieved via advertising alone.
If you want coverage you have to know the media outlets who might be interested in your product/service and the editors/reporters at those outlets. You need to be able to get your message to them and get them interested in you. You also should realize those needs may vary depending on whether we are talking about newspapers, TV, radio, social media, etc.
Getting editorial coverage is similar to sales. Your goal is to “sell” the story of your business to a reporter in the hope of generating publicity. There are many similar comparisons:
- When you sell a product you target a potential buyer. The same is true with publicity. You target those reporters/publications that are aimed at your target audience.
- Selling involves discussing features and benefits. If you want a reporter to write about your business you need to highlight your firm’s unique features and benefits.
- Buyers often raise objections during the sales process. Reporters might also ask tough questions. You handle them the same as you would a sales objection.
- Being honest with customers is the best policy. The same is true with reporters.
Once you make connections with editors and reporters at the various news outlets you will soon realize the news media never really hated your business. Chances are they were simply not aware of it.