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Six no-cost steps SMEs should take for increased media coverage

Six no-cost steps for increased media coverage

While larger, multi-national companies understand the value of keeping the media informed with a constant stream of press information and updated content on their websites, small to medium sized companies operating in the maritime industries could really do more to encourage greater awareness of their organisation, products and services.

Many SMEs, particularly equipment and service providers, are really missing a PR trick or two, simply because they don’t keep their websites updated or know how to present their stories in a way that whets the journalist’s appetite.

It never ceases to amaze me when I am researching a story or looking for content ideas that so many SMEs still do not have a ‘media’ page on their websites or, if they do, they appear to have so little to say.  I will often find the ‘latest news’ was 3rd September 2012 or something. There is news in everything; it’s knowing where and what the story is and how to deliver it, that’s the key.

Editorially, most maritime monthlies these days operate with just an editor and, if they’re lucky, a deputy. Even the dailies and weeklies no longer have the banks of editors, section editors, journalists and subs they once had. But while publishers have scaled back their in-house editorial teams, the workload’s increased fourfold; the journalist/editor now has to write for the print editions, report daily news for the website, pen social media feeds and blogs, put weekly newsletters together, source photos, proof the copy, then pass for press, send to bed and tuck the baby in.

This workload, together with the immediacy of news, means that developing an investigative story or venturing out of the office to interview sources is a luxury journalists and editors simply don’t have these days. As a result, many have to rely on information generated by PR agencies and a company’s corporate communications team for leads, new angles and background information. So if you are not proactively providing information, raising issues, raising awareness, then not only will the media be unaware of your existence but so too will your target market.

The six simple steps below will, hopefully, encourage SMEs to include a media section on their websites, generate more content and compete more favourably with the big boys without incurring costs or taxing resources. You never know, it might just lead to a call from a journalist or new customer interested in learning more.

 1.       Add a ‘media’ page to your website

For those companies that do not have one, what are you thinking? This is one of the most important pages on a website, not only for PR purposes but potential customers will be looking for this page to see what you have been up to lately. If they don’t see you making a song and dance about your business activities or if they are unable to easily find the information they’re looking for, they will just Google your competitor. Media folk will regularly trawl through company websites looking for news leads and if your story is of interest it could be shared, tweeted or reported on in the press. If there’s nothing there, they won’t come back to your site for a second look.

 2.       Update your website regularly

Okay, so you’ve got the web designer to add a ‘media’ page and you have uploaded a White Paper and a news story or two. That’s a good start but this has to be updated on a regular basis with attention-grabbing, page-clicking content if your website is to move up the Google rankings. Weekly updates are optimum, but at the very least make sure you have something new to say on a monthly basis. And if the content is good and updated regularly, news outlets may automatically link your news to their RSS feeds. If you do not update your content it is best not to have a media page at all since you don’t want potential customers thinking the last thing you did was 3rd September 2012.

 3.       Date the news and press releases you upload

Dating each press release or news item you upload is crucial. If a journalist on deadline is looking for a quick filler story but can’t verify the story as current, he/she will move on. You could have the greatest story ever told, but if there’s no date you won’t get a call asking for more information and you’ll have missed a potential opportunity for editorial coverage.

 4.       Write your news

Whether it’s a new contract, product, service, appointment, acquisition, expansion, financial report, research, installation, charitable deed, factory opening, regulation or an issue you feel strongly about, it’s all news worthy; there’s news in everything you do. So write about it, get it on the web, share and tweet. What you should not put up as ‘news’ in your media section is a just headline with no further details or stuff that is clearly corporate puff. 

Often you come across ‘news’ that reveals nothing more than an organisation’s attendance at a trade show. This is not valuable information for journalists or customers as they would expect you to be there anyway. It’s what you do there that’s potentially interesting. The important thing to remember when writing a news item is to give the journalists what they want – a good story. 

Once you have finalised your story, checked for grammar, spelling and syntax and are happy that the headline and all-important introduction says what you want to say, make sure it can be downloaded as a word document or easily copied. This saves the journalist a lot of time. 

Do also bear in mind that writing and distributing content for journalists is a skill that should not be undertaken by junior staff. If you don’t have capable in-house resources there are numerous specialist writers and PR agencies that can provide this service at reasonable cost.

 5.       Include photos and graphics

These days a photo or other graphic to accompany the story is essential and will earn you brownie points from journalists, especially those writing for web-based news outlets. So make sure you include a downloadable low-resolution version of 72dpi for on-line publishers and a higher-resolution of at least 250dpi for printed matter.

 6.        Who to contact?

Lastly, but by no means least, always include the contact email and phone number of the person who will be able to provide more information. This will save the journalist looking to find out more considerable time trying to find the right person to speak with. Again, if the journalist can’t easily reach you for a bespoke quote, he/she will move on and any media coverage opportunity missed.