Getting your business covered in the media isn’t as hard as you think – you just need to understand what makes a journalist tick and the types of story they are after.
In fact, let’s pause right there and focus on the all important ‘S’ word – story. That’s what a journalist wants, not some advertorial nonsense, aka journalistic kryptonite and guaranteed to get you blacklisted forever.
‘But what stories?’ you say, ‘I haven’t got a clue what makes my business newsworthy’.
Fortunately, there are more great stories in your business than you realise. This article will show you how to find them and give you a simple tool to help you think like a journalist and get the media coverage you’re after.
There is a gap between what businesses want: positive brand exposure, and what the media wants: great stories.
Businesses want to communicate things like features and benefits, price, the fact that their product is the “best on the market”.
None of these are a story.
Unfortunately, many businesses go straight to bloggers and journalists with these types of messages. Most press releases can be summarised as “Amazing new product available in shop/online”. The problem with this is that it’s not a story; it’s an advert. Journalists and serious bloggers will just delete it.
Professional PR agencies add value by closing the gap between what companies want and what the media wants. They take what businesses need (awareness and credibility) and turn it into what the media needs (great stories).
But as a fresh startup, or entrepreneur, you probably can’t afford to hire a costly PR agency on a monthly retainer. The good news is that you can learn to do a lot this for yourself in the early years – starting with finding the stories that are already there in your business, trust me…they are there!
First a little PR theory:
A well-crafted story meets everybody’s needs: done properly it becomes the vehicle that allows you to get your key messages to your target audience. I think of it like a train: The story is the engine, which pulls the key message carriages along the channel’s track, to the audience station. The key messages are the things you want to communicate (features/benefits/price/availability etc). The channels are the media outlets best able to reach your audiences.
The stronger the story, the better it will perform in getting your key messages to your audiences. Get it?
Audience, Channels, Messages
‘So where are these lovely stories that are going to help me put my business on the map?’
StoryFinder: the Business Model Canvas for PR
Over the past few years, the Business Model Canvas has helped hundreds of thousands of people to think systematically about their business model.
It helps to formulate, iterate and communicate how a whole business works, in one page. It represents hundreds of years of business experience, distilled into one systematic, repeatable and learnable framework.
Many people underestimate the number of interesting stories in their business.
I have created a similarly systematic, repeatable and learnable process to enable entrepreneurs to think through the stories in their business and you can download it here…
Like the Business Model Canvas, the StoryFinder has a logical left to right flow running from internal to external. It is a tool for thinking through a business in a systematic way to uncover all the areas in which your stories might be hiding.
At this “brainstorming” stage, you’re not trying to evaluate whether your stories are worthy of being published.
Learning to tell which of your stories are newsworthy (of interest to a journalist) is the next step in the process. Only a small number of your best stories will be newsworthy which is to be expected.
But there is value in all the stories; they can be used to great effect in customer or internal newsletters, social media channels, your company website etc. All of which are important elements of shaping your profile and reputation.
The goal is to get as many stories on the StoryFinder as possible. In particular, you are looking for stories about things that are new, innovative, a ‘first’ or remarkable in the business – this is what makes news. Remember that new and remarkable are context specific; something might not be new at a national level, but it might be new for your town or your business sector.
You: Company structure and team
These are stories about the way your company is structured or financed and stories about your team.
What is interesting about . . .
· The way that your company was formed — the company’s origin story?
· Your business model?
· Partners that you work with?
· Investors in the business?
· The financing structure of the business?
· The business founders — especially their “back story”?
· The people who work for the company?
· The company culture?
· How you recruit staff?
· Your knowledge about the sector you operate in — is there an opportunity for you to be the thought leaders in this area?
Examples of Company and Team stories
Although crowdfunding is not new, stories about crowdfunded business can still attract attention. Smartwatch maker Pebble is attracting media attention because of the scale of their crowdfunding success. (Latest Pebble campaign snags third-most-funded slot on Kickstarter, TechCrunch, June 2016)
These stories can include stories about the founders.
Depending on the scale of your company appointments, stories may just be of interest to the local or trade press — that’s still useful coverage and incremental progress in getting your messages across.
Azzure is a Sheffield-based IT firm who placed a story about the appointment of two new team members.
Of course, the story is only interesting regionally and so worked well in the South Yorkshire Times. But they managed to get some pretty solid key messages into the copy.
WHAT WE DO: Daily Operations & Value Proposition
Stories about how we run the business and the value we create.
What is interesting about . . .
· The way your business is operated?
· Innovation in the way your service or product is created or delivered?
· Change/disruption that you have created in the industry by the way we do things?
· What you are doing or making that nobody else is?
· Your value chain and where/how you source your raw materials?
· How you treat your employees?
Examples of Daily Operations and Value Proposition stories
Credit: Jason Andrews/CarWow
As the opening line of this Guardian article puts it, “From scraping a living in a loft to selling £600m worth of cars in less than three years, CarWow’s CEO, James Hind, is disrupting the UK’s new car market.” This is a story about a company having an innovative and truly disruptive business model.
American online shoe shop Zappos attracted a lot of media attention when it adopted Holacracy, a new “social operating” system for businesses that has become synonymous with removing bosses and organising companies around the work that needs to get done rather than who does it. (Companies that work better without bosses. Wired Magazine)
Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty
Stories about our customers and the impact we are having on them.
What is interesting about . . .
· The way that people are using your product or service?
· The way your product or service is changing your industry?
· The impact that your product or service has on the people using it?
· How your product is changing how people behave?
Examples of Customer stories
These kinds of stories will be successful for products that have a health or wellbeing impact but can apply to others as well.
This detailed product review of the Varidesk (Does a standing desk change the way you work? Alphr) is a great example of key product messages being communicated through a strong story. The lead story here is about the health risks of sitting too long and the benefits of standing.
Similarly, the Be My Eyes app had a large amount of coverage (Mail Online/TechCrunch/Fast Company/Engadget) all based around the impact that the app has on its blind and partially sighted customers.
Credit: Be My Eyes website
This was nicely summarised in a quote from the Daily Mail:
“It only takes a minute to choose the right tin can from the shelf, look at the expiration date on the milk or find the right thing to eat in the fridge — if you have full vision that is. For visually impaired individuals smaller tasks in their home can often become bigger challenges. Be My Eyes hopes to change that.”
— Daily Mail
Where are your stories?
If you’re ready to take control of your brand narrative, download the StoryFinder and use it to find the stories in your business. Involve your team in this process.
You’ll be amazed by how many stories there are.