Securing Media Coverage for Your Shop
The more people who are familiar with your business and the services you offer, the more potential customers you can attract. It’s simple math! And these days, the way most people get to know a brand or service is through media outlets—places like social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter), local news stations, print publications and their corresponding websites, radio and podcasts. Forging a connection with potential customers through these channels is essential for success, and it’s not as hard as you may think to put your shop on the media map. Read on to find out how!
Don’t be shy.
Traditional media coverage by a TV station or print publication happens in one of two ways—you either seek it out yourself by initiating contact and “pitching” yourself to a media outlet, or the outlet itself takes an interest in something you’re doing and contacts you directly to feature your shop in a segment or article they’re creating. While the second option is certainly enticing, it’s not how you should expect to gain most of your traction. In order to get your shop on people’s radar, you need to actively pursue opportunities for media coverage.
If you’ve never pitched yourself or your shop in this way before it can be intimidating at first. Keep in mind, however, that you’re doing the media outlet a service by informing them of something that might be of interest to their audience … so they’ll be happy to hear from you. Pitching a media outlet directly saves them the work of having to discover the idea themselves—it’s a win-win situation for you both! They have a great story for their audience, and you’re increasing your shop’s visibility and brand awareness at the same time.
What should you pitch?
When it comes to deciding what types of things to pitch, marketing expert Jennifer Filzen—owner of Rock Star Marketing in Monterey, California—suggests looking for opportunities that will present value to an outlet’s audience.
“The best thing you can do is lead with value,” she says. “If your story offers value to the community—like a celebration where everyone's invited, or the attendees get to learn something new, or if the story helps people feel safer—chances are better that you'll pique the outlet’s interest for a time slot or article.”
Is your shop celebrating a milestone anniversary? Just opening and having an open house for the community? Hosting a customer appreciation day or holiday celebration? Offering a new service or special that people can’t find anywhere else? Or perhaps you’re growing your business or expanding to additional locations, or you’ve recently won an award or participated in community service…these are all great (and valuable) opportunities for media coverage.
When Modern Body Shop in Athens, Georgia, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, it secured both digital and print coverage on the cover of the local Sunday newspaper simply by sending out a press release.
Jake Sapp, assistant manager and grandson of the shop’s founder, Gene Sapp, says it was important to the family that they set aside a day to invite the community to come together and celebrate the milestone. And, having worked in the nonprofit world before joining the team at the shop, he knew how important it was to gain publicity around the event.
Sapp already had contacts at a couple of the local papers, so he emailed them a press release directly and his efforts paid off in a big way.
“The Athens Banner-Herald decided to run a nice profile on the shop and event,” Sapp says. “It was featured on their website and the front page of the Sunday paper. We shared the link to the online feature on our social media channels and I sent it to some contacts directly as well. It definitely helped bring awareness to the event.”
“Securing this kind of press coverage is a great way to stay involved in the community,” adds Sapp. “When you get press it puts your shop at the front of people’s minds, and they’ll be more likely to remember you when they need the services of a body shop. It also adds legitimacy to your business in the eyes of potential customers.”
How To Reach Out and Secure Coverage
Once you’ve identified one or two ideas you’d like to pitch, start by considering whether you know anyone directly or through an acquaintance who works for a media outlet in your area, like Sapp did. If you do, use that connection as a starting point and work from there. If you don’t, that’s OK.
Think of local TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, or websites that might be interested in what you have to share, and visit their websites to find their contact information (often found at the very bottom of the site, in the small print). Some will have general email addresses or numbers you can call, and many will list directories of their reporters, writers, hosts, etc. along with their contact information—go ahead and send an email or give them a call directly.
You may also want to consider putting together a short press release that shares all the details with the reporter up front, as Sapp did. He recommends doing a quick Google search to find a template online, or finding someone willing to write it for you if you choose to go that route.
Following up is important too, something Sapp did several times to ensure he was on the media outlet’s radar.
Media coverage can also be purchased when you invest in advertising. If you find you’re unable to gain traction through “free” coverage, it’s worth exploring paid avenues.
Additionally, consider signing up as a source on a website like Help A Reporter, which matches reporters with sources who possess expertise in the subject matter they’re working on. If your skillset and expertise match a journalist’s need, they may contact you to contribute to their story.
Regardless of what kind of coverage you secure, though, be sure to get the most “bang for your buck” by sharing it on your website and social media channels once it airs or is published.
Consider hiring help.
If these suggestions sound great but you just don’t know how you’ll find the time to implement them, consider hiring someone to focus on your media coverage and marketing initiatives.
“If you are a shop with multiple locations or have big revenue goals, you might have an in-house person who can handle everything for you,” says Filzen. “However, if that in-house person is doing other things for your business, they will lack the time and attention necessary to do a terrific job promoting your media.
“Small shops tend to lack time to focus on media, so they can definitely use help from experts. Therefore, shop owners should consider hiring a marketing agency or contractor whose sole focus is to promote their business. Outsourcing is not only likely to produce better results, but a firm or contractor will also come with fewer strings attached than a full-time employee.”