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How to respond to journalist requests and gain coverage – a guide for small businesses

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Small business owners can gain fantastic media coverage on their own – without incurring the cost of a PR agency – just by providing useful material to journalists via the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

Many small businesses have had great success, with coverage in national newspapers, glossy magazines and trade titles, but that success does depend on responding to journalists in an effective way. Here are some tips to help small business owners get the most out of journalist enquiries:

  1. Be confident. The stream of journalist requests from ResponseSource can be intimidating at first if you don’t have a background in PR. Remember – journalists are human and they know you are too. They don’t expect every reply to solve all their needs, if you can help in just a small way they will be interested to hear from you. So pick the requests you think you can really help with and just go ahead and reply – you’ve got nothing to lose!
  2. Answer the journalist’s question. It really doesn’t matter how you write your reply as long as you are able to give the journalist what they are looking for and you keep things short and to the point. You don’t need to impress them with your use of language or provide too much material in the first instance – just tell them what you can provide and give them your full contact details.
  3. Be quick. Generally speaking you are more likely to score coverage from a journalist request if you get back to them sooner rather than later. So gather your thoughts on how you can help them and respond quickly rather than leaving it for the next day when it could be too late. At the very least take note of the deadline and ensure you respond well before it.
  4. Pictures are worth a thousand words. In many cases journalists need to think about illustrating their story. If you can provide relevant images (or video/audio) then let them know and include links (it is best not to include attachments to your email).
  5. Journalists love experts like you. Journalists are always on the lookout for people they can quote who have expertise in a particular subject. That’s you! Journalists are rarely experts themselves and even if they are it is their job to quote other people. Don’t hesitate to put yourself forward if you can help.
  6. Don’t expect to score coverage every time. Journalists often get many replies and can’t use them all, so don’t be disheartened if they don’t come back to you. Even if you don’t get a reply there is a good chance the journalist has made a note of who you are and kept your email, they may come back to you at a later date when the revisit the subject. So even if you don’t get a response you could be developing future opportunities.
  7. The media sometimes moves slowly. Many media outlets plan weeks or months ahead, so even though you have replied promptly and the journalist has followed up for more it could be some time before you see any content published. Certainly don’t be tempted to chase journalists – they’re busy enough and that won’t make you popular. If the content never appears (which will happen from time to time), don’t blame the journalist themselves – sometimes editors will ‘spike’ a story or cut it right down after it has been written. In these cases you will still have made a potentially useful contact for the future.
  8. Make time – but it needn’t be much. Business owners like you are busy people so it can be tricky making time to respond to journalist requests. Try giving yourself a regular slot once or twice a day for scanning and responding to enquiries. You’ll get quicker and quicker at responding and soon find it’s not too much of a burden on your day. If you find the enquiries are filling up your inbox, try creating a rule in your email client to automatically move them into a folder you can check at will.
  9. Keep going. Responding to journalist requests is an ongoing activity and both your experience and results will build over time. Once you’ve replied to one enquiry move on the next opportunity and so on.
  10. Consider helping even when a request is not directly related to your business. Getting quoted in the media even though it may not be directly about your product or service is often still beneficial. If you can provide valuable information for a journalist’s request it’s a great way to raise your ‘personal brand’ and often journalists will mention your job title or talk about what you do. They could also come back to you in the future when working on something that’s more commercially relevant to you.

There is no precise science to responding to journalist enquiries – each enquiry, every story and every journalist is different. Journalists are also people just like you and me so a bit of charm, humour and personality goes a long way too. By following the tips above you’ll stand a better chance of scoring media coverage but experience counts too so just dive in and start replying!

If you’re a small business looking for more journalist enquiries that you can help with, find out more about the Journalist Enquiry Service on www.responsesource.com/pr/journalistenquiry

If you’re a journalist who’d like to hear from small businesses for a story – along with thousands of other sources including PR agencies, universities and charities – send a request now on the Journalist Enquiry Service at responsesource.com/send

 

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