Getting positive mentions of your business, products, people and events in the publications that your ideal clients consume is an essential part of what I call the lead generation trio (advertising and referrals being the other members.)
The credibility that comes with media coverage is something you simply can’t buy and obtaining this coverage is something that you simply must make a part of your overall marketing system.
While a spot on Good Morning America might not quite be in the cards at the moment, even the tiniest of local businesses can generate some media coverage in this day and age by simply adhering to the plan outlined below.
Create your media target list
Most small businesses, particularly local businesses, can probably dig up the five or six important journalists, producers and editors that they need to focus on with very little effort.
Create this list and then get to work on turning it into a rich dashboard of information by creating Google Alerts for each of the members of your list so you know when they’ve written something. Subscribe to the blog their publication makes them write, find them on every social network they belong to and add them to tools such as Twitter Lists and Google+ Circles so that’s easier to listen to the things they are doing and saying.
It’s not uncommon these days for journalists to talk about stories they are working on in social media outlets. In many cases you put yourself in a story as a source by simply paying attention.
The reason for setting up all of those ways to listen in the first step above is that you want to start the process of building a relationship with these journalists in order to become a trusted source.
You don’t do this by bombarding them with press releases; you do this by proving you are indeed a worthwhile source of information. You do this by making their job easier.
Get in the habit of making thoughtful comments on their blog, sending them deeper industry research that you have access to, and recommending other people they might want to talk to for a story they’ve written or are working on. The key is to prove yourself useful without asking for anything.
Once you genuinely practice the acts of relationship building outlined above you may earn the right to introduce story ideas that involve your company.
There is a subtle art to this and you may have to change your mindset in order to get it. It’s never about you. Okay, if you have huge news, it could be, but how often does your business really have something blockbuster like.
If you’ve paid attention in the relationship building phase you know what this journalists writes about, the kind of things they cover, the kind of stories they write and how they write them.
Your job is to introduce story ideas that will be of interest to their readers first and involve your organization in some fashion second. Few people, including most PR firms, fully get this, but it’s the key to success.
One component of your system that needs to be worked routinely is the release of news of some sort on a routine basis. This is the announcement kind of stuff, the promotions, the new client, the new product, the new technique, the non-profit partnership kind of things.
These are little news bits that may get a little local coverage, especially if you release them to your Chamber or local trade group, but the real point is to give your firm a steady stream of online press release material.
These biweekly or monthly submissions will create an active stream of links, mentions and even direct to prospect exposure that builds up over time when your still with it.
Use tools like Pitch Engine or PRWeb and get in the habit of putting these out at least once a month. You can also build a little “newsroom” page on your website and archive these releases there for additional SEO and viewing.
The last piece of the system comes into play when you start to receive coverage.
Make sure that you get as much mileage from every mention as you can. Republish, link to and even print news stories that include your firm and include them on your web site, in your marketing materials and in your social media activity.
If you happen to land a story that features your firm you might want to see if you can obtain full reprint rights and turn it into a staple component of your marketing materials.
Get in the habit of communicating press mentions and announcements to your current clients too. While I’ve talked about PR mostly in the context lead generation, it’s also a great vehicle for reselling your current clients and making it easier for them to refer you to their colleagues.