In order to promote your content, you cannot rely solely on your website/blog and then social channels as the only spaces for text.
This article focuses specifically on working with journalists.
I am a firm believer that when an owned and earned approach works together it can help your business immensely. To read a bit more on this and some definitions read ‘How To Make An Owned And Earned Media Approach Sing Sweetly.’
It is something that has worked for me. However, a word of warning, it is an approach that means you have to step aside from an automated, ‘I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn.’ It’s called ‘getting to know someone.’
I seem to have a pretty good strike rate with the local paper at the moment (The Bournemouth Echo). I asked business editor, Darren Slade to attend one of the recent Content Revolution Workshops and share some practical advice so other businesses have an opportunity to be recognised and seen within the local press.
Basically, how can a business create copy that will be published via the content they create and not just via budget they have to spend?
Shouting ‘Print Is Finished’
Whilst we can wallow in the ‘print is finished’ statements and believe that the 13.5% year on year decline for regional press circulation figures is the equivalent of the uncool person at school asking you for a date while the social media team are much more attractive, lets not cast it aside just yet.
Regional press still has an important role to play as part of your content marketing armoury. I bet seeing something you have created in print feels on a completely different level to seeing it on a website?
It has to be considered as a valuable tool if there is longevity in a message and you are going to be consistent with the belief and approach that you stand by.
Gaining Audience In Alternative Places
If your audience is on a local level, it is your role as a business to supply thought provoking and relevant articles for the business community.
You just have to see the world differently by thinking that you have every right to have a space within the news pages if you have a belief and story that emphasises your business mindset.
This goes beyond the product/service/benefits that you sell. It is everything about the value that you provide.
The local press also provides longevity. Gone are the days of thinking that tomorrow’s article is forgotten about the day after. There is now the online version and the monthly business supplement (in my case there is the monthly Dorset Business publication which is a round up of the monthly news).
The Nitty Gritty For What You Need To Know
The local press need local businesses to support and share their perspective; the newsrooms that were once abundant in reporting staff need your help. You too can become an ally where you move from having one story to send because something was interesting (from your perspective), to becoming the fuel to the ongoing editorial furnace.
Lets not mess about; here is how to work with a journalist:
It’s not about you, it’s about them
How is what you are doing of benefit to others? The limited personal agenda that you have, it’s time to put to one side.
Last weeks entry for an award is not newsworthy, the sponsored office fancy dress day is only of interest to the staff of that company. How can your story have credibility alongside the rest of the newspaper?
My link with Darren, did not start with a blanket cut and paste email sent to a host of journalists about The Content Revolution, it started with an email (addressed to Darren) and then a phone call.
It culminated in a meeting over a coffee at the hotel over the road from The Echo. The conversation was on the book. I had been trying for years to build a relationship with the local paper.
Looking back, from 2008 to 2012, there was no real value that I added to the news desk. The story from a personal level was a company that blended in with every other business within the ‘brand’ category. There was nothing that distinguished a story from the deluge of emails that were received to the business team.
You have to have a compelling story that everything centres on your core belief system, not just what you do from Monday to Friday.
As businesses we are trying to build a rapport with a journalist who is busy with their own working day.
Coming back into an office with a host of emails shouting for attention means there are times when the one-to-one attention isn’t going to be as focused.
Just because the journalist hasn’t come back to you within an hour (or the following day) of your email, doesn’t mean that you have to walk away with the tail between your legs. To build a rapport you have to be persistent.
Clarity (to the point)
Honesty will always be the best policy, when it’s structured with evidence, you have content gold.
To be recognised and your content to be a step closer to being published, work to shorter sentences and look to be as concise as you can. Everything that you create, you have to realise that you are not the target audience. However, it is your responsibility to add value to the person who is reading the article in the clearest way possible.
If you are looking to capture the attention of a journalist for the first time, the email title as well as the headline to your article is key.
For instance, when promoting the Content Revolution:Message Workshop, the last thing I could have done was go with a headline of ‘Marketing Workshop On The Power Of Storytelling.’ The article that was published focused on the bias that networking represents an ideology from the 20th century and participatory events are the future for business communication.
Be surprising (stir a deeper reaction)
You need to get deeper. If your company won an award, it’s not the award that becomes the story; it’s the relentless pursuit of belief that led to industry recognition. Even during the low times and when you started out when your audience was non-existent.
The reason behind why you have chosen what you do, rather than the reason why you won something becomes a far more compelling story that can make a connection with a wider audience.
Never send stock imagery
Keeping it real with a photo that relates to you and what you do is imperative.
If you are a hotel, then sending a Shutterstock image after a search for ‘chef’ and then sending makes the whole effort look artificial.
When The Echo came to one of the Once Upon A Time events and took a few photos, the newspaper now has their own image of me. If you invest a small amount of time to make the photo look as authentic as possible, can go a long way.
You can make this be long term
The ideal scenario is a topic related to your field of expertise and you become the resource that the journalist turns to when there is an article that is requiring deeper industry comment (plus if there is an image that already exists, see above, the better for the journalist).
Building a relationship with a journalist has to go beyond the one article that meant something to you and you were fortunate enough for it to be printed. You have to put in the effort for this to work, much like any relationship.
The alliances that you build have to go beyond your customer base. If you can generate a rapport when working with journalists, it can become a further tool in your content creation efforts.
I’m going to leave the final word of wisdom to Darren.
“Imagine the story wasn’t about you…would it be surprising or compelling enough to make you stop and read it?”
You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and not assume that what you create is going to make someone else sit up and take note.
We all have a role to play in building closer links with those who can assist. More importantly, help us share our message in alternative channels in order to build our audiences.