Getting your small business mentioned in the ‘news’ media – online or in print – is a great way of raising your profile and building your brand, but do you really know what you need to be focusing on to grab a journalist’s attention.
I have been a news journalist for more years than I care to count and am now the co-owner of an independent local newspaper and I’m afraid I have a harsh truth to share with you.
Your business – generally speaking of course – is boring, dull, uninteresting, dreary, dry, humdrum, “ho hum”
It might be your “be all and end all” – the very reason you get out of bed in the morning – but to most people, its sole purpose is, well, whatever its sole purpose is – selling a product they want or providing a service they need.
In other words, most of the time, it’s just not newsworthy.
And for that very reason, you will not find journalists falling over themselves to splash your business all over the front page of their newspaper.
THROW US A LINE
The truth is, it is very unlikely you will ever get on the front page, but give us journalists a good story, an “angle”, and you might just reel us in.
So, what is news?
The dictionary definition goes something like this:
“News – information not previously known to someone or newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events”
From a journalist’s point of view, perhaps the most important part of that definition is the bit about “recent events” – news has to be “new”.
If you want to tell the “story” of what great products you sell or stunning service you offer, that’s advertising – and chances are you will have to pay to see it in print.
But if something has “just happened” or is about to happen, you are in with a chance of getting a few column inches.
WHAT’S THE STORY?
So what could that “something” be?
That very much depends on the publication you are aiming for.
Trade magazines will have very different criteria than local newspapers, and every newspaper will consider different things newsworthy.
For instance, even though to you it may feel like a major achievement for your business to have made its to its first or second birthday (and for many businesses it really is!), most journalists would not consider any anniversary less than 25 years of any serious interest.
But it might be worth calling your friendly local newsdesk if you are holding a special event to mark the occasion, especially if you have a “famous” special guest. No guarantees by any stretch, but they may send a photographer along for a picture if they are not busy. Even better, take a photo yourself and send it in with your press release.
Likewise a new member of staff (unless perhaps they are famous!), a new product or new service are unlikely to have news editors screaming “Hold the front page”.
A new business opening may warrant a story, or if you are expanding and creating a number of new jobs, or relocating to new premises, you may get lucky, but the harsh truth is you are probably going to have to work really hard to come up with a news angle for your business.
NEWS IS ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE
The bottom line is that businesses themselves aren’t usually very interesting – what is more interesting is the people behind the business.
Have you battled adversity such as personal disaster or major illness/disability to start your new business? Are you well known around the area for something and now trying your hand at something completely different?
Is there something else that makes you stand out? It could even be something which challenges old fashioned perceptions – are you considered too young/too old/too male/too female for the business you are in?
These are obviously just examples and as I said, not all newspapers will say yay or nay to the same things, so it’s always worth a quick conversation to see if they would be interested before you put a lot of time and effort into writing a press release etc.
And you do have to bear in mind that as you are not paying for this “story”, you have very little control over how it is written and presented. In most cases, you will not see it until the newspaper hits the stands.
This is because – massive generalisation coming up – journalists know how to write a news story and you don’t. You give them the facts, they’ll do the rest.