A common misconception among news media consumers is that reporters are very selective about who they’ll speak to. Reporters may not bite on a tip that traffic lights in the city are timed to make motorists like you late for everything, but when it comes to a community-wide mobilization such as Small Business Saturday, you and your business are not insignificant.
But, you have to earn it!
“Earned media” for small businesses is, in communications parlance, any free coverage that you generate by grabbing the attention of gatekeepers — print reporters, broadcast channels, bloggers and vloggers, and influencers. How do you do that?
The answer is both simple and maddening. You ask.
It’s trickier than it sounds. News media don’t typically highlight businesses just for the novelty of it. The news model is largely advertising-supported, and attention for small businesses is most of that advertising.
Big holidays and community-wide events, though, are an easy opportunity to highlight your business. To generate Small Business Saturday earned media, you must reach out to TV, radio and print — as well as bloggers and other online “influencers.”
After all, Small Business Saturday is easy media for them, too.
Let’s get started!
Lay all your options on the table
Your earned media plan really is a list or map of all your earned media options. Because, once you “earn” it, the gatekeeper does the work for you. (Easy media!)
Your work is just getting them to bite.
- Make a list of all the local media in your market.
- Show it to close friends and family and ask them to add anything like a really popular social media account or a local business review site you might have missed.
Frame up a “pitch” email or message
Your Small Business Saturday earned media plan begins with a pitch, an appeal or proposal. (If you’re reaching out to traditional media, make this an email; if it’s a social media account holder, a direct message or even public-facing post.)
- Keep the hook simple and punchy — there will be lots of attention on small businesses this Saturday, why yours?
- Never, ever forget the four W’s of journalism — who (you), where (your business), when and, most importantly, what — what specifically are you doing that warrants coverage?
- How will they contact you?
Send it to the right person
Nothing in Small Business Saturday earned media pitching will be more overlooked than who to send your message to. Find the right email address, and set yourself up for success.
- Look for a staff page. Find the editors.
- In traditional print publications, city and metro editors make up the “budgets,” or lists of future stories, for news in your town.
- In television and radio, it’s the assignment desk editor/producer. As you move up from editors — publishers, station managers — and down (reporters), you’re likely to lose interest.
If all else fails, go to the organization’s website and look for a “Contact” or even a “Tip” link.
Adventures in new media
Today’s earned media for small businesses as often as not means new media. It’s a different ballgame subject to many of the same rules and trends. For more on social media, see our social media guide.
- For bloggers, reviewers and “influencers,” be sure to reach out to them on their platform of choice. (Their social media profile page may say that they prefer email — great! Be sure to tell them their social profile page directed you to email.)
- Consider what it is they do and offer to show them more of it. If they’re a reviewer, ask them to review. If they have a wide Instagram following, tease them with picture possibilities.
- Finally, and crucially, cultivate future attention by distributing their work after it posts. You know what online content makers crave more than anything? Views. You can encourage them by sharing your plans to distribute their content to a wider audience — your audience.
Follow up with a phone call
Typing is now the leading way that we communicate. It wasn’t always this way. And you know what? The old way has one substantial strategic advantage.
- After an introductory written pitch, call people on the phone. Ask if they’re making attention for small businesses a budget priority this Small Business Saturday. If so, would they check out the efforts you’re making to seize the day? Cooperation improves substantially when a person being asked is forced to vocalize “no.”
Repurpose your efforts
All of the work you’re doing to get a news reporter, a reviewer or social media “influencer” to consider your easy media pitch this Small Business Saturday shouldn’t proceed along just one trajectory.
- Put some version of your pitch on your website. If you’ve taken the time to make a news release, specifically, put it up as a “banner” on your site. That’s making your own news!
- Let people know. If you’ve spoken with a well-known media organization or person, post that interaction on social media and tag the organization/person. A simple, “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about my business and Small Business Saturday,” will remind them of the pitch and, if they like it and share it, that’s earned media itself!
Earned media for small businesses as a mindset
One reason people try earning media and then stop after one or two tries is that it’s kind of like online dating — after a while, it just feels like rejection.
- Don’t get down — get better. Media gatekeepers are always asking a very simple question: Will this appeal to my viewership/readership? Wow, that sounds just like retail!
- Just like dating, people naturally warm to others once they get to know them (well, ideally). Use this Small Business Saturday earned media window to get to know folks!
For more tips on how to garner your own earned media, check out our Small Business Saturday earned media checklist today!
Kinetic Business by Windstream is a proud member of our local community. Visit kineticbusiness.com if you are in need of more internet bandwidth or a modern voice solution! Happy holidays from your local communications partner.