Small Business Marketing by Jillian Shaw Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations for the Small Business

Building A Media List for Your Small Business PR

03.24.2010 · Posted in Media Relations, Planning, Public Relations

“I called the newspaper and told them about my event, but nobody showed up to cover it!”

How many times have I heard this?  Too many!

You called the paper, hm?  Who did you talk to?  Do you even know?  It was probably the receptionist.  And unless you found a body, a bag of money or the cure for cancer, your message didn’t get past him.

Do you read the paper?  If so, do you pay attention to who writes articles about local events?  Or who covers local business?  Do you take note of their writing style?

You should be.

For any and all media sources you’d like to care about your small business – local television stations, daily or weekly news publications, industry magazines, industry bloggers, local radio stations – you need to know who writes the news in your field, how they write, what angles seem to turn them on, and pretty much anything else you can find out without stalking them.

Once you get your feet wet there, take some time to make a list (Excel spreadsheet is probably best) of media contacts.  List the name of the exact person that writes what you are interested in, their email, phone number, fax number, job title, and include a section for notes about anything pertinent that you may need to know in the future.  You should be able to find all contact info online at the media outlet’s website.

When you make your list, make a note of why you would need to contact this person.  The reporter that covers local events like the one you’re hosting is probably NOT the same person that would cover an exciting new product or new store opening.  Be sure you have the right contact for the right purpose.

When it’s appropriate, you may want to reach out to a particular reporter to start a working relationship.  This is when you will introduce yourself and your business, and convey any information that you think that reporter will find interesting.  Don’t do this until you really have something to say.  Don’t waste a reporter’s time.  You can do this over the phone, via email, or in person, if you find an opportunity. 

When you talk to a reporter, find out how they prefer to be contacted – most prefer email. 

Also keep in mind what time of day and day of the week it is.  All reporters are terribly busy the few hours before deadline, so be wary that you aren’t interrupting. 

When it comes to pitching an actual story – maybe you have an event you really think they’d like to cover, or you’re opening a new franchise – follow these guidelines for talking to reporters over the phone.

Bloggers are different.  Getting them to cover something for you will require a more personal touch.  Ideally, you already follow this person’s blog, you’ve commented before, maybe even tweeted back and forth.  In other words, it’s great if they are aware you exist before you try to get them to cover you.  It’s like…you might ask a friend to let you borrow some money, but you wouldn’t approach them like they were a corner payday lender place (and this is NOT an endorsement for payday lenders, of course).  In the social-sphere, you need to build a personal relationship before trying to do ‘business.’  Luckily, it’s easier to form personal relationships in the social-sphere; people are generally more ‘open’ and more willing to be their true selves online (weird, isn’t it?).

When you feel confident in your media list, you can move on to media advisories and press releases.

Have any tips on networking with reporters?  Leave them in the comments below.

Jillian's Currently Reading: Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
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