Media mentions are often coveted by small businesses, and for good reason — press coverage can put your company on the map, boost your credibility, and even drive sales.

There’s just one problem: securing media coverage can be a challenge. Reporters get numerous pitches a day, so businesses need to cut through the noise and get journalists to take a closer look.

To that end, we recently interviewed Paul Chittenden, a consultant who helps business owners, entrepreneurs, and experts gain more influence and customers through press coverage. As someone who's been featured in top-tier publications like Entrepreneur, Mashable, and Nerdwallet, Paul has a wealth of knowledge and experience in getting the attention of the press.

Paul Chittenden.

Check out his top tips below.

Publicists and public relations firms often cost tens of thousands of dollars, and not many small businesses can afford to spend that much on PR. The good news is you don’t need a huge budget to get media coverage. Here are some practical action steps you can take to drive buzz and coverage around your biz.

1. Story is king

There’s a lot of advice out there on the importance of cultivating relationships with reporters, by engaging with them on social media and “warming them up” before pitching. While relationship-building is important, Paul says that most small business owners don’t have time to do this.

“Most of the advice I’ve seen is all about building relationships, and while that’s 100% true for PR professionals, small businesses don’t have time to do all that,” he says.

“What I've found is you can bypass the relationship-building part by really honing in on your story. Just have a really good story about something that that reporter would be interested in.”

“No one cares if you open up a new office unless there's a hyper-local magazine for your area or you're hiring a bunch of employees. This can get a mention in local publications, but it is not really a story. Perhaps, you were laid off from your job due to COVID, and decided to open a business; but your store closed because your inventory was looted, and you still persevered by opening an online store as a last-ditch effort, and it took off! That becomes an interesting story,” Paul explains.

“So, it's just crafting that story from what you have. And the good thing about small businesses — especially creatives — is we're storytellers by nature, and that becomes a bit easier.”

2. Use the fact that you’re a small business to your advantage

Another advantage of being a small business? Most of the outreach is done by the founder of the company.

As Paul points out, “One bad thing about hiring a PR company is the founder is not the one doing the outreach. There’s no direct link between the reporter and the business."

“You get a lot better chance of being spoken to or replied to if it's the CEO or the founder reaching out directly. Everyone wants to speak to the founder of a company. The people on the other end feel important, so you'll get a much higher response rate.”

3. Master the art of targeting reporters

Paul also recommends being targeted with your outreach efforts.

“A lot of people just shoot out press releases and try to get their message out to everybody, where I think you should really target the publication and the writer. Find someone who's written about this topic in the past, who’s more likely to write about something similar again because that fits their interest and their beat.”

"If someone's a sportswriter, they don't care about the latest development in tech or something like that. So it’s really about matching the right story to the right people."

4. Serve the story on a silver platter

“Another thing I try to do is serve the story on a platter. A lot of times, I'll write the majority of the story and pitch it out,” adds Paul.

This practice makes the writer’s life a lot easier, so you increase the chances of your story getting picked up. This is especially true for writers who are on a tight deadline.

How to get the most out of your media coverage

Already got some press mentions under your belt? Here are some of the ways that you can get the most out of them.

1. Spread the word

“If it's digital or even if it's in a magazine, be sure to promote your press coverage. Put it out on your social channels. Promote it to your audiences. If you have a good write-up, you can send that out to your email list, as well,” says Paul.

Doing this helps you in a number of ways: it gives you content to share and can help strengthen your relationship with writers.

“If you can move the needle for that reporter, they're more likely to want to write about you again,” adds Paul.

2. Engage with readers and audience

Another useful tip? Don’t forget to engage with the publication’s readers and audiences.

“If the publication shares it on their Facebook page or on Twitter, engage with everyone that likes it or shares it or comments on it. You want to get them to come back to your brand, not just comment on that piece. So, really connect with the people commenting on it and promoting it for you.”

3. Add it to your site and your product descriptions

You can also use your media mentions in your ecommerce site and product descriptions. In addition to adding an “As seen in” section on your website, see if you can weave your media mentions into your product descriptions.

“One thing you could do is mention it in your product description, and that could potentially boost your conversion rates.”

“Say something like, ‘This dress was featured in this magazine.’ You’ll find that shoppers may be more receptive to that.”

4. “Trade-up” your press coverage

According to Paul, major publications tend to source their stories from smaller outlets.

“Reporters are overworked and have very tight deadlines. And a lot of times, these big publications source trending material from small publications. So, that's something that you can use.”

He continues, “by utilizing the small press mentions that you get and then pitching them to larger and larger organizations, you can really start getting better press coverage.”

Final words

Ramping up your media outreach game doesn’t have to take too much time and money. By having a compelling angle and being targeted with your efforts, you can connect with journalists who help tell your story and get your brand out there.

Good luck!