How to gain valuable media coverage for your business.
When Matt Lauer introduced my company, Stroller Strides®, on the Today show, the company was changed forever. We received more than 1,000 e-mails before the show even aired on the West Coast. It took 3 months to follow up on all the leads. That story unleashed subsequent coverage by Access Hollywood, CNN and SELF magazine. It was the kind of break we all dream of as business owners and managers, but media coverage doesn’t have to be national to provide amazing results. In fact, local coverage may be all you need.
Over the last 5 years, I have grown my business through public relations (PR). When I got my first local news spot, I had only four clients and no website. By the time I got home, 75 e-mails were waiting for me. When we did our next “grand opening,” two news crews covered the event, and this PR led to dozens more inquiries. Of course, I believe we have a great program, but truly I credit PR for the amazing growth our business has enjoyed over the years.
Discover how PR can work for you and how to get coverage of your business.
Doing PR yourself (rather than hiring an agency) is worth your time and energy because of the potential payoff in free exposure. People remember your business if it’s covered in the media, plus media coverage gives you credibility. An endorsement from the media is extremely powerful. Fitness facilities and professionals are a dime a dozen. What can set you apart is your reputation as an expert. Everyone assumes that only the best businesses or experts will be selected for coverage in the newspaper or on TV news programs.
To get PR, you need to determine who will talk to the media. Whether you choose one fitness professional to represent your facility or set up your whole team as the “experts,” it’s important to select individuals who know their stuff. Your representatives will be the people others identify with when they think of your club. Consider what type of experts you want as media contacts on your staff. Do you want an “all-around fitness expert,” trainers who cover particular niches (some of your staff may specialize in rehab, older adults, women’s issues, etc.)—or both? It’s important to know your community and be aware of who’s watching or reading your local papers. For instance, if you live in a senior community, you’ll want to cover topics relevant to this population and set up experts on your staff who know the subject.
In addition, your experts must be comfortable promoting your business and talking in public. Choose fitness professionals who speak, look and act in a way that represents your business.
Before you contact a media outlet, make sure your story is interesting. Think carefully about what your angle is. Your club or your personal training department is probably not interesting in itself. However, if you can come up with a specific story, stay flexible and exude excitement, your chances of obtaining coverage greatly increase.
How do you know what’s of interest to editors? Follow the trends. Stay on top of consumer and trade fitness magazines and programs so that you know what people are talking about and what your local region might be interested in covering. For instance, if Madonna was recently cited as taking a particular kind of yoga class, it might be good timing for you to promote the fact that your club offers that program. Go to IDEA conventions to get a feel for what’s hot, what’s coming and what you can bring to your local community. Ask yourself if what you’re thinking about pitching is really a story or merely an advertisement for your business. TV news is also looking for visuals. They don’t want to see you just stand and talk; they like props, action and something eye-catching.
How do you pitch your story to the media? When I started Stroller Strides, I approached virtually all the local news stations and told them I had a great story idea for them. The “traditional” approach is to write a press release, send it in and hope that it gets noticed among dozens of others.
Knowing very little about PR, I broke the rules—and it worked. I would simply call a station, ask for the producer of the morning show (or whatever show I was trying to reach) and tell the receptionist I had a great story for the producer to cover. In virtually every circumstance, I wound up talking to an answering machine. I introduced myself and my company and told the producer about my wonderful story. I then followed up by sending the traditional press release. I almost always got a call back and was invited to the station. Over the past decade, one local station has regularly called on me, if for no other reason than that the producers know I will always be there.
Most often, assignment editors determine whether your story gets picked up or not. They receive hundreds of press releases, most of which are badly written or uninteresting. To ensure that yours is noticed, choose a catchy headline and in your first paragraph succinctly tell your story, saying why it’s important and why it should be covered. Follow up your press release with a phone call, but do not badger editors or producers.
When you do finally get on the air or in the paper, stay focused on the message you want to get across. Don’t rely on the reporter to ask you the questions you want to answer. It’s okay to take some control of the interview—most reporters will appreciate your confidence. Also, maintain relationships with reporters who cover your story. Regularly supply them with new ideas for stories and you’re on your way to gaining more free PR!