To win publicity for your brick and mortar store, which can lead to an increase in foot traffic and pump up your sales, share a story with the media. Believe it or not, many stories you read in your local paper or see on the news are stories that were pitched to the media, rather than stories that the media sought out. Visit your local media outlets’ websites to find reporters who cover local business, heart-warming human interest stories, events or your neighborhood. Most local reporters have a beat or a specific topic they cover exclusively, and many outlets include contact information on their websites. If they don’t, try searching for the writers on Twitter. Track your research in an Excel spreadsheet, and build a media list you can use again and again.
Journalists in the 24-hour news cycle are expected to produce more stories than ever before, so if you can pitch a story that’s ready to go, there’s more of a chance it will be picked up. When writing your story, be sure to include the five Ws (who, what, where, when and why), colorful anecdotes and rich descriptions of the key scenes in your story. Paint a word picture that no reporter can resist. Here are some ideas to help you decide what story to tell:
Human Interest. Does your business give to a charity or give back to the community? Did you leave your career path to follow your dream and start your own business? How is the neighborhood in which your business is located changing.
Business. What does your store do really well? If you’ve increased sales over the last year or entered a new niche market, other business owners will want to learn how you found success.
National Context. Look for big retail stories on which you can offer a local angle. Set a Google alert for “retail” and “retailers,” and read the NRF’s blog regularly. For example, if your 2012 Mother’s Day sales results are bigger than ever, you can offer a reporter a local angle on this story by illustrating what your store did to find Mother’s Day success.
Now it’s time to make contact. You can use a press release service to distribute your pitch, but I’ve found more success, and spent less money, working independently. Search your media list for reporters interested in your angle and send a brief email explaining who you are and why your story is newsworthy. Keep it to less than 10 sentences. This makes your email easy to read and forces you to pick the most interesting aspects of your story. At the end of the email ask if you can send your pitch. This will prompt a response.
Track your contacts and follow up by phone if you don’t hear back within five to seven days. Reporters’ days are often scheduled down to the minute, so ask them if it is a good time to talk. If not, ask when it would be a better time for them to connect with you. Use your calls to build a rapport with reporters. Even if they don’t want this story, ask them to keep you in mind when they need a local retailer as a resource. When you get coverage, send your contact a thank you note. The more you grow accustomed to talking to reporters, and the more reporters grow accustomed to seeing your name in their inboxes, the easier it will become to get publicity.