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  • Writer's pictureClaire Elbrow

Your small business can benefit from local media PR. Here's how.

Any local business can engage with local media, so whether you are a personal trainer, a business coach, an entrepreneur with a start-up to shout about or an accountant, if you have expert insights to offer or useful advice to share, you may find that engaging with local media is the way to go.

Most of my clients invariably ask why they should bother. To these doubting Thomas’s my response is that building relationships with your local media can offer you a great way to raise awareness of your business, raise your personal profile and build your reputation in a relatively cost-effective and authentic way.

Becoming a 'go-to' person

Local print media can be a tricky medium, as they are constantly suffering cuts and closures so therefore constantly changing. The days when a journalist and photographer would happily turn up at your local event or business opening are long gone. However, some local paper groups, online platforms and broadcasts, such as local radio, are still going strong and are prepared to engage without looking for advertorial spend. These media, whether online, broadcast or in print are still on the look out for local experts who are open and willing – and available – and can quickly respond to news stories and who have knowledge of their area. If you can offer an appropriate analysis or a tempered insight, then you could become a ‘go-to’ expert in your local area and generate contacts and clients on the way.

To do this you need to do a little preparation.

1 Be aware

Be aware of each publication’s audience and always, always put them first. Your approach and response to a local newspaper would be slightly different to working with an outlet which has a business focus.

If you are speaking on a topic which the audience may not be familiar with, don’t forget to lose the acronyms, technical terms and sector banter. You want people to remember what you said and understand it so think about the key message you should focus on and frame your responses around this.

2 Be up-to-date

A little bit of research goes a long way! The simplest way to find your local media is to either look at your local council website as they often list key publications, or just type something like ‘newspapers Cambridge’ into Google and see what appears. Search on the contacts section and potentially under the various reports. You will find the key contacts – the editor, news reporters, locality reporters and online editors.

Next step is to watch, listen and read their output so you understand their focus. Now get in touch with the local reporters, editors and producers and introduce yourself and outline your area of expertise. A simple and short email will do it!

Twitter is a great hangout for journalists, so make sure you follow your hit list on twitter and like, share or comment on content on this platform and any others you find them on.

3 Be responsive

Deadlines are short and time to gather information is shorter as news moves quickly! Timing is key to working with any media! Be aware that a journalist needs to move in minutes and hours, rather than days so assume deadlines are always short. Your speedy response will set you in good stead to becoming an expert of choice.

If a journalist calls or emails you, respond as quickly as you can – if you don’t, someone else will!

4 Be helpful

Time and budgets are in short supply so if you find a story you feel you can comment on, don’t be afraid to flag your expertise to the journalist and offer some advice, context and insight. Calling and talking to the journalist might work for you in this instance as it is the quickest way to build the relationship. Find their number on the publication website or just call reception and ask for the relevant journalist. You might need to outline why you are calling and how you can offer insight via your specific expertise.

If you can see a different angle to a story which is already out there, you can follow exactly the same process and offer your angle or an opposing view.

So, next time you resort to shouting at the radio when you hear an ill-informed response to a story via a so-called expert – make sure you are in the pot when the subject comes up again!

5 Be relevant

This is the one which most people find hard. A national issue is often hard to translate into a local story. Or is it?

If there is a story running in the national papers, say about housing or health, why not look up the local statistics, local issues and local views and offer your thoughts on the subject with this local slant.

The changing high street is always in the national news somewhere. Why not look at your local high street and review information or advice you can offer. Saving, retirement, education, healthcare, sector wages and skills shortages are other examples where the cross over is pretty constant.

Relevance is also about timing. News turns over quickly – don’t wait long before you get in touch with the journalist. Send an email or call them the minute you identify your angle.

Once you have your new contacts in place, keep your relationship alive by staying in touch and remember the golden rules – useful, responsive and relevant!

YouGov stats:

Local press in print and digital is the most trusted source for local news and information, way ahead of search engines and social media, according to new YouGov research published in 2018.

Local newspapers, which are read by 42 million GB adults in print and digital, scored highest for trust with 74 per cent of respondents agreeing that they trusted the news and information in their local newspaper.

Local papers are the most trusted of all the other sources, coming ahead of local commercial TV and local commercial radio (both 73 per cent), search engines (43 per cent), social media (22 per cent) and other websites (39 per cent).

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