Entrepreneurs reach out to me all the time, and even through an email, I can feel their panic: “I know I need to get my name out there. I just don’t know what story to pitch the media.” Or: “I can handle everything in my business except this.”
Most entrepreneurs would love to land media coverage for their companies, but often they don’t know where to start. Having worked in television newsrooms my entire adult life, I can tell you there is a fair amount of panic on our end, too. Those deadlines are unforgiving. This guide is designed to help both sides- the media outlet that needs the stories and you, the entrepreneur who has them. As eager as journalists are for stories, they want the best. Unfortunately, what comes into our inboxes, many times, could be better. Here are five mistakes that keep you from getting the coverage you want:
1. You throw spaghetti against the wall
TV cooking personality Rachael Ray taught me many good kitchen tricks. She suggested throwing cooked pasta against the wall. If it stuck to the wall, she said, it’s done. Too many people use this method when trying to get media coverage. They hit every media outlet in their vicinity, regardless of what topics those media outlets cover. They hire expensive agencies that mass email their news releases to every single outlet under the sun. They’re just trying to see what sticks. You may get a good meal with this method, but media coverage? Likely not.
Lesson Target media outlets carefully. Where do you want to be seen? Try to make a smart pitch to places where your audience will be gathering.
2. You think they are customers and give them the hard sell
You know when somebody’s about to sell you something. They get a glint in their eye, they start talking faster, and you feel as though you are the prey. If you run into a reporter and try to sell them new windows, life insurance, or a car, they will automatically send you to the sales department. The news is for information.
Lesson Keep the sales pitch at home.
3. You don’t think about their audience
The reporter who covers courts and crime at a local newspaper has a very different focus than the health reporter at a local TV station. A business magazine has a different audience than a cooking show. Sending these journalists a story pitch outside of their interest areas may not get a response, simply because it doesn’t fit what they cover.
Lesson Do a little homework on what reporters cover before sending an email. Watch a story they have put together, read one of their past articles. You’ll have a better idea of what stories interest them.
4. You aren’t sharing trends
One way to get in front of a reporter or producer is to predict what they will need before they need it. No, you don’t need a crystal ball, just a solid working knowledge of your industry. Are rules changing? Will your customers have to spend more money or time because of new regulations? Are stores getting crowded with shoppers wanting the hot new item of the season?
Lesson You are the expert in your industry. Maybe it’s affected by holidays, seasonal changes, or the weather. Use that knowledge to give insight and a great story to a reporter.
5. You do nothing at all
Sometimes success happens when you just show up. So often entrepreneurs are paralyzed by the options or by the amount on their to-do lists. They do nothing, all the while knowing a strategic media mention or a feature in a local publication could be a big driver for their business.
Lesson Take a chance. Create the media pitch. Hit send. It is worth your time.