Know how the media operate to tell your story

Even after 16 years of working in the media, Amber Daines learnt something new while researching and writing her book to help small business owners get their story out there.

Even after 16 years of working in the media, Amber Daines learnt something new while researching and writing her book to help small business owners get their story out there.

"I was pleasantly surprised by small business, PR and journalists sharing the tools, pitfalls and mistakes they'd made when it came to managing their own PR - not just about the successes, but about the journey there as well," says Daines, who has worked as a print and television journalist and in marketing and public relations.

Daines launched her self-published book Well Spun: Big PR and Social Media Ideas for Small Business this month, and she shares the top five tips that every small business owner should know before approaching the media.

1. Understand what makes news

The best way to get the attention of journalists is with a newsworthy story, Daines says.

"People assume if they have a product launch that journalists will come and it's guaranteed it will get covered. I always tell them no matter how much French champagne there is at the event, nothing will replace a newsworthy story."

2. Tailor your story

Daines says many small business owners make the mistake of simply buying media lists and doing generic mass mailouts.

"Sending out a mass email approach that's been blind cc-ed is lazy. You will fail to engage the reporter if you haven't researched what they write about, what they've done in the past or what they're interested in," Daines says.

Small business owners also need to be aware that the story they want to share may be suitable for only some media outlets.

3. Email and phone are best

After doing your research on what the journalist writes about, Daines recommends sending a personalised email that refers to other work a journalist has done and why your particular story might be of interest, accompanied by a press release.

Often after the email is sent, it can be useful to pick up the phone and call a journalist.

"Journalists will always prefer to hear from you than a PR person," Daines says.

"People shouldn't be scared to call if they've got a really interesting story they've researched and feel will appeal to the journalist."

4. Be patient and realistic

Daines says many small business owners are disheartened when they are not inundated with responses from their media release.

"You've got to start small - like anything, it's a long-term investment and process," she says.

Daines says people also often want to go straight to the leading national media outlets with their story when it can be more fruitful to build a presence in other media first.

"Local newspapers, bloggers, online business forums: from there they can often at least start to build a profile when they are pitching. Sometimes journalists will gather information about that entrepreneur or that business [from these sources] - it's never a wasted opportunity when you have a chance to speak to the media."

5. Prepare for the interview

Once a journalist accepts the story idea and lines up an interview, it is essential to be prepared.

"Go into the interview knowing your key messages and what you want to get across so you don't walk away saying, 'I should have said this, I should have said that'."

Daines says it can be worth arranging professional media interview training before a significant interview.

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