Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Media and Your Small Business

For many years now, I have made a living from helping mostly small business owners and entrepreneurs understand how the legacy media operates so that they can, from time to time, gain editorial type coverage for their enterprises. Over that time, 16 years, I have successfully engineered a many pieces of coverage for clients.  

The process is straightforward: identify an interesting story within your business or past-time and take the story idea to a relevant reporter or editor. Frequently, more than one editor or reporter will be interested in the story and more coverage results. Sounds pretty simple right? It is. 

And yet the vast majority of small business and entrepreneurs do not take advantage of this situation; one that can have a profound and positive impact on the market awareness of their business.

From time to time, to prove to that this theory about media relations still works, I try it myself. 

Let me give you an example. Recently I decided to write an editorial column for our community newspaper. It was my view on real estate development in the area. The editor accepted it and ran it in the paper a week or two later. In our email correspondence I took the opportunity to raise the point that if the paper was ever interested in a feature or column on antiques and folk art, I would be willing to write one.  A few weeks passed and one day recently, the editor and I met for coffee to discuss the idea. 

We hatched the idea of a column, on a trial basis, that I would write along with evaluations, again by me, of readers' antiques or folk art pieces. The editor asked if I could have the first column written for the following Saturday which was two or three days hence. I went home wrote a column. She sent me a piece of folk art she owned as the first item to be evaluated. This week, the first installment of Collectable Treasures ran in the Kitchissippi Times.

The subject of the original letter to the editor doesn't matter in the scheme of things. The point is that I created a piece of content and got if front of the relevant editor. That did two things. One, it gave me access to a media channel through which my content was published and two, it effectively created the start of a working relationship between myself and a newspaper editor. From a business perspective, those are good relationships to have.  

That's not to say, that an editor is going to accept your articles and stories simply because you are now acquainted with that person. Whatever you submit is still going to have to meet or exceed their standards. And, that's just how it should be. The point is that you now have an editor who is willing to look at your stories and evaluate them for publication. That's important.

I should also mention that the first published column accomplished a few other important facts. It established my credibility, to some extent, as an evaluator of antiques and folk art. Secondly, the by-line had a nice reference to a book I published, Folk Art in the Attic and that exposure may lead more people to buy the book.

So, all in all, this is pretty positive experience and one, as I said at the beginning, of which more small businesses and individuals should take advantage. The results can be very rewarding.

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