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Let’s face it. Nothing will give your business a bigger boost than a nice feature article in the local newspaper. It accomplishes nearly every goal a business has: name recognition, goodwill, high visibility, increased awareness and positive client relations.

Of course, getting the media to do a feature is easier said than done. This is because there is a very fine line between advertising and good journalism. Newspapers sell ad space for a reason and they’re very wary about overtly promoting businesses. Even if you can get space in the local paper, there are other valuable feature outlets you may overlook: talk radio, local television programs and even trade and special interest magazines and publications.

How to get the attention you deserve

In getting the media to think “feature” the primary focus of your efforts should be to find a solid news hook. Hooks may be as simple as inventing the next Pet Rock, a dazzling new service that will change the world, or coming up with a new process that will save customers time or money.

Tap into what’s newsworthy and create an angle for the media that presents your service, program or product as a solution for it. For example, if you are running a gift basket company, pitch a feature about holiday gift giving and new products out on the market that are unique (and that you happen to carry).

Following are some tips that will get you started

Do your homework. If you’re interested in a particular medium, whether it’s the local newspaper, a television talk show or a chat program on radio, study it for a week or two. Learn which topics they’re featuring right now, who produces the segment (TV and radio) or who is the section editor of the newspaper.

Formalize the hook. Take a good long look at the subject you want to pitch to the media. Are you an authority on the subject? Is it innovative? Original? Newsworthy? Once you’ve developed the angle, write a pitch letter to the producer or section editor.

What’s in a pitch letter. Basically, a pitch letter summarizes the story idea you have, explains why it would be of interest to the publication’s or station’s audience, why you’re the one uniquely qualified to discuss it, and possible ways the topic could be presented, i.e., an on-site interview, a talk show, a studio interview or a personal tour. If the medium of choice is television, be sure to include items of visual interest, such as new machinery used in the process, an unusual location, etc. Producers are less likely to assign someone to a story if it’s not visual.

Follow up with a call. Send the pitch letter via mail on a Friday or Saturday or via email on a Tuesday. Assume they read their mail by Wednesday and call on Thursday. Ask the producer or editor if they received your pitch and ask if they’re interested in your story. If they aren’t, politely ask why. Be ready to provide additional information and maintain a flexible schedule to accommodate an interview. Remember: Just like a sale, the purpose of these calls is to cultivate a good working relationship. If this particular pitch isn’t effective, leave the door open to pitch another one in the future. Or invite the producer/editor to keep the story in their files should they come across a time to do it in the future.

Follow up again. After talking to the person you’re pitching, be sure to send a thank you note. Maintain the relationship with the media person. One talk show host said that of the 2,500 guests he’s interviewed, only 10 wrote to thank him afterwards.