As a small, local business it’s important to build relationships within the local community. But as a small, local business there isn’t always time to build and nurture individual relationships.
Sending mass emails to the news media, government agencies and community leaders has become the norm – yet it’s the one of the least effective ways to actually get through to real people. They know when they’re receiving a mass distribution and often ignore it; or maybe they don’t know, because it gets caught in their spam filter and they never even see it. Building relationships with key influencers requires having someone dedicated to constantly tracking information and cultivating the relationships.
Take time to read the news in your local community and the industries in which your organization does business. Get to know reporters through their stories, then maintain a media contact list. You may want to get some help to find the right contact initially, but then, pay attention to changes in reporters’ assignment topics and their positions with the outlet. Also, be diligent about investigating bounced emails and automated responses – they may point you in the direction of your next contact.
It’s equally as important to research and identify individuals at the appropriate local and state government agencies, and community organizations, who have the most direct connection with your organization. Watch the proposals, positions, news and other information coming out of that office. Look for event schedules and attend a few of the meetings that impact your business. Strategically send a note of support or congratulations; and then, when it’s appropriate, you can ask for a one-on-one meeting.
Another easy method for tracking reporters, government staff, and other community leaders is to follow them on Twitter. Engage with them on the topics that they are sharing, even if only to “favorite” or retweet one of their posts. This gets you on their radar.
When you spot an issue or trend that could be addressed by your organization, reach out to that reporter, government agency staff member or community leader to introduce yourself and share some helpful information, without directly promoting your organization. You’ll get your name in front of them and provide a bit of education that may develop into something larger in the future.
The more personalized your communications are, the more attention they’ll receive from any of these key influencers. Because electronic communications now dominate the way we speak to the world, having a dedicated individual communicating on your organization’s behalf and adding a personal touch to an otherwise automated process will go a long way in making your communication stand out.
Finally, touch base with your contacts in the media, government agencies, and community organizations even when you’re not making a pitch or request. Remember: be human, be helpful, and find the right balance between being persistent and being patient.