By: Christina Couch
You’re getting referrals, making cold calls and using social media to get the word out about your home inspection company, but chances are, you’re missing free promotion opportunities through traditional media channels. Newspapers, magazines, blogs, web publications, radio and television shows are all constantly searching for qualified experts to weigh in on the ins and outs of the housing industry.
As a journalist who has written for print and web publications for nearly ten years, I’m thankful when appropriate industry experts find me and give me the scoop on new innovations. Oftentimes, they wind up getting featured as sources in my articles which, in turn, helps them promote their brands and establish themselves as authorities in their fields. Regardless of how large or small your company is, there are ways to get press through both local and national channels. Here’s how:
Tip #1: Assess Yourself
Regardless whether you think you would be a perfect feature for a local newsletter or Good Morning America, the first step to getting press is figuring out what topics you’re comfortable speaking on and why you’re qualified. For example, working home inspectors will be qualified to speak to journalists about housing issues, common home problems and do-it-yourself home maintenance tips while those in the home energy business will be qualified to speak on topics like tips for saving energy or common home energy mistakes. In addition to industry-specific questions, you’ll also be able to contribute to stories about small business owners if you run your own company.
Before approaching any media representative, you’ll need to have a firm grasp of your qualifications. Having a short bio that includes info on licenses you hold and any awards or achievements you’ve won can be helpful.
Tip #2: Get Socially Connected
Online resources like Help A Reporter Out (commonly called HARO) and Profnet are designed to connect field experts (that’s you!) with journalists looking for sources. Since Profnet costs a fee for sources, I highly recommend signing up for a free HARO account first and checking out what kinds of publications are looking for sources in your field of expertise.
Finding a needy journalist is only half the battle…convincing them that you’re the right person for the story is another. Once you’ve found a journalist who’s writing an article where you feel like you’d be a good fit, there’s a right and wrong way to answer a HARO or Profnet pitch. The wrong way is to respond to every ad you encounter and to give the reporter little information they can use. The right way is by carefully reading what they journalist needs and crafting a short yet thoughtful response that captures what you believe you can contribute and why you’d be a good fit for the publication. If you can incorporate research or information the reporter might not find elsewhere, it’s all the better.
For example, if you encounter journalist pitch like this:
“National news journalist needs home performance experts to comment on how home owners can save on their heating bills this winter.”
Here’s the wrong way to do it:
“Dear Journalist. I’m a home inspector. Call me.”
When I read a response like that, there is a 0% chance I will be contacting that person for my story. Here’s a better response:
“Dear [insert journalist’s name]:
I saw your pitch on HARO and believe I would be a good fit for your story since I am the owner of John Doe Home Inspection, have 15 years of experience in the construction and home inspection fields and currently offer energy audits as part of our service package. Some of the most effective ways to save money on heating bills are by doing X, Y and Z, but my clients often forget that doing A, B and C can reduce energy bills too. According to Energy Star, the average single family household spends $2,200 on energy (here’s my source: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_pie ), but I’ve found that my clients usually pay less because they’re aware of the most common home energy leaks. If possible, I’d love to speak with you for this story or others in the future. I can be reached at the following phone number or e-mail address. Thank you so much for your time.
Sincerely, [your name].”
Twitter is also a fantastic way to connect with journalists who need a source fast. Tools like Muck Rack and Seek and Shout can help you connect with media professionals through Twitter in the blink of an eye. Regardless of how you connect, speed counts. The faster you can respond to a journalist’s pitch, the better.
Tip #3: Look Locally
Local publications are also constantly on the prowl for experts who live in the area. In addition to hitting up national resources like HARO and Profnet, it also pays to send a letter of introduction via e-mail to reporters and bloggers who cover business developments in your town. To get started, do some research on local newspapers, newsletters, blogs, web sites and community news organizations in your area. If your story doesn’t fit with the publication’s needs, offer to write a story you believe the general public could use.
Tip #4: Create Your Own News
There are thousands of home inspectors, property managers and home energy experts. There are only a small handful who can prove that they’re more knowledgeable than everyone else in the field. One way to do that is by operating your own blog. Being able to direct a journalist to two or three relevant posts that could help with their story can significantly boost your chances of getting featured.