Last week we talked about the difference between advertising and publicity, identifying publicity as “earned media,” also known as “editorial content.” This means that instead of paying for space, you offered a reporter or editor convincing data that your story is worth telling in news channels.
It sounds easy enough…you have “news,” and reporters need to tell stories. However, with news staffs shrinking and multiple companies clamoring for attention, it can be harder than ever to capture the attention of journalists who are bombarded with story ideas.
The key is to identify a compelling story that sets you ahead of the pack. Following are some ideas of places to look; find and adapt the ones that apply to your organization or product.
1) Actual News
This might seem obvious, but it is not the only way we are going to explore to receive news coverage (just the best!). Newsy items might include a new product, a significant product innovation, a major new client (get their permission first!), a new round or source of funding or an expansion either of your physical space or your employee base.
2) Community Service/ Charity Endeavors
Many blogs and publications, especially smaller ones, would love a good action shot of your employees involved in community service, whether it’s painting a shelter or sorting food for a food drive. Additionally, you can often get at least a small notice if you serve as the clearing house for collecting coats, school supplies or food items that community members can drop.
3) Employees Who Volunteer
Do you have someone who heads up a volunteer board, puts in hours tutoring kids at risk or started a helpline for community members who need winter clothes? Many times a community organization will do its own publicity, but sometimes they have so many volunteers they don’t know where to start. If you become aware of an employee who goes above and beyond, why not let your local community paper or blogger know?
4) Expert Commentary on Issues in the News
Reporters are always looking for “local angles,” to larger news stories, or a local source who could talk about something in the news.
For example, if there’s a flu outbreak, a pediatrician or pharmacist could talk about the importance of keeping your vaccinations up to date.
When the stock market goes up or down, a financial planner could discuss how that affects portfolios.
Savvy companies do this regularly; think of 7-11 promoting President Obama’s “Slurpee Summit,” or Etch-a-Sketch coming to the forefront after a statement by the spokesperson for candidate Mitt Romney. It’s about seizing on a moment in the public zeitgeist and connecting your spokesperson, brand or company to a public conversation.
5) Trend Stories
Even when it’s hard to get coverage specifically on your company or product, consider how it fits into a trend.
If you are a restaurant, are you offering summer salads (and so is everyone else?) No problem! Pitch a food reporter on summer salads and offer yours as especially tasty ones. He/she might include others, but it’s a recipe mention that you wouldn’t have gotten at all if you hadn’t suggested the trend..or, the article might have been done anyway…without you.
Tastemakers have anointed orange as the “color of the season;” and perhaps your boutique is full of it. You could invite them down to see how orange accessories make an outfit pop and fit into the current trend. They might do a story on all kinds of orange items, but you will be part of it.
6) Holiday or Seasonal Stories
Reporters like to make their stories seem timely and you can give them a hook that ties into the season or holiday.
Holiday shopping is an easy one, but there are so many more! Spring home buying season offers opportunities for landscapers, nurseries, paint suppliers, realtors, home “stagers.”
Back to school time? Do you sell nifty school supplies or clothes? Are you a photographer who could give tips on great first-day-of-school photos?
The new year brings the opportunity for personal improvement/resolution stories: fitness professionals, gyms, healthy menu items, cooking techniques.
7) “Celebrate National ____ Month”
Happy May! Did you know it’s “National Artisan Gelato Month?” Wait! And “National Asparagus Month,” “Foot Health Month” and National Good Car Keeping Month.” Someone has designated these wacky months and while it can be a stretch, there’s always the chance you might pique a reporter’s interest by linking to these declarations. Here’s a link to an “unofficial list.”
The bottom line is that there are myriad ways to earn publicity for your company, from the straightforward to the more farfetched. The key is to get creative and get your message out.
What are some ways that have worked for your company?
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Series on Working with the Media
- Part 1: Top Story? Or First Commercial Break? How Advertising and PR Differ
- Part 2: 7 Ways to Identify Newsworthy Stories in your Organization
- Part 3: Telling Your Story: Tips for Working with the Media
- Part 4: How to Leverage Your Media Exposure: Making the Most of Your 15 Minutes of Fame
by Cathie Ericson