Have you ever sent a press release or announcement to the local newspaper only to never hear back? Getting your story or article into a newspaper, magazine or other media outlet is much easier when you’ve built relationships with contacts at media outlets. Building strong relationships with the media takes time and journalists can receive hundreds of emails each day with requests for posting news items and stories. The key is to make sure yours stands out.
By following a few best practices, you can start building strong relationships with media contacts and get your stories recognized to reap the rewards of editorial coverage for your dealership.
Build your media list
Before you submit your press release or news announcement to the media, determine your audience. If you are trying to promote a local event, a new dealership location opening or equipment brand expansion your local newspaper, radio and TV stations will be the best to reach out to. If your dealership has multiple locations across the state, consider regional or statewide publications. Keep in mind the type of customer you serve and do research to determine if there are trade publications that reach that audience.
For example, if you serve mostly ag and rural lifestyle customers, look at the ag and farming magazines in your state. Local farm bureaus may also have a weekly or monthly newsletter they distribute to members. You can find most of this information online, or by requesting their media kits that have this information, or subscribe to paid services like Cision, which aggregate information about publications.
Do your homework
Once you have narrowed down which news outlets best serve the audience you wish to reach, it’s time to learn more about the outlet, including the best contact person. Typically, the news or assignment editors are the best contacts for your stories. However, if you read through several of the publication’s articles (most are available online), you may find that there is a certain reporter who tends to write stories related to your topic. In those cases, reporters with a specific focus are the best people to contact.
For example, if you want to spread the word about a community event your dealership is hosting, your local newspaper may have a specific reporter who covers the community calendar for the area. For other types of stories about your dealership, the newspaper contact will usually be the business editor or, for weekly newspapers, the news editor.
Craft a solid media advisory or press release
Journalists are accustomed to receiving news either in a media advisory or press release. Media advisories are sent out before events, and typically are shorter, focusing on event information and inviting the journalist to attend and write their own story. Press releases actually tell the story and are useful for news items that aren’t events. In either case, always start with the most important information and try to include a quote from your dealership’s spokesperson. Use resources, like this one from Purdue University, to write in Associated Press style, the standard for most media outlets (you can also pick up an AP Stylebook).
Another important step is determining if your news is best suited for an earned media placement, or paid advertisement. Earned media placements are stories and articles that you don’t pay a media outlet to run and instead are pitched to an editor or reporter. These earned placements can complement paid advertisements and help you tell your story to potential customers, without the cost of an ad. Most likely, sales and specials at your dealership will be best suited for a paid ad in a publication. However, news such as the opening of a new dealership, community events and employee volunteer projects work well for stories through a media advisory or press release.
Follow up with a phone call
Once you have sent out your news story, wait a few days for a response from the media contact. If you haven’t received a response, and haven’t seen your story published, reach out to the person you emailed via phone to follow up. Keep in mind, if you are striving for a story (rather than a paid ad), the outlet can choose whether or not they wish to run the story. A polite phone call to the media contact confirming they received your email and asking if they have any question or interest in the story is a great way to ensure the reporter or editor sees your email, while still respecting their decision as to whether or not they wish to run the story.
Thank reporters for running your story
If your story does receive a placement, be sure to reach out to the reporter or editor who ran the story and thank them. Just as you’d thank a customer for their business in an effort to strengthen that relationship, thank the media contact for taking the time to place your story in their publication.
Get to know media contacts
Whenever you have the opportunity, it is good practice to meet media contacts face to face. This helps build strong relationships and will help when you reach out to them with a media advisory or press release in the future. When you attend community events or trade shows, look for media contacts in attendance and take a moment to introduce yourself and your company.
Taking the time to build a relationship with media outlets always pays off in the long run. If you take the time to ensure your story or article is appropriate for the media outlet’s audience, explain why it is relevant and respect the media contact’s decision as to whether or not to run the story, they will be more likely to run your story or news item in the future. Check out online resources such as prdaily.com for more information about building relationships with media outlets.
About the Author
Sara McClendon is a public relations manager at Osborn Barr, an agriculture-focused full-service marketing agency. She enjoys telling the stories of individuals in ag and rural America by building meaningful relationships with clients, farmers and media outlets. Sara grew up in the small town of Buffalo, Missouri and now lives in St. Louis.