The dos and don’ts of contacting the press – from a journalist’s point of view!

This is a guest post from journalist Lizzy Dening who runs Out Of Office, a free newsletter and community aimed at self-employed women.

As a freelance journalist, I receive around 100+ emails from PR teams every day. When I was on staff at a magazine, it was more like 300. Journalists are incredibly busy people, so when it comes to contacting the press, it pays to get it right the first time. That said, don’t be daunted! Writers are always looking for interesting brands and people to feature, so, with a little help, there’s no reason you couldn’t make a great story.

Local press is a great place to start 

Build your confidence by making contact with your local press – papers, TV news and radio. Try to find contact details on their website, or look on Twitter or LinkedIn for news reporters, feature writers and radio/TV researchers connected with your area.

Then, drop them an email. Make it known that you’re available for comment on stories that are relevant to your brand, or see if they’d consider a story around your launch.

Local titles are always looking for success stories, so if you’ve celebrated an anniversary, developed an innovative product, won an award or anything else of note, let them know.

Contacting a national journalist

Spend some time working out who’s the right person to contact on a paper or magazine. For example, for a fitness-related product, you’d want to find the health editor, rather than sending it to someone who writes about politics. Have a Google or search on Twitter to find the right fit. (If you’ve got the budget some agencies keep lists of journalist contacts too, but Twitter is the simplest place to start).

Keep your email short and sweet, address them by their name and make sure you spell it correctly (you’d be amazed at how many people fall at the first hurdle!) Let them know, in a paragraph, who you are and what you’re up to. It’s great to include any personal details, for example, if it’s a brand started by friends or family; if you gave up traditional employment to launch a business; if your product came about through your own frustrations — anything that adds a human story is a bonus.

Writing a press release

Attach a press release to your email. This is essentially a short (keep it to a single side of A4) blurb about your business and why it matters.

Bullet points are a good way to put the important information at the top: what makes your company innovative? Are you bringing something completely different to the market? What problem are you solving? Are you the first woman to work in your field? Include any points of difference to make yourself stand out.

Make sure to also attach a good quality photo of you (and your product if you have a product-based business) to your email and contact details so they can get in touch quickly if needed.

Further tips

  • Work out your goals. Going after press can eat up your time, so make sure you know what you want to get out of it. Is it the clout of being featured by a respected title? More eyeballs on your website? Brand familiarity? Or attracting local customers? They’re all valid, but knowing what you want to gain means it’s easy to measure your success and can make the process less of a time drain.
  • Join Lightbulb. Run by journalist-turned-entrepreneur Charlotte Crisp, it’s a private Facebook community that’s designed to link up small businesses (including one-person operations) with national TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and more. It’s also an extremely helpful community with user guides to help you find your feet. Plus it’s just £5 per month and you can cancel at any time.
  • Make a calendar of significant dates that are relevant to your brand, so you can create press releases around them. International Women’s Day is always a busy one, but you might find other awareness days that are a bit more niche. Have a look here.
  • Spend a spare five minutes trawling #journorequests on Twitter – journalists use it when they’re looking for experts or case studies to feature. If there’s one that’s relevant to your business, get in touch asap.

For more guidance on Marketing and PR, please explore the videos below!

The Building Success webinar series, delivered part of the Women in Innovation programme, is designed to provide a convenient way for women innovators to access knowledge and expertise on a number of key business areas. To find out more about it and access all recordings, click here.

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