Getting Media Attention for Your Business

Getting media attention for your business - #TwitterSmarter chat with Christina Nicholson - March 12, 2020

When we talk about getting media attention, we often visualize local heroes featured in mainstream TV shows and news papers. However, not all media coverage is the same. For example, if you’re a small business, even an online review by an influencer in your community can help catapult your reach.

So what’s the best way to get that review? Well, you could just hope for the influencer to come across your business by chance. Or, you could develop relationships with media people and influencers in your industry and start pitching your offering to them. We invited PR specialist and owner of Media Maven, Christina Nicholson, to clarify some questions about getting media attention.

Here’s a summary of our chat.

Guest: Christina Nicholson
Topic: Getting Media Attention for Your Business
Format: Eight questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: How important is it for a business to get press coverage?

Some businesses are clearly not interested in press coverage. They don’t like the spotlight and media coverage feels awkward to them.

Sure, you’re not in business only for the attention. However, press coverage isn’t paparazzi. It’s not you trumpeting about yourself. Instead, it’s other people talking about you. In a way, that acts as a referral—if a trustworthy person vouches for you, then you should be trustworthy too.

Over time, media coverages pile up, increasing your credibility and making you more discoverable on search engines. You start to establish yourself as an expert in the field, which works in your favor.

For instance, think about the latest guest in your favorite podcast. If didn’t know them before you listened to the episode, but liked what they had to say, you would look them up online afterwards to discover they share a lot of helpful content. Now that’s what a successful press coverage can do for you—you could be the guest people discovered on a rainy day.

Of course, this popularity will also increase the number of likes, retweets, and the overall attention you get on social media. Which deems you as a verified and highly-trustworthy profile.

All that said, it’s important to be cautious as well. For as Matthew pointed out, sometimes press coverage can be not too favorable as well. For instance, in the medical industry, even if you’re featured for a positive reason, because of the stigma and fear associated with many medical material—like cannabis, for example—you could end up with a negative impacts.

So yes, media coverage is generally great for your business, but it’s also heavily dependant on what you do and how you get your message across. Of course, being featured as a medical marijuana dealer where it’s completely legal is different from being featured in a society that frowns upon it.

Q2: When is a business ready for press coverage?

Is anyone ever ready? If you’re waiting for things to be perfect before you showcase your business to the world, you’ll be waiting a long time, my friend. Perfection is subjective.

That’s why, as our guest reminded us, you won’t get anywhere unless people know about you. Just stop worrying about the ideal moment and get started right away.

Not to mention that getting a press coverage is the quickest and one of the easiest ways of getting more customers. It’s a chain reaction that needs some attention to trigger it.

Christina even shared an example to show us how effective press coverages can be. For example, one of her clients ran a business that wasn’t even a full-time venture—they did it whenever they had the time, such as on weekends and after work. But the moment the Today Show picked it up, they went from a backyard business to a record-breaking success.

So how soon can you prepare for press coverage?

Well, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched!

Absolutely! But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until they become hens.

If you’re excessively worried about not being ready, take Amelie’s advice. In this social media age, everyone knows flawlessness is impossible. What’s more, it’s the dents and bumps and chipped edges that make you who you are.

People want to buy from people, not perfectly manicured business bots. (Of course, you can’t have dents and chips if you’re a new car dealer or a mug seller—but you get the idea.) Being human is being slightly imperfect. Embrace that reality.

Q3: How often should you pitch your business for media coverage?

As often as you access social media: every day. News changes every second, and unless you pitch your idea on time, it could be too late afterwards. Especially for news items and article pitches about current issues and social situations—like the bushfire crisis in Australia or the fall of the healthcare system in Italy, or the Super Tuesday battle—you have to shed your inhibitions and start pitching.

But it’s not as easy as tweeting about a widespread virus. Interacting with journalists can be daunting for both sides. That’s why Christina advises to block time on your calendars, say twice every week, to deliberately engage with media personnel.

You can also look into HARO or Help a Reporter Out—an online service that connects you directly with journalists. You help them, and they’ll help you. It’s not a trade, though—it’s relationship building. Here’s a video that Christina shared on how you can make the most of HARO.

Does that mean you should walk up to a journalist and pitch your idea every other day? Nope. Only pitch the ideas that’d make sense for that particular journalist. How do you know which journalist would be interested in your pitch? Well, that’s why you should use Twitter and other social media channels to develop relationships over time. It’s not a one-time discussion. Like Avery said, you have to interact with the media constantly, about various topics, so that when you have an idea, you’ll know who would do most justice to it.

Q4: What are some ways to establish media relationships on Twitter?

Twitter is great, not only because it’s transparent and offers a ton of information, but also because that’s where almost all journalists and media personnel hang out.

Think about it—from your local radio jockeys to your regular TV reporter, everyone’s on Twitter. If you’ve emailed a pitch to the media, locate them on Twitter and let them know. Don’t be pushy about it, but just a casual, introductory message can go a long way in making sure they don’t miss your email.

An easy way to identify media people in your industry is to search. Twitter’s advanced search is a comprehensive way to find and filter accounts and tweets based on keywords, profiles, hashtags, links, and even dates. Use that to broaden your network. And as Joana said, put them all in a list to make it even easier to follow and keep up with their content.

How do you feel when someone retweets your content or responds with a message saying how helpful your article was to them?

That’s how thrilled journalists would be too when you share their work. It matters more than you might think. To establish connections with the media, just engage with their content in a genuine way. Have something to add? Make it a conversation so they know you’re sincerely interested in discussing the topic.

And most importantly, media relationships are like any relationships. You would never dream of calling up a friend only when you want to borrow their car. That’s not friendship. It’s the same with media people. Don’t be selfish. Instead, be a giver—as a member of the community, you have a lot of benefits and capabilities that media people don’t. Help them in any way you can and develop those relationships on goodwill.

Q5: Is media coverage always positive?

It’s important to understand that media coverage often isn’t paid for. When a journalist talks about you, they’re choosing to talk about you. It means that you have no control whatsoever about what they say or how they say it. All you can do is be honest about your offering and policies. If you’re inherently helpful, then any article that talks about you will only benefit you.

On the flip side, if you want to have more autonomy of what a journalist says about you, you’ll have to advertise. That’s a different ball game altogether. Put yourself on your customers’ shoes: would you rather buy a product after looking at an advertisement or after hearing your favorite podcaster recommending it? People generally have a defensive attitude towards ads and they’re extremely conscious of being sold to.

I don’t mean to say ads don’t have a place in marketing—they certainly do. However, even ads can take a wrong turn. Just be aware.

Remember though, sometimes even negative coverage will still give you a surge of traffic and attention. It doesn’t always last, but one bad coverage among hundreds of good ones probably won’t do much harm.

And of course, as Phil pointed out, bad press coverage isn’t bad until you respond to it badly. For instance, when a newspaper gives you a negative review, you can still respond courteously and fix the issues they’ve pointed out. Not only does that give you the upper hand in that situation, but it also shows that you’re listening to your customers and are genuinely interested in improving your offering.

Q6: Share some tips for fixing bad coverage.

Well, you can’t. The only way to cover up bad coverage (ha!) is to earn better press attention going forward. As I said before, one negative comment in a sea of good ones isn’t likely to harm your reputation.

To help us understand media better, Christina broke down the types of media. There’re three: owned, paid, and earned.

Owned media is all your social media channels, blog posts, website, and email campaigns. You own that media, meaning that you have complete control over what’s said about you.

Paid media includes all advertising you do such as search ads, display ads, banners, and posters that you ask popular media outlets to distribute on your behalf. You can control the message, but you’re also paying for it.

Earned media is entirely out of your control. You can develop relationships with media analysts and influential press people, but you can’t put words in their mouth. You can only do your best and hope they say only good things about you.

Oh, and expert tip: If you do get a bad mention in a press, don’t ever resort to silence. Always acknowledge the matter.

Like Lance suggested, if a bad comment is true, consider accepting it. It takes courage for a business to admit its mistakes but it also proves that they’re approachable and are capable of resolving the issue. And of course, the last thing you want is a blame-throwing argument about who said what.

Q7: Should I hire an expert to design a PR strategy or do it myself?

Ironically, PR agencies get a lot of negativity. And rightly so too, from what Christina told us. Here’s the thing: a lot of PR agents tend to overdo and be pushy. No one likes a nagging seller, and that’s why press people turn a doubtful eye towards PR agents. So if you’re going to hire someone, make sure they’re not an immature wannabe.

Experienced and sensible PR agents know how to pitch to the media. They’re not overpowering, and they can even teach you how to build genuinely-lasting relationships.

But hey, nothing comes cheaply. Our guest revealed that the average cost of hiring good PR services in the US can go up to whopping $6000 per month. Not everyone can afford it. Don’t fall for cheap price tags that could potentially harm your business. If hiring a proper PR agent is beyond your budget at the moment, you can always learn to do it yourself.

The internet is full of free resources you can learn from. It’ll take longer, yes, but at least you wouldn’t be handing your business’s reputation to an unseasoned stranger.

Like Rachel said, if you’re completely lost, you might need some help. But again, invest wisely. If you choose someone who can teach you the process and guide you in building a solid PR strategy, you’ll form a solid partnership with that person. It’ll be more than a business trade—it’ll become a friendship itself.

Q8: What are some common mistakes people make on their PR strategy?

As with anything about running a business, there’re a lot of mistakes you make before you learn. One of the main things our guest noticed was how promotional people are. It’s easy to cross the line between introducing yourself to someone and telling them incessantly about how great you are.

Remember, when you’re making media relationships, you’re making a relationship, not a sale.

If you’re a small business in a country town, you’d get far more reach by being in the local newspaper than in the national magazine. Sure, national coverage will put your name and your town out there for the larger group to see, but not everyone of them would remember you or your business a couple of days later.

When you’re in a local or regional newspaper, however, people will immediately recognize you when they read about you. Perhaps they walk past your store every morning, perhaps they’ve seen your business board from the bus, or perhaps they’ve heard a friend talking about your services. Smaller audience doesn’t mean less reach—it means you get a more concentrated reach. Know whom to pitch to.

Another mistake people often make is falling for the numbers game. You emailing your pitch to 500 people sounds impressive, but you’ll have a far better chance of spreading your reach if you share 10 pitches to 10 different media people you’ve interacted with on Twitter. That way, these people will already be familiar with you, and even if only two of them accept your pitch, you still have two entirely different pieces about you.

Finally, John spoke about one of the greatest mistakes you can make, in media relations and in marketing in general: failing to measure your reach. If you don’t know who you’re talking to and how they’re responding to your message, it’s like speaking into a microphone in an empty room.

Well, folks. That’s all from me. Thanks for reading, and for more insights from our chat with Christina, check out this Twitter Moment that our chat member Joana put together. If you have some time to spare on Thursday, join us for the next #TwitterSmarter chat at 1pm ET.


About me, Narmadhaa:

I write all things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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