Publicity: What makes your small business newsworthy?

When talking with small business owners about how they can make use publicity, one of the most cost-effective marketing tools to small companies, it often is clear that many people do not understand what their business is doing that might be newsworthy. This conversation can go in two directions. Some small business owners can’t identify anything about their business that they think the media would be interested in covering. “Oh, we’re just a little company that nobody is interested in,” they might say. At the other end of the spectrum are those who can’t understand why the media hasn’t picked up on the numerous press releases they’ve sent out. Their attitude is that,  “Those stupid people over at the local paper don’t know news when it hits them in the face.”  Yet when I look over their press releases, I find they don’t contain much news.

With this problem in mind, several years ago when I began doing a workshop on publicity for a local Community Development Corporation, I put together a handy list of the types of information that newspapers, trade publications, and other media outlets are interested in hearing about. Here is the list:

•  New products/services – If you are expanding your product line or adding a new service to your business, a press release is in order.

•  New features for existing products/services – These have to be significant for them to be newsworthy, so tread lightly with these. Bringing out your product in a new color probably won’t get you a headline.

•  New contracts/partnerships – If you’ve won a major new contract or formed a new business partnership, let the media know. If you have obtained several small contracts over the past few months, you can group them together in one release.

•  Industry trend stories – If there is something exciting going on in your industry and you’re part of this change, this can be interesting to local business media and also to trade publications.

•  Consumer trend stories – If your product or service is for consumers and there is a big new trend that you’re part of, by all means let the media know. If it’s a truly major shift, you may even be able to become part of a national media story.

•  Case studies – Lots of trade publications and Web sites are interested in having case studies that illustrate best practices or describe an especially interesting or challenging project.

•  Milestones – There is some news that you only get to tell once. For example, when you launch your business or celebrate a major anniversary, by all means reach out to the media and encourage them to help you get the news out. The milestone category also includes the start or completion of major projects or assignments.

•  Responses to industry or legislative developments – Is legislation being considered that would have a significant impact your business? If so, consider writing an op/ed about it for a local business publication or for a trade journal. This can position you as a leader in your field.

•  Company profiles – Business and trade publications frequently profile businesses, especially when they’ve planned an issue about a specific industry. Check out the editorial calendars of the publications you’d be interested in being in; these can usually be found on their Web sites. If they’re covering your industry in a specific issue, take note of the editorial deadline in the calendar and contact them well in advance of that.

•  General company news – General company news, such as new hires, office expansions or relocations, awards you’ve won, and community relations donations you’ve made are all newsworthy items.

By understanding what the media consider news, you can greatly increase your chances of sending the right press release to the right place at the right time. Good luck!

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