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Local Media Love

5 October 2011 BY

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Many SMEs will only have an SEO resource – the money for PR just isn’t there. If they’ve given you free reign to use linkworthy stories, the local media could become your new best friend. I love working with them.

Most local papers have a Toolbar PageRank of between 5 and 6. Given the hours spent working up links from less valuable spaces, it’s an obvious place to branch out.

What do the local media want?

The clue’s in the title: first and foremost, local media need local relevance.

The launch of a new range of boots available online might be interesting to everyone in the country in principle, but would need a quiet news day to run locally. Unless you’re the latest Harry Potter movies or the new iphone, find a way to make it local – and no, “The good people of Bradford can now buy boots online” won’t cut it.

Are the boots available in a local store? Does a local supplier provide component parts? Has someone local landed an amazing job with the manufacturer? A local celebrity snapped wearing the boots? Only when you have a local ‘angle’ do you have a story.

Who do I contact?

Every media outlet is different. Within a paper itself, you should be able to find the editorial panel. This should reveal the main writers within the publication. Online, look at the contacts page. Note that this is only a start point. Expect inaccuracies.
Start with the news desk, but don’t ignore other sections.

Local business pages are a gift. They still need something topical to hang the story on. Perhaps your customer is affected by fuel costs or a local road closure. (Make sure you put in something positive as well – ultimately you want to sell the boots as well as get a link.)

Other sections within the paper – or online – may be local groups pages , or style pages. Adapt your story when approaching them. If the Style page covers Louis Vuitton, give them luxury leather, top of range. If the Style page covers style on a budget, give them just that.

Send an email by all means, but you’ll probably be ignored unless you call. A friend on the Reading Chronicle tells me he receives in excess of 200 emails daily, most of them press releases.

Time it right

Call on print deadline and expect to lose your head. Try asking reception what deadlines they’re working to. They may put you through to the editorial team, but trust me, if it’s deadline day they won’t. Going through the switchboard can save you from an almighty ass-roasting!

Generally speaking, weeklies lay their pages on Monday’s and Tuesdays. Dailies often publish in the afternoon. But don’t rely on it.

Support materials

Make sure you have high quality photography available and a press release approved. Just sending a release won’t guarantee placement, or even that it will get seen, but it should help the journalist understand the story better. If you don’t provide accurate information, someone else – less reliable – may. Who knows what they might find on the oh so reliable Internet.

Having support materials also offers the opportunity to follow up your story in a helpful way – would you like a photo? Do you want an interview? When you send them, you have the perfect opportunity to highlight the clients’ URL.

Getting that link

Although some tech publications don’t worry about embedded links, don’t put them into your press release. Allow the journalist to do it themselves – credit them with knowing what’s good for the reader. (There’s every indication that a followed link will be the only useful kind of link in future anyway.)

So in the case of our Boot company, I would start our release: The Boot Company (www.bootcompany.co.uk) …[finish story]. If and when the story goes online, the editor will embed that link appropriately. They embed for the convenience of readers rather than for yours, so if you’re hung up on getting a link from specific anchor text, expect disappointment.

If they haven’t put the link in, it’s fine to ring up and suggest that the link might be useful –be patient, pleasant and persistent if you’re sent around the houses. I repeat: they serve their readers, not you.

An online editor: can I cut the middle man and go straight there?

Should you go straight to the online editor? Rule of thumb is no.

‘Online editor’ can mean any number of things, according to publication. If they turn out to be an online journalist, fantastic. Build that relationship and away you go. But for the most part, if you want a story published, you need the editorial team.

This seems like a lot of work for one link

It is. But the resultant citation and link will be valuable ones. Whilst the first time you place a story requires work, it gets easier. Earn a reputation for being a useful source of helpful local information, and you’ll get repeated opportunities for comment.

Your first outreach lays valuable foundations. Once you know your contact, establish a relationship where they can be honest with you about what they want. If you don’t quite get it right, offer a coffee to chat about what they’re looking for. Everyone’s different: the better your relationship and knowledge, the better the result.

Local media is labelled ‘earned media’ for a reason, but work out what the local paper needs and you’ll get back far more than you give. Because their remit is clear, it’s one of the easiest and most rewarding media to work with.

AUTHORED BY:
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Claire Thompson has has 15 years PR experience and runs Waves PR, which she founded. She has great taste in wine and lousy taste in music. The two are not unconnected!
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