Sure, you want to be on the TODAY show with Kathie Lee and Hoda. They have a huge following and they look like they have a fun time in the morning. I want to hang out with them too. But we’re not friends yet, and we probably won’t be for a really long time. It’s a logistical issue, really. I don’t have their cell phone numbers, they don’t live in my city, and I’m pretty sure that we don’t have any mutual friends—although I can’t confirm that.
Making contacts locally is much more attainable, and arguably more valuable than aiming for national news celebs like Kathie Lee and Hoda. Since you live in the same community, you have certain things in common and that makes the introduction warmer. Kind of like that coworker that hugged you when she found out that someone on your kickball team went to her high school. You hesitated at first, but then you hugged her back. I’m not saying you should start playing small-town geography and hugging the local media, but there are certain things you can do to get their attention and build meaningful relationships that will work well for your business.
Four Tips for Local PR:
- Read the news! This one may seem a little obvious, but following the local outlets and getting familiar with their content will help you recommend things that are more relevant. Local media outlets tend to have a lean staff, so there are fewer reporters to keep track of and these reporters may cover multiple topics. Because the reporters are so busy, it’s in your best interest to package your story as something that they can visualize instead of just throwing them an idea and expecting them to put it in context. If you’re following along, you’ll know what broadcast segments would be a good fit, or if there’s a particular column in the business section that would make sense for you to chime in on.
- Make a positive impact. Being a member of local business associations, participating in community events, and donating to local charities are great ways to demonstrate your commitment to improving the community while also generating some positive attention for your organization. Nominate someone in your organization for a community award or partner up with a local charity for a day of service. Even if your customers aren’t 100 percent local, it’s in your best interest to make nice with the people in your neighborhood (e.g., local interest groups, government officials, and other businesses in the area). You want the community to see you as a force of good, and participating in community events or philanthropies is an instantly attractive story.
- Find the local angle in national stories. It often takes a little longer for national issues to trickle down to local outlets than it does for them to get picked up by top-tier media, so be on the lookout for national issues that hit home for your business. It’s possible that your local story could even get picked up by a national outlet, since oftentimes the national media are looking for local stories that have a broader appeal. Think of the impact that this issue has on the community around you and try to find a natural opportunity for your business to share its insight on the topic in a positive way. Sometimes finding the local tie-in is as simple as replacing a national census figure with one for your county. Other times you might have to think more abstractly. Either way, if you can put a local spin on a national issue and add value to the conversation, you’ll have a great shot at getting the attention of a local reporter.
- Be a partner, not a pest. One of the unique opportunities with local media is that if you work with a reporter on a story and it goes well, they’ll likely come back to you the next time they’re working on a story in that realm. If you do secure a story opportunity, make sure the process goes as smoothly for the reporter as possible. Try to make scheduling the interview easy for them and add value beyond just answering their questions by offering to share images or a company fact sheet with added background info. Once the story is published, send them a short and sweet compliment about the piece. If the process was a positive experience for both of you, you’ll be in a good position to score a second story with this reporter. But that doesn’t mean that you can go crazy and start calling them every day. No one likes a Stage Five Clinger, so if you start bombarding reporters with irrelevant pitches and ignoring rule #1, they’ll stop opening your emails. Keep the relationship positive and productive by getting in touch when you have something of value to share.
Local publicity gives you the opportunity to focus your energy on people that live in your world. Once you have relationships with your neighbors and have built up some credibility in your own backyard, you’ll be well-positioned in your market and have a better shot at winning the attention of a regional or national media outlet. It’s not that you’re not TODAY show material; it’s just that you’ll make more of a splash if you become a big fish in a small pond before you try to dive right into the ocean.
Have any questions about promoting your business in your community? Let us know in the comments!