Making a conscious effort to create buzz around your business can be a great way to stay top of mind and attract new customers. Most small businesses would like more media attention, but where do you start? In this newsletter, we’ll provide some basic strategies for becoming newsworthy and capitalizing on it.
For these exercises, we’ll use Biz Fitness, a fictitious business we created, to show how to put the strategies into practice. Biz Fitness owner Carl Morini and his staff have over fifteen years of personal training experience and offer those services to local businesses in the Pittsburgh area looking to expand their corporate wellness programs.
Take Advantage of Free Opportunities
In the first newsletter, we went over a few resources you should use to look for easy media opportunities. The first was Help A Reporter Out (HARO). HARO allows reporters to list stories they’re working on and send mass email requests for sources in almost every industry. It’s free to sign up for and the emails take less than a minute to scan through. Reporters list their contact information, so if you see a story you’d like to be featured in just reach out to them, gauge their interest and set up a time for an interview. Most interviews take place on the phone or over email. This is a great way to create buzz for your company with minimal effort.
When creating a HARO account, you can tailor the email queries you receive to your business. It’s useful to receive the Master HARO to see what is considered newsworthy across the board, but there are more specific options such as High Tech, Travel, Business and Finance and Lifestyle and Fitness.
HAROs are listed as links so that they’re easy to scan through. If you see one you’re interested in, click on it for more information.
It’s been awhile since Biz Fitness has received any media coverage, so they decide to make it a top priority this month to attract new customers and continue establishing their owner Carl as an authority in the personal training community. He quickly scans through the links in his HARO email to see if there are any relevant opportunities for him. He sees that Ginny Graves at SELF Magazine is writing a story about exercise addiction in young women. Since it’s his job to help employees stay fit, and more importantly lead a healthy lifestyle, it stands out to him.
Carl clicks on the link to find out more information.
This provides some important details. Her deadline is listed. She also provided a short description of the sources she’d like to speak with. In addition to young women struggling with exercise addition, Ginny would like to speak to experts on the subject. This is a good fit for Carl.
There are now two more steps:
(1) Research the reporter’s previous work. Justifiably, nothing annoys reporters more than getting in touch with them without being familiar with their work. If you’re not already familiar with them, just do a quick search on Google. This will usually pull up several articles they’ve written in the past. Taking a few minutes to look at past work will allow you to get a feel for their writing style and see examples of other sources they’ve used.
(2) Reach out to see if they’re interested in an interview.
Here is an example of a good HARO pitch and one you can tailor to your business:
I came across your HARO requesting sources for your upcoming article on exercise addiction in young women. My company has helped build corporate wellness programs at some of the premier businesses in the Pittsburgh area. During that time, I’ve helped many young women lead healthier lifestyles and have seen firsthand the devastating effects of exercise addiction. I’d be happy to share my experience and expertise with you.
Here is some additional information about my practice:
Biz Fitness offers fitness programs to local businesses that compliment their corporate wellness initiatives and improve both the physical and mental health of employees. For over fifteen years, we’ve boosted employee productivity and morale at many of the premier businesses in the Pittsburgh area.
Founder, Biz Fitness
(Link to company website)
Conduct a Survey and Make an Infographic
Making an Infographic
We're in an age dominated by social media and blogging, making infographics increasingly popular. Infographics are visual representations of data from, say, a survey. Of course, it’s not limited to survey data. Biz Fitness, for example, could create an infographic listing the most useful stretches for a stiff neck. They could also use the information from the survey they conducted (see below). Infographics are creative and aesthetically appealing alternatives to raw data, and are more likely to be shared. Check out Visual.ly’s homepage for some terrific examples.
If you’re not comfortable creating an infographic from scratch, don’t worry! In addition to Visual.ly, there are several platforms with simple interfaces that allow you to drag and drop information into customizable infographic templates. Some of the best ones are Piktochart, Infogr.am and iCharts.
If you choose to send your infographic to a specific media outlet, make sure you take some time to research their previous work and send a personalized pitch. This Marketing Land post by Danny Sullivan, the Founding Editor, tells you what not to do when pitching your infographic. More or less, he says that if you don’t send a thoughtful, personalized pitch, you’ll be ignored.
Conducting a Survey
Conducting a survey will help your business in two ways. It’ll provide you with valuable feedback from customers or clients, and most media outlets are open to featuring compelling survey data. What a great way to get media coverage and show you’re an industry leader!
Choosing relevant, measurable questions is the most important part of putting a survey together. If you plan on pitching the results to the media, research industry trends first. They’ll usually only use your results if it compliments a story they’re already working on. If the data is compelling enough, they might write a whole story based on your findings.
Once you choose the questions for your survey, online tools like Survey Monkey allow you to easily put it together. For most small businesses, the free version of Survey Monkey is all you’ll need. They allow ten questions and one hundred responses per survey. If you want more advanced options like customized designs, unlimited questions and analysis, Survey Monkey offers three other paid options ranging from $17 to $65 a month.
Since they’re putting an emphasis on media coverage this month, Carl Morini and Biz Fitness decide to conduct a survey. They hope the data will compliment their efforts, so they want to find correlations between work environments and physical fitness.
Remember, you should envision a headline for each question you come up with.
Here are some examples of good and bad questions they came up with:
- Question 1
- Possible headline: “Majority of employees think gym memberships should be part of compensation”
- Bad: How much money, if any, do you think your employer should pay toward your gym membership?
- Good: Do you think your employer should pay for your gym membership?
- Explanation: There will be too many different answers to the first question for the data to be compelling. Instead of finding out the exact dollar amount each employee thinks their employer should pay, just find out if they think they deserve it. This will give you bigger percentages to work with.
- Question 2
- Possible headline: “Eighty-five percent of employees say they would benefit from in-house personal training classes”
- Bad: Would (or does) having a world-class personal training staff like Biz Fitness at work help to improve your physical and mental well-being?
- Good: Would (or does) having a personal training staff at work help improve to your physical and mental well-being?
- Explanation: The answer to this question will provide them with valuable information, for both business purposes and with the media, but the wording can’t be biased. They should avoid using biased adjectives like “world-class,” or even mentioning their business in the question. Reporters will often ask for all of your data, not just the results. If they see that you tried to tip the results in your favor, they won’t want be interested in your survey. Even worse, they might not want to risk their reputation working with you again.
- Question 3
- Possible headline: “Overbearing work schedules don’t allow time for exercise, survey finds”
- Bad: How much time does your work schedule allow you to exercise a week?
- Less than 1 hour a week
- 1-3 hours a week
- 3-5 hours a week
- More than 5 hours a week
- Good: Does your work schedule allow you enough time to exercise regularly?
- Explanation: Although the first question isn’t awful, it will likely result in data that is too fragmented to be compelling (ex: 15% of respondents have less than an hour, 24% have 1-3 hours, 18% have 3-5 hours, and so on). Since the second question only has two options, the data will be more compelling (ex: 80% of respondents feel like their work schedule allows them enough time to exercise regularly, while 20% say they have enough time). The second set of data is more likely to be used in an article or infographic.
* Tip: If you have a reporter or media outlet in mind before you conduct a survey, send them your questions and ask if they have any feedback. I once sent survey questions to Barron’s before attending a conference and they replied with two questions of their own. Assuming your results are compelling, that all but guarantees they’ll use your survey data in some capacity.
Bylined Articles and Op-Eds
It’s important to keep in mind that bylined articled and op-ed pieces are not the same thing and serve different purposes!
Bylined articles are typically submitted to periodicals, such as trade journals and magazines. The goal is to establish your CEO or other member of your team as an industry expert by demonstrating advanced knowledge of the topic at hand.
Especially as we move away from print media, most outlets are open to accepting contributed content. Bylined articles can offer advice, explain industry trends or make bold predictions. A short biography of the author and a description of your company will usually be listed at the bottom of the article.
Before bylining an article, reach out the outlet (or outlets) you’d like to submit it to and gauge their interest. They might have specific guidelines they’d like to send you. Checking in with an editor before writing will give you a good idea of whether or not they’ll feature it and save you the trouble of shopping it around later.
Op-eds (an abbreviation for “opposite the editorial page”) are opinion pieces, usually submitted to newspapers, written by someone, usually an expert, unaffiliated with the publication.
Used appropriately, both are valuable methods in generating buzz for your business.
Here is an article on Gaebler.com (a great resource for small business owners) that explains the differences between bylined articles and op-eds in more detail, including the differences in tone, length and structure.
Team Up With Other Businesses in Your Community
Every business has a responsibility to give back, but it’s easy to forget that you deserve some credit for it. Establishing yourself as a contributing member of your community is a great way to fulfill your obligation and get some media coverage in the process. Most local media outlets will be happy to help you promote your initiative.
Teaming up with other businesses, especially local charities and non-profits, can help spread the word and attract an audience.
Real World Example: Uniqlo
Japanese retailer Uniqlo understands how to get involved in local communities and maximize the attention they receive for it. In October, they teamed up with St. Vincent de Paul, which runs a homeless shelter and many charitable programs in San Francisco, to ensure that the homeless were properly clothed for the holiday season. They stressed their corporate goal to make sure all Uniqlo clothing is recycled, making them even more popular with customers. The clothing drive only took them one day and didn’t require any spending. It was held at a Uniqlo store, so several of the people donating may have also done a little shopping. In addition to broadcast coverage of the event, Uniqlo landed a great article in the SFGate.
In preparation for the holidays, and in coordination with the launch of a new app, they’ve now teamed up with the public transportation systems to offer San Francisco shoppers free shuttle rides to their stores. This move has again resulted in great media coverage, including these articles in the San Jose Mercury News and on InsideBayArea.com.
Real World Example: Textbroker
In Las Vegas, Textbroker, which writes press releases for small and medium-sized companies, has a partnership with the Blind Center of Nevada to donate used electronics. They get a tax write-off for the donations and show that they’re environmentally friendly by not contributing to landfills. The Blind Center clears the devices, fixes and resells to generate revenue. Christina Zila, Textbroker’s Director of Communications, wrote a great article for Yahoo! Small Business Advisor listing ways for small businesses to get involved in their local communities and get attention for it.
Biz Fitness Example:
Biz Fitness recognizes that many lifestyle choices are developed at an early age. They decide to begin a fun program, for three hours every other week, teaching kids the importance of staying active throughout their lives.
They reach out to local sporting goods stores to see if they’re interested in donating equipment to run the program. It turns out that the biggest store in the area is interested in getting involved.
Carl then reaches out to some of the local Pittsburgh sports teams to see if any of the players are interested in joining them. It turns out that the local baseball team, the Pirates, are interested in sending a group of players once a month to help run the program.
Now Biz Fitness has teamed up with a local business and sports team to provide a service to its community. The media will be there to help promote their program before they know it.
About the Author
Acuity Scheduling (@AcuitySchedulin) is an online scheduling platform that saves thousands of small businesses time by allowing their clients to book appointments online, on their own time, at any time, from anywhere in the world. For more information about services and pricing, visit AcuityScheduling.com.
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