3 Tips for Home Builders on How to Gain Media Coverage
August 31, 2020
Getting spotlighted by the local news can be a fantastic way for any small business to gain free PR, and it’s no different for small-to-midsized home builders who want a boost in brand awareness. So, today we’re offering three tips on how to gain media coverage that don’t require a large time commitment.
This advice is intended to make media outreach simple for businesses who don't have dedicated resources like a PR team. It also comes from Katherine Wartell, our content marketer, who has spent both time in the newsroom as a reporter and as a communications specialist at a PR agency.
Why media coverage?
If this is a goal you’ve never considered, let's talk about the biggest benefits of earned media coverage.
- It’s free promotion
- It has the potential to reach thousands of eyes including your target audience (for free)
- It’s a great way to distinguish yourself from competition (for free)
While we won’t promise media coverage solves everything, it can be a powerful way to get noticed and see returns long after a paid ad is no longer running.
So, what types of stories are we even talking about? They can run the gamut. Search “local home builder” on Google News to see what pops up today. It’ll give you a good idea of what outlets find newsworthy.
This is also where our tips come in. When it comes to gaining media coverage, try following one of these three routes. Note that this advice is intended purely for your local news sources from print and digital newspapers to TV and radio stations. National news coverage, and trade publications, are a different ballgame.
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Send business news
Obvious, right? But it’s the straightest path to getting the word out on your business, and it also qualifies as hard news, which will attract reporters.
Sample topics include:
Breaking ground on (or the opening of) a new home community. This is public interest news and could warrant a couple paragraphs or longer depending on the nature of the homes you’re building. For instance, affordability is trending right now so entry-level homes and affordable housing projects might get more notice. If a reporter bites, they’ll likely want renderings or video footage of your model homes.
Incorporating an innovative feature into your new projects. KB Homes made news when they announced they’re rolling out a semi-customizable home office package. Even if you're not doing the same thing, it’s a replicable pitch. Are you incorporating more smart home or green features? Have you made changes to your floor plans that are a direct result of the pandemic? Anything that adds to a trending conversation is worth pitching.
Notable trends you’ve witnessed in homebuyers. Think about how you could serve as an expert on the residential construction industry to your local community. Have new homebuyers evolved in what they’re looking for in a home? Have key demographics, like age, changed? Any interesting angles make for a good trends piece. While the end article or segment may not focus exclusively on your business, it'll help to establish you as a local thought leader.
New hire or promotions. This is an old standby to get some newspaper space, and there’s typically a special online form on each outlet’s website to share this kind of news. One caveat is that unless the hire is well-known or there’s a unique angle, this kind of news isn’t likely to go beyond the business page which may not be helpful in reaching homebuyers.
Award promotion. This is also another way to get some easy space. Depending on the prestige of the award, however, the news could make it to the front page or lead section of the paper. It could also get its own broadcast segment with a TV station.
These are only a few examples, but if you’ve got something timely to share about your business, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to local business reporters. You never know, they might not use your story, but they could keep you as a contact for future articles down the road.
Pitch a human-interest story
Human-interest stories are great because of their potential to make a memorable impact with readers. Despite the old saying that “if it bleeds, it leads,” you’ll actually find a lot of heartwarming stories in your local news.
And the topics don’t have to be outrageous to appeal. Here’s a true story from our content marketer: her single most reprinted story as a reporter was about a local man who planted wildflower seeds along ugly highways in a city in Kansas. And yet the story got reprinted in multiple states around the country.
Basically, you could have a great story and not even realize it. Here are some examples:
- Your 50-year-old, family-run company is passing on the reins to the next generation
- You constructed a home for a local hero or someone in need
- Two of your employees met and got engaged on the job
- A litter of stray kittens camped out on a jobsite and you rehomed them (and have the photos!)
There’s a chance none of these apply to you, but they’re mainly intended to illustrate how simple your pitch could be. If you’ve ever had a time on the job where you thought, “wow, that was a really special moment,” chances are other people will think so too. Just keep in mind you’ll want to pitch the story when it’s timely — not five years after the fact.
What’s a pitch?
We’re using the term pitch pretty generally in this article, but all we mean is the short message you’ll send to a news reporter that describes your story idea. Ideally, you’ll write it in terms that pique their interest, but it doesn’t have to be fancy to get noticed. We recommend keeping it to a couple paragraphs. What’s most important is that you’re proposing a good story.
While you could Google, "how to write a media pitch," the advice can be a little intense and is primarily intended for PR professionals. Don't worry, reporters won't hold it against you if your pitch doesn't include slick marketing lingo.
You can also write your own news release for cut-and-dry business news. That way, you’ll give the reporter all the details they need to know to write the story upfront, and they'll follow up with you if they have additional questions.
Pitches are typically the way to go for stories that you’d like the reporter to write on their own.
Quick tips on pitching your story
If you’ve never reached out to an outlet about a story idea before, here are some basic tips:
- Consider your audience before choosing which outlet you reach out to. Are your target homebuyers in their 50s or older? Or are they up-and-coming millennials? If they’re millennials, you won’t want to pitch any outlet that doesn’t have an online presence (or one that hides their stories behind a paywall). If they’re older, they’re more likely to have a subscription to their local paper. Broadcast news are a good avenue too, but when pitching to them you’ll need to have an interesting visual element to give them. Check All You Can Read to zero in on outlets in your area.
- Consider the size of the outlet you want to pitch. If they’re a small operation, they might not have the resources to follow up on every lead even if they’re interested. If you have the time, you could ask if they’d accept a guest contribution.
- Find a specific reporter to send your pitch to by researching the outlet’s website. If you’re sending business news, find that outlet’s business reporter. If you’re sending a human-interest story, look for a lifestyle reporter, a features reporter or a general staff reporter. If the outlet doesn’t list what their reporters cover, see if you can find the news editor. What you don’t want to do is email a general account like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com because these accounts get lots of junk email and your pitch will likely get lost in the mix.
- Make sure you address the basic details of your story idea, including the who, what, when, where and why, in your pitch. For instance, if you’re pitching an event, you’ll want to include the day and time as well as background details. If you’re pitching a human-interest story, you'll still want to provide the basic details but focus on what makes the story unique.
- Follow up your pitch with a call. We recommend first emailing your story idea so you don’t put the reporter on the spot (you'd be surprised how many are introverts), and then following up with a phone call (or second email) a few days later if you don’t hear back.
Once you’ve pitched your story, the reporter will either get back to you asking for more details, or they’ll let you know they’re not interested (most likely by not even responding at all!). If your idea doesn’t work out, don’t get discouraged. Try taking your pitch to another outlet or try again when you have another story idea.
Do you have any tips to add?