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How to get excellent news coverage for your company

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The January/February 2015 edition of BusinessCentral, the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce’s excellent magazine, includes an article we wrote regarding do’s and don’ts of media relations. Space considerations didn’t allow us to include all the tips, so we’ve reprinted the article here with some additional advice at the end.

When you see positive news stories about local businesses, do you ask yourself, “Why don’t they ever cover our company?”

If you’re doing something newsworthy, the media will indeed cover it. They want to report on more local news. But you need to let them know about it – in the right way. Here are some do’s and don’ts for increasing your exposure:

Do… have legitimate news – Hiring more staff is news. Doubling production is news. Offering half-price discounts isn’t. If your “news” is really advertising, you’ll not only be ignored now, the media will be wary of future announcements that might truly be legitimate.

Don’t… worry if you don’t know how to write a news release – Some news organizations are short staffed, so it’s best to provide them a well-written release in journalism style. That gives them a detailed starting point and your opportunities for coverage improve.

Short of that, it’s OK to just include the 5W’s with answers: Who – Our Company; What – Hiring 25 new employees; and so on with When, Where and Why. But double check name spellings and other information. Your credibility depends on it.

Do…include a photo and logo – They may not get used, but give the media some options anyway.

Do…compile a media list – Most media websites list their news departments’ email addresses. St. Cloud Times reporters’ email addresses appear with their bylines.

Don’t…make it difficult for reporters to follow-up – Include all your phone numbers and your email address. If reporters can’t easily find you, they may move on to another story. If they leave a voicemail, respond immediately.

Don’t…insult reporters’ professionalism – Never ask to review a story before it runs. Reporters may not include everything you want, but their decisions are based on journalistic experience. Once you send them a news item, they can pursue it as they wish. They might interview your competitors, too, but don’t complain about it. Their job is to present all sides of a story, not to be your company’s cheerleader.

Do…lay some groundwork for future coverage – Include news organizations on your distribution list of newsletters, annual reports, etc. It’s a long term way of positioning your company as experts. Two years from now reporters may want to interview a leader in your industry, and the good impressions your materials make could lead them to you.

Don’t…get cocky – Enjoy the good coverage you get, but remember that bad news can also happen. If you’re cutting back operations, for example, you need to think about how that news will impact your customers, your staff and your reputation.

You need to anticipate tough questions reporters might ask, and be ready with calm answers. Treat reporters as courteously as you did when they called about good news.  If you have a logical explanation, the news story will reflect it and the public will probably cut you some slack.

Especially if they’ve seen positive news about you before then. So go back to the beginning of this article and get started.

But first, here are some additional tips:

Do…look for topical angles – Is your company approaching a milestone anniversary? Its millionth customer? Are you doing something that ties into a holiday? An activity that may not usually be newsworthy might be if you link it with something else going on in the news or on the calendar.

Don’t…make news organizations regret trusting you – Not only is your company’s credibility on the line when you send out a news release, so is the news media’s. If they have to run a correction because they used an incorrect “fact” you provided, they’re going to be understandably reluctant to run your next piece.

Do…get to know reporters in a relaxed atmosphere – A long term approach to helping your company receive news coverage is to get to know reporters before there’s ever any news. Call a reporter and ask if you can stop by at his or her convenience to say hello. (Do not drop in unannounced.)

Then, keep it short – two minutes is long enough to introduce yourself, tell a bit about your company and leave your business card. But if a reporter wants to keep talking, make sure you’ve left time open in your schedule. They may want to do a story right then.

Do…thank the reporter – After a story runs about you, thank the reporter for the story or interview. We’ll all human. We appreciate a thank you.

If you need additional media relations advice regarding a tougher challenge, give Steve Greenfield at call at 320/260-5744 or email him at Steve@GreenfieldComm.com.