Knowing how a newsroom works can help you get coverage

small business media coverage tips

Shortly after graduating from college, I landed a job with a daily newspaper. My internal title was “outfielder.” I was basically a grunt in the Sports Department. There were three of us. It was a part-time evening job. All others holding this position were students. I saw it as a great way to learn, first-hand, about how the industry works (and meet some of the players in town). This job taught me a lot about small business media coverage.

There’s nothing like being in a newsroom while issues are being put to bed to gain an understanding of how the business works.  

In this town, sports were big – particularly at the high school level, so these contests, along with collegiate and professional games, were covered into the night. In fact, we put the last issue to bed around midnight. Bet you didn’t realize the paper you read might be different than the one delivered in the next town over?

Behind the scenes of news culling at a daily paper

small business media coverage tips
Photo courtesy of seriousfun via

Just about every hour from 5 p.m. to midnight, changes were made with updates on breaking news from the national wire services, sports scores or interview quotes and anything going on in town that wasn’t finished by the time the first issue was sent to the presses. While we had computers, this was before the internet age, so it was no small task assembling, designing and readying all these varying issues to meet necessary deadlines for the crew downstairs running the design shop and huge presses that made the paper delivered to your door in the morning as current as possible.

One of my jobs (this should tell you something about the regard for your releases) was to scan items mailed to the department and decide if it was worthy enough to pass on to a reporter. There were very few that made it past my trash can. Some I didn’t even open. If it was an organization that had a history of sending multiple releases each week that were self-promotional, I didn’t waste the time involved in picking up a letter opener.

Others would send material to the sports department that had nothing to do with athletics. Rim shot!

Still others touted their not-for-profit events, old news (last week’s gymnastics results aren’t relevant to a daily paper), feel-good community stories (send it to features – don’t expect anyone will reroute your release to the right department) and massive media kits with 20 pages of reading material and a dozen glossy photos (really – and your museum news is relative to a sports reporter how?).

It was a shame to see how much money was wasted (not to mention paper) because someone couldn’t be bothered to make a phone call or scan a database to ensure material was going to an appropriate recipient.  

If you’re going to send a release out, make sure it offers something interesting for right readers (that would be the demographics of the paper you’re sending it to), goes to the right department and screams newsworthy quickly. No one at a paper has time to read more than a couple of lines (if they even open your piece to look at it) so if you fail to grab attention immediately, your release will be relegated to the circular file.

If it bleeds it leads is wrong

This might be the case for network TV or national papers, but local daily papers or weekly business publications are interested in stories that will affect the majority of their readers. International gore will be covered, but regional reporters will be working on covering issues that impact the immediate community.  

The same holds true for most local broadcast stations. That’s why you’ll see so much coverage on the top employers. Local and state political issues (or politicians) are always hot topics. Health has been a big topic in recent years because more readers/viewers are focusing on that. Environmental issues are seeing increasing coverage for the same reason.

You’ll learn a lot about what the media likes in a story by reading, listening and watching before you pitch. Try to develop an angle that ties in with some of the things already being covered.

Are you a health coach? Don’t try to promote your business with a pitch. Instead, think about suggesting a weekly diet and exercise tip (back it up with an outline of ideas and a sample insert – keep it brief).

Do you keep a pulse on small business legislation? Consider approaching a reporter about a pending bill no one’s talking about that will have significant local impact.

There are lots of ways you can tie into popular news items by bringing a different twist.

Getting small business media coverage isn’t hard

Most reporters are very approachable, if you’re considerate in how you do it. Think of a reporter as a prospect. To be effective at convincing them you’re the right resource for them, it’s important to reflect on their perspectives.

They’re busy, over-worked, underpaid and spend a lot of time deflecting pitches from people who don’t even bother to consider how what they’re proposing fits in with the particular media organization style or even stated contact preferences. That provides a great opportunity for anyone willing to put in brief time getting prepared.

Before you decide to whip out the next media release – or worse, badger a reporter, reflect on how you can help a staffer do his job better. You might be amazed at how quickly you start seeing your name in the news, or a small business media coverage spotlight on your business, with a more considerate and considered approach.  


10 responses to “Knowing how a newsroom works can help you get coverage”

  1. Nice information to remember as we work our way into the hearts of America. Press releases are not something I am good at yet so I avoid writing them. However, it is time for me to come on board, as I continue to write new books.This will help. Thanks

    • Frankly, Chef William, I rarely use media releases to garner coverage. Of course, with the launch of a book, that’s important if you’re seeking national reviews, but for the local stuff, sometimes a cup of coffee and phone call can be more effective for the local stuff.

  2. This is very enlightening how the news works.

    And to think I got published every week when I was 10 to 14in our local newspaper. Yep, I wrote the Camp Fire Girl meeting report. so worthy of publication. for what I gather from you, I knew who to address the copy to.

    I am going to think about what you wrote. I see your info as very valuable. thank you

    • That must have been great fun being published as a kid. Adults so often hold back because they think something is going to be too hard or that they may get rejected. We could learn a lot from watching children today – or revisiting our youth, couldn’t we?

  3. Very timely post Nanette. I’m toying with the idea of sending a press release to a local radio show. Of course, in Los Angeles, local means a lot of listeners. I’d like to talk about making entrepreneurship as permanent curriculum for middle and high school as well as integrating it into programs for the homeless. I guess I have to consider it a bit more seriously now that I’ve read this.

    Getting an interview like would probably open the door to more publicity.

    • It’s so funny, Julia, I often find we’re on similar paths with our blogs. Sometimes I’ll see one of yours that appears on a topic I’ve already addressed in a hopper article and other times I’ll cover something and then see you coming at it from a different angle. In fact, I recall a few times where we covered the same thing on the same day. It makes me chuckle.

      The nice thing about getting media coverage is you can re-purpose it. Radio’s great that way, particular now with ability to stream audio online. Many eons ago when I was doing a radio program, if those being interviewed asked for a copy of the show before it started, I’d pop an extra cassette tape, hit record in and give it to them when they left. You might want consider doing the same (Dropbox is great for downloading these larger files).

  4. I am a school at home mom. I do really want to show the process of newspaper or press to my children. It is difficult to get kids go to the local newspaper factory or company. I think I can read this posting to them. Do you have any pictures or infographics to get it more lifely?

    • It depends on where you are, Adelien. In this area, there are a lot of smaller papers (and radio/television stations) that I imagine would welcome a group of kids on a tour. Some of the bigger ones may be less inclined.

      I do not have pictures or infographics. I wish I had captured some of the scenes at the daily paper as it was fascinating. Still not feeling inspired enough to come up with ideas for inforgraphics.

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