Guest article written by Kate Anderson, Indispensable me
So, you have an interesting and unique product and you want to spread the word by gaining valuable media coverage. Great idea - after all press is free if you can get it! But HOW do you get it? Where do you start?
The truth is editors, stylists, journalists and bloggers simply want to work with people who know how to work with them. So although you don't need a PR firm or publicist to secure media coverage it's fair to say there are no short-cuts or magic solutions either. You need time and some media market know how. These 5 tips offer a simple kick off point to help get you and your business 'media ready'.
1. Media Smarts - who you should be talking to
This is all about building a media contacts list by finding the media outlets that match your customer profile. In Australia there are close to 3,000 media organisations, covering national, metropolitan, regional and suburban newspapers; specialist magazines; radio stations; television stations; multicultural media; and newswire services. And that's not including online blogs, social media and websites! Yet, only a small percentage of these will be appropriate and applicable to your business and product. But which ones?
The starting point is your customers. Can you tell me who buys from you and who is most interested in your products? Yes? OK — now think about what magazines they are likely to be reading. What sections of the weekend newspaper are they most likely to reach for first. What blogs are your customers and more importantly your future customers reading? What professional organisations or industry associations do they belong to? And also where do you live and operate your business?
Buy copies of these magazines and newspapers, subscribe to the online publications, follow the blogs and read them. Read your local papers. Can you envisage your product within the pages? If the answer is yes, you have found a potential match. Next work out what sections would best suit your product. Initially focus on the 'Fresh Picks', 'Things we Love', 'Hot Right Now!' or product review pages that are dedicated to providing timely information about new products (see point 2 below). Find out who compiles these pages. Put them on your contacts list. This should be an on-going process, always researching and building that list.
2. Why "NEW" is so important
This is where you need to start thinking like an editor! 'New' is the currency of the media — they want to be the first to try something, the first to share with readers, the ones with an exclusive sneak peak.
If you are not working with a PR agency or publicist it's up to you to develop stories that attract media around the things that are 'new' about your product. Some examples include: new product launch, a special sale, a new colour in your range, new packaging, a new service, new website redesign, new staff member etc. Think strategically and develop a calendar of ideas, tied in with your production and in-stock dates.
There are lots of ways to create something new and you WILL have more success if you promote your products in this way. You will also be letting the editor know that you are media savvy.
3. The media kit and other ideas!
You can't beat a media kit for its one-stop-shop usefulness. It provides all the information that an editor or writer could need in one easy and immediate package, including photos, product information, business backgrounders, your personal profile. But the good old fashioned printed media kit, while not yet extinct, is definitely on the endangered list.
And there are many reasons why... they outdate quickly, need constant updating (and reprinting), take precious time to physically compile, cost a bomb to print, post or courier and in this fast paced world there is a reason why it's called snail mail! From the receivers' perspective they actually create more work, opening and wading through pages, the need to file the hard copy (somewhere? maybe the bin?) and the need to re-enter information from hard copy. Editors today prefer to receive pitches electronically.
That is not to say the information contained in a media kit is not useful! The perfect compromise is to create a media section on your website or blog that contains all the information you would normally include in a media kit. Organise it so the media can quickly get their hands on the information they need.
And when you do proactively approach the media its best to contact them by email, with a snappy subject header and a concise couple of paragraphs about your product and the unique features that set it apart. Embed a low res image into the the email for easy viewing and let them know hi res images are available (see point 4 below).
4. The power of great images
Editors, stylists and bloggers are visual people. Good photography is the single most important component in communicating your product/brand to them and it GREATLY affects whether or not they will share your product with their readers/audience.
I can't stress how important it is to get your products photographed by a professional studio based photographer. A great picture will help you rise to the top of the submissions pile. If an editor is forced to choose between two products they like equally, they will ALWAYS choose the one with the great image that can be used straight away. Five years ago I used to tell my clients that media budgets for original photography were at an all time low. If an editor can use what you provide instead of shooting it themselves, it simply helps with budgets. Today, the fact is that most media outlets just don't have budgets to shoot their own product shots. So if you don't have professional photos you won't be included.
Print media generally ask for hi res, deep etched photographs, that enable them to incorporate your image into a wide range of layouts. TIP - crisp, well lit, deep etched product shots are more desirable then over styled, 'lifestyle' presentations!
My advice - find a good photographer and stick with them. Be faithful, send all your work to them and you will not regret it. And keep your iPhone images for social media.
5. Follow up and then follow up and then follow up
Many business owners have the misconception that they can simply write a single media release, submit it to a media outlet and the media interest will pour in. Unfortunately this rarely happens. The key to generating media interest and placements is meticulous media interaction over an extended period of time: regular follow-ups; prompt fulfillment of media requests (interviews, photos, samples); ongoing editorial research and approaches (contacts change all the time). The majority of the media interest comes several weeks or sometimes months later, after the media has had a chance to see your product a few times and determine how/when they are going to give it coverage.
But please don't nag an editor! Simply follow up your initial pitch with an email about a month later. You may not get any response. But don't be disheartened. Perhaps your next one will hit the spot.
Part of the product PR journey is understanding that no product, no matter how unique, innovative or award-winning can be assured media coverage in every magazine, newspaper, radio program and blog. It is totally up to the discretion of each editor or blogger as to whether your product is published. And its just a waste of your precious time (and theirs) if you target the wrong media with the wrong message, focussing on the wrong product, using the wrong tools. The good news is you can greatly increase your chances of getting a media hit with a little expertise and media market know-how. Of course, now all you super multi-tasking mums need is the time for all the legwork to do it!
Kate Anderson, owner, Indispensable me
Specialising in product publicity and project management, Indispensable me is about greater work flexibility for small/micro businesses. We offer something to good to refuse — an indispensable and cost effective person prepared to come on board and complete the legwork for you.
Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net