17 dumb things to do when pitching to the media

small business media coverage isn't hard to get if you don't do dumb things - 17 tips so you don't go there

Sometimes it’s more memorable when you see the mistakes others make than it is to follow tips on the right thing to do. Yesterday, this blog featured 9 tips for getting small business media coverage. Today, we’ll focus on the other side – what not to do.

If you haven’t considered the media as a great marketing tool for your small business, you should. Garnering editorial exposure or program time costs no more than your time and brings with it tremendous credibility (much more so than paid advertising). Plus, it’s fun seeing your name in print or you mug on TV (provided it’s not a true mug shot of the ten most wanted).

Not only does a reporter’s nod to your newsworthy status send prospects your way, but it also provides material you can repurpose.

small business media coverage isn't hard to get if you don't do dumb things - 17 tips so you don't go there
Photo courtesy of seriousfun via Morguefiles.com

Did you land a radio interview? See if the host would be willing to send you an MP3 file you can load onto your website. Are you quoted or featured in an article? You can frame it for customers to see as they walk in, highlight snippets in your promotional material, send it on to clients or associates (it’s never a bad idea to share the limelight by saluting others) or scan it for a multitude of uses. TV segments can be captured for your use too (usually you’ll be asked to purchase these).

So, if you’ve been considering approaching the media with your story, here’s what not to do:

  1. Send your release to someone fired or deceased.
  2. If the publication’s website specifies don’t send attachments, by all means, just hit that paperclip icon with your pretty HTML coded masterpiece.
  3. Get labeled as a pain by calling or e-mailing a reporter daily to ask if they read your release.
  4. Call during deadline crunch time (weekly business pubs generally go to bed at noon on Wed. – that makes Wed. a bad day to call to chat; dailies start getting crazy by about the 3 p.m. and broadcast media is harried the hour before a show goes live).
  5. Wait a week to return a reporter’s call.
  6. Craft a message that’s all about promoting your product or service.
  7. Fail to read the publication, watch the show or listen to the program before you pitch your idea. If you want to score extra points, make sure your angle has no relevance to what they produce.
  8. Don’t include any contact information in what you send (and, and certainly, assume a busy reporter will think to grab your e-mail address as he cuts and pastes message text and dumps it in a file for a later review).
  9. Send a feature story to the city desk editor, an idea lacking any visual appeal to a TV station or a pitch that requires video for clarity to a radio host.
  10. Write a lengthy release or include reams of irrelevant material for a designee to weed through.
  11. Send an e-mail filled with links (better yet – don’t even offer a summary of what you’re pointing the recipient to) so anyone getting your message is gifted with a research project to determine if your pitch is relevant or interesting.
  12. Craft a message that claims you know readers/viewers listeners will be thrilled to read/see/hear about what you’re doing. Better yet, limit it to that stating this all can be found on your website (just click here).
  13. Use tons of adjectives in your release copy. Make sure to include hyperbole.
  14. Create a headline for your release that screams sales pitch. It’s always best to include your business name here and lots more of those adjectives – with a few adverbs just for good measure.
  15. Assume reporters will get giddy about your business launch, charity contribution, ribbon cutting (send it to the Penny Saver), meeting attendance, new signage or new client (there’s a section for this in the back of most papers – it’s not feature story material unless you just landed Apple).
  16. Spend the first few lead-in paragraphs of your communication with a narrative that includes biographical information dating back to kindergarten along with all your hobbies. Then detail all the struggles you had leading up to your business inception. Wait until the very end to cover salient points concerning the story idea.
  17. Fail to get creative designing an angle that will have reporter, assignment editor and reader appeal. Just figure because you exist, the media person getting your query will spend hours trying to develop a spark to create an interesting story that includes you.

It’s not hard to get your name in the news. Spend some time considering the reporter’s perspective before you pitch. Familiarize yourself with the media outlet you’re pitching. Ensure you’re getting to the right person. Craft a tight message. Create an angle idea that’s appealing to viewers. You’ll be amazed how easy it can be to get small business media coverage with just a bit of research and forethought.

2 responses to “17 dumb things to do when pitching to the media”

    • I could have done a lot more than 20, Roy. I had to stop myself because I felt a rant coming on :-). So glad you got a chuckle out of the piece. I’m not making this stuff up.

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