With marketing today trending heavily toward digital strategies, do self-storage operators still need to focus on building relationships with the media? Yes! These outlets can still be influential in creating a positive image for your facility. If you’re a smaller business, it can help build brand awareness in your community. If you’re a larger operator, it can help spread your message across bigger audiences, making yours a well-known brand.
It’s imperative that your marketing plan include brand-awareness strategies. You want your facility to be the first that comes to mind when a person needs storage, and for your name to be recognized during online search. Forming media relations and building relationships with key contacts can ensure your brand has a positive image locally and even nationally.
Like other businesses, journalism has evolved in the digital age. Reporters are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, discovering and sharing news. They push their articles out in these avenues, which can give your business more traction for telling its story. The reach from these outlets can positively impact your operation, so let’s discuss how to build your media-relations strategy.
Define Your Audience
The first step is to define your audience. Who do you want to reach via local media? For most self-storage facilities, you’re looking at a 10-mile radius around each location.
Examine your tenant base to determine your customer personas. Use your management software to look at your current demographics. During the rental process, you should be tracking why people store with you, their age range, their gender, how many miles they live from the facility, etc. This information will help you target your marketing and media content.
Once you know your audience, the next step is to create press content. You want to be selective and compelling with releases and stories you pitch to the media. The headline should be attention-grabbing, and the information relevant and appealing. You want to submit interesting news people will want to read. It should explain who you are and why this is exciting for them and your business.
When writing, think of the story from an outside perspective. Would this headline and content make you want to read further? Remember your audience. What type of news do they read? Content is the most important piece of your media-relations strategy. If your story isn’t fascinating, it won’t reach far. Just remember that it also needs to be factual and credible.
Build a Contact List
Using your defined audience, you can start to build a list of publications that would serve your target market. Think of where your release or story should be placed. For example, if you find your customers are coming from a neighboring town, include reporters from media outlets in that area in your distribution list.
Finding the right contacts at each news outlet is key. You can often find a “Contact us” page on the company’s website. It’s OK to include a generic e-mail for press releases if you find one but also dig deeper to find additional contacts. Reporters typically include their e-mail with their article bylines.
The local or business section of your city’s newspaper is probably a good place to run any stories you want to promote. Seek out the writers of these sections and include their contact info in your distribution list. Having these e-mails along with general addresses will give you more exposure. Save your list and update it regularly, checking to see if there are new reporters in these positions.
Distribute Your News
Now that you know your audience, have a great story and know who to contact to help you spread the word, it’s time to disseminate your news. Here are some best practices for distributing your story:
- If you’re submitting via e-mail, blind copy your distribution list to protect your contacts and keep them private.
- Include your attention-grabbing headline along with an alert such as “Media Alert” or “For Immediate Release” in the e-mail subject line.
- Paste the story in the body of the e-mail. Also attach it as a PDF or Word doc along with any corresponding photos or videos. This helps the journalist read the story in the format that’s easiest for him or to forward it to other contacts if necessary.
- Only send newsworthy articles. Overloading your contacts with stories will take away the urgency and interest. You want reporters to be compelled to open your e-mail, not delete it or being annoyed when they see your name in their inbox.
- Provide your contact information, including your phone number. This allows people to reach you if they need more information.
To extend the reach of your story, you can also consider using one or more public-relations (PR) services. When choosing a service, read the reviews and make sure it’s a credible source. Ask to view examples of its distribution lists and make sure the firm understands your audience. PR could get your story to more people, but this doesn’t do much good if those readers aren’t in your target market.
Be Available for Follow-Up
Now that you’ve distributed your news release, you can’t just sit back and watch it “go viral.” You need to be accessible to reporters. If the story is of interest, they may reach out with questions. Be available at the contacts you provided and ready to answer inquiries.
By being available, you begin to develop a relationship. Strengthening it is key in getting your content published. A reporter will remember his interaction the next time he needs an expert to weigh in on an article or thinks about publishing a story from you. The more amenable you are, the more likely your news will be covered.
That doesn’t mean you should shorten your distribution list to only contacts with whom you’ve been friendly, however. Continue to research and send your information to all applicable contacts. Once you develop a good relationship, you could give certain contacts early access to your information to bolster it.
Create Some Buzz
When it comes to spreading the word, don’t just rely on media. You can create excitement around your story on your own! Share it on your website, social media, and internal and external e-mail lists. Creating this buzz could attract reporters and compel them to publish it as well.
When creating a media-relations strategy, the first step is to understand your goal: building brand awareness. Your content, headlines and distribution list should all reflect this. After disseminating your story, be available to reporters. This fosters a relationship that builds trust and will help your content get published. The time spent developing your media contacts can pay off big when the extra brand reach brings in more rentals.
Melissa Stiles is director of marketing for Storage Asset Management Inc., where she’s responsible for the direction of marketing for the company and its 120-plus managed facilities. This includes the development and execution of local marketing plans, digital marketing, social media, advertising, public relations, and special events. She’s been a frequent presenter at state and national industry tradeshows. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.storageassetmanagement.com.