Why be a source for a story?
“Being chosen as an editorial source is an opportunity to get your business in front of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of potential customers. It’s also free, all it takes is a few minutes of your time,” says Alecia Hancock, director of creative content agency Hancock Creative, who has experience on both sides of the table as a business owner, and through her years of writing and editing for newspapers, websites and magazines.
Bec Derrington, founder of SourceBottle, a service that helps journalists and bloggers find sources, says there is more gravitas in editorial. “Readers know your words are independently verified, that they go through an editing process, and the story content is set by the publication, not the business owner. Readers also get a chance to objectively see you in action. For example, consider an advertisement for a vet, with testimonials about how great they are, side by side with an article on caring for your aging dog that provides lots of useful tips by a vet in your local area. Which one provides readers with a view of your skill set?” she says.
Sian Delaney, senior PR consultant at Buzz Marketing agrees, saying editorial allows businesses to rise above any advertising hype and position itself as an authoritative and informed source of information. “This engenders a sense of trust and respect. Longer term, doing a good job forms a valuable relationship with the journalist and may lead to future publicity opportunities.” Delaney says editorial coverage is valuable, but cautions you need to choose your opportunities wisely, rather than putting your hand up for everything and making yourself fit the brief.
Put a lot of time and effort into correctly identifying your target markets – they are the only people you need to be interested in reaching. Seek out opportunities that speak to this market.
How do you find editorial opportunities?
There are a number of ways I choose sources for editorial stories. Sometimes I know someone with expertise in the field I am writing about – for example, they did a good job booking my holiday, and I am now writing on the topic and know they can offer good advice that I trust. Alternatively, I may have a look on the internet for research or advice on the topic, and choose a business whose website indicates a level of expertise on the topic. I will then make contact to see if they are interested. Occasionally a PR team will send me an email about a product or a story idea that I like the look of, at which time I will offer them the opportunity to provide comment.
Increasingly though, I use sites like Sourcebottle, Media Match Online or call outs on my social media – because I can post up exactly what I am looking for and when I will need the source to be available, and I can be guaranteed to find a source that is knowledgeable, interested and can fit in with my deadline.
How to use the internet to reach out to journalists and editors
While it’s not cost effective to try and make a connection with all the journalists and writers out there in the hope they may be able to use you in a story at some time, having a website that clearly indicates your areas of expertise (this doesn’t need to be time consuming) and signing up to sites like Sourcebottle are very manageable ways to get yourself considered.
Delaney says a PR agency can help you secure editorial opportunities using their relationships with journalists and print or online outlets. “Journalists and editors are always on the look-out for interesting material – they will always need to fill pages. We put forward story ideas that appeal to their readership, putting forward clients that can be quoted as a subject matter expert.” This relationship can often become a two way street, with journalists contacting PR agencies they have worked with to see if they have clients suitable to comment on an article they are writing.
Responding to a call for comment
If you’ve decided to sign on to a media call out site, and you’ve seen a job that looks perfect for you, how do you make your response stand out from the crowd? Derrington suggests you:
- Respond quickly: have a standard response outlining your expertise ready to go so you can quickly tailor it and respond.
- Respond thoroughly: make sure you put across what makes you an expert. What qualifications do you have? What experience? If you have done other media, mention you are media savvy and qualify it with an example or two.
- Give an opinion or angle: If the call out is looking for an expert to talk about sugar in the diet, for example, don’t just put across your nutrition skills and qualifications, also lay out your viewpoint. “It saves you both time – if your view doesn’t match what they are looking for, or they need to find someone for and against a statement, they are more likely to choose you from the masses if they know what stance you take,” Derrington says. Don’t be afraid it may lose you the gig – if your viewpoint isn’t right for this story, it may be right for another, and you want to make sure any media you do is reflective of your business’s ethos and brand.
When the story is done and dusted, don’t forget to check in with the journalist and get a copy of the story when it is published for your website or social media pages!