How 2 Engage with the Media
Babson College’s Public Relations (PR) team stopped by the Blank Center to share their tips for interesting the media in your business and how to handle it when they are. Babson’s PR team works specifically for “earned media” by providing media outlets with great Babson-related stories. Their techniques are applicable to businesses at every stage.
Their first tip for getting a journalist interested in you is to be selective about who you reach out to. Then, tailor your pitch to the interests of the reporter and/or news outlet. If you send content the reporter is uninterested in, they will begin to delete your emails when you contact them. This is definitely a situation of “quality over quantity.” Although you can use either phone call or email to initiate contact, Babson PR typically sends emails so that the journalist can respond at any time.
It is recommended that you include a subject line of “Story Idea” and a catchy first sentence. For safety reasons, never attach anything to the email- just say that you have photos if the reporter wants them. Avoid immediately showing the journalist previous press you have received. The media is very competitive, and they will not want to replicate a piece that somebody else has already written about you.
Be sure to address the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of your business, in an interesting way, within two paragraphs. Reporters are very busy, so you must maintain their attention from start to finish. If they reply with a question, respond as quickly and as helpfully as possible. When the article comes out, thank the journalist for working with you- even if the piece isn’t exactly what you had in mind. Others may think it’s a great piece and be convinced to do business with you! On top of that, a good story begets a good story. Another journalist may read the article and want to write about you next.
Work to create a great story. If you are in the crowdfunding stage, there are limited options for what to write about the business itself. Be comfortable with the piece being mainly a human interest story. Even if your main goal is to raise money, people will be interested by your story and visit your website. In this case, make sure that your campaign is front and center on the homepage so people can’t miss it. By doing so, you will have gained personal media attention as well as visits to your web page- and possibly donations!
Your media strategy will differ based on your unique needs and what you want to accomplish. For example, you could be looking for people to beta test your product, make sales, or even just to get name recognition. The needs of your business determine the point at which you contact the media and which outlet you choose to work with.
The PR team offered to speak with any Babson startup to develop their pitch to media. When they meet with you, expect to talk about what your business is, what inspired you, who is on your team, and whether you have mentors. It is also helpful to know what your goals are before meeting with the team. The department works with current students and alumni to develop newsworthy stories that promote both the startup and Babson College as a whole.
Something else to think about is that even if a reporter doesn’t immediately write about your business, your story could be included in a relevant trend piece down the line. There is a long game and a short game for media engagement. The reporters may be filing you into a folder for future use.
If you are ready for media as soon as possible, consider signing up for daily HARO (Help a Reporter Out) alerts. It compiles media queries that you can respond directly to. Babson’s PR team recommends responding to queries relevant to any aspect of you or your business. Examples include your gender, age, hometown, business type, and more.
The PR team then turned their attention to strategies for handling the media when you finally receive that highly-coveted attention. One audience member asked how to prepare for a radio interview. The first tip is to make a list of points you definitely want to mention so that you don’t forget to say something important. Keep a conversational tone and sound interested in the discussion- avoid sounding like you are reading off a sheet.
The discussion then expanded into general tips for all types of interviews. Unless you are speaking with someone from a technical-focused media outlet, try not to use industry jargon only known by experts in your field. You likely want everyday people to be interested in your product as well, and it will be difficult if they don’t understand what you are trying to convey. To combat this, try practicing your pitch to people outside of your industry to make sure they understand the main points.
In addition, feel free to incorporate phrases into the discussion to bridge into a different topic. For example, “what I really want to share today is”, “what I want to point out is”, or “an example of this is” are great ways to make sure you say important points. A final tip is never to disparage competitors. Instead, just say that your business does things differently!
We hope that the advice shared by Babson’s PR team helps you gain and maintain great media coverage!