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The reality of press relations

Having your article featured on the front page of major local newspapers and magazines, what a validation! Most entrepreneurs dream of this. Not just for the pleasure of seeing their photo on glossy paper, but also because it lends a certain legitimacy to their product/service and their company. The more renowned the newspaper, the more you'll benefit from its reputation. A good article at the right time can make or break a business!
However, the press is a unique environment with its own set of codes. I've often been asked how press relations work. I'll share my advice with you in this article.

Understanding journalists

Yes, it's like dealing with your prospects and clients! If you don't know what journalists are looking for, you'll only rely on luck to interest them. Journalists have three main missions: to find content for their readers, to work quickly, and not to publish nonsense. This means that:

  • Like you as an entrepreneur with your prospects, journalists have an audience and must publish articles that will interest them. It's up to you to find a connection between your company and the interests of their audience.
  • They have very little time, so you need to make their job easier: provide context in a few sentences and offer clear information. The best topics for a journalist are both original and straightforward, which is why they appreciate well-known references, such as "we are the Airbnb of companies."
  • A good part of their work is to verify the information they receive. When contacting a journalist, include reassurance proofs (such as prestigious first clients, a successful crowdfunding campaign, etc.).

Find an original angle

Start by looking for local media outlets (you can expand to the Greater Region) that cover your topics. Find articles that deal with similar subjects to yours, check who wrote them. You can then contact the person via LinkedIn or their professional email (usually found on the newspaper's website). It's quite easy in Luxembourg to get in touch with a journalist; that's not where the real difficulty lies.

The reality is that journalists receive hundreds of emails per day, and there's a good chance yours will end up in the trash if you don't (yet!) have a reputation.

The challenge is to stand out. You need to find your uniqueness. It can be in the founder's story, in the company's mission (and how you present it!), in the connection with current news, etc. Also, think about secondary elements of your company that might interest them (e.g., your entire team works remotely).

An interesting but time-consuming approach is to position yourself as a thought leader (you, not your company) on one or more key topics in your sector or activity. If you publish on these topics on social media, demonstrating unbiased expertise, you'll increase your chances of being contacted.

Ride the wave of trending topics

The journalists' job is to talk about current events in one way or another. So, you need to find the link between your company and current topics.
One of these links can be your own news: hiring a top expert in your field, signing a big client, winning an award, etc.
Also, delve into major current topics (e.g., climate, well-being, data, etc.): if you operate in these sectors or related sectors, there's something to exploit.

Journalists often rely on outsourcing expertise since they can't be experts on all subjects. This is an opportunity for you to position yourself, for example, if you've identified a strong trend that hasn't been covered by their magazine and would interest their audience.

Keep in mind that you shouldn't insist on talking about your company absolutely. If you're an HR expert and you're interviewed about workplace well-being, it's your expertise that you should highlight. Your company will be mentioned anyway; don't push too much in that direction, or you'll risk cooling off the journalist.

Refine your approach

Once you've found the right angle, personalize your approach! At the very least, you should have read the previous articles by the person you're targeting. You want to offer a sincere relationship to the journalist. If you just send out press releases randomly, it won't work. They are inundated with these more marketing than authentic speeches. Only those whose companies are already well-known will have a chance of being picked up, and even then.

Then, you need to arm yourself with patience. Your topic may be potentially interesting, but there may be too many topics to cover at this particular moment. Don't give up and plan follow-ups with the journalist, for example, by sending updates on your content. Regularly offer them interesting topics, not the same thing every time! Don't harass them either.

When you finally land an interview appointment, prepare yourself! The journalist should have key information and clear answers in a minimal amount of time. Avoid jargon and instead emphasize your deep knowledge of the topics discussed.

There you have it, you have the keys, it's up to you to use them wisely! We look forward to reading about you in the press 😊

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