Small business PR trends: How to stay connected with changing newsrooms

The news business is transforming; you need to stay on top of trends to assure publicity for your small business.

The news business is transforming; you need to stay on top of trends to assure publicity for your small business.

We’re going to see some major changes in the news business in 2016. How you remain connected and relevant to the newsrooms will shape how much coverage you get for your small business, your product and/or service, and yourself.

It’s not a good time for newspapers (the print kind that you hold in your hand). The news business has gone 24/07, and newspapers only print once a day. Advertising revenues are shifting to other platforms. Often, the web version of a newspaper has more traffic. To cut costs, newspapers are offering buyouts to their more seasoned, longtime staff. These people are replaced by newbies working at a fraction of the salary of the people they replaced. Newsrooms are more sparsely populated. Copy editors are gone. Now, it’s get the story out there first (via web), and fix it later for print.

How do you ride this rollercoaster?

Build relationships with the newsroom newbies. Give them good materials to work with; a well-written factual press release and good photos they can use. If you have good video to support your story, send it along. Remember, if the story goes to the web first; a picture is worth 1,000 words, and a tight 3-minute video often seals the deal. Second, build a good relationship with the reporters. Be their resource. They often don’t have the time to fully research a story. When they’re writing about your field, offer to help them get the information they need or the quote that makes their story special.

Recognize that magazines are making a comeback. Whether they’re print, digital, or a combo of both, those that specialize in niche markets often flourish. Two good examples: 1) In New England, Take Magazine has launched, covering contemporary arts, emerging artists, and trends–the kind of stories that newspapers and public radio used to cover in depth. Their subscription base is growing; their online readership is diverse, and they’re an affordable niche advertising opportunity for those in the arts (or interested in attracting those people). 2) Airways Magazine (and its web partners) in print and online caters to a small group of fervent airline geeks–people that love to read about new airliners, old airlines, airports around the globe, and savor timetables of the pioneering airlines. Their readers travel; they are a good audience for airline and travel-related businesses.

Don’t underestimate the bloggers. Some blogs and websites have better coverage of news and events than mainstream media. For example, Broadway babies turn to Playbill and BroadwayWorld for in-depth news, photos and videos of the theatre scene; Towleroad has better coverage of LGBTQ news than any mainstream media. Your business has similar niche blogs and websites.

How do you get in on the game?

Build relationships with the editorial crew. Knowing that magazines go to press way in advance of their arrival date on newsstands, make a good story pitch 8-12 months in advance. Magazines don’t want “same old.” they want fresh views on the topics they cover.

Radio and television newsrooms are smaller than a decade ago, and they’re providing content for more newscasts. It used to be that TV stations might have local news before the network morning news/talk magazines, and another local news broadcast before network nightly news; and then an evening recap before late-night talk shows. Now, there’s virtually news all day, much of it recycled. Weather and traffic reports take a larger time slot, as arts and features and local sports get cut back. In commercial radio, most news is relegated to morning talk shows or headline news. In the case of the talk shows, they have producers, and are often looking for experts in the field. Be their expert.

In our market, there are a plethora of young TV reporters and fresh faces, many right out of school, learning the ropes in the marketplace. If they’re good, they’ll jump on to a bigger market, and maybe a national platform. Unlike their predecessors, who travelled with a cameraperson, wrote and edited their stories with the helpful eye of a news director, today’s folks write, shoot, and edit their own material on tight deadlines. Sometimes, the end product is superb; often it’s rushed.

Public radio stations have newsrooms, and they often produce long-form, in depth news pieces. Build a relationship with the producer and news director. Public TV stations often have news magazines, although from the markets I work in, they tend to be more local politics in scope.

How do you get in the spotlight?

Build relationships with the TV editorial crew, specifically the beat reporters who cover your kind of business, your town, and in the style that could best reflect your business. Get to know the assignment editors, too. Be flexible–be available to them when they’re in the neighborhood; offer them good visual. If you’re a baker or chef, offer to give them a set-up, where they can film you cooking or baking. If you’re a dentist, demonstrate the “before” and “after” of teeth whitening. Be the resource for a quote about your industry.

In the end, it’s all about relationships, regardless of how the shape, scope, and size of media are changing. Build them and maintain them in the New Year.

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Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

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