Have you ever heard the phrase “people do business with people they like?” Well, it’s true, and here’s why.

Upon graduation from Brigham Young University I started my career as a Sales Rep for a local staffing company in Irvine, CA. At the time my #1 goal was to build sales and I quickly learned that was best done through building strong relationships. So I went out every day with the goal of making friends. I showed interest in what they were all about and was genuine about it. I still send Christmas cards and chat on Facebook with several of the clients that I acquired during those 5 first years in my career. And they didn’t hire my staffing services because we had better quality temps than the agency next door. They hired me because we bonded over Karaoke at lunch the week before, and laughed for hours about how I missed my true calling in life as a wannabe American Idol (I wish).

OK… so I’m not that naive enough to think that someone will hire you and then keep doing business with you just because you have become a good friend and go Karaoke together. You have to provide value as well – or that relationship will get really awkward. And here’s where this all comes back to relate to you and your small business PR efforts – when approaching the media to write about you, have you as a guest on their show, etc… if you really want to develop an iron-clad strategy – think relationships.

You still have to have a good story to tell and you still need to know a lot about the expertise you are pitching to the media, but the way you approach the relationships is the key in how long they will last and how much media exposure you will receive. Here are a few rules to follow as you start developing your approach to the media:

  • Get to know them as much as possible before you start reaching out. We live in the day and age of Google people! Take advantage and research so you know what they have written, broadcast, and ultimately care about.
  • Google them, but don’t be a creepy stalker. When you e-mail or call be ready to reference how much you liked their recent article, etc. but don’t keep shoving it in their face. Be normal in your conversation and think about how you would want someone else to interact with you before you over-do it.
  • Be pleasantly persistent. Don’t call every 10 minutes. Don’t e-mail every 10 minutes. E-mail first and if you don’t hear back call them in 3 days. Plan your strategy so you will have the appropriate time to do this. For example, if you are a masseuse and you are pitching a story about “the best foot massage technique to impress your Valentine”, then don’t send it out on Feb 11th. Send it out on Feb 1st and give yourself time to follow-up before the moment has passed. Plan ahead.
  • Focus on what is valuable to them and you will be taken care of in return. If you focus your pitch/story on what will be valuable to them you are WAY more likely to get a response. They will appreciate the thought, you won’t be wasting their time, and you will start your long-term relationship with respect.
  • After all your research if you still can’t figure out what is valuable to them, ask! You still want them to know that you are a fan of their work, but maybe you aren’t quite sure what kinds of information is valuable. Just ask! Say, “I’m sure you get hit up all the time from companies like mine and there are so many things I can send you that I think would be valuable to your fans – but what kind of topics do you want to hear about?”

Our goal here is to get you media coverage as soon as you are ready… but it’s also to build long-term relationships. You may notice that the local news invites the same experts on their programming over and over again. Those are relationships that have developed – it’s a two-way street and it’s working. The best part? At some point they will start calling you instead of the other way around. That leaves you free to focus on all the new business you are getting which is what it’s all about.

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