Mark Gee offers a comprehensive checklist around how you can build a regional press profile.

    With national newspapers boasting readerships that can run into hundreds of thousands, why should you – as an adviser – be concerned about getting your name in local and regional press where the readership is considerably lower?

    Yes, there's the prestige of being quoted in FT Money or the Sunday Times' personal finance section but in reality, for most firms, new business is more likely to come from much closer to home. It therefore makes sense to build relationships with journalists at local and regional titles.

    Despite the smaller ‘patch’ for these reporters, many have a surprisingly large number of local businesses they could choose to cover on their pages. As a small business you therefore need to get your pitch right and make sure you are offering a story that will not only  help raise the profile of your firm, but be something that readers want to hear about as well.

    Prior to working in PR, I worked as a journalist at a regional newspaper and was always surprised how many people called me up without actually having read our paper or having looked on our website to see the sorts of things we wrote about. So that should be your starting point – where would the story you are proposing fit in?

    Local titles are looking for local news – bear that in mind. They are interested in hearing about businesses that are expanding, so if you hire a new member of staff or a have reached a particular milestone that can be disclosed, tell journalists about it. If you are running a charity fundraising event, send in some good quality pictures after the event or call them in advance and see if they would like to send a staff photographer to cover it on the day.

    For most businesses, the most effective way of communicating with journalists is through a press release. Keep this short, but make sure you include all the facts that are relevant to the story that you want the publication to cover. If you want a steer on the format, have a look at our website (www.mrm-london.com) where we have many client examples available to review.

    Once you are happy with your draft, you next need to build up a list of journalists to send your press release to. Emails to generic email addresses like news@localpaper.co.uk tend to get lost, so make an effort to find out the names of journalists (most publications list these on their websites) and send to their personal accounts.

    “For most businesses, the most effective way of communicating with journalists is through a press release.”

    If you feel that the story you are offering to a particular publication will need some explaining, most journalists will be happy for you to call them up. But do ask if it is a good time to speak (if reporters are on deadline, they won’t appreciate it if you launch into your pitch and refuse to stop talking!).

    And to take your relationship with the local media to the next level, think about the wider topics in your sector (such as providing reaction on Budget day or views on locally based plcs that you would be happy to comment on. This will only help you establish a good rapport with local journalists, but present you and your firm as extremely knowledgeable on the financial services sector in general to your local potential client base.

    So, your checklist for building a successful regional press profile:

    • Get to know your local and regional newspapers – What are journalists writing about and where would your views fit in?
    • Have a look at what your competitors are saying in regional press – Could you comment on the same topics?
    • Find out when journalists are on deadline – Don’t pitch stories when they are pressed for time.
    • Aside from speaking specifically about your business, what industry subjects are you happy to talk about? Are there any national personal finance stories that you could offer a local perspective on?
    • Invite journalists to events you are hosting, particularly if it allows them to network with others from the local business community.
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