In our first blog post of the series we covered the basics of PR to give you a better idea of the key components you should consider when conducting external communications. In this post we’ll be looking at how to plan and construct your outreach – a crucial element to your PR plan (if you’re not doing outreach then how will anyone hear about your brilliant idea?).
Finding the right publication
Before starting your outreach you should define which publications are relevant to your business, messaging and target audience. Choose a top 12 to begin with so the task doesn’t become overwhelming.
Be sure to include:
- National outlets – don’t be scared to approach bigger publications. If you’ve got a good story there’s no reason they won’t cover it. It’s good to keep national media in the loop with your news, as there may be one day where they can feature you in an article – even if it’s not right now.
- Local publications – despite covering a smaller geographical area than a national title, local outlets do have sizable circulation figures (and everyone loves a local success story).
- University titles – does the university you attended have an alumni section or maybe even a section on businesses? Universities love to hear about the successes of their students and they’re often a powerful linking tool for SEO as they hold strong domain authority. They just need notice, as these are often quarterly publications.
- Trade titles – always reach out to publications relevant to your sector because it’s likely to hit your actual customer base – especially if you have a B2B focus.
- Online titles and blogs – these are great for a quick turnaround and link building.
Finding the right journalist
Within a chosen media outlet, you need to find the right journalist – you don’t want to be emailing a political journalist the story behind your exciting tech startup (unless you can provide a contextual interview to the latest government agenda). Enterprise and small business contacts are the best bet for startups, or failing that, the journalist that writes about the sector your business falls into.
Once you’ve determined the right publication and relevant journalist, you must consider their lead time and a compelling news hook. Read their previous work, look at what they share on social media and where their interests typically lie. You don’t want to be pitching a timely news story to a magazine journalist working two months ahead for example. As a rule, a monthly works two to three months in advance, a weekly works three to four weeks in advance, as do weekend supplements and print dailies, and online press work to next day deadlines.
Tip: follow your target publications and relevant journalists on Twitter and don’t be afraid to engage in conversation with them if they post something of interest to you. Check out the hashtag #journorequests.
Planning your outreach
Getting your story right is crucial when planning your outreach. Use your network – friends, family, colleagues – as a sounding board for honest feedback. Your narrative is crucial; bring your brand to life with inspiring, positive and unusual stories aligned with your sector, the economy and current trends – think of it as humanising your business.
Think about your pitch, is it a backstory feature about how an entrepreneur has overcome adversity that could inspire readers? Do you have a groundbreaking insight into a particular sector that would engage readers and could be a guest blog? Is there something topical in the news agenda such as the budget, brexit or a new trend that you could offer commentary for? Or is it an announcement about something your company has achieved? Where possible, supplement your content with stats, data and case studies to add credibility.
Actioning your outreach
The most appropriate way to reach out to journalists is via email. However, social media is always an option and shows perseverance.
If you don’t hear back from a journalist you approach, it could be for one of these reasons:
1) your story isn’t right for them (right now),
2) they haven’t seen your email in a sea of other people’s, so tentatively follow up once to check they received it, or
3) they will come back to you in due course so be patient and don’t badger.
Don’t be disheartened with rejection – if your story isn’t right for them now, it might be at some point in the future.
This post only covers the basics of press releases and pitching. We want to help businesses spread their message, so we have put together a series of monthly workshops called “Disruptive Startups Hijack UK News Agenda” where we discuss topics around PR for your business.
At these events, we share key tips to maximising awareness of your startup with a special guest appearance from a different leading national journalist who will share first-hand advice on successful press engagement.
If you want to learn more about PR for your business check out the rest of our Startup guide to PR series here.