3 tools for pitching local press
For any small business owner, or local brick + mortar who's new to the neighborhood, the idea of gaining brand awareness can be exciting and overwhelming all at once. Everyone wants to get their name out there and establish themselves as a reputable member of the community, but where to begin? If you've just opened the doors to your new boutique, and find yourself panicked because business has been slow, you're likely asking yourself, "how can I get someone to share this with the public?"
For many small business owners just starting out, the idea of hiring an agency to handle your PR and media outreach efforts can feel overwhelming, especially if business isn't exactly booming right out the gate. For those considering the DIY PR approach, before you start reaching out to local media all willy-nilly, it's best to get your ducks in a row. By doing a little leg work up front, you can save yourself some valuable time and energy. Make sure you have at least these three tools in place to set yourself up for success!
1. Media assets
Compiling the proper media assets ahead of time is key. The goal is to offer your media contact everything they might possibly need in order to share your story. Ideally, we want to gather everything from product photos or look books, to quotes from the business owner along with headshots, and deliver these pieces nicely wrapped up with a pretty little bow - ready to go!
Think of it this way, if you were going to make a Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe, you'd need to have a full list of ingredients, right? Same thing - you're basically asking someone to make Chicken Tortilla Soup for you, which means it's your responsibility to make sure they have everything they need. Keep in mind, journalists are likely inundated with hundreds of emails a day, meaning they simply don't have time for an excessive amount of back and forth.
Make their job easier, and you make the "yes" easier. Think of any questions they might ask you, or any interesting elements you think would help fill out the story, compile all of your visual assets, along with a bio or founder story and finish it off with all of the pertinent details including social media links, and best way to contact you. This bulk document will serve as your brand's media kit, which you can think of as your digital resume - everything they might need to know about your brand or business, all in one place!
2. Key messaging
You might be tempted to simply reach out and introduce yourself, but if you're hoping to secure specific press coverage, you need to have a specific angle. Staying mindful of your media contact's busy schedule, you'll want to make your intentions very clear from the beginning. Decide ahead of time what kind of story you'd like to share - is it a founder story, or does your product or service line up perfectly with the upcoming holiday season? These are very different stories, so be sure to nail down the specific angle you'd like to pitch before you reach out.
Next, consider what sets you apart, and be sure to highlight how you're serving your local community. Maybe you offer a free class once a week on "Teen Night Tuesday", or maybe you were just born and raised in this community, you've spent your whole life here and now you're giving back. There are plenty of interesting elements to pull from. Whether it's being female owned and operated, or overcoming adversity, everyone has something that makes them unique!
Once you've lined up the specific press piece you'd like to be considered for, and nailed down your key messaging, be sure to keep it short and sweet. Opening a massive email full of text that seems to run on forever can feel overwhelming, and because we want to get to the point, there's no need for a paragraph of pleasantries. Say hello, maybe bullet your points of interest and link to the pertinent details (your media kit) below. Remember to be kind, and consider how you can serve the journalist, either now or in the future. This should always be a give + take relationship.
3. Rapport with journalists
The best time to build a rapport with local media is before you need something from them. When it comes time to reach out, you definitely want to be selective with who you're pitching. You wouldn't send an email about your new, local clothing boutique to the person who covers high school football, so it's important to familiarize yourself with each media contact's specific beat ahead of time.
Once you have an idea of who might be the best fit for your brand or business, be sure to read up on their latest work and even follow them on social media, specifically Twitter. You might even comment on their blog posts or re-share a recent story of theirs while tagging them. The goal should always be to find the journalist or reporter whose work genuinely interests you, and who you think you might be able to serve in the future by adding value or contributing to a piece. To do this, you'll need to have a really strong understanding of their work and what actually interests them. This way, when you do have a story to share, you'll know just who to talk to, and if you've been building a rapport, they'll know you too!