You’ve got an extra special holiday event planned. Or a special product that is just begging to get some air time. How do you get the media—and therefore, your customers—to pay attention? Here are some tips.
Be prepared. Don’t start reaching out to the media until you have a website that clearly represents your brand, clean product photographs (photos of products you are carrying that are great gift ideas, tablescapes, etc.) and a digital media kit. Typically the media kit should include all bios (owner of shop), company info, sample brands that you carry, and photos. Have all these ready to go and available at the click of a button.
Know who your spokesperson will be. Are you camera shy? Do you freeze during interviews or fumble with words? Ideally the storeowner is the spokesperson but in certain circumstances you might want to think about someone else who is qualified: your head buyer, best salesperson, etc. This should be someone with a “fun” personality who is engaging and creative and will positively reflect your brand.
Drop everything when the phone rings. If a reporter calls you, call them back within hours, minutes if possible. The same goes for an email. Do not expect a journalist to sit around and wait for your call back; they will call someone else, probably a competitor. Be sure and let your staff know that anyone calling from the media must be treated as urgent. One of the companies we worked with lost a huge front-page opportunity because an employee took the call and never passed it on.
Build a relationship. Think about developing a relationship with the journalist you are trying to pitch, rather than just blindly reaching out. Invite them out to lunch (and be sure to pick up the tab!) to get to know them. Don’t use that hour as an opportunity to just talk about you, find out about them. Then, send a nice follow-up note thanking them for their time with a small gift from your store that shows you really listened to them/got to know them. When all else fails, send them a gift card. Think about it as a small price to pay for some great exposure down the line. Next time they’re working on a story, you’ll be front of mind.
Don’t ever try to sell the media. You aren’t trying to get them to buy anything from your store; you simply want to inform them about why your place has something special to offer. Avoid flashy sales-like buzzwords, or talking poorly about your competitors and stick to the facts (local products, specific brands that are really special/different). If your shop is exceptional, they’ll be able to see that based on the information alone.
Pay attention to the news and think bigger picture. In the fall, think about how you could pitch a story relevant to tailgating season. In November and December holiday gifts are everywhere. There is always something fresh and relevant for television and newspaper coverage. Could you offer “10 Budget Holiday Gift Ideas”? What about “Decorating Your Dining Room Table”? Offer to set up a great display table and decorate it right in the newsroom, or invite the media to come out to your shop for a behind-the-scenes look at some great gift ideas for the upcoming season.
Know who you are pitching. The best thing you can do is familiarize yourself with the publications or television programs you are trying to pitch. As a basic rule of thumb, they’re only going to cover topics that are relevant to their content. Don’t waste your time reaching out to publications that are too much of a stretch. If they don’t regularly cover lifestyle/features, they probably won’t start now.
Quality not quantity. Don’t waste your time blanketing every media outlet east of the Mississippi. Where are your customers hanging out? What magazines are they reading? What television shows are they watching? Is it beneficial for your products to be featured in a national magazine? If you’re located in a small town, you might be better off to focus on the local news first.
Get to the point. If you can’t sum up what you’re trying to say in three or four sentences, you are not being concise enough. Reporters barely make it past your first sentence. If you are lucky and they’re still interested, they will read on. But do not pitch a three-page exposé about your business, the history, family, future plans, etc. Keep it short and to the point. If you get a bite, the reporter will definitely ask for more information (and you already have your media kit ready to go, right?).
And finally most important of all:
Know how to pitch. When was the last time you enthusiastically tore open your junk mail? A press release that opens with the words, “For Immediate Release,” is the equivalent of “Current Resident.” This approach is basically saying “Hey, you that I didn’t even bother to look up your name—here is the same email I’m going to send 50 other people in a very formal format. I hope you’ll do a story about me.”
It’s not that the information in the release isn’t important, but adding a personal touch, the equivalent of penning a hand-written letter, helps. So go ahead and pitch but present the information in a way that could become a story, a human interest piece, rather than a business brief. Just don’t start your pitch with To Whom This May Concern.