Advertising on social media has proven to be a lot more cost-efficient than placing ads through traditional media. It could be more effective, too.
But that doesn’t mean you should abandon the power of the traditional media. Instead, you can take advantage of your local media and other outlets by gaining some valuable and free publicity for your small business. And in some ways, your social media marketing and public relations efforts will work hand-in-hand.
To write the most effective press releases and make pitches to editors and journalists that will get them writing and talking about your business, you need the right approach. So we asked several media and public relations professionals for some advice.
Before you start dialing up your local newspaper or TV station or firing off emails looking for media coverage, check out the tips below. Make sure you’ve figured out your PR pitch.
Here are the tips our experts recommend:
Crafting Your Pitch
Keep It Simple
Marie Alonso, an online marketing and media specialist with Miles Technologies  tells Small Business Trends:
“Pitch the facts and the engagement opportunities for readers. Editors don’t want to review long paragraphs filled with rambling information. Pitches that are concise, and sharing just the facts, allow for an immediate engagement with the editor or reporter. Always think of the READER – not the editor or reporter. The reader is always the goal.”
Avoid Industry Jargon, Buzzwords
Write in straight forward language that’s easy to understand. This requires avoiding jargon and buzzwords that mean nothing outside your industry. Amanda Eldridge, director of strategic channels at PR Newswire , adds in an email interview:
“Colorful language isn’t substantive, and can be a turn-off to journalists.”
Provide Interesting Data, Tips, Facts
Pitches with unusual facts or a numbered list of helpful tips help the writer come up with an interesting story angle, says Eldridge.
In the news business, timeliness is critical, our experts agree. Getting your message out at the right time — and giving reporters time to prepare — will increase the likelihood your public relations pitch will be heard above others.
Keep It Timely
The timely pitch will be the pitch editors act upon. Connect your news to current events or reactions to a recent report or study. Find ways to make your pitch relevant and timely to create a sense of urgency, suggests Alonso. Capitalize on news of the day and ways to boost your pitch with timely, educational or even entertaining tidbits that allow editors to not only cover your news, services or activities, but, more importantly, utilize your news to create a bigger story!
Be Proactive AND Creative
Sometimes a successful pitch requires a certain amount of creativity…and a willingness to go the extra mile to help journalists construct their story. American University School of Communication Assistant Professor Gemma Puglisi tells Small Business Trends:
“Send the reporter spokespeople they can contact for major stories that apply to a client. Let’s say the story is about the heat/weather. And let’s say your small business is a boutique. As the owner, you could talk about what is appropriate to wear for the office … and outside the workplace.”
Give A Head’s Up
Help journalists plan ahead by providing advance notice of upcoming events. If you’re pitching an event or have a specific timeline for when you need coverage, don’t wait until the week of the event, says Eldridge. Journalists often plan their content in advance with an editorial calendar.
Finally, Eldridge suggests, do not create a false sense of urgency in order to get noticed. Harassing journalists for an immediate response will only serve to paint you as an unreliable and often excitable source.
Connecting with the Right Person
Now that you’ve got a solid pitch to dangle before editors and reporters, our experts concur that getting heard by the right people is key. This prevents you from being a pest to journalists that don’t cover your type of story and also keeps you from wasting time making pitches to them.
Identify the Right Writer
Business owners should take the time to compile a list of journalists who only cover the types of news or topics they are pitching, suggests Eldridge. This will let them know who to pitch their story to when the time comes.
Know Who You’re Pitching
This has always been the rule for pitching, says Puglisi. More than just having the reporter be a name on a list, read stories the reporter has covered. Be sure to mention specific examples of similar types of stories they, or their news outlet, have written in the past. Then explain why your story would fit into the mix.
Personalize Your Email Pitches
The editor or journalist you are pitching to is not just a faceless media representative waiting to do your bidding by writing a story from your latest press release. That person is a human being with his or her own wants, needs, point of view and agenda. So make sure you connect as a human being and acknowledge their part in the equation. After all, without their help, your news will not get out. Mention a tweet of theirs you recently read or an article they recently wrote, Eldridge says. Introduce yourself before stating the nature of your story. Then explain why you’re contacting them in a brief, succinct message.
Of course, once you’ve got interest from a member of the media or a news outlet, your actions in following up and being responsive to media requests are just as important.
Remember, you are on their time, Eldridge stresses. Though you may not grab their attention at first, they may need you later down the road. And when that happens, be ready. When they call, answer. Whatever they need, get it.
In journalism, reporters are taught the “afterglow effect.” It refers to the value of information you glean from a source after the interview has essentially ended and everyone is less guarded. The same can be said for cultivating relationships with reporters and editors and getting more attention for your small business in the future.
Channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus can help you build relationships with local and national journalists and editors simply by replying to a tweet or status update. Having a journalist recognize your name can be a major advantage in getting your pitch chosen over another, says Eldridge.
Share their content with industry peers on social media or reference articles in a blog post. This shows that you share an interest in similar topics and that you are familiar with the journalist’s work.
Maintain the Relationship
The relationship doesn’t stop after you’ve had your news covered. How a brand interacts with journalists or media outlets after a story is reported could help or hurt future outreach just as much as the initial pitch does. A short email thanking the journalist is courteous, as is sharing their post (and other posts) on your social media channels, says Eldridge.
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. In an era of social media when everyone has their own mini news outlets, it’s easy to forget how powerful external press coverage can be. Often times, getting this coverage simply requires the right approach and a bit of planning.
Reporter  Photo via Shutterstock