Biz Ladies: How to Get Featured in Local Media (For Free)

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Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from previous contributor, Mariah Danielsen. Mariah is an award-winning graphic designer and marketer who discovered that she could build a business around what she loves: weddings, stationery, antiques and DIY projects. She is the owner of Oh, What Love and a small antique store in her hometown,  and co-created The Create + Connect Project, a program that helps creative entrepreneurs turn their passion into profit. Today she offers some guidance on how to get the attention of your community and promote your business through your local press. Thanks Mariah for another wonderful post! –Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump…

Being well-known online is a wonderful thing, but when your business relies on local customers, having 15 thousand followers on Twitter might not matter if only a few of them live in the same city you do.

One of the best ways to reach local customers is to get featured in the local media outlets because most people watch the news or read the newspaper – whether online or offline – to find out what’s happening in the area. But paying for tv spots and big ads are not always in the budget for a small business.

As a small business owner with a brick and mortar store, getting local people to know where we are located is key to our survival. We’ve found a few great ways to get news interviews and newspaper features – all for free.

Here are some ways to accomplish this:

1. Pitch a feature on your business to your local talk show.

Almost every area has a local Oprah-type talk show personality that talks about fun local happenings, shares feel good stories and does interviews with local business owners or celebrities. These shows are always looking for new and unique content, different businesses to feature or people to partner with.

In order to get your business featured on this type of show, you’ll need to figure out what your hook is – the one thing that makes you different that other businesses like yours. Maybe you support a cause, have a great back story or have a product with a unique twist. Once you find out where to submit your story on their website, come up with a few story ideas and send in your pitch. Make sure to include your ideas, how you’re different and how you can be contacted. If they find your story compelling enough to feature – be ready for a boost in business!

How it worked for me: I wrote to our local talk show about how we were an antique store with a bright, clean layout that was trying to cater to a younger generation. From that pitch we received a 4 minute segment on the afternoon show where the host plugged an upcoming event of ours. Not only did we have one of our busiest weekends to date after that show aired, our in-store event had four times the amount of normal attendees.

2. Submit to local event calendars and send out press releases.

If you have a business that does events of any kind, maximize your reach by submitting your event to your newspaper’s event calendar. Lots of newspapers have online calendars you can share your event details to, which will help get your event out to your city, the surrounding area and the all around the web.

Another way to get your event picked up by media outlets is to send out press releases to local newsrooms. Do a quick, two paragraph write-up on your event including a short quote about what’s going to take place and the important details of the day. About two weeks before your event, send it to any outlet that takes viewer or reader submitted news in your area. There is no guarantee it will get picked up, but if it intrigues them or if they have spaces to fill, your story may end up in the newspaper.

How it worked for me: I submit any parties I coordinate or classes I teach to my local event calendar and I send out press releases about the event as well. I usually reach people who I haven’t connected with before, which has the potential to bring even more people to future events.

3. Get involved with a local cause. 

When you team up with other businesses or organizations to support an important issue or cause, you not only help your community, you and your cause may become important enough to end up as a news story.

How it worked for me: My shop is located in the old main street of my small hometown. The city is trying to revitalize the downtown to attract more businesses and customers, and my business partner and I wanted to get involved in helping with the vision. We voiced our opinions and shared our ideas at city council meetings, so when the local news caught wind of the revitalization project, we got a t.v. interview along with shots of our shop broadcasted on the 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 news. It boosted our in-store traffic and now our name is associated with helping revitalize our historic hometown.

Getting featured in the news doesn’t always have to be costly. Find ways your business is unique and share that with anyone you can. You never know what can come out of a simple pitch to your local media outlets!

Have you landed an awesome feature? Share your experience in the comments!

 

Louise from thedasherie.com

I have had success with press releases for my products. I realised that as much as I want exposure, lots of magazines and newspapers need content. So I could be doing them a favour as much as they are doing one for me. I also emphasise to local media that my products are locally produced, as that’s important to them.

Having said that, I have yet to master the fine art of the press release. My first one was way too long and another one was too specific and didn’t get picked up at all.

But just because one press release failed with one publication doesn’t mean a future one won’t hit the mark. When I got my first mention in a magazine I was astonished at the number of people who already knew about my business who suddenly seemed to realise “Oh, it’s a real thing!”

Amanda Risius

Great ideas! Sometimes we forget about contacting the obvious resources that are at our fingertips! I attend a university and have a little business I’m trying to build. I am working with the university’s career services, campus organizations, and the newspaper to get the word out there!

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Steph

Great tips! Many people might not know how to write the perfect press release as Louise mentioned so I suggest contacting a PR person to write them for you. Some will work on barter so you could offer them product etc in exchange for a release.

Betsy Wallace

We were included in a round up of creative spaces in Atlanta Magazine (we’re located in Atlanta), which was huge for us! The freelance writer was looking for content for a sidebar located next to a feature article on an better known and more established space. Even the smallest mentions help get the ball rolling!

Loonytick

I’m a reporter for a local news outlet. As someone on the receiving end of those press releases, I would remind you that if you don’t get a bite, it may just mean timing wasn’t on your side. We have the same amount of space to fill each day, and some days or weeks we’ve got far more ideas coming our way than we can use. If you’ve got something going on that ties into the harder news of the day or a particular date, we might have an easier time pitching your idea to our editors. But even if you get a taker, do understand that most local news outlets don’t see themselves as being in the business of providing free PR. Our priority is sharing what we think our audience will find most helpful or interesting, and that may not be the thing your hoping for us to focus on.

Britney McSweeney

I have written a handful of press releases and gotten success almost every single time- the key is having it be event based with an upcoming deadline and to connect it to something people support already, like the article mentioned, a cause is a great hook. Keep it short, too, a page is more than enough. Look up formats for press releases if you are unsure of how to organize it.
Very helpful post! I love this series!

Trix & Trumpet

Great advice Mariah! As Loonytick mentioned, persistence is key. Making a concerted effort will pay off, especially if you vary your tactics as Mariah has advised. And don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Being confident without arrogance will engage people and better position you to speak with authority. You may be promoting a store, product or service but it is YOUR store, product or service. The greatest pickup and traction comes from a good hook, timely idea and confident pitch.
Thanks for all the great advice!

Ness Shortley

Great advice! I’m actually the editor of a community newspaper, and this are all grate tips. There are some other things you can do to increase the likelihood that your release will get picked out of the hundreds of pitches we get each day. Tell me why my readers care: I can’t tell you how many pitches I get that aren’t in my coverage area or aren’t relevant to what we do. Make sure to proof your message; if there are a lot of typos and AP style errors that I have to fix, it’s more likely your release will either get cut to bare bones or I’ll not run it at all. If you want to attach a Word document or PDF of your release, that’s great, but type a couple of paragraphs into the body of the email explaining who you are and—this is crucial—why I care. Oh, and make sure you address your email to the right person; I’ve had my named misspelled or completely wrong or been called by the names of previous editors.
Cheers!

Mikella Lowe

Love your tips! I am in the process of building awareness around my blog and am trying to think of innovative ways to grab the attention of the media. I would suggest that if you have creative skills under your arm, use them to create a simple yet memorable press kit. Make sure that it is related to your business persona and is affordable to produce. This will help you get noticed and cut through all the other hundreds of emails media professionals receive on a daily basis.

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