Wrap It Up—Developing a Complete Story Idea to Gain Publicity, Earned Media or Placement

Give a story idea to a journalist

Did you ever think of giving the perfect gift to your media contacts–a well-developed developed story idea? No, then put that on your list of To-Dos.

When birthdays or holidays come around, people seek the perfect gifts for their clients, family or friends. You can do it for your business if you are willing to put in some work or have a dedicated marketing department that can take on this task.

Getting in the news

Packaging a story with all the items a journalist, blogger or reporter needs can gain your business earned media and pick-up. Journalists are not that different from the rest of us. They have a job to do and that job requires them to produce compelling content for their audiences…which is the same goal you have. As a business marketing itself, you need to provide your customers and prospects with the right information to help them choose your firm over others. When these two goals come together, you get earned media.

Required story idea steps

Here are a few requirements you must have in order to pitch a story:

  1. Familiarity with your community’s journalists. Within your community, whether it be bloggers, online magazines, consumer or trade magazines, newspapers, radio or television, there are outlets that need your news. You need to know who they are and how and what they prefer to receive from your company. As a public relations professional, it is my job to do this for my clients. But you can do this too. And in fact you should monitor your local news and content outlets so you understand who their audiences are. If you don’t have time to do this, nothing else on this list will be of much use to you. Because, when you monitor an outlet, not only do you know their “slant” you understand exactly how they approach a story. You’ll note that some are sensationalists, some are conservative, some are liberal. And when it comes to trades, some take story ideas and some don’t. If you want to “pitch” stories, and aren’t able to know these things, partner with a public relations provider. This is a core competency for most successful public relations practitioners. They make it their business to understand what journalists need.
  2. A positive reputation. If you are active in your community, and on social media and are well respected, you will have greater success in gaining placement.
  3. A compelling “news peg” or hook which makes the story essential and compelling to the journalist’s audience. Ask yourself this as you draft a story idea: “Why should someone care about this story?” If you can’t answer that question, then keep thinking. After you comprehend the angle you are going to use, write a three to four sentence paragraph that wraps this concept into a neat package—this is your story idea, or pitch.
  4. A press release or media advisory that sums up all the relevant facts and details about who, what, when, where, and why. If you aren’t sure how to write a press release, or media advisory, you can find lots of advice on the writing of press releases on the web.
  5. High quality, high resolution photos of the subjects or items discussed in your story. Many outlets will accept images to illustrate the story, and you must have these in hand. Note in your press release that you have images available to journalists and will supply them upon request. If your firm has an online newsroom or is using an online distribution system such as PR Web, you will be able to add your images to the online area. If your business doesn’t have an online media area where you you can share necessary materials with journalists, have your web developers create one for you.
  6. Logos or brand marks of the companies who are the subjects of your release. Online trade journals frequently will use your firm’s logo or brand mark to illustrate a story, so have a good quality file available at a high resolution. You may also need to have a vector based file for print publications. Vector based files scale and will provide a better reproduction of your businesses logo than a low resolution .jpg or .gif file.

Now, share your story idea

When you have all these requirements met, you can “pitch” or share your story idea. Most journalists have preferences about how they like to receive story ideas. I recommend that you get to know the journalists in your community in advance and to learn their preferences and how they like materials submitted. Some will not accept attached files, and some will only accept files submitted through their online submission portal. For others like bloggers, you really need to have a working relationship with them in advance. You can’t just expect them to take a story you pitch, when you don’t know them.

If you’ve done all these things correctly, the outlet will be delighted to accept your story, just like a well selected gift delights the recipient.

Oh, and just like when you get a real gift, be sure to write a thank you note.


Copyright: pachaileknettip / 123RF Stock Photo

PR Power Tactics


Gone are the days when businesses had to rely solely on inclusions in the newspaper. Today, businesses can be publishers.

Gaining earned media

It’s common business desire—getting your business featured in the news. Business owners want to gain earned media, or mentions in newspapers, or even have their founder interviewed on the news.  Ho do you go about it? What works? These five tips from Mary Cantando frequently work to help your firm gain earned media.

I’ve quoted and cited Mary Cantando before. Her weekly newsletter of tips and ideas is called “The Woman’s Advantage”, but heck, anyone can take advantage of her great ideas. As a public relations consultant, I’ve frequently used similar tactics such as the ones she recommends to gain media attention. The only caveat that I’ll add is you must have the data to back up your statements! Don’t go wildly throwing facts and figures around when you have nothing to stand on.

5 Ways to Get Media Interviews and Mentions 

1. Quote startling statistics. The fact that women have been starting businesses at twice the rate of men has been a real attention getter, so I’ve led with that for several years. Remember, just because information is common to you and others in your circle does not mean that the media is aware of it. Learn some startling statistics about your industry and use them to attract media attention.

2. Lead with intriguing questions.“Why do fewer than 2% of women business owners generate over a million dollars in revenue?” OR, you could flip that and say, “Why are 98% of women business owners unable to cross over the $1MM mark?” Following that lead, I discuss The Woman’s Advantage Program™ that I’ve developed to help women cross over that mark.

3. Reference pop culture. How is your product/service/business like Lady Gaga? Or “The Hunger Games”? Or Dick Clark. The more current and hot your comparison, the more likely you’ll get a pick-up. Look at yesterday’s news and create an analogy between your offering and a hot news item.

4. Lead with absolutes. Almost to the point of being arrogant. Use “never, must, always…”

5. Attack a current problem.I often attack high unemployment by discussing how small business owners…women in particular…are creating jobs by growing their businesses. So I might use a lead-in like “Women are rescuing the US economy.”

One thing to remember is that we no longer are captive of the press. As a business owner, you can publish your own information. If you’ve not undertaken a regular content marketing plan to develop, curate, post and share authoritative content that is related to your business, give us a call. We can help your business get the attention you seek.


Photo credit: flickr creative commons user Rexburg Historical Society

Ten low cost marketing and PR tactics that work

Tested Low Cost Marketing

Every small business owner faces the realization at some time in her history that she has more time than resources to market her business.

Not everyone can afford $5,000 a month for television advertising spot placement or $3,000 for a single-page ad in either their local lifestyle magazine or daily newspaper. So, what’s a cash-strapped, time-rich business owner to do? Our answer, use low cost marketing tactics that have worked for other business owners.

We asked small business owners to share their low cost marketing and public relations tactics that have been successful. We’ve selected these examples which include some time-tested tactics and some new-fangled ways to help promote and grow your business.

Social Media, Blogging and Online

    1. Jacqui Trotta, owner of a jewelry company based in Boston, relates how her company used Twitter to get attention. Jacqui said, “We use social media for branding and to generate sales. We held a ‘Twitter Trivia Treasure Hunt’ in which we dropped several clues on Twitter. Our followers sent in their responses and we did a random drawing and gave away gift certificates and a pearl necklace. Many of these people are now our followers and tend to shop when we offer promotions on our Twitter page.” Trotta says, “The winner of the necklace happened to be a blogger and did a write-up on the pearls on her blog. It went full-circle as being a Twitter success.”
    2. Michael Kaiser-Nyman, CEO & Founder, Impact Dialing, shared a time-tested tactic that works for him, “I get most of my publicity through guest blogging. I write interesting articles for other people’s blogs, and in return they provide links to my site.” In fact this has been so successful for Michael that he’s now retained the services of a professional writer to help him sustain this tactic.
    3. Ian Edwards of Arcadia NYC says the brand has earned awareness and inclusion by “developing content around our core issues.” “We’ve built our social media network with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and a blog. We have put a small budget toward Facebook ads that have, so far, expanded our followers by 30 percent.”

Bonuses, Samples and Special Offers

All customers like “free,” that’s why food products makers offer tastes of their products. In the restaurant business, when you do a promotion, the goal is to get your restaurant’s food in the mouths of prospective guests. The same tactic is used by business owners in other industries.

  1. Izzy Goodman, CEO of Complete Computer Services employs a tactic that is as old as business itself—the bonus. Goodman relates, “After a number of wasted campaigns, we now spend no money on advertising or pay-per-click. Instead, all our marketing budget is spent on our customers. The results have paid off.” Goodman’s offers fall into the category I call, “with six, you get eggroll,” allowing users who purchase in quantity to gain additional product for free. He may just be the master of this tactic as he tells us, he offers bonuses that include: “A) Referral bonus: Referrals from another customer earn both you and that customer a free cartridge. B) Repeat customer bonus: a returning customer who buys ten or more cartridges gets a free one. C) Double-and-free: We sell ink cartridges by the pack. Each time you double, you get a free cartridge. D) Non credit card discount: If you save us the credit card fee, we pass it back to you. Pay via PayPal, bank account, check or money order, get a free cartridge. E) Secret discount: Subscribers to our monthly newsletter get a secret discount code which reduces the price even further.”
  2. Lara White, Founder of Photomint puts a spin on free. She tells us what works for her, “I run a photography studio, and one of the things we have done that has been extremely successful to market our services inexpensively is to submit our photos for editorial features in local, national and international publications where our potential clients might see them. We do this about 1/2 dozen times per year and the only cost involved is packaging and time. From these efforts, we have secured coverage in food magazines in France, a wedding magazine in China, a British cake magazine and many other places in both print and online. We have been able to book many new clients based on this, ‘free publicity’ which exposes our work to a much wider audience and builds huge credibility.” So, publications get great content, without having to pay for it, and White gets earned media. This may work for some publications, just check to see if they accept non-solicited work for their publications.

Old-Fashioned Ideas Still Work

While there are many new ways to connect online, there are just as many ideas that are not new, and which are activities that have worked well for generations. While some may be helped along by new technology, the ideas themselves are ones generations of business owners before us will recognize.

  1. Kathy Paauw a business coach at Paauw Enterprises, Inc., tells us that she uses SendOutCards to regularly keep in touch with her prospects and her clients. She uses the service to organize and send pre-scheduled birthday cards to customers and “keeping in touch” messages to prospective customers.
  2. Sabina Les owner of a fashion accessories brand based in New York, NY, sends pitches to publications to gain earned media. She says, “My most successful PR tactics were writing short and the point emails, providing nice images within emails, pitching to magazine editors individually once a month.”
  3. Ian Edwards of Arcadia NYC also builds relationships with organizations whose causes fit the brand. They “have built strategic alliances with groups like the NY Fair Trade Coalition, hosting a very successful event to support fair trade fashion and accessories at our store in March.”

New Ideas Whose Time Has Come

Trends and new technology support these ideas that in essence aren’t’ new, but which rely on new tech to help them succeed.

  1. Felecia Scott of Wild Beauty has used the “pop up shop” trend to gain visibility in Los Angeles. Scott whose beauty products are based on family secrets, made her own chalkboard, and goes on location to sell her beauty remedies, not unlike people did more than a century ago.
  2. Alex Schiff, CEO and Co-founder Fetchnotes uses HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to gain inclusion in publications and online media outlets. Alex notes, “Best of all, the campaign just took my own time, so I didn’t have to outlay any cash on it.”

So, there you have it, ten low cost ways to promote your business—from actual business owners. You have no more excuses or lack of ideas to grow your business.

What other ways have you used that have not cost your business much more than your time and energy?