How to approach a journalist with your small business story
Posted: Tue 3rd Sep 2013
Last month, we posted a list of the 45 best journalists to follow on Twitter, with an encouraging note to get in touch and ask them to help promote your business. Your first question to us was, how? We've roped in PR expert Greg Simpson to offer his advice on how to approach journalists"¦
Greg Simpson (@press4attention) is a PR expert and author of the book The Small Business Guide to PR
Do your homework
My first piece of advice is to ask yourself, can the journalist you're approaching really help you? Believe it or not, not all businesses will benefit from a double-page spread in The Times. For example, maybe your business couldn't handle that kind of coverage and the number of orders that would come flooding in. Sure, that's a good problem to have, but - in the long term - it could damage your business, if potential customers are turned away or unhappy with the level of service you can realistically provide.
What's your hook?
As you can imagine, it's not easy getting into national press, as you're competing with thousands of other stories. Ask yourself, is your story of genuine national interest? Let's say you've developed some super-efficient fish bait in the dark smithies of your garden shed laboratory. Wouldn't you be better off approaching the angling press? Even if you've identified the 10 best journalist in your chosen field, which is the best to cover your story? One may only cover angling competitions; another, fishing skills and techniques.
Getting in touch
So, you've found the best journalist to cover your story. Let's call him Fin Diesel. You notice he has a Twitter account, and scroll through his timeline to see if he's ever 'carped' about poor PR approaches or good ones. Fin's Twitter bio, actually, says he prefers emailed 'pitches' from PRs. Bingo! Not all journalists state their preferences as clearly as Fin. But let's say you find his email address, send Fin a simple email with a brief introduction - like, one line - then perhaps 3 bullet points summarizing the story, then the full story, below. Make sure your subject line is clear. Fin gets hundreds of email every day, and just scans his inbox. Should you call him? If you've never spoken to him before, and can't find his email address, call the switchboard and ask for his email address. If he answers, just explain that you wanted to send over a story about your fish bait (in one sentence - don't waffle), and you couldn't find his email address. Fin's intrigued! Great. Politely thank him, then send him your story immediately. He'll be expecting it, which is a bonus. You can also ask target titles for their editorial schedule. They're more prevalent in the trade press, but they can really help with your planning. If you've done your homework, and you're sending timely and useful content, it'll be a win/win for you and your new journalist friend!
Your first PR campaign in just 10 hours
Download Greg's eBook The Small Business Guide to PR for just Â£5 today - and learn how to plan and execute your first PR campaign in just 10 hours. Find out more Buy now