You want to get media attention for your business so you can launch, grow and succeed.
But how do you do this?
Well, first you HAVE to know what makes a story newsworthy, what makes a headline.
No matter what business you run, what service you provide or what product you make there are 9 ways to get media coverage.
Whether you want to get in TechCrunch, Mashable, Fox News, Women’s Weekly, The Local Rag, Mumsnet, The Times, The New York Times or The One Show, ALL of these media play by the same rules.
Yes, these media may be wildly different in terms of audience, reach, tone, type (digital, broadcast, print) and frequency, but they ALL obey the same laws of PR.
And just like gravity, these laws can’t be broken.
And that is very good news for you.
Because as an entrepreneur you can transform your PR by following these rules.
What is news?
To qualify as news, you need a story — a story about something new or truly remarkable.
If your product is a genuine innovation then yes, maybe it’s news.
If your disruptive business idea really has changed the way people shop / sleep / eat / get around / mate / meditate then yes, maybe it’s news.
If you were the first company to ever have their offices in a shipping container, on an actual container ship, then yes, maybe it’s news.
To qualify as new, a story has to be about a genuine first. There are some great PR examples here.
Crucially firsts are context specific; you might not be the first person to launch a taxi-hailing app in the world, or even in your country.
But you might be the first in your town. If you have developed the world’s lightest 2-inch bolt, Bolt Monthly may love it — The New York Times won’t.
Firsts are therefore relative to both your location and your business niche.
This tells you something about your media targeting; you won’t get far targeting national media with a story about being a first in your town.
Equally, if you’ve got a genuine national or international first, you can probably do better than the Townsville Post.
Remarkable is also relative.
The “Is it remarkable?” test is exponentially harder to pass for national or international media (including high profile blogs and podcasts), than it is for your local newspaper or the blog your friend started three months ago.
Start Thinking Like a Journalist
Whenever you are planning your PR ALWAYS ask the most important question of all: Is it news? And answer this honestly. You can’t BS this.
Journalists and PR professionals have, through years of practice, developed their sense for which stories are news, and which aren’t.
Fortunately for you, there are 9 ways to get media coverage and to help you think like a journalist and decide what stories have genuine news value.
They fall into three broad groups:
- Business News
- Human Interest News
The more of these questions you can answer ‘yes’ to, the more likely it is that you have a newsworthy story and you will get the media coverage you are after.
So before you write your first press release check out these 9 ways to get media coverage.
The 9 Ways To Get Media Coverage:
1. Is it a story about product or service innovation?
I’ve seen lots of companies issue press releases about their new product or service and wonder why they got no media attention at all.
Often it’s because, as excited as they are about their new widget, and as new as it is to them, it lacks the product or service innovation needed to make it news.
Changing the way people buy cars? News.
This Guardian story about Carwow highlights how this startup has transformed the car buying process. Had they just been an online car showroom they wouldn’t have got this coverage.
Carwow have disrupted the car buying process and it’s this innovation that makes their story newsworthy.
2. Is it a story about business model innovation, or appointments?
These are stories about innovation or disruption in the way you do business, not in what you sell.
Zappos got a lot of media attention (like this piece in The Atlantic) when they adopted Holacracy.
They hadn’t changed the business or service they provided, but they had made a change to the way they ran their business.
At that time they were the first big name company to adopt Holacracy and so it was a newsworthy story.
Did you hear about the second company to introduce period leave?
This is a story from The Daily Telegraph about Coexist, a company based in Bristol in the UK, who were the first in the country to introduce period leave.
This is a great example of business model innovation. This is news because they were the first in the UK to introduce this. You won’t find any media stories about the second company in the UK to introduce period leave.
When you start to look at stories through these questions you’ll see how frequently they come up.
Here’s a feature from NBC Nightly News in the US about Chobani, a US-based yoghurt company whose owner gave 10% of the stock to its employees.
Employees owning a share in their business is not new, but it is remarkable for the scale and the way in which they did it. This made news internationally, including on the BBC.
How to get your brand in front of 8.5 million Americans.
3. Is it a story about how your business has changed consumer behaviour in some meaningful way?
For some brands, the story is not about the product innovation or the way they do business, but the impact they are having on their customers.
Danish startup Be My Eyes is a great example of this. The app connects blind people to a sighted volunteer using a live video chat. The volunteer can then answer questions and see the blind person’s surroundings using a phone’s camera.
Focusing on how the app changes the lives of users is a more compelling story for Be My Eyes than talking about their technology.
Human Interest News
4. Is it a story about a personal achievement?
As with all newsworthy stories, achievement stories still have to pass the new or remarkable test – just like all of the 9 ways to get media coverage.
As much as running the London Marathon might feel like an achievement to us, tens of thousands of people do it every year. So unless there’s something else new or remarkable in the story, it’s not news.
Money can’t buy this kind of coverage. Being a genuine first can though.
Kathryn Sargent ran a fabulous PR campaign based on being the first female master tailor to open a shop on London’s Savile Row, home to the City’s most prestigious tailors. (BBC News / International Business Times / Telegraph / Daily Mail / Guardian).
As Kathryn brilliantly demonstrates, being the first to achieve something remarkable can create a lot of media attention.
Being the second woman to open a shop on Savile Row will get you no coverage at all.
5. Is it a story about extremes?
Remember what we said earlier about running a marathon not being news? That’s not always true:
Oldest man to run a marathon runs last 10k race. (BBC) / This 92-year-old woman just became the oldest woman to run a marathon. (Washington Post) / Meet the youngest London Marathon runner. (BBC) / Kelly Gneiting, Heaviest Man To Finish A Marathon Ever (Huffington Post).
This is not a story lens that will work for many businesses, but it’s one to be aware of.
Being the oldest / youngest / biggest / smallest / fastest / slowest / cheapest / most expensive or any other kind of “extreme” can work in your favour to make your story remarkable.
And it’s crucial if your story is more of a feature than a news story.
Thousands run marathons every year . . .
. . . only one of them is 92-years-old.
6. Is it a story about overcoming adversity?
Like “extremes”, this is not a news lens, or “angle”, that will work for many businesses. But for those with the right backstory, it can be very powerful.
Rob and Paul Forken created clothing and beachwear brand Gandys after losing their parents in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.
Their strapline is “Orphans for Orphans” and they describe themselves as “Two Brothers Building Homes for Fellow Orphans”.
On Boxing Day 2004, Rob and Paul’s lives were forever impacted when they tragically lost their parents in the devastating Tsunami that hit Sri Lanka.
The remarkable thing about Gandys is not their product. Flip Flops are neither new nor remarkable. It’s the brothers’ backstory and mission that has helped them to get a lot of coverage:
Tsunami orphans inspired by desperate need (Sky news) / Tsunami orphans who got back on their feet with flip flop business. (London Evening Standard) / Brothers orphaned by tsunami set up flip-flop business to help children (Guardian) / Orphaned by tsunami, flip-flop kings repay Sri Lankan kindness (Daily Mail).
7. Is it a story about a launch?
Think for a second how often you hear the words “launched today”, “unveiled today”, “available for the first time today”.
Things that are being launched are by definition new. But crucially not all launches are news
You still have to pass the first / remarkable test. This is the core rule of the 9 ways to get media coverage.
And the more news lenses you can tick the more likely your event press release will be newsworthy.
If you are launching a new product that is a genuine world first and will have a huge impact on consumer behaviour, and you overcame enormous adversity to get to where you are, and you’re 102, chances are, it’s news.
Nick Kuh is not 102, but still managed to get great coverage for the launch of his “family screen time” app Glued.
Father develops app to reduce family screen time (Evening Standard) / Addicted to My iPhone: Being a Father and a Hypocrite (The Huffington Post) / Drop the iPad Dad, You’re Over the Limit (The Sunday Times) / This app ironically wants you to spend less time on your phone and more with your family (The Next Web).
The headline from the Next Web captures why this story got the attention it did; an app that wants you to spend less time on your apps?
The counter-intuitive juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas or ideas that are not usually seen together can lend additional news value to a story. In fact, news is often about unusual pairings of people or circumstances.
8. Is it a story associated with another major news event?
This is also sometimes called opportunistic PR or news-jacking. This is when an event is happening that in some way relates to your brand, and you are able to offer up a story that provides an additional or fresh angle on that event.
During the 2012 Olympics Proctor & Gamble created a campaign called “Thank You, Mom” that showed flashbacks of Olympic athletes from all over the world growing up and practicing their sport with support from their mothers.
The campaign launched on Mother’s Day and has had 5.7 million views on YouTube and 727,068 likes on Facebook.
They repeated the theme for the 2014 Winter Olympics and have created a new ad for the Rio 2016 Olympics, again released just in time for Mother’s Day. It’s had 15 million YouTube views.
P&Gs “Moms” campaigns have an enormous budget and therefore enormous international reach. It’s possible to take advantage of the same type of approach on a much smaller scale, both with the mainstream press and with bloggers and online communities.
Nick Farnsworth is Owner and Founder of Little Sports Star who make sports-themed toys for babies.
Nick is a graduate of Famous, our PR course for startups and small businesses. He is now a master of the 9 ways to get media coverage!
He recently pulled a nice bit of opportunistic PR with this piece on the Dad Network Blog related to Euro 2016.
This was a last minute pitch as Nick only graduated from the course a few weeks before the Euros got underway. But with the skills he had learned about how to develop and pitch a story he still managed to get some useful coverage.
Often when there are big events that journalists have to cover, they’ll be scrambling for additional information or a fresh angle.
If you can get a well-crafted story to them that gives them that, and in which you can also get your key messages across, everybody wins.
This has recently become known as news-jacking. While the name is new, the practice is as old as PR.
Be careful with it though, especially on social media, where your bad news-jacking ideas might not get filtered out by a well-trained journalist.
9. Is it a story related to an awareness day or season?
There’s an awareness day for pretty much everything and while it’s a somewhat hackneyed PR tactic, it can still work.
This one is close to my heart: World Gin Day was on June 11th last year.
Consider the journalist who put this piece together for The Daily Telegraph: World Gin Day: 8 excellent reasons to celebrate it in style.
Like all journalists, she’d be working under extreme time pressure and to tight deadlines.
If you happen to have a remarkable Gin product, for example, one called Anti-AGin that eliminates your wrinkles, it may be just what she needs for the piece. You made her job easier and you’ll be remembered for that and looked on more favourably with future PR efforts.
So there you have it the 9 ways to get media coverage for ANY business.
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