How to Pitch Your Small Business to the Press
If you're exploring raising publicity for your small business, you may be happy to know that PR is a tool that you can wield yourself with careful planning and strategy.
In most cases, you can likely do an even better job of pitching your business to the press than an outside publicist!
Here are a few tips to increase your chances of success and best practices to set you apart from the rest of the field.
Understand your story
Why should a journalist care about your business? Why should their readers care? If you don't have a great, short answer, you've got a major problem! Media members at all levels, from local bloggers and podcasters all the way up to national TV media, are in the business of telling compelling stories. In order to make them care, you've got to have a quick, easy-to-understand press hook that they can quickly understand and explain to someone else.
Ask yourself, "If a newscaster was going to tease my story before a commercial break to convince viewers to stay tuned until after the break, what would they say?" This will help you arrive at a newsworthy hook you can use in your pitch.
But remember: just because you care doesn't mean someone who doesn't know you will. For example, there are millions of family-owned businesses, so saying "We're a local, family-owned business" doesn't make you unique.
So dig deeper: Are you the oldest continually running, family-owned business in your state? Or the first mother-and-daughter team in history to reach a milestone or certification?
Soliciting the input of customers or friends can be helpful because sometimes our own brands are the hardest ones to evaluate objectively.
Understand your audience
Just as you wouldn't buy something from a company you know nothing about that sends you an out-of-the-blue email, no press coverage originates with unsolicited press releases. It's the equivalent of spam.
Instead, create a target list of reporters, podcasters, and producers you want to pitch. These days, you can find almost every member of the media's contact information on their sites or social pages. Follow them. Familiarize yourself with their work. It's not their job to do homework and figure out if you're a good candidate for coverage — it's yours! And, if you don't do it, you'll quickly ruin your shot at building any credibility.
Don't pitch yourself for a story the first time you reach out to a reporter. Instead, let them know how much you enjoyed a recent article/podcast/etc. of theirs. Be sincere and specific in your praise. Follow and engage with them on social media. The second time you reach out via email (or direct message), offer yourself as an expert if they ever need someone to comment on your area of expertise. After you've built up a rapport, you can pitch a relevant story.
Also, don't set your sights only on national news media. Local and regional bloggers, podcasters, and writers can help you build a great portfolio and prove the newsworthiness of your business — plus, national journalists often scout smaller outlets for story leads.
Understand the news cycle
Now that you're clear on your story and audience, dig into the news cycle: How does your expertise align with what stories will be getting major coverage in the weeks and months ahead? Journalists have lots of airtime to fill, so in some ways they need you even more than you need them.
Get out a calendar and figure out how you can pitch yourself as an expert around big events and occasions. If you run an organization business, compile your best tips for back-to-school. If you're a body-language expert, pitch yourself to talk about candidates in upcoming elections. If you're a chef, put together fun, DIY recipes for Halloween or Valentine's Day. What expertise do you have that means you something unique to offer?
Create landing pages
One great strategy is to set up unique landing pages and register dedicated domains for each unique pitch. For example, a .pro domain may be perfect if you're trying to position yourself as an expert in your field.
With a dedicated landing page, you'll be able to direct members of the media exactly where you want them to go, instead of sending them to a generic page on your website and making them do the work. You'll also be able to track exactly who visits each page (and for how long), which will help you improve your future pitches.
Think long term
PR is not a quick-fix for sales. Even hiring a PR agency is not going to "pay for itself" within a few weeks or months. But if you implement these tips, you'll be well on your way to landing some great coverage for your small business.
Here are two final tips:
1. Any time you get coverage, share, share, and re-share! The value is oftentimes not in the original reach, but in re-sharing with your audience. Be sure to post links to your social sites, blogs, company newsletter, and local associations or groups. You can even display a printed-out version in your office!
2. Remember to send a handwritten thank-you card (at a minimum) to the reporters and/or producers involved. This small gesture will make a large impact — and increase the likelihood they'll be eager to work with you in the future.