A press release may seem like the best way to reach the media to tell your story. But sometimes there are more effective tools.
Knowing there are different ways to reach the media may help you identify the opportunities that work best for your small business. As you create a media plan for the year ahead, consider launching a surgical strike with a pitch letter, hopping on a moving news story with a statement, or blanketing the media with a press release. Each can capture media attention and keep a spotlight on the positive news about your small business.
The Pitch Letter
If you want to catch the attention of a reporter from a top outlet, you may need to offer a more targeted, exclusive story than a mass-distribution press release. The best way is to write a pitch letter to the reporter, a brief e-mail that clearly targets that particular media outlet. For example, if a radio show features a small business segment every Friday, make sure your pitch letter indicates that you’re suggesting a story for that segment. The pitch should be brief, no more than four or five paragraphs. The writing should be conversational and full of facts to show how interesting the story could be if the reporter pursues it.
The pitch letter is also the best vehicle for offering an “exclusive” to a media outlet. Top reporters are very competitive when it comes to getting a jump on their rivals. You can make your story that much more attractive by offering to give it first to a selected outlet. You need to be clear about the terms of the exclusive, which usually means that the outlet will publish or broadcast it alone anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours before the information is broadly released to other media.
A pitch letter is also a good vehicle for offering different angles on a story. Use bullet points to suggest some options. For example, if your business is a gourmet grocery and you’re looking for television coverage, your pitch might suggest the following:
- “Our renowned chef, Joe Bagadonuts, can demonstrate in WABC-TV’s studio kitchen up to three ridiculously easy and devastatingly romantic dinners for a Valentine’s Day celebration that keeps you at home and in budget.”
- “Been there, done that with the usual Valentine’s Day sweets for the sweet? Your cameras are welcome in our store as owner Jane Gourmand turns personal shopper and reveals some surprising and delicious ways to spice up your gift.”
Another tool that can be used to reach reporters covering your industry is the statement, which typically reacts to current news. For example, after the recent earthquake in Haiti, a small business owner with ties to businesses there might issue a brief statement that expresses concern and support and describes charitable efforts that his or her business is undertaking to support those in need.
The statement, which should be e-mailed to the media as quickly as possible after news breaks, should be extremely brief, no more than a sentence or two. It should include your name, title, and business and your connection to the story (“60 percent of the suppliers to my shoe-making business in Hometown, New York, are based in Haiti”). The statement must include your contact information and your willingness to comment on the breaking news; so be sure to make yourself immediately available if you get a request for an interview.
The statement can trigger a few different reactions from the media. If the reporter is rushing to complete a breaking news story and wants to include a local angle, your statement may be included as a quote from you. Or if the reporter wants more information or a fresher quote, you may be contacted for an interview. Another possible outcome is that you may not be included in the story at all but your contact information may be kept for a future story, where you might be included as an expert in a certain field or industry.
In her 16 years as a PR professional, Barbara Goldberg has helped clients in health care, alternative energy, and the performing arts tell their stories in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS News, ABCNews.com, and many other media outlets.