By Fiona Scott, journalist and media consultant
Having worked as a journalist for almost 30 years, it still amazes me how blinkered small businesses can be when it comes to PR or story-telling.
Entrepreneurs, in my experience, tend to fall into three categories:
One – the company owner who thinks they have no stories or nothing to say.
Two – the company owner who thinks their business is the hottest topic in town.
Three – the business owner who just understands and embraces the organic process that is PR and the need to keep telling stories in order to create selling opportunities down the line.
Guess which one is the easiest to work with?
Even in the last month I’ve dealt with, and passed on, three businesses which only want ‘national’ publicity and aren’t interested in the local or regional press.
My answer? In our digital age – what is national? Isn’t anything which hits the internet potentially global?
Also with our access to social media on its various platforms – aren’t we in the best position to make our stories work much harder through sharing, asking for shares and commenting – even if that original story appeared in the local High Street News online?
All businesses have stories to tell but you must consider what is a story and where can it be told?
A ‘fixtures and fittings’ magazine wants to hear about fixtures and fittings – it’s reach is narrow. The Cheltenham newspaper wants a story which says Cheltenham, it’s reach is specific.
National journalists in the UK have much more stringent criteria because they have a big pond in which to fish.
Even when your story meets their criteria – whether on or offline – that story will have to compete with other stories on the table.
Are there any short cuts? Perhaps.
You can employ a PR agency which may, or may not, deliver against your expectations.
You can always advertise – but you need a big budget for this and you have to keep doing it over time. Ask yourself, when was the last time you read a paid-for ad in a national newspaper?
If you are aligned with a celebrity or someone with a very high profile, you could shoot up the priority list. If Bill Gates invests in your business, brace yourself for the interest – in Bill Gates first and you, second.
Even if you meet these criteria, a national journalist will check you out online to measure your profile – they will assess your website, and while you may not rate local publicity, they often will. In many cases, they started in the local media and they rate it, even if you do not.
It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with the news agenda, or how you feel about it – this is the reality and no amount of bluff, bluster or spitting of feathers will change it.
Putting it bluntly, here are five things national journalists don’t care about:
They don’t care that you are busy and don’t have time – they are busy too and if you can’t be bothered, they won’t notice.
They don’t care what product you produce or service you offer unless they are talking about that product or service on that day – anything else is advertising.
They don’t care about the fact they’ve not replied to your emails or the emails of your PR company – they have hundreds each day and they will have forgotten every single one on a busy shift.
They don’t care about your mission statement – they want facts they can work with, not vague wishy-washy dithering.
They often don’t care about the day-to-day of small businesses – even small business editors will look for the biggest, best, smallest, worst, most unusual, first and last.
Faced with this, my top tips are:
National journalists want stories which have a national interest or are extremely unusual or moving. They often want something new, topical with an opinionated and outspoken view or some kind of jeopardy or conflict.
But more than anything else – they want a story which meets their need at that moment, that day, that week. Meet that need.
The first place they will start to find that burning story – is within their own circle of contacts and experience. Enter that circle.
Relationships have to be built and nurtured, just like any other business relationship. It takes time and effort. Make the effort.
And remember the one key thing in business and in PR – it’s all about people, people, people.