10 reasons why journalists will write about your website

Ken McGaffin's picture

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” Jonathan Swift

Opportunities for great free publicity and inbound links are all around us. They arise every day from a host of newspapers, magazines, blogs and online news sites… but we just don’t see them.

Often we don’t see them because we don’t look.

Our brains work on autopilot most of the time. We filter out lots of things that are happening all around us, they just pass us by unnoticed.

But once you start to look for something, you see it everywhere. And once you start scanning the media for small business stories - and editorial links - you start seeing them everywhere.

Several years ago, I was featured in the New York Times – and the feature gave a live link to my site. The link brought me a lot of traffic, other sites linked to me because I’d been featured and I got the search engine benefit of a link from a strong authority site. A fantastic piece of publicity.

Afterwards, I wondered how many other small businesses had been featured in the New York Times and whether they too had a link to their site.

I started looking for other examples of how link building and online public relations could work together. And sure enough I found them. I’ve continuing looking off and on, and I’ve built quite a collection of examples. Last week, I shared one of these examples with you in my article Is Online PR The Ultimate Link Building Technique?

In this article, I’d like to outline 10 reasons why a journalist would write about your website, and I want to give you real examples that will inspire you to try the same.

An important online PR tip

Before jumping into the examples, I can’t stress enough that if you want to get this type of coverage and the links it will bring, you’ve got to start paying attention to news. Not only in your own industry but in the general media that reaches a wider population.

News is something most of us consume every day. But we do so without giving it a second thought, and once read it’s quickly forgotten. Reading business stories of the kind we’d all like to be featured in, how much of the story do we really take in?

How about asking questions like:

  • Why did the journalist choose to write about that?
  • What are the main themes of the story?
  • How often have you seen these themes before?
  • Why did the story appear now?
  • Why write about this business and not that one?

Answer these questions and you start to see what journalists look for in a story and understand how the media works. You’ll see, as Jonathan Swift puts it, “what is invisible to others”. And when you see what is invisible to others, you have an advantage.

I’ve been looking at this for years so let me give you my top 10 reasons journalists write about small businesses, together with some of the great examples I’ve found.

1. They need to create a list

When journalists review a particular topic – say holiday destinations, specialist food suppliers, restaurants, they often provide a list of recommended suppliers.

This is one of the most common ways that a small businesses can get both coverage and a link to their website. For examples, Five upstate New York spas for a relaxing weekend from the Daily News and Cheap travel and vacations are out there from the Boston Globe.

In order to compile these lists journalists will search Google, scan directories and otherwise look for highly visible businesses online. If you do your homework and make sure you appear in the places journalists are likely to look, then you stand a good chance of being considered.

Action: Make sure you can be found on popular directories, Google news and general searches.

2. They need a seasonal story

Editorial stories follow a very careful calendar and features and content will be planned months in advance. So if you get in early with a relevant message clearly geared to a specific event or season, you raise your chances of getting coverage.

For example, feature story in The New York Times in early summer focused on barbequing outdoor food with real wood, instead of charcoal. The story earned two small companies some valuable links. You’ll find the story here - Seasonal start-ups seek promotion.

Action: Anticipate these seasonal stories and submit your ideas to journalists well in advance.

3. They want to follow up on a big story

Jeremy Paxman, a famous English journalist, author and television presenter, created a stir when he publicly criticized the quality of underwear available from Marks and Spencers. The temptation to do a follow up was irresistible to many journalists and provided underwear and lingerie retailers with some valuable links. BBC personality says his underwear is a load of pants.

Action: Learn how to ‘piggy back’ on big stories. Set up Google alerts using your major keywords and every morning browse the results looking for opportunities to react.

4. They’re writing about a competitor

Journalist often want to give balance in business articles they write. This story, Your Photos, Off the Shelf at Last in the New York Times was essentially about ScanMyPhotos.com but for balance, the journalist included a link to Digmypics.com. Therefore if they’re writing about one of your major competitors, they may give you a mention too – especially if you appear alongside them in Google searches.

Action: Monitor whether you appear in searches alongside your competitors. Track their major keywords and aim to appear in the results pages too.

5. They’re writing about a particular group and you fit the bill

Journalists will often cover business stories from specific groups, for example, mature entrepreneurs. This article from the BBC tells the story of a number of over-50s entrepreneurs and provides a link to a business and a support organization. You can check the story out at Mature entrepreneurs come of age.

Action: It often pays to join special interest groups. Not only will you get great help, but you’ll find opportunities to volunteer for media interviews – take them!

6. You’ve won an unusual order

Your own order book can entice a journalist to write about you. Valerie Johnston who started Big Feet Pyjama Co. from her own home, not only created an unusual product, but had it included in the Academy Awards Gift Baskets. Her rapidly growing business has been featured in over 100 media outlets including the New York’s Daily News. Read Valerie’s story - Big Feet strides towards big profits.

Action: Make sure you look through your customer lists for potentially interesting stories. Get your customer to agree and then contact the media.

7. They need an example to illustrate a national trend

Marcia and Tom Blackwell founded Blackwell's Organic Gelato in 2005. At the time, financing the business with a home equity line of credit. However, the credit crunch meant that in 2009, the bank froze the line of credit. The Blackwells made a perfect example of how the crunch is affecting small American businesses.

See Falling house prices effects entrepreneurial opportunities.

Action: Monitor big news stories and wherever you can provide a concrete example volunteer information.

8. They need an example to illustrate federal legislation

News stories on government initiatives can be rather dull so journalists like to find real stories of companies that have benefited or otherwise been affected by the initiative. It adds color and human interest to their stories.

For example, the federal stimulus package provided the experienced environmental company, E & E with a large boost. In Taking green global we give the background to the company that attracted CNN.

Action: Always be ready to feature in larger breaking stories.

9. They need expert comment

Journalist are rarely experts in industry. Their job is often to write about and explain things that they don’t fully understand. Therefore they need the help of experts who they can ask to explain complex issues. If you get known for your ability to speak clearly and simply on your industry, then there’s a good chance that trade journalists will seek you out. Perform well and they will come back time and again.

The business travel website Joesentme.com illustrated the use of this marketing method in a New York Times article on the battle to implement Wi-Fi internet access on domestic airlines. See The power of comment.

Action: You can probably speak well and be understood by peers in your industry. But can you speak in everyday language and explain complex issues. Practice this skill and make sure journalists know of your ability.

10. They need an award winner

Interviewing small businesses can often be a difficult job. From the start a journalist may not know whether you’re going to be reliable and deliver the important content they need. However, if you’re an award-winning small business they have outside proof that there is something special about your company and they will come back time and again whenever they need a story. Green Dragon Pest Solutions is in that happy position - Friendly Pest Killer Strikes Again.

Action: Always be on the look out for industry awards you can enter. Even if you don’t win, the involvement can bring you to the attention of news hungry journalists.

Let me remind you of the quote, I started this article off with - “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others,” Jonathan Swift. Start looking for media opportunities and you will surely find them.

Author: 

(Top image: Guerilla Basement

(Note: this article was previously published on LinkingMatters.com and has been updated on April 1st, 2013.) 

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