By Laura Aguiar, APR
Most business owners know how valuable advertising can be. But, if the message comes from an objective news source, good press can be worth just as much as a company can purchase in ad space, if not more. Besides the mainstream press, there’s the ever-expanding world of social media. To succeed, tweets and posts need to generate the kind of interest that goes “viral.”
Whether you’re looking for a news angle or buzz, the challenge is finding an interesting hook to get the media’s attention.
Start by setting some goals. With all of the options available, it will help to focus on where you most want to see your story and where it can make the most impact on your potential customers. Develop a target list of media outlets and get to know the coverage and how it gets produced.
Start generating ideas–new products or services, new hires, new locations, expansions, charitable endeavors and more. If you’re targeting social media exposure, think of questions or informal surveys that generate interaction. Don’t forget photo or video clip ideas. Don’t worry yet whether the ideas are good ones. The more ideas you have, the more likely something will stand out.
It is standard practice to piggyback on a national news story by offering local media an angle close to home. For example, offer first-hand knowledge of a trend in your industry. Are people ordering more cupcakes instead of birthday cakes? Why? As the expert in your business, you do not need scientific proof or a national survey to support your theory. Tell your story based on your experiences.
Even if the news seems negative, there is still an opportunity to turn a story to get a business noticed. Offer an opposing view. An increase in sales of hardwood and laminate flooring provides a dramatic counter point for a carpet cleaning service.
A story pitch doesn’t have to be about you to include you. Share something positive about a business associate or a new product that is making business better and let others know who is responsible. A new medical software company just reduced your patients’ waiting times by 50 percent. There’s always the chance that your business partner will return the favor later.
Steal story ideas. The Internet makes reviewing magazines and newspapers from other locations easy. What stories got attention? Can you repeat it locally? Swap ideas with others in your industry through your trade association or fellow franchisees.
Stay up to date on local issues and politics. A business zoning change at a commission meeting later in the week can be turned into an opportunity if your business can be affected. Outline how or explain why you’ll be watching for the details on a decision. These are important stories that are often difficult for journalists to personalize and make interesting.
Finally, practice! If at first you don’t succeed with press coverage, a retweet or a share on Facebook, keep trying. Sometimes, all you need is a slow news day.
Laura Aguiar, APR, is manager, public relations and government affairs at Gainesville Regional Airport. A 1992 graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism with a B.S. in Telecommunications, News, Aguiar spent 10 years producing broadcast news, including the markets of Honolulu, Savannah, Ga., and Mobile, Ala., as well as a year at Gainesville’s WCJB TV 20. Aguiar serves as secretary for the Gainesville Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association.