Make sure you have the ingredients for a powerful pitch
Before we dive into the steps you need to take to grab the coveted attention of the press, let’s first talk about the ingredients you need to ensure that your actions reap results. You could reach out to journalists all day, but your efforts will get little (if any) traction if your pitch doesn’t have the following ingredients:
Listing the features and benefits of your products or store doesn’t count as telling a story. You need to go beyond such things and find a compelling hook or angle that’ll pique reporters’ (and readers’) interests.
Having a narrative is an effective way to do that. Instead of advertising your store, think of an interesting event or instance that puts your business in a good light without being too salesy.
For instance, you could talk about the story behind your business, or the adversities you had to overcome before you achieved success. Perhaps you started your company in the midst of a recession or you’ve pivoted towards a completely new and interesting direction.
Another option is to tap into your customer base. Did your product change someone’s life for the better? Get the other party involved and pitch the narrative together. If your tale resonates, you just might land a spot in a great publication.
Simply telling a story (i.e. a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end) won’t cut it. You have to make sure that you’re sharing something that’s inspirational, exciting, shocking, or all of the above.
A good way to test if your story holds up is to search for similar narratives. If you find many stories that are too similar to yours, then you may have to determine a new angle or find a way to top the other tales out there.
Also consider telling your story to another person—preferably someone who’s busy and who doesn’t have any biases towards your business—and see if you’re able to grab and keep their attention.
For best results, see to it that your story is relevant to both the publication and to current seasons or events taking place. For instance, if you’re an apparel retailer selling outerwear, it would make sense to pitch your story to fashion magazines a few months before fall or winter.
Additionally, you could follow news and current events and see if there are any trending topics you can jump on. Say there’s a big sports event happening. Why not grab the opportunity to talk about your athletic customers or sports-centric merchandise?
Another tip is to make news in line with seasons and events. If it’s breast cancer awareness month, for example, why not sponsor an initiative in your area? These things are usually covered by journalists, so you stand a good chance of getting in front of the press. Or better yet, create your own event and invite reporters to come along.
Action steps to get in front of the press
Now that we’ve covered the elements that make up powerful pitches, it’s time to dive into the actions you can take to put your compelling and relevant stories in front of reporters (and hopefully, a wider audience)
One of the best things you can do PR-wise is to invest in great content. According to Vend founder and CEO Vaughan Rowsell, some of the things you can do include establishing a blog that comments on industries issues and shares advice, and contributing to other websites.
You can also speak at industry events. Start small by working with local business associations and go from there.
“If you create interesting, well-produced content that relates to your passion, it’s likely to be shared far and wide, and it doesn’t have to be expensive,” Vaughan says. “I was once filmed being thrown out of a plane by a skydiving school customer, to show that we accept payments anywhere. That stood out, and was as cheap as it was hair-raising.”
While it’s good to aim for placements in national or even global publications, you shouldn’t neglect your local media outlets.
Securing a placement in your hometown networks or publications may actually be easier, since these outlets usually love featuring homegrown stories. Plus, you’ll get in front of people in your neighborhood, so you could get a traffic boost from the locals.
It’s also important to note that larger outlets often get news from smaller networks and publications, so if your story is compelling enough, you might just grab the attention of bigger fish in the media.
Got an interesting story or anecdote that involves a vendor or one of the companies you do business with? Work with them to create a story. Perhaps they can include you as a case study or success tale.
Check out what happened TopShelf Style, one of Vend’s customers in San Francisco. We created a compelling story around how TopShelf uses Vend, and this helped us land a story in the Wall Street Journal.
Putting out press releases is a pretty traditional PR tactic, but when done right, your article could get picked up by some great outlets. You just have to make sure that your announcement is newsworthy and adds real value to readers.
Need inspiration on what to write about? Here’s a great list of press release topics from PRWeb.
Do note that publishing press releases can be quite pricey, so you have to make sure that it’s well-written and very newsworthy (do we sound like broken record yet?).
Once your release it’s out there, be sure to do the legwork and spread the word. You can’t just hit publish and expect the press to talk about you. You need to take your story, and create relevant and strong pitches for reporters.
And that brings us to our next topic…
Pitching to media outlets
Gathering the right ingredients and turning them into great narratives is just the beginning. You also have to pitch the heck out of your stories. Here’s how:
Instead of sending your pitch to general email addresses, figure out who’s covering your industry and reach out to them specifically. Finding these authors is actually quite easy.
Try the following:
Checking the editorial page of a publication or site to see who’s in charge of your industry.
Reading articles in your industry and reaching out to the authors
Looking for pieces about your competitors, and reaching out to the journalists behind those articles
Once you find the right people to contact, customize your pitch for each individual. You don’t have to create pitches from scratch, but you do have to make an effort to ensure that each one is tailored to the writer you’re reaching out to.
One thing you can do is personalize your introduction by referencing a recent article they wrote, or mentioning a tweet or update and then relating it to your business.
Show them that you did your research. Flatter them a bit (but in a sincere way). Most importantly, see to it that your pitch answers the question of what’s in it for them. In other words, be very clear about the value of your story and why they should care.
And don’t forget to tailor the voice and tone of your pitch to the specific person you’re reaching out to. Naturally, the approach that you’d use on a serious business outlet should be different from how you would pitch an upbeat or casual blogger.
If you don’t hear back within a week or two, send out a polite email and remind them about your pitch. Journalists and bloggers can live pretty hectic lives and they receive tons of emails a day, so it’s quite possible that your email fell through the cracks.
Of course, if you still don’t get a response after two or three follow ups, you should consider moving on to another reporter.
When it comes to pitching their stories, most people send out one email and leave it at that. Don’t make the same mistake. Recognize that there are a number of ways to touch base with someone, and that utilizing more that one channel to reach out can actually help you stand out.
For instance, if you reached out via email, why not send a tweet to make sure you’re in their radar? You don’t have to be pushy when doing this. A quick tweet saying something like “FYI, I sent you an email about (insert topic here)” would suffice.
Keeping things in perspective
Getting press coverage is great, but remember that PR is just one contributing factor to your success. Gaining tons of media love doesn’t guarantee revenue, so while it’s good to enjoy the spotlight, don’t let it blind you from the other important things about running a retail business.
Francesca Nicasio is a retail expert and blogger for Vend, an iPad-based point-of-sale software that helps merchants manage and grow their business. This article was republished from Vend’s retail blog, where Vend talks about trends, tips, and other cool things that can help stores increase sales and serve customers better.