In my previous post, I outlined some ways service businesses could market themselves online.
Here are some ways to get the attention of mainstream media:
Track media activity.
One of the best ways to get publicity in mainstream media is to track what the reporters are working on and what they need…and give it to them.
Fortunately, that is easy with HARO (Help a Reporter Out). This free service emails notices about what topics reporters are researching, and what kind of information or sources they need. It’s a great service. The challenge is that it is very popular. So when you find that someone needs some information you can provide, reply quickly. Outline the information and tell the reporters a little bit about yourself. (You want them to understand you are a good resource.)
I have successfully arranged media interviews and generated publicity for clients through the HARO inquiries. A colleague was even mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, thanks to the service. So it’s definitely worth the effort.
Develop story ideas.
Developing story ideas can be an effective way to ingratiate yourself with the editors. Reporters and editors are typically overworked and underpaid. They appreciate it when someone does some of their work for them.
Develop a few ideas so that if the editor doesn’t like the first one, you can suggest another story. “How to’s” are often good, as are stories about trends, personalities and any unusual aspect of your product or service.
What do you do once you have these ideas? For one thing, you can just contact the editor of a publication or website and discuss it with him or her. That’s a little tricky, but can work.
Or you could suggest it as an angle for an editorial calendar topic, which I’ll discuss next.
Track editorial calendars.
An editorial calendar is a schedule of the topics publications (and some websites) plan to cover over a period of time. You can often find this information on the publication’s website, usually in the advertising or media kit section.
- Editorial calendars change frequently. Topics get deleted, moved or changed.
- Often the editorial calendar just lists topics (e.g., “widgets”), not story angles (e.g., “the growing importance of widgets in medical imaging”).
However, when you find something that “fits” (or might fit) your company, contact the reporter. Find out if he or she has a specific angle in mind. If not, suggest something. (That’s one reason you developed all those stories ideas.) If the publication takes contributed articles, volunteer to write it. Otherwise, offer to be a source of information for the article.
I have successfully maintained PR programs for clients based almost exclusively on “working” the editorial calendars. You can do the same.
Develop visuals that tell a story.
Magazines, newspapers and websites all need good visuals: photos, graphics and video. Editors need visuals to draw attention to the text, break up the page visually, and help tell the story. The editors get a lot of written material, but relatively few good photographs or illustrations.
Start a file of photographs and illustrations that catch your eye and tell a story. They may spark ideas when you need some inspiration.
For example, a pharmaceutical firm developed a board-game-like diagram that clearly illustrated the FDA approval cycle for new drugs. I still remember that illustration even though I saw it more than a decade ago.
You may not routinely have news, but you can “create” it. So hold a contest. Take a survey. Celebrate an anniversary.
Depending on the type of news you create, you may have several publicity opportunities:
- Announcing the contest, event, anniversary etc.
- Reminding people of the deadline or event date.
- Announcing the results and winners.
- Inviting the media to the event.
- Providing pictures to the media.
I hope by now you see that, although success is not automatic, there are many ways to market a service.
But remember, one of the best marketing activities is also the most fun: networking. Be active in one or two professional organizations. Help others out in their businesses. Participate in projects big and small. No matter how digital the world gets, we still like the “personal touch.”
A caveat: My rule of thumb is to do three marketing activities. Choose the ones that make the most sense for you; do them well and do them consistently. Doing no marketing risks having your business dry up. Trying to do too much can be distracting, time-consuming and even counter-productive.
If you’re not doing any marketing now, start small. Pick one activity and master it. Then add another activity and then another.