How to pique a journalist?s interest

By Julia Keady

Free publicity can do wonders for your business, but many business owners feel immediately intimidated at the prospect of approaching a journalist. What you must remember, however, is that a journalist is only as good as their leads. They are constantly on the lookout for great stories, and if that person feeding them no-nonsense story ideas is you, then you may find a media friend for life.

The guru is definitely Richard Branson, who verges on the ridiculous in the amount of free publicity he has generated for his Virgin brands. He is the undisputed king of the publicity stunt, managing to capture media attention almost effortlessly - perhaps his beard shave and wedding dress venture being one of his most flamboyant! Nonetheless, he meets one of the main media tenets: to entertain.

Let's unravel three ways you can achieve publicity for your business.

1. Think like a journalist

Depending on whom they're writing or broadcasting for, journalists are looking to inspire, inform or entertain. They also fight tooth and nail to be 'first' with a story. If you put yourself in their shoes, rather than the shoes of wanting something for nothing, you've jumped the first hurdle.

2. Does my idea cut the mustard?

Newsworthy stories are often difficult to discern when they're your stories. Is our new whiz-bang tech gadget newsworthy? Is the international study you have just undertaken important to others? Is your new export deal unusual? One of the best ways is to test it against your friends - the ones you are brutally honest with you (those not afraid to critique your dinner parties). If they raise their eyebrows at your story idea, then you're ready to tell a journalist.

3. Capturing their attention

Many people think the scattergun approach to publicity works - write a press release, disseminate widely and see who bites the bait. Unless you're the Vatican announcing a retired pope, most editors or journalists will skim or skip over your press release. You need to do some homework and pick your target. You may start with a trade publication - someone who understands your industry and who you can feel comfortable with. Get your pitch into a brief 20 words or less and use the phone and email to let them know. Always follow up and don't give up if you don't hear back immediately.

Working with the media must have a win-win result. They are not there to promote your business but to share stories of interest and intrigue with their readers. If you work within that mindset, you may find your own Branson magic!

If you haven't already tried this tactic, today is the day. What is one aspect of your business that's newsworthy? Brainstorm, talk with your employees and set yourself a goal to reach out to media once a month.


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