Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Tianna Mañón @TiannaMañón. Tianna Mañón is the Editor-in-Chief of Open Mic Rochester, an online black-interest magazine located in Upstate New York. She believes in the power of media as a business building tool.
SmallBizLady: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO GET MY INFORMATION IN THE MEDIA?
Tianna Mañón: It’s free advertising, and someone else does all the work of putting it together and making sure it’s shared far and wide. Actually, it’s more detailed than advertising. In a profile piece, you get a chance to show your face and discuss your philosophy. If it’s a business reporting piece, you can highlight your company’s growth.
SmallBizLady: HOW DO I PITCH TO THE MEDIA?
Tianna Mañón: Pitching to the media is easy and hard. On one hand, it’s easy to reach out to media professionals; on the other hand, it’s hard for someone to actually pursue your piece.
My advice: do your research. Find the correct reporter and tailor your pitch to the publication, broadcast station, blog or podcast. Email the reporter and explain what’s going on, why you picked them and how you can help pursue the story (by serving as source or finding other sources) in one to two paragraphs.
Reporters’ contact information is always listed on the company’s website. Also, their email addresses are usually included at the bottom of published stories. Try to match media outlet’s tone. If they have a cool, hip vibe, add some excitement. If they’re a little more traditional, just lead with the facts.
Try to pitch media sources that are aligned to your industry because they are more likely to publish your story. For instance, send a story about an event featuring a young singer to a teen magazine and discuss the importance of art with an art magazine. You can make one event fit many outlets by focusing on different angles.
SmallBizLady: HOW OFTEN SHOULD I PITCH?
Tianna Mañón: Reporters and editors differ on this. To be safe, pitch only your big stuff. Grand re-opening? Yes! Menu changes? Meh. Ask yourself: “If similar news was in the paper about another business, would I read it?”
SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU FOLLOW UP ON A PITCH?
Tianna Mañón: Always with new information. I love when sources check on me after a few days (about 3-4 days) with a polite nudge. And I love when they include a new quote or something to refresh the news. This lets me know that this story is pretty important to you and may just be the reminder I needed.
SmallBizLady: HOW DO I CREATE OR MAINTAIN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A REPORTER?
Tianna Mañón: Reach out to a reporter who covers the same topic as your business. A business reporter isn’t always the best reporter to keep in your pocket because they often don’t get to write pieces that will show off your personality besides a profile. But if you’re a salon, befriending a lifestyle reporter means you two can potentially partner on projects in the future. You may even be able to guest author work.
Once you know who to reach out to, offer to meet for a cup of coffee. You don’t have to have a story in mind, just say, “I’d love to talk to you as someone who works in the same field you’re covering. Perhaps we can get together regularly and I can be a source that keeps you updated.”
We’re never going to say no to someone getting info for us. Be sure to always be reliable and CORRECT!
SmallBizLady: WHY SHOULD I CREATE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A REPORTER?
Tianna Mañón: Besides free advertising, it’s more likely the media outlet will cover your story. When we can text you asking for a comment, and the story is easy, we’re more likely to publish it. This works well on slow days when reporters need quick or easy content.
SmallBizLady: HOW CAN I USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO ATTRACT OR MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIPS WITH REPORTERS AND JOURNALISTS?
Tianna Mañón: Social media allows you to talk to a lot of people at once. Use it to talk to reporters and journalists. Some people tag news stations, publications and new media personalities in their photos and events uploads. You can also create clear and concise posts that can be used as “multimedia” in articles. Often editors will embed posts of a local restaurant’s tweet about closing or grand re-opening simply to add a visual. See every post as a potential introduction; post interesting updates; and share their content.
SmallBizLady: IS IT OK TO PITCH TO REPORTER FRIENDS?
Tianna Mañón: Yes! In fact, I love when my friends pitch stories to me. I can’t always take them but many make it to my white board.
Don’t be afraid to ask for coverage if you can get it; and if that’s your friend, then do the extra work of tailoring your pitch to the kind of reporting they do. For instance, if your friend is a business reporter, discuss the growth you’ve experienced in your company; how you employ certain groups of people (i.e. veterans or people with disabilities); or upcoming developments.
Don’t make them feel like they have to report your story because you’re friends, make them want to!
SmallBizLady: HOW CAN I INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD OF MY PIECE BEING PUBLISHED IN NEWSPAPERS?
Tianna Mañón: There are three things you can do to increase the likelihood of your piece being published newspapers.
First, always tailor your work so the journalist can just publish it. There are a lot of lazy, overworked, and stressed reporters out there. We can’t get to every pitch because it’d be too much on our plate. To ensure we don’t drop the ball on other pieces, we might miss yours.
Second, write press releases to mirror the style of the publications you’re pitching. You may get lucky with a reporter who will use large portions of the release to create a quick piece on you.
Third, always include a quote. The new voice adds dynamism and creates less work for us.
Be sure to send your pitch along with a press kit. The best time to send these to a reporter is when something newsy is happening. It’s not enough to cover your business because you’re interesting. Sometimes it helps to have something happening such as a goal met you can celebrate, an anniversary or an event.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IS A PRESS KIT AND WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN MINE?
Tianna Mañón: Press kits give detailed information about who you are, your philosophy and how you got started; the missions and goals of your company or organization; as well as key players in your business.
They can also include press releases of major events you’ve done or accomplishments, staff photos, goals, and progress to date. Always include some kind of graphic, whether it’s a flyer or social media image to go. Make the visuals as uniform as possible.
My favorite ones always include the run-down of who works in what positions at the company; logos to accompany the story; and a fact sheet about when they started, their target audience, and how much money they make.
SMALLBIZLADY: WHAT ARE OTHER OPTIONS FOR GETTING IN MEDIA?
Tianna Mañón: If you can’t get a formal story in the media, think of other ways to connect with their audience.
Were you hoping for coverage to hype an event? Get it on their event calendar. Take out an ad on their social media pages or bulletin. Some places also rent out their social media feed.
SmallBizLady: HOW CAN I OVERALL BE MORE MEDIA FRIENDLY?
Tianna Mañón: As mentioned earlier, you want to develop relationships with traditional and new media staff and send targeted pitches. Also, be easy to work with and return calls in a timely manner. Help promote them and their content and stories. Most importantly, be a reliable and accurate source.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz