Media releases (also known as press releases) are common PR tools used to attract attention but they are rarely the most effective way for small-to-medium sized businesses to generate media coverage.
Don’t despair if your message lacks newsworthiness, or your business is simply too small to create waves in the media—you can still achieve excellent positive media coverage using different media relations techniques. Here are some of your options:
A bylined article is a piece of content by you that has your name as the author (byline). To be effective, the article needs to be well targeted to the media outlet and ideally helpful in some way to its readership. It should not be promotional, but keep in mind that you will be positioned as a subject-matter expert by being the author and often your business name is included in the byline.
Consider sharing advice or how-to tips related to your business: for example, if you are a plumber you might want to contribute an article about how to reduce bathroom renovation costs; or explain something related to your expertise the readership might find interesting, for instance, if you are a baker you can write about how yeast starter is used to make real sourdough.
Get to know the media outlet you are pitching to and learn how bylined articles work for it. We know the local newspaper won’t run an advice article written by one of the teachers at our client, an independent school, for example, because local newspapers don’t work like that. We do know, however, that every year there are articles about the HSC, usually with a photo of HSC students from one of the schools in the area, so we offer HSC tips from the teacher to be published alongside one of those articles.
The aim of using a bylined article as a PR technique is to position you as an expert or thought leader, so make sure the content appears in a media outlet that will help you lift your profile with the right people, your potential customers. The good news is that these articles, in addition to your name, will often run a short bio of you and your business as part of your author profile, so the helpful content will be associated with your business.
If you’re prepared to be a little bolder with your commentary, an opinion piece is another way to get your name and business in the media. It’s okay to be controversial as long as the controversy is in keeping with the kind of customers you’re looking to attract, so don’t be afraid to hold opinions that oppose popular views. You might also choose to bust myths, expose scams or start a debate. If your passion for issues related to your industry and expertise shines through any potential controversy, it’s hard to go wrong.
Stories come to life through examples, and case studies can often help media outlets illustrate a particular issue or cause. If you have a client who has used your products or services and has achieved a positive result, consider sharing this success story with the media.
Make sure the case study hooks onto something newsworthy to increase the chances of coverage. For example, a client who has successfully used your video production company in their crowdfunding campaign might link in with a story on the crowdfunding trend.
Your expertise need not be confined to writing your own content; you can also help media outlets by being an interviewee, where you become a spokesperson not just for your business but often your industry or specialist subject area. Platforms such as Sourcebottle.com.au are a good way to find interview opportunities.
A PR agency with good media relationships will be able to position you as a suitable interviewee for relevant feature articles and news pieces. In many cases where the topics are set ahead of time according to a feature schedule, a good PR agency will be proactive about pitching your expertise for appropriate stories, for example your event planning knowledge ahead of the Christmas/New Year period.
One thing to note about all of these methods of gaining media coverage is that the information you provide needs to be relevant and newsworthy. Don’t be tempted to plug your business at the expense of saying something interesting; by being good talent your business is promoted by association, plus you’re more likely to receive further media opportunities.
For example: Take a look at this media coverage on news.com.au that we secured for our client, Pipe Perfection Plumbers, as a result of an interview opportunity that we pitched in: How to pick the right tradie
A good PR agency will use its understanding of the media, your business, your industry and your ideal customers to help you develop different angles and approaches to present you, and by association your business, in the best possible manner. And regardless if you do your own PR or use the services of a PR agency, what separates good PR activity from mediocre or ineffective PR is how strategic it is in its choice of approach – and sometimes this does not involve a press release.