Telling the truth about SME life today

How to work with journalists

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Introductory emails work wonders

Look for journalists that cover your sector and SMEs more generally. If you identify someone then look their email address up online and send a simple, short email explaining what your business does and why it might be of interest. Emphasis should be put on the short here and it’s useful to have an explanatory subject line, for example: SME using Made in Britain brand to export to the US?.

Journalists often look for particular types of businesses or entrepreneurs, such as young businesspeople or high-tech manufacturers. Look out for magazine features lists, any special segments being run online and keep an eye on #journorequest, a Twitter hashtag used by journalists looking for case studies and stories.

Whats exciting about your business

When you’re pitching a case study it’s important to think about the kind of businesses the publications featured previously. This could include business practices, unique funding methods and the background of the entrepreneurs behind the idea. Disruptive businesses are also high on the agenda. Again, when you’re pitching to a journalist keep it succinct and include an offer of an interview or more details. 

Have pictures available

Its really helpful to have photos available. Chances are theyll have to be taken by a professional if theyre going into a magazine, so that can wait, but theres no reason not to at least have high-quality amateur shots on file which would work online. Its crucial they fit the publications style (please dont send wine-glass-in-hand holiday shots!), so browse the website and have a look at the kind of things theyve used in the past. Its useful to have photos of the products or services, as well as the entrepreneurs involved, and make sure you tell people whos in the photos, ideally in the file name.

Meet deadlines

Let someone know as soon as possible if you’re going to miss a deadline. This seems obvious, but it happens all the time and theres nothing worse than finding out youve been let down and being left scrambling around for a quote or another case study at the last minute.

Dont just promote your business

Journalists are looking for experts to talk about industry issues such as, for example, a recruitment agency talking about the difficulties SMEs face hiring financial directors. Its important to understand what theyre looking for and not try to shoe horn details about the company into quotes when it’s not relevant to the comment; if it’s explicit promotion it won’t get used.

There can be circumstances where journalists are looking to get a quote really quickly, for example, if theres been a new regulatory announcement. Its great if you’re happy to pick up the phone or respond to written request in a very short time period (and you can point this out in your introductory email). Relevant expertise is crucial, but making yourself available can dramatically increases your potential of being featured in a publication.

Get the details right

Its surprising how often quotes or content is sent to a publication without some very basic information. This includes interviewee name and job title, company name, link to website etc

Try to quantify what you’re talking about

Theres limited financial information available for small businesses, so it’s always really useful if you can quantify what you’re saying or offer some kind of social proof of the success of your business. This doesnt mean you have to give away financials but, for example, if you’re talking about preparing for Monday Madness you could say you expect a seven-fold increase in website traffic. If you’re discussing exports you can say how many countries you were shipped to in the first 12 months. And if you’re planning on doubling turnover next year, let us know how, are you hiring more staff, opening a new branch etc

Share ideas and talk about the issues you’re facing

Were always really keen on understanding the issues you face and what you think we should be covering. Business rates is a classic example here and Real Business covered it several times before the announcement in the Autumn Statement. Twitters a great way to make publications aware of items like this.

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