A Small Business Guide to Getting in the News

  •    Director of Communications for JotForm, a popular online form building tool for small businesses.

Every business benefits from a little exposure now and again. And what better exposure could you ask for than getting mentioned in the news? So pick up the phone and ask your local paper’s editor to feature you in the next issue! ​

… If only it were that easy. If you’ve ever tried, you’re well aware that getting press coverage for your small business is no cakewalk. Journalists and bloggers field dozens of pitches everyday from eager PR specialists trying to land placements for their clients. So how do you get publications to pay attention to your company?

Don’t worry, it’s not a lost cause. Below are cost-free ways to get the attention of local, national, and even international writers. Consider this your guide to getting your small business covered in the press. ​

Ride the Coattails of Major Events

If you’re a business owner, you’re an expert at something -- at least in the eyes of a reporter. So when major news breaks, and your expert opinion comes in handy, reach out to reporters and let them know you’re available for comment.

For example, let’s say you own an accounting firm, and news just broke in your city that the mayor hasn’t paid enough taxes in recent years, blaming ignorance of the tax laws. You might know a thing or two about tax laws and what people should know, so be proactive about it and lend your expertise to local reporters who might be searching for sources.

Use HARO

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a handy tool if you’re looking for relatively painless ways to get your company mentioned in the news. It’s a service that reporters use to find expert opinions on a variety of topics, and the requests for help get sent directly to your inbox. If you feel like you’re qualified to help certain reporters out, you can message them and they’ll quote you directly, often mentioning your company at the same time.

Run a Contest

Contests are a great way to create news, especially if you’re offering a significant reward. Consider contests where the participants aren’t even necessarily your customers, but the general public. Not only will that make journalists more likely to cover it, but it might help you drum up more business at the same time. Just remember: the better the reward, the better the chances a journalist will think it’s newsworthy.

Up Your Twitter Game

Reporters at every level use Twitter, since it’s a way for them to deliver news and opinions in between the release of articles. It’s also a way for them to respond to readers directly who comment on their work. Not to mention, it’s a fantastic way to reach your favorite reporters if you think you have a pitch they’d be interested in so create a profile and start writing some tweets!

Send Personal Pitches

If you have a long list of journalists who you think would be interested in covering your business in their next story, I have some bad news: it’s a terrible idea to copy and paste the same email to every one of them. They’ll know right away. It’ll come across as a generic sales pitch and impersonal.

Instead, spend a few minutes to read each journalists’ previous articles, maybe share one or two on social media, and then send a pitch that shows you understand their writing styles, beat, and interests. Heck, maybe even throw them a compliment or two. Either way, your personal pitch -- while more tedious to prepare -- will pay off in the way of more responses and potential coverage of your business.