It’s been a hard day of work. You put out work-fires and your easy chair and the evening news seems just the prescription to escape your business woes, realizing there are tougher things going on in the world. But it continues. Wedged in between the latest political scandal and the traffic report appears your nemesis on the local news.
There’s your competitor, smiling in all their interview-giving glory. All of a sudden, they’re the go-to expert?! You scoff and shake your head. Every day you pour your heart and soul into your company, team, and clients. You live for this stuff, and yet somehow you don’t get the publicity and brand awareness you deserve.
I feel your pain. For many years, I was the marketing director of a $13 million lawn and landscape company. One of the things that fired me up was when I saw our competitors become the source for a local television or newspaper story when we never got a call.
Now granted, I recognize the media can’t always go with the same source, but come on! We were the biggest local firm in our market and we even advertised with the local media outlets and serviced the property at the TV studio! It burned me up.
I realize that there are lots of you who would love to have a few featured stories in the outdoor living insert of your local paper and to appear on the local news a few times a year.
Well, I’m going to share some tips with you to help make that happen.
7 Tips to Get Featured
“When a lawn care or landscape company sees their competitor on TV, it didn’t just happen by accident. Sure there are some lucky breaks, but there’s more to it than that.”, shares Tom Mentzer, from Mentzer PR Group. After about 25 years of public relations work with some of the green industry’s leading material and equipment manufacturers, Tom has seen what works to become a go-to expert.
“The key is to always be present and always be relevant.”, he adds.
I personally couldn’t agree more. Becoming top-of-mind requires a deliberate approach. Here are a few things that I’ve found work well:
1) Clear Positioning & Messaging
What is your brand truly known for? No, really. Are you just another landscaper? In order to be truly remarkable, you need to be clearly different.
“It comes down to a larger issue for business. The public should be able to easily understand what you’re all about and your brand promise. You should be able to quickly and succinctly tell them why your company matters and why you’re different.” Mentzer reiterates.
2) Create a Media Response Process
Half of your success goes back to what Mentzer mentions of needing to “always be present”. This can be tougher for smaller companies without a designated team member to handle media calls, but it’s really important that when opportunities come your way, your team responds quickly. I’ve found that even a ten-minute delay means getting passed over.
3) Produce Frequent & Valuable Content of Your Own
When I ventured into content marketing in 2012, I never knew there would be an added bonus from 450+ blog articles and thousands of social media updates I would write over the next four years. In addition to generating website traffic and leads, it got a lot of media attention.
Our content marketing efforts landed multiple opportunities to be featured in national publications as well as dozens of local featurettes. Creating unique, well-written content can not only position your brand as a thought leader, but it can also show the media that you love to share free expertise.
(RELATED READING: They Ask, You Answer - 5 Keys to Content Marketing Success)
4) Cultivate Ongoing, Helpful Relationships
I’ve also found that freelance writers and local television producers are used to getting the cold shoulder and being ignored, leading an ongoing search for new sources.
When you get your chance to contribute, enthusiastically tell these hard-working journalists that you would love to help them again. Exchange contact info. Inform them of the range of your expertise. Don’t be known as just the “lawn guy” when you, in fact, know a good deal about trees and landscaping too.
Make sure they know that you regularly help the media and ask them to call on you whenever they have a new assignment to fulfill.
5) Add Value to Their Social Media Efforts
Local television and newspaper outlets are good about distributing their content on Facebook and Twitter. When you see a story relating to lawn care or landscaping, join in on the discussion in a professional and helpful manner.
Don’t use these opportunities to promote. Instead, add value to the conversation with additional resources and insights. Your comments may get the attention of the media staff that monitors the channel and could provide an opportunity for a follow-up story.
6) Pitch Unique Story Ideas to the Right People
Mentzer offers up another useful tip. “When you’re trying to position yourself in front of the media, brainstorm some story ideas. Do some planning now and think about the things your customers are most interested in throughout the year. But think beyond that. Consider visuals when you pitch ideas.”
Go to the media outlet’s website and search for previous stories. If you don’t see a feature, it may be a great idea to bring to their attention. Some of these could include:
- An atypical springtime issue that is occurring on local lawns this year
- How adding seasonal color and container gardens improve entrances for a local retirement community
- Pro autumn leaf clean-up tips that homeowners aren’t aware of
- Safety tips for installing outdoor holiday decor and why pro services are becoming more popular
When pitching story ideas, it’s important to connect with the right people. Mentzer points out that in television, this is often directed at the assignment desk or producers of certain news shows. In the case of a print publication, editors would be the suggestion.
Work hard to cultivate these relationships. Always position yourself to provide the media with a fresh perspective that is ultimately for the benefit of their viewers or readers.
I’ve found that being proactive pays off. Schedule meetings or calls with these media contacts and make sure to communicate with them about 4-5 times throughout the year with fresh, well-thought-out ideas.
7) Pay for Exposure
Although I would suggest this as a last resort when you’ve exhausted the ones above, most newspapers and television stations do offer advertorial opportunities. These features are informational and resemble typical news content, but are part of a paid advertising package.
One thing Mentzer says he has noticed is that there is an increasing number of these options, often sandwiched in between the station’s local news and a network morning show.
“If you’re really after that kind of exposure, maybe budget ahead for purchasing those segments. You often do have a lot of control over the content. Not everyone can afford to do it, but it could be a very valuable tool. These segments usually skew heavily for females, which we all know make a lot of the purchasing decisions in the household.”
(RELATED READING: Some Thoughs on Your Annual Marketing Budget)
Purposeful, Proactive Publicity
Brand awareness and great publicity aren’t going to happen on their own. You may be kicked back in your recliner each night, but you can’t sit back and relax in your office chair.
Deliberate planning, creative concepts, and disciplined follow-through are what it’s going to take. Then you can set that DVR to record, frame the local front page, and enjoy a subtle smirk while your competitors wonder how you became so popular.
If you'd like to talk more about how you can publish original content that attracts the attention of news media and generates leads for your sales team, we'd love to talk. Schedule a meeting and we can discuss some of your lawn or landscape company's biggest challenges.