Tactics to land online media coverage

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 2 Aug, 2016
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Make no mistake – competition to land media coverage and press mentions is just as hard online as it is off.

There is no more of an easy route onto the websites of premium publishers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times or Entrepreneur than there is into their physical pages. The battle is equally, if not more fierce, for digital column inches. That said, if you prepare your campaign well, with the help of these insider tips, you’re on course to win that battle.

No matter your industry and regardless of how niche your product or services, there’ll be at least a handful of specialist journals and magazines covering related topics. If you’re a tech startup or app developer, a clothing designer, accountant or real estate broker, you’ll be inundated with publishers, magazines and newspapers covering your particular corner of the economy. Each of them with websites and social media channels and audiences ready sorted – a readership already proven to have an appetite for news from companies just like yours.

Whether you have a big launch to shout about, are looking to build good quality links over the long term or raise your brand profile ahead of a funding round, recruitment drive or sales push, online media coverage can be a huge morale booster. It can also drive traffic to your site, improve sales, prompt demand and incite a real buzz about your business.

After more than 10 years pitching to editors on both sides of the Atlantic, and press coverage secured in all of the aforementioned titles plus the likes of Vogue, the Discovery Channel and the Huffington Post to name but a few, these are my top tips to land relevant media coverage for your brand on a consistent basis…

1. Be news driven not sales driven

The biggest mistake I see from brands trying to land media coverage is that the content they push is salesy rather than newsy. If you are seeking press coverage, you need to give journalists information they can actually use. A 30% off sale and free shipping is fine for your email marketing shot but it isn’t the foundation of a press release. Think like a journalist. Look for the story. Perhaps you’re offering 30% off to celebrate 30 years in business for example.

The very first step to securing media coverage is finding a genuine news angle rather than a glorified sales pitch.

2. Take a course in PR writing

If you hope to achieve media coverage, you need to learn how to write for the media. This means communicating with journalists in their language so your news value gets through.

Your news should be presented in a very specific way to appeal to journalists. It should not be written as an attempt to talk to your consumer. That’s the easiest way to turn a journalist off. Learn to write a news story like a professional, following a proper structure, so your piece can be copied and pasted. If it doesn’t need rewriting, you spend a much better chance of being covered.

Journalists are trained to use a pyramid structure in their news writing. This means getting all the meaningful information in at the start and providing background information later on. Your first couple of sentences should convey the whole story succinctly and precisely. A busy journalist knows from a quick scan that your news is worth considering without being forced to wade through paragraphs of text to get to the crux of the matter.

3. Don’t wait for a main event

True hold the front page stories are rare. You might have only one or two genuinely sizzling news stories per year. This is normal and no reason to panic or become disheartened. Don’t make the mistake of sitting around waiting for that one big event to happen. Be creative and be proactive. Even if you sell something as seemingly uninspiring as light bulbs, you can and should create interesting, coverage worthy pieces on a regular basis.

How? Use tools such as BuzzSumo and Moz to identify trending topics and see what’s popular on the web this month. Dig around and see what people are liking and sharing in your industry (Buzzsumo and Moz will do this for you). Use this hot list to focus a monthly brainstorming session. Create a list of ideas which feed that appetite for information with newer opinions, data or insight on those trending topics or a different perspective.

4. Prepare a list of contacts and keep it updated

Build a list of relevant websites and research which journalists write about particular topics linked to your business. Create a list so when you send out your news, you’re contacting the person responsive for the column inches you’re targeting directly. Don’t ever send to the general news desk email. If you can’t find the correct contact information, call the publication and ask for it. If budget isn’t an issue, tools like Vocus, Cision and Gorkana are worth a look. All are media databases, which streamlines the process of creating very specific media contact lists.

5. Prepare to invest time and effort

You must be prepared to invest a substantial amount of time and effort into your media relations. Good news stories take work but the payoff will be better coverage on bigger sites. Conducting a poll or a study to generate unique data might seem like a big job and it could potentially take weeks to collect, collate and draw conclusions from it. However, this investment means you have a unique data source (the media loves trends, surveys and polls) exclusive to your company. This could lead to much more media coverage in the long run.

6. Offline matters too

Combine your digital activities with the physical world. Many print publications have felt the digital squeeze, which has meant downsizing print journalists and recruiting more online savvy newsroom employees. Those working on stories for the .com version of your target publication will likely also have a by-line in the printed press – take this same approach and combine the two. Invite your contacts to physical events such as launch parties, new season previews and blogger breakfasts. Make it easy for your guests to post online by providing WiFi and offering Tweetable stats, Insta-worthy backdrops and props, high-resolution  images and essential tech such as iPads and charging stations at your event.

7. Establish your expertise

Don’t be afraid to push yourself as an authority on your area of interest. Create a profile page on your website, publish thought and opinion pieces there and link to Slideshare to showcase presentations you have given. Some people are reluctant to add their own name to news releases. Push modesty aside and, when a news release is being prepared, make sure your full name and job title is included alongside the quote. The more you’re quoted, the more your credentials will be verified.

On the same note, be proactive about pitching to speak at industry events and seminars. All will have websites. Some will stream keynote speeches or provide video summaries on their site either during or after the event. This is a great way to tap into someone else’s website and build some industry coverage for yourself and your brand.

8. Donate product samples

Don’t be stingy with your products. It’s not enough to offer a blogger a link or a mention on your site if they post about you. This isn’t the compliment you think it is. Bloggers will not recommend products to their readers if they haven’t tried them personally. If you want coverage on a popular blog, you need to make it worth their while with product samples as a minimum.

9. Don’t lose heart

Securing media coverage is hard. There are millions of other brands and news stories competing for the same space you are. Keep pitching and keep sending out releases. If you lose heart because that story you thought was a shoe in didn’t make the splash you were certain it would, you’re simply clearing the way for your competitor to have a better shot at obtaining coverage for their business.

Not every story will get coverage. It’s impossible to predict what will. Keep suggesting new ideas and keep pitching story angles – one will hit at the right time and result in the kind of press coverage that makes all of your previous efforts worthwhile.

A final note of caution, I’m often asked if I’m able to guarantee media coverage for clients - and told of others the client is speaking to who can. My answer is always no. The only person truly able to guarantee coverage is the journalist physically able to upload your story to their publication’s CMS. Don’t believe anyone, expert or not, who claims to have the keys to the kingdom in return for a sizeable fee. They don’t.

What tips do you have to secure online media coverage? Let us know in the comments which tactics have worked for you.


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