Getting an editor’s ear and eye is a skill PR companies spend years polishing, and the best ones manage it effortlessly. But what if you are a small business, with no budget? Do you stand a chance of getting free editorial coverage?
The good news is, editors like to share news, and if it’s a great story, it won’t matter who sent it in. However, how you send in your story, how it’s presented, and the language you use will all play a part in getting your story in the press – and it’s because of these skills that PR companies usually deliver better results.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t mimic what they do – and avoid the things they know don’t work.
Basic Mistakes to Avoid
As the editor for Employer News, on a quiet day, I receive 160 emails from people wanting free editorial coverage. Some days, it’s double that. So how can someone seeking coverage get my attention and persuade me their piece is worth publishing? These basic faux pas will mostly see your mail heading straight for the trash:
1. Blind Automation
I often don’t read anonymous automated emails from services like Response Source if I have a full inbox. It’s a shame because there are often good stories in there, but frankly, I don’t like letting down people I know in favor of people I don’t. It’s an easy ‘no’. Which brings me to:
2. Impersonal Emails
It’s fairly easy to find out my name. If you use it, and address me in person, I will assume you know me and read your mail just in case!
Deleting candidates who fail at these two basics instantly reduces my full inbox by over 50% – so avoid them and you’re halfway there!
3. Three Cardinal Sins
If you got this far, I’ll read your mail, but it’s still heading for the trash if one of these applies:
- Exaggerated claims about you, your product, or your business
- You/your company lack authority and experience in the subject you’re writing about
- Your story is not news, just a sales pitch
Editors need to please their audiences, so if you lack experience, integrity, and a basic story, it’s simply not going to make the cut, especially in a business-led publication.
Surprisingly, that eliminates a few more candidates, and by then, the stories I’m left with are well-written and worth reading.
So – if you made it this far – your article will be seriously read and considered. Well done!
However, now it comes to standing out among a pile of well-written stories – many of them written by professionals. How can you do that?
There is one golden rule that overrides all others – and it applies to every editor you will ever meet, so pay close attention:
YOUR story doesn’t need to just be in an editor’s sector – it needs to be of interest to the editor’s readers, and the news should target something they are interested in.
Think really carefully about what you can write about. Be an expert on current topics within your sector. Think educate, entertain, engage.
In practice, that means thinking like a reader, not thinking about selling your product. Be honest – would you get excited about a tech spec on your latest business software? If your answer is no, then don’t send it to an editor. Get it right and your audience will go looking for more information about you.
Think about the problems the audience is facing and how to address them, or as my PR friend puts it, think about knights and dragons. If there’s no dragon, the knight would be boring!
What to Write About
If talking about your product alone is unlikely to inspire or excite your audience, why not offer thought leadership on a topic close to your heart?
In my sector, relevant HR news and updates are always of interest, whether that’s CPD, leadership, changes to best practices, recent case law, legal changes, and different takes on HR topics that are in the mainstream news. What expertise can you share about running a business or managing people?
HR and business people love to learn, so share your expertise and focus on getting your name remembered. That will build credibility and trust. You’ll notice I didn’t mention your company or product – that’s because editorial content is all about trust. It isn’t free advertising. Learn that, engage your audience, and any Editor will trust you.
Trust is something most PR consultants have spent years building through established relationships with journalists, editors, and publishing companies – and they may even do each other the odd favor. They are all people-people who love to collaborate and will do all of the above with aplomb. For this reason, they often score more editorial opportunities and are always good value compared to advertising.
Where to Learn
No budget? It is possible to get started on your own,and following the above advice will definitely help. However a little digging should reveal the best PR professionalss in your sector. If you follow them on social media and read their blogs, you may find you can pick up tips from them, too.
I hope I’ve given you enough insight to inspire you to write your first article and enough advice to stand out in that overflowing inbox. Over to you now.. Here’s to your success!
About the Author
Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See IT Publishing and an experienced HR and Business News Editor.