A link from a high-authority news website can do wonders for SEO. But do you know how to appeal to journos?
The boundaries between SEO and PR are becoming increasingly blurred. In fact, for many small businesses, any PR work is carried out by their SEO team or agency.
Links from top news websites and popular bloggers are incredibly valuable online. But do you know how to get positive press mentions?
We’ve been speaking to a journalist who regularly writes for high-authority news websites, including Yahoo! UK and the MailOnline. What are her tips for getting mentions – and even links – in the press?
Attracting press attention
Pitch actual news stories
No journalist wants to give you free publicity – advertorial doesn’t sell papers or mean website clicks. So you need to pitch actual stories, such as research you’ve conducted or analysis of interesting sales figures, not just ‘news’ of your ‘great new product’.
“I get between 10 and 20 press releases in my inbox every day,” our insider explains. “About half of those are simply non-stories. They contain ‘news’ that shouldn’t go beyond the company newsletter and certainly won’t be interesting to journalists.”
Her advice is to look for an interesting angle to the story you want to publicise. For example, if you make chocolate and sales have increased, that’s not a particularly interesting story. But if you can show that sales rose following a bad news story, then that’s far more interesting – ‘Brits turn to chocolate to beat economy blues’.
Your press releases or pitches can’t just be ‘we think x’. Journalists need some supporting figures, even if they’re just to prove to their editors that the story has legs.
“It’s not as if we need a massive report,” says our journalist, “just something to support the story. Sometimes that can be sales figures, like a surge in sales for a particular product, but it also might be a case study. For example, a popular website that sells second-hand music gave me a case study about a man who’d made £4,000 for Christmas selling off his old vinyl. They had a hugely positive mention and I had a great festive finance story.”
Don’t underestimate the value of your corporate data and market trends – these can support interesting stories and gain you valuable press attention.
Build press relationships
Don’t bombard journalists with press releases if they’ve never heard of you. Look for writers who have an interest in your field and woo them online. Follow them on Twitter, retweet their stories, and engage with them whenever you can.
If the company budget allows it, take a few high-value journalists out for a drink or a meal. They’ll be far more likely to listen to your pitches if they know you.
Our insider adds: “I often get emailed press releases where the company hasn’t even bothered to spell my name correctly. It makes me much less likely to read their release.”
Pick the right time to approach them
Unless your news is time sensitive, think carefully about the best time to contact a journalist. Last thing on a Friday afternoon isn’t a great idea, for example.
Look at when the journalist most commonly publishes so you can avoid ringing them too close to a deadline.
Our insider says: “I remember working in a busy newsroom during a really important speech from the PM. Everyone in the country was watching it but some pain of a PR was phoning around every journalist in the room in turn. None of us ran his story.”
Call the right writer
Is your story best suited to a tech journalist? A lifestyle writer? A fashion specialist? Don’t waste your time or theirs by contacting someone who can’t carry your story. Look up previous articles and coverage if you’re not sure who’s best.
Receiving press attention
It’s impossible to predict when the press might be interested in you. You might be a small company importing plant food when suddenly Radio 4 wants to talk to someone about teens accessing dangerous chemicals from abroad.
Having a popular Twitter and blogging presence will really increase the likelihood that they choose you; if you already look like an industry authority then you add authority to a news report.
If a journalist contacts you, here are some points to remember.
We asked our journalist insider what the single most important thing to remember is when dealing with the press. Her answer? “Act fast!”
She explains: “Most journalists, and even bloggers, are working to incredibly tight deadlines. They are probably ringing around a number of businesses like yours, meaning the first one to reply gets the mention.
“So often I have companies call back or tweet me a week or more after I contacted them. By that point the article has been published and I’m working on something else. If I remember the company at all, it will be to make sure I don’t waste time on them again.”
Don’t be too suspicious
Whenever a survey of the least-trusted professions is carried out, journalists rank about as well as politicians. As a nation, we don’t trust them. But you need them for SEO-friendly PR!
Our journalist insider says: “I was recently writing a good news story about businesses that were thriving despite the recession. Yet a number of the companies I phoned were really suspicious of my motives – one had a receptionist who was downright hostile. Because of that one member of staff, they missed out on some really positive publicity.”
Be cautious, yes. Consider your words carefully and ask if you can reply by email if you want more time to think your comments through. Make sure you understand exactly what story they are after before you agree to help.
But don’t assume that all journalists want to make you look bad. Most often they just need expert comment or a case study.
Don’t ask for too much
Of course you want a link or a product mention, but the journalist only cares about the story. Ask for too much and they might just go elsewhere.
“I understand that you want a link and that it’s probably the only reason you’re talking to me,” agrees our insider. “But sometimes my editor won’t allow it – but the brand mention is still good publicity and worth having.
“In the past, I’ve ditched case studies because the company has demanded the right to edit my article before it’s published, or insisted that I include a positive mention of a specific product. I’m not some sort of freebie copywriter and only my editor gets to amend my articles.”
Of course, if you have a really valuable or unique story then it’s worth offering it first to the publication that will give you the most. Just be realistic about what your story is worth.
Most smaller websites are unlikely to get a huge amount of press attention from major news sites. Quite often, journalists will simply run an internet search for the kind of spokesperson or case study they need, meaning those that rank highest for the most competitive keywords are likely to get the mention.
However, bloggers may have more time and a wider industry network, meaning you’re more likely to be approached by them, or to succeed in pitching a story.
Because they are more specialist a link from a blogger’s website can often be extraordinarily useful in terms of SEO. So it’s essential to respect bloggers and be as polite, timely, and helpful as you would to a journalist.
Have you dealt with the press? Did you get a link? Is all publicity good publicity? Share your thoughts with us and other readers using the comments below.