I was kindly invited by Wychavon District Council to a marketing advice session recently where I gave a presentation about how businesses can work with their local press.
Here, in seven much-condensed points, is what I said:
1. Why work with local newspapers?
Despite rumours of its demise, the local press is a powerful marketing medium whose developing mastery of the digital realm is actually giving it a growing audience reach rather than a declining one. Local newspapers are well-established and trusted brands.
2. Would they be interested in news about my business?
Yes. Newspapers are keener than ever to use words and pictures supplied by local people and organisations. Business information that interests journalists includes new orders, staff appointments, expansions and moves to new premises, trade awards and charitable activities among other things.
3. How do I make contact with them?
Most journalists prefer contact by email in the first instance. Check on the paper’s website for contact details. If you are still not sure who you need to deal with give the paper a call and ask who handles its business coverage. Get their email address and telephone number.
4. I’m no good at writing, and I can’t afford to pay someone to do it for me
You don’t need a way with words. Stick to the facts and use very simple English. People get into trouble when they try to over elaborate. Make sure you have answered these questions: What has happened? Why? When? Where? Who did it involve? Include your name and contact details in case more information is needed.
5. What about photographs?
Your story is more likely to be used if you include a photograph. Always attach one to your email, even if it is just a portrait shot of yourself, one or more employees, or your business premises. Include a caption naming everyone in the photograph and giving their roles in your organisation. Take pictures outdoors whenever possible as the quality is always better than when using a flash indoors. Modern digital cameras will look after the focus and exposure for you, but you must think about composition. Group your subjects tightly together (it feels a bit uncomfortable for them but the picture will be much better). Choose the blandest background, and zoom in as tightly as you can. Avoid trying to include company signage in your photograph, attach a logo to your email instead (many papers use them along with photographs).
6. What about social media?
Newspaper journalists are avid users of social media. You need to be too. Journalists increasingly use Twitter in particular to search for news and information. Find local journalists on Twitter and follow them; the chances are they will follow you back, especially if you regularly use the service to post information about your business. Include their user names in your tweets if you want to draw their attention to what you have to say.
7. I’ve tried all this, and they aren’t publishing anything about my business
Be persistent. You must have clear tactics for your marketing campaign. Ensure you send a press release every week or every month, not just when the time allows or you get an idea. Are sending your information to the right person? Call to find out. Remember, news goes stale quickly so don’t sit on a story for a month before getting around to letting your local paper know. Don’t discourage journalists by not returning their calls if they try to reach you for information.
- Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilsonWN