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Small Business Marketing

Networking With Journalists

All week long on the Marketing Minute show, I’ve been talking about public relations.  Yesterday on the show, I featured Press Advantage, a service that writes and distributes press releases for small businesses. In today’s episode, we’re going to continue with the theme of public relations, and talk about how you can network with reporters online so that you they’ll be more likely to pay attention to your press release.

The first step of this process is to identify the reporters you want to network with. These could be columnists for your local newspaper, freelance writers or bloggers who contribute to industry publications, the hosts of radio shows, or even the hosts of popular podcasts related to your industry. These people are very easy to find—all you have to do is read, listen, and watch various types of media related to your industry, which you probably do anyway.

Once you’ve identified four or five journalists, go online and follow them on twitter and Google+, and possibly LinkedIn, and subscribe to their blog if they have one using a tool like Feedly. Then, set up alerts for the name of the journalist using mention.net to help you keep track of what they’re writing about. Once a week, go through the list of journalists, see what they’ve been posting about on social media, and comment or reply to them. For example, the owner of a local construction company might follow a columnist who writes for the home and garden section of the local newspaper, and leave a comment on his blog every week, re-tweet his tweets, and share whatever it is that he’s writing about with his followers.

After doing this consistently for a month or two, the journalists you’re following will probably start to recognize you, and may even begin to like and trust you. You can help build rapport with the journalists by sharing helpful resources and information related to what they’re writing about. After you’ve been doing this for a while, chances are there will be a point where a journalist will ask you for information, or even quote you in a story, and that’s when you know they trust you.

Now, it’s time to cash in all the points you’ve earned with the journalist for being a good source and helping them out. The next time you have something newsworthy going on in your business, write a press release about it, or have a service like press advantage write it for you, and send it to the journalist along with a note explaining that you have a story he might be interested in. Make sure that the story is something that is truly newsworthy, and is something his readers would be interested in. For example, in the case of our imaginary owner of the local construction company, perhaps employees from his company are donating their time and expertise to a habitat for humanity build.

Now, there’s no guarantee that the journalist will run with the story just because you send him a press release. However, if the story is actually newsworthy, and your press release is well-written and properly formatted, there is a good chance he’ll use it, because you’ve just done most of his work for him. Reporters are just like other people, and if you make their job easy by delivering them a perfectly packaged story, ready to print or broadcast, they’re probably not going to ignore that—if you’ve done the legwork of building a relationship with them first.

Using the method I just described, I’ve actually had two press releases I wrote about my business published verbatim in the local newspaper—the paper didn’t even change a word. You might not always get that lucky, but you’ll probably at least be able to influence the tone and subject of a story about your business.

I realize that this sounds like a lot of work, but the payoff can be huge. Getting a story about your business featured on the right media channel is many times more valuable than a paid advertisement about your business on that exact same media channel.  Start networking with reporters today so that when you need publicity for your business, the relationships you need to get it will already be established.
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