Getting yourself some free publicity is as much an art as it is a science. Both subjects can be taught and learned but, at some point, you will need to sit your final exam. When it comes to the publicity game, that final exam is getting yourself in front of a journalist, producer or reporter, but, unfortunately, it’s this last test that SMEs far too often fail at.
If we consider the publicity game as sides of the same coin, it may help you to easily master both sides.
Those two sides are:
- Reactive publicity (where you react/respond to what the journos want).
- Proactive publicity (where you make the first approach/pitch to the journos).
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
My #1 go-to resource for reacting to what journos want is a fairly magical online service you can sign up to for free that’s perfect for connecting SMEs with journos, and it’s called SourceBottle. Think of it as a dating site for journos and experts trying to find each other.
SourceBottle.com was set up in 2009 by Melbourne PR whizz Bec Derrington who saw huge inefficiencies in the publicity approach taken by many businesses when trying to land themselves some coverage.
I am a huge fan of the site and have seen many of my Meet The Press MasterClass graduates garner great success with it. It’s low hanging fruit for publicity-hungry businesses, and one of the greatest things about SourceBottle is that, in large part, it’s a free service.
Twice daily, @10am and @2pm AEST, the team at SourceBottle send out alert emails to their media and SME subscribers listing a whole bunch of ‘call outs’ on a range of specific subject areas. These ‘call outs’ are requests written by journalists, producers and bloggers who are seeking expert commentary, advice or tips to help them write their stories or produce their TV or radio segments. And that’s where you come in!
If a callout resonates with your experience, you simply respond on the site and if the journo likes what you’ve got to say – Bam! Media coverage flows. Easy!
This requires a bit more sweat equity and creativity as YOU are the one generating the idea or pitch for the media.
Proactive publicity is usually all about the written pitch (called a media release), and it’s the #1 door opener for people wanting to generate free publicity.
Many journalists tell me how much they hate getting media releases as they are usually so poorly written. But fear not intrepid business owner – all is not lost.
A media release is one page (yep – one page!) that outlines the guts of the pitch to the journo. It MUST be newsworthy and have a good hook for the journo to follow. It is NOT a promotional piece on your business. In fact, the great irony of media coverage is that even though the journalists know that by featuring you in a story or on their program you will get the kudos, credibility and customers that follow this sort of free media coverage, it’s not actually their job to promote your business. Irony right?!
So, your media release needs to be based on an issue that you have identified in your industry that you can speak about that readers, viewers or listeners may find interesting.
Flexing your publicity muscle and building confidence through reactive pitching certainly helps you hone your skills for proactive pitching, and when you marry both sets of skills together, the media coverage you want and deserve for your business will flow.