• January 2014

Step 4—Make a Splash in the News

From “PR Rules: The Playbook—The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Supersizing Your Small Business,” Available in January 2014

By Hope Katz Gibbs, with Kathleen McCarthy
PR Rules: The Playbook

For many entrepreneurs, getting quoted or featured in a print publicaiton or on a broadcast news show is the cherry on their business hot-fudge-sundae.

What it is:

  • A great way to build credibility. They are a key way to showcase, and convince, potential customers that you are a trusted source to work with. Ditto for reporters. What makes them want to call you for a quote, or feature your firm in their news articles, is a reflection of your expertise. It’s also an indication of a sophisticated PR and marketing campaign.
  • A great way to increase your visibility. Who doesn’t want to be quoted in the news? Local, regional, and national press attention builds energy around your business, and increases your visibility. Granted, it’s best to be quoted for something positive, and in most cases that’s how it plays out, but a little controversy never hurt anyone. Don’t shy away from the limelight.
  • A powerful way to personalize the service your company provides. You are the face of your business. Being quoted in the news gives you a way to introduce yourself to the public and convey not only what your business does, but what sets it apart from other businesses that offer similar products or services.

Caveat emptor: Before you spend oodles of time and money on landing press mentions, know why you want to be quoted, what you want to say, and what you can reasonably expect to get out of your investment of time and money.

What it isn’t:

  • It’s not a bullet train to overnight success. Clients we’ve gotten quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CBS’ “The Early Show” (ourselves included) didn’t make millions overnight.
  • It’s not a guaranteed way to land a gazillion customers. While reaching the audience of the publication or radio and TV news show is valuable, and your appearance may hit just the right customer at just the right time—odds are good that it won’t.
  • It’s not direct sales. (Though it should be part of a broad PR and marketing strategy.)

Why it’s important:

  • Trusted sources tell the world that your opinions, and the company you built, are valuable. Having a reporter blow your horn is a great reason to brag, and another opportunity to build fans and paying customers.
  • It’s a great way to expose your brand and ideas to other reporters. Good press is contagious. Reporters who trust your opinion are likely to call you back for more insights. And that kind of “in the news” exposure might entice another reporter pick up on your story—and then your stock splits. Now you are in the Rolodex of two or more reporters, with a good possibility of the multiplier effect. And that helps build your reputation even more.
  • It keeps you focused. Not to be Johnny Raincloud, but more often than not, being a media darling is short-lived. The key is to utilize the publicity while it’s happening. Do this by spreading the word about any media attention to your customer base through an e-newsletter, social media campaign, and ads. Leverage the attention—and don’t let it go to your head.


Inkandescent Rule of Thumb: Have something important to say. Do yourself a favor and don’t respond to a query or send a press release to a general news reporter if what you have to say would interest only your employees or people who are already loyal customers.

Hot trends and counter-trends, newsworthy speeches at industry conferences, and newsworthy events are the stuff that newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio shows are made of. It’s “news” that reporters are looking for—so be sure to hit that high note whenever possible, and cull your media lists so that you are sending your news only to the publications and media outlets that are likely to be interested. There’s no need to send a press release to the CBS News desk about a new senior vice president.

1. Respond to queries that reporters post online.

  • Instead of peppering reporters with press releases, cruise through the postings at the reporter-friendly website HARO.com (short for Help A Reporter Out). It has changed the way reporters and PR people play together. The way it works is that reporters looking for sources to interview for their articles post requests for experts. This is an outstanding opportunity for everyone from business owners and authors, to industry analysts and the general public, to get in the news.
  • The key to getting a call back from a reporter is to respond quickly, since reporters are often on short deadlines.
  • Answer only those queries for which you or your business would obviously be a good source. Taking the time to convey a thoughtful response will give you an advantage when the reporter sifts through the dozens (if not hundreds) of other responses. Using this tool well can generate mentions in outlets ranging from The Washington Post to Fox News and Patch.com.

2. Host an event that reporters want to cover.

  • Charitable events and grand openings of new, cutting-edge ventures are likely to attract the media more than galas and networking events.
  • If a celeb will be keynoting, all the better! Here again, making “news” is the goal.
  • Try to do something newsworthy at your event. Cut a ribbon, open a time capsule, host a conference, present a check—and have a photographer take photos so you can send them to reporters who miss the event.

3. Write an eye-catching press release.

  • Don’t send a reporter a press release about your business unless you can explain why the reporter should care.
  • Use press releases to share information about the work you are doing. Press releases are one way to get the message to reporters in a helpful, non-aggressive manner.
  • Make sure you are telling a good story quickly. Write about the topics that are of interest to readers—since that is what will hook the reporter. When you educate readers about something they didn’t know about the topic, or your business, everyone wins.

Not sure how to write a press release? Check out our Press Release on How to Write a Great Press Release.

4. Choose wisely where to send your press release.

  • Think like a reporter. Their job is to inform and educate their readers. How will your information help the reporter accomplish that goal?
  • Make a list of publications where you’d like to be quoted.
  • Identify a reporter on staff to connect with (by email, preferably, and also by phone).
  • Write a short email script to introduce your company and explain the purpose of your note. Then attach your press release.

5. Create your own buzz: Roll out a strategic, powerful, social media campaign.

  • Be sure to craft your messages slightly differently for each outlet—avoid anything sales-like on Twitter; be friendly on Facebook; focus on business for LinkedIn.
  • Try this exercise: Draw a circle for each of your social media outlets. Inside each circle, write a list of the five entries you plan to post on each site this week.
  • Measure the ROI by drawing up a list of the goals you have for your social media efforts. All are valuable—just be clear on why you are doing what you are doing: Are you driving traffic to your website? Are you offering a special service or coupon that they can cash in on—to tell you that followers are paying attention, and acting on your offers? Or are you simply building your credibility and expanding your network of connections?

Need inspiration? Check out the spots we’ve gotten our expert clients quoted in using the techniques we’ve outlined above at www.InkandescentNewsmakers.com.

6. Advertise.

  • Ads are a great way to get yourself in the news. Just as paying-to-play by investing in a column or radio show can drum up attention to your business, the quickest and easiest way to get in the news is to buy an ad in a publication or broadcast outlet.
  • Ads range in price, of course, so develop a budget—and define what you expect the ROI to be. Like most PR efforts, it’s tough to know in advance what the impact of your ad will be. But have a clear idea about what you want. And expect to advertise more than once for maximum impact.
  • To draw a higher response rate, include a coupon or discount in your ad, along with an expiration date. Be sure to include a code that tells you where the ad appeared so you can track your responses.

Need more PR Rules?

For more interactive exercises and insights—get your copy of PR Rules: The Playbook, coming in January 2014. Click here to pre-order now.

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