Journalists are inundated with press releases and features suggestions so it can be very hard to stand out from the crowd, and generate media coverage.
There is a straight-forward way you can generate PR coverage for your business, raise your profile and develop relationships with journalists.
All you need to do, is - 'know your stuff'
Most people expect the best way to get publicity through the media is in the travel pages, but what about all the other pages and broadcasting hours that journalists have to fill?
Whether they're talking about the impact of something like Covid on businesses, discussing why a particular place is a great place to live or move to, or simply putting together tips about how to do something, journalists need 'experts', people who can speak with authority about their topic.
The benefits are bigger than you might think: it helps you develop a relationship with journalists who may share their contacts and come back to you for other stories later; it raises your profile even if only briefly; and it can help your search engine rankings as the references to your business (even without a direct link) online are one of the many factors search engines use to choose how to rank you - it helps them see you're good at what you do and they like that.
You're more of an expert than you realise
You might not think of yourself as an expert, but you are - even if you don't realise it.
You are an expert on your business, on your local area, on how you run your business, on the impact of the economy on your livelihood, on booking levels... the list goes on.
No matter what the story, journalists need concrete examples. They need to bring stories to life, and speaking to 'real people' helps to do that. Journalists are usually under great time pressure so often find researching the right people to talk to is quite tricky. If they already have someone in their address book, they are most likely to try them first, and to keep going back to them. Many freelance for different publications and programmes and move around quite a lot, so one journalist may help you to reach several different audiences.
Journalists call me several times a week, either to suggest other people to talk to or to comment on something that's happening. In the last couple of weeks I've been asked about the impact of the James Herriot TV series, about the impact of the different Tiers on local tourism, to say why living in Yorkshire is so wonderful, to talk about favourite places, to comment on half term bookings and forward bookings for 2021, and Channel 4 just filmed in my garden for a programme about finding skeletons in an archaeological dig (I don't have any bones in my garden). In the last couple of weeks I've spoken to BBC journalists, ITV journalists, and those who write for the Yorkshire Post, the Times, local papers and several others. If I have a story for any of them in the future, it will be much easier for me to just pick up the phone because I already know them and how they think.
Any business owner can do this. You don't have to have a big story or a big business. Journalists want examples from all kinds of businesses. Sometimes it's as simple as telling them how bookings are going. They just need people who can speak from their perspective, honestly and clearly. It can be surprisingly hard to find the right people to speak to so if you're willing to do so, you're already ahead of the game.
So, apart from knowing your stuff, how can you raise your profile as an 'expert' among journalists?
I wrote a little while ago about being an expert about your local area and how you can use that in your marketing. Read the article here.
Is there any point in marketing right now? There’s so much confusion, frustration, uncertainty.
The answer is ‘yes’ but a different kind of marketing is needed.
I was thinking about this as I watched one of my favourite TV series. It’s sponsored by a travel company. Of course, they’d have booked the slots a long time ago but it initially seems like a waste of money, paying huge sums for sponsorship during Covid when none of us can go anywhere.
Or is it? The company is mentioned after every ad break and showcasess beautiful places overseas. That repetition means those images start to get lodged in the mind.
Now I can’t help but think of those locations and want to go there one day. I know I can’t do it now, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming…
Even in a ‘normal’ year, many rural tourism businesses close or slow down for the winter. They often limit their social media and some stop sending out mailings.
This is a mistake: it means far more work to gear up for the next busy season.
Before anyone makes a booking or buys anything, they have to know about it. They have to understand what you have to offer, want what you offer. That all starts with awareness. Those TV ads work - even if only subconsciously - by raising awareness through repetition.
You might not be able to afford TV ads but you can use the same techniques. Social media and direct mail work in a similar way – micro messages and reminders that layer to raise awareness.
Social media works best when you have high engagement levels, with followers commenting, liking and sharing your posts. If you stop posting for a while, the algorithms mean that your posts won’t even be shown to everyone and your engagement will definitely dip. So you have to keep going. You might want to think about different kinds of message at different times of year.
I normally talk a lot about ‘calls to action’ and not forgetting to sell. This might not be the time for that though.
It’s more about ‘maintenance marketing’, just keeping people interested, helping them to dream and plan for later. Any marketing you do now is an investment for later.
So what sort of marketing can you do? What messages will work well right now?
Through all the fear, confusion and frustration, there’s one type of message or story that stands out. There’s one thing everyone wants: positive, upbeat, good news and anything that helps us feel better.
Some ideas for posts – keep them relevant to your business and your local area:
Use this as opportunity to show without selling. You’ll reap the rewards later. People remember those who make them feel good.
Keep posting, keep communicating to maintain and raise awareness, be ready for better times.
Do you ever feel like your potential guests and visitors are just not 'getting it'?
That maybe people just don't realise how good you are, that you have the most fantastic x,y,z?
Perhaps they keep asking the same questions over and over again, or miss the point on what you have to say?
Does any of this feel familiar?
Or maybe you're sometimes downhearted because you know you're offering a brilliant service or experience and yet you just don't seem to be able to charge the prices you'd like, or attract the visitors you want?
There could be a very simple solution to all these issues.
You're not telling people.
Yes, I know.
You've put information on your home page, on your social media. You've made an effort to put together a mailing list or write a blog. And people are still not 'getting it', or you're not getting the marketing traction you think your efforts deserve?
The answer is still the same.
One of the most common marketing mistakes I see is beautifully summed up by George Bernard Shaw:
'The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.'
You feel you're repeating yourself and being 'bloomin' obvious but for some reason people aren't listening.
First of all, ask yourself - are you being real clear and straight-forward about what you are trying to say?
Don't just answer that in your head. Take a look at all your marketing.
Have you really said, or written it, in every obvious place?
Do your potential guests or visitors want to hear what you're saying?
Have you seen things from their perspective? Here's a blog I wrote a while ago about this.
Are you boldly conveying the information or just mumbling - hiding the most essential points somewhere that isn't obvious?
Have you decided on one clear, strong message, one clear selling point and are now finding every way possible to convey that - through images, headlines, text, social media posts, website, blogs, mailings, examples, information, inspiration?
It might be worth taking a quick look at your marketing through the eyes of your most cynical friend.
I pretty much guarantee you'll find at least one place in your marketing you're not being as obvious as you think.
I'm off to take a look at what I do. Every time I do, I find something that makes me cringe!
Hibernation or regeneration?
As the nights darken and temperatures drop I think we’re all starting to feel ready for hibernation. At this time of year many of us normally feel jaded and ready to retreat from the world for a little while. This year has been extra ‘special’.
There's no wonder so many of us feel tired, frustrated, confused, unsure what’s going to happen next.
Time to make a choice. Hibernate until Spring. Or use this time to regenerate. Retreat a little, but also plan exactly how you’ll bounce back when it’s time.
Like many I’ve started to mull over what might happen next, how Winter will feel when we can’t see our loved ones or work in the way we’d like.
It's easy to get down-hearted, but I’ve started to feel much better since I decided to expect the worse and plan what to do. That probably sounds counter-intuitive. It's based on a childhood lesson from my mum.
We used to have to walk about a mile up a very steep hill home from school each day. The kind of hill that’s so steep and long you can’t see the summit from the bottom. Standing at the bottom, our skinny little legs ached at the very thought of the climb. But our mum didn’t allow us to moan. Her answer to climbing a steep hill or facing any difficulty was always the same: get on with it and it’ll soon be over. That’s stuck with me. I still walk up hills as quickly as I can.
So, back to the present and Covid. Hibernation or regeneration?
I see a steep hill ahead: another lockdown, and months before we can welcome back visitors in any normal way. But I’m also trying to keep my eye on the hard-to-see summit. We’ll get there – we just need a plan.
I’m planning to combine the cosiness of hibernation – cosy fires, blankets, and a little retreating from the world – with some regeneration. Once again we’re going to have some time on our hands.
This is a really good time to do all those things we’ve not really got round to doing:
We might not be able to generate as much income as we’d like right now but all this activity will make it much easier to recoup later.
And if my mother’s advice isn’t enough for you, you might like to take additional inspiration from Isaac Newton. He retreated to his country home and garden during the 1665-66 Plague Year. Newton made pretty good use of his time there: he invented Calculus, discovered that white light is made up of every colour, and wrote his theory about gravity after seeing apples fall from the trees in his garden.
So who knows what incredible progress you might make between now and Spring? As my mum would tell you, you don't really have much choice so you might as well just get on with it...
Please note: all articles are copyright Susan Briggs 2021
Build your business, using my tourism expertise, energy & enthusiasm
All articles on this site are copyright Susan Briggs, The Tourism Network Ltd 2021
Email Susan Briggs
The Tourism Network Ltd, The Old Mill, Millgate, Masham, HG4 4EZ
Tel: 07768 365591