The Do’s and Don’ts of Media Relations

Watching a televised Public Relations interview

Who wouldn’t want their product showcased on national television, or featured in a popular magazine? One mention by a trusted talk show host or writer could supercharge your brand recognition and boost your online sales.

The good news is: you don’t have to hire a PR firm to get the media’s attention.  With a little hard work and some tried-and-true techniques, two of our FedEx Small Business Grant Contest winners have gained national attention from some of the most recognized media outlets around.

Before you set off on your own publicity campaign, take a minute to learn the do’s and don’ts of media relations.  The right approach makes all the difference.

Do your homework.
Before you contact a magazine, a television program or news organization, make sure you understand their audience and the kinds of stories they write and produce. Seek out writers who report on your industry, and read a few of their pieces. Follow them on Twitter. All of this lays the groundwork for building an ongoing relationship.

Don't pitch your product; pitch a concept.
The media is bombarded by press releases and pitches every day. To stand out, it’s not enough to talk about your product. Pitch an angle or a story idea that fits with the show or publication.

That’s exactly how Pig-of-the-Month founder Lea Richards got her company’s barbecue — and herself--on some of the most recognized national talk shows in the United States.

“When you approach the media, pitch your product in the context of a show idea that offers something for their viewers and audience,” Lea said. “For example, if I was pitching a talk show in June, I’d say, ‘Our product would be great for a cooking segment on making Father’s Day dinner without the fuss. I’d supply the barbecue and we could put together a couple of easy side dishes.’ Then, I’d offer to bring enough product for the audience to sample, and product packs to give away to some lucky viewers.”

This technique has not only gained her sales, but additional appearances.

“I think it’s important to recognize that media coverage has a ripple effect. If you land one big show and do well, you’ll get calls from other media outlets,” Lea said. “Just make sure you come up with a different angle for each show or publication you go after. These shows and publications compete against each other, so you have to come up with something fresh for each one.”

Do send out press releases — but only when you really have news.
Although you don’t have a PR agency, you’re competing for media attention against businesses that do. So, you have to level the playing field. Go online and learn how to structure a press release. Make sure it looks professional, and is typo-free.

Just as important, make sure you only send out press releases when you have real news to tell. Sending out a lot of generic pieces that simply promote your product wastes editors’ time and the pieces have little chance of getting picked up. 

“When we were first starting out, we sought out, and sometimes initiated, opportunities and events to showcase our company,” explained Edward Majian, founder and president of SARTONK, a company that makes championship boxing belts.

Edward’s grandfather was the original designer of those iconic belts, yet very few in the industry knew his name.

“We would contact local boxing bars and sports venues and say, ‘We have the creator of the modern boxing belt, and we would like to be part of an event at your bar,” Edward said. “They’d schedule a ‘meet and greet,’ and we’d have a reason to contact the press. We gave them something to write about and we gained visibility, and the opportunity to tell our story.”

Do prepare for an interview.
If you are fortunate enough to land a TV or radio interview or pique a writer’s interest, know that the quality of your interview will directly impact the length of the segment or the number of times you get quoted.

Be natural and be yourself, but, unless you’re a seasoned media pro, don’t wing it. Spend time before the interview thinking about what questions you might be asked, and your answers. Practice “mock” interviews with your friends and family. You’ll be more confident, more relaxed and more succinct if you put a little prep time in up front.

Don't make it all about you.
When the article is published or the segment scheduled to air, you’re going to tell all of your social media followers — that’s a given. But, what many business owners forget to do is to acknowledge the host or writer when they tweet this information out. Hashtag the publication, include the writer’s name, and, if you were part of a panel discussion, mention the other people. This approach helps you cement relationships as well as gain followers. Chances are, the people you acknowledge will promote your name and your brand, too.

Do say “thank you.”
No matter how small the mention or how short the segment always take time to thank the individual who gave you the opportunity to tell your story. A handwritten note can go a long way to promote an ongoing relationship, and turn your press contact into a true ally.

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