This step is about approaching the media. It's the fun bit!
We’ll take you through the etiquette of contacting the media to give you the best chance of success and we’ll show you how to find the right journalists to review your product.
We’ll also teach you about the different types of media, how they operate and we’ll prepare you for any interviews you might have.
Once you’ve worked through this step, you will be ready to go out to the media.
TYPES OF MEDIA
There are various types of media and each type works slightly differently.
Print and online media tend to have a writer that looks after a particular section or topic eg health, technology, entertainment, food & drink, beauty – the list goes on, so that’s the person to contact about reviews.
Radio stations are broken up into programs and each program will have one or two producers that look after the entire show. You have two types of radio program.
The first is talkback where the presenters discuss topics at length and bring experts on to the show and invite listeners to call in with their opinions.
The second is music based with light chat in between songs. These chat topics are often based on pop culture like discussing the latest episode of The Bachelor or celebrity gossip, so unless your product taps into this kind of subject, then you’re better off looking at talkback.
Radio presenters as a whole don’t tend to review products but the specialists they bring in do. You will find there are segments within programs that cover certain topics eg food & drink, technology, health & wellness. These are your best bets for getting your product talked about on radio.
TV is similar to radio in that it has news bulletins and magazine style programs and the same rules apply.
You also need to be aware of the timelines that media work to. All media work to lead times but not all their lead times are the same.
Monthly magazines are known as long lead publications because their lead times are three months – this means that they write their stories and send the issue to print three months before it hits the shelves. It follows that you will need to send your product to these publications over three months ahead of when you ideally want it to appear.
Weekly magazines and newspaper supplements are known as medium lead as their lead times are approximately six weeks.
Newspapers are short lead as they turn stories around in a matter of days, however the sections that cover product reviews tend to be planned and written at least a week in advance.
Radio, TV and online are considered immediate lead because they broadcast stories in a matter of hours however you need to send your product to the experts at least a week in advance of when they will be appearing on the show.
Now we need to work on building your media list. Refer back to the Discovery Worksheet you filled in when you outlined your target audience.
Now think about what they are reading, watching and listening to as this tells you which media you need to approach to get your story across.
When you signed up, you got a link to a media list – view it, copy the media you think are right for you and paste them into a new, blank excel spreadsheet so you have a working document you can update as you go.
The list will be updated regularly, so don’t forget to go back to the link and check for any changes before you begin an outreach.
HOW TO FIND NEW MEDIA CONTACTS
So what if not all of the media you want to get into are on the list we’ve given you? Well we’ll quickly show you how to find your own contacts.
For radio and TV, you can call the switchdesk for the station and ask for the email address of the producers
on each program or the expert that runs segments on your topic (eg tech, food & drink, health etc).
For magazines, the contact details will be listed in the first few pages.
BEFORE YOU SEND
Generally it pays to ask before you send a journalist a sample of your product for the first time. First it’s courteous, second it ensures you get their address right and third you won’t be wasting valuable samples on people who don’t want them.
However, this is not always practical or necessary. If your product has a high price point then obviously you want to check you are sending it to the right person and that they actually want to trial it.
If your item is cheap for you to produce and you can afford to send one out to more people, then you can simply go ahead and mail or courier it out.
HOW TO SEND OUT YOUR PRODUCT
Keep the packaging simple and the product safe. Think about the experience of opening it at the other end; most complain about Styrofoam and popcorn as it explodes upon opening, it’s bad for the environment and makes a mess around their desk. You need to get the balance right between limiting the packaging and keeping your product safe.
Send the product with your fact sheet and consider adding a personal, handwritten note on a comp slip too. If you have a media release already written and it’s relevant, then you can include it too.
Be mindful if you’re sending something perishable – make sure the person will be in the day you send it by contacting them first.
So you’ve sent out your product. What’s next?
Keep a record of who you sent the product to (and which product you sent to whom if you have multiple skus) and record the feedback.
If you haven’t heard anything back, then you should follow up with the journalist by email to see if they have received it.
Allow enough time for the item to arrive at the publishing house or station and then give it a couple of days to actually reach your contact.
CHECK IN EMAIL
Here are some tips on sending a check-in email:
1. Use the journalist’s first name.
2. Keep your email short and punchy.
3. Tell them what you sent them, why you sent it to them and ask if it has reached them yet.
4. Attach your fact sheet to the email and the link to the photos.
5. Be friendly but professional.
6. Remember to include your contact details and how best to get hold of you if they want more information.
Give contacts a chance to reply. Hounding them with emails is a sure fire way to get them offside.
If you haven’t heard back by 72 hours, it’s perfectly acceptable to email again to check in.
However, there is a big difference between being persistent and being a pain! Never send more than two follow up emails. If you haven’t heard back after that, you can assume they are not interested and you should move on.
A journalist may call you for more information about your product. Sometimes they will simply call but mostly they will email and set up a convenient time to talk.
Write down some key points you want to get across and keep those in front of you during the interview.
Prepare for the negative
Make sure you’ve thought about the ‘danger’ questions media might ask you and you’ve worked out how you would respond if those questions come up. Don’t just hope for the best and pray they don’t ask you tough questions. Prepare for them and then you won’t fear them.
Do I need to send a sample to everyone in the same publishing house even if they all sit next to each other?
Yes, you need to send a sample to every contact you want to review it.
Can I ask for the sample back?
Most writers expect to keep the samples you send them, however if your product is expensive and you only have a limited number, then it’s completely reasonable to ask for the item to be returned. In this case, you should set up a loan program and keep a record of who has received samples. Ask how long the reviewer will need the sample and agree on a loan period. Arranging a messenger/courier is fine, so long as you coordinate pick-up time with the sample recipient.
NB for the US, we recommend including a FedEx/UPS/tracked package with return label, for the reviewer to send back.
Do I need to send a USB stick with images with the sample I send out?
You can do, however, emailing images over is a really good excuse for following up the contacts you sent samples to.
Remember to contact the journalist that wrote the story to say thank you.It can go a long way to making you a memorable contact and one they’d be happy to work with again. They may even reach out to you next time they write a story on your topic.
Journalists rely on social media to promote their own content, so it’s also important to share their coverage on your social channels. Also be sure to shout-out the writer and publication by tagging their relevant handles!
There are a number of handy tools that PRs use that you might want to consider using too.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a popular sourcing service for the English-speaking world. It connects journalists and bloggers with relevant expert sources. It sends out alerts every day from reporters looking for content for their stories.
Click here to set up
It’s a call out service that media use when they are looking for story content. There are often call outs for small business owners and entrepreneurs to share their stories.
You can sign up to get their alerts for free. You can also put yourself forward as an expert so that when a journalist searches for a person to speak on your topic, your name comes up.
Click here to set up
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