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The new tech startup that's helping businesses get noticed by national media

Logo: Briefly

Small, country businesses and charities are tapping in to new tech to get their business stories published in national magazines and newspapers – without being faced with expensive PR agency fees.

One business benefiting from this, Holt’s in Norfolk, spent under £300 to have a press release written and distributed on their behalf. They never expected the media attention that followed – from Tatler and Town & Country magazines to the Daily Mail and the BBC, the small specialist fine and antique gun auctioneers were the talk of the town.

“The results have been outstanding.” Said Operations Director Simon Reinhold. “Our goal was to get our business name in areas in which we do not normally operate. Money, very well spent.”

The tech startup, Briefly, is helping countryside businesses and charities – many of which have been negatively impacted by the pandemic – to get back on their feet.

Breaking the mould of traditional PR, Briefly uses freelance journalists to write the press releases, in order to tailor the story in a way they know from experience will work. It is essentially a service run by journalists, for journalists, ensuring that each story is expertly written and then distributed to the relevant editors, newspapers, magazines and websites. This lean business model enables them to be able to offer small businesses with the tools they need to secure press coverage quickly, creatively and without agency fees.

High PR agency fees (the average monthly cost can start at around £1,000), and the requirement for long term financial commitments – for example a minimum of 1 year contracts – have long stood in the way of rural companies, and the 136,000 small and micro charities in the UK*(data), looking for some national attention.

Businesses have been handed a PR lifeline by this new website that brings them and journalists together to create perfect press releases and secure valuable press coverage.

With fewer editors at newspapers and magazines, and more people trying to grab their attention than ever before, countryside businesses - keen to get their views, perspective and offering in front of audiences without throwing money at the bottomless pit of agency retainers - are struggling. Add to this the trust aspect of traditional mainstream media over the more filtered mediums such as social media, influencer marketing and advertising and the need for quality editorial is clear.

There is of course a place for both in any communications plan but securing media coverage has stood the test of time and is proven to be far more impactful and trustworthy than paying for adverts or getting more likes on your social media posts. Adverts and social media can bring plenty of attention but readers are savvy and know that what they are seeing is designed to be self-promotional. Marketing, irrespective of how clever that marketing happens to be, is about telling people what you want them to think about you. PR is about getting a trusted expert with a trusting audience to talk about you: far more valuable.

However, unlike advertising, getting good PR is not something you can simply buy – you have to earn it. So how do you go about securing valuable media coverage? It might sound old fashioned but the number one way to get attention from journalists is to write a press release. A really really good press release. Nothing less will do.

Google ‘press release’ and there are hundreds of ‘adverts’ telling you how to write one, what the magic ingredients are and how to get journalists to listen to you. Sadly, despite the promises, it’s a difficult skill that can’t be picked up quickly. There is also no guarantee your business will get press coverage from your press release, no matter what agencies tell you or how hard you try and “sell it in” to a journalist.

If you opt not to use agencies but to write and pitch to press yourself it requires an unavailable amount of time doing something that isn’t your forte. It is far more effective to use your time doing what you do best and let someone else craft your story for you in language that will have the best chance of grabbing a journalist in the 10 seconds or so the words will have his or her attention. Many journalists receive 200-300+ press releases per day, so anything that can be done to ensure your message cuts through is a good thing.

The quality of your press release and the newsworthiness of your story is vitally important, as is the impact of the content and the relevance to the specific journalist. Each has their own agenda and words need to be tailored or they will be tossed.

Further to the financial and quality elements is being able to find the right story to pitch to journalists. What appears newsworthy to a business or charity may not appeal to editors. It might be bad timing, old news, been covered recently or ‘just not quite right’ and this can mean all the effort you (or someone else) has put into your press release is for nothing. There are two solutions to this; Use a tool like Briefly that uses sector specific journalists to write your press release, someone who knows what the editors are looking for or what is making news at the moment, or be willing to place yourself at the side of the story rather than at the centre of it. This is exactly what an auction house in Norfolk, specialising in fine modern and antique guns did and the results were astonishing.

For decades, the country sports industry and in particular the shooting industry has struggled to find positive favour with the media. Arguably it hasn't been difficult to achieve media coverage but for this to be favourable is a far rarer occurrence. Holts Auctioneers approached Briefly with the mindset that they wanted to be seen by people who wouldn't normally see them. They could already secure an article in their industry trade titles, just like most people reading this will likely already have some sort of relationship with their direct industry media, so the challenge was set to place them outside of their sector.

The story that achieved this for them was the upcoming sale of a rare gun with a once iconic owner. The shotgun itself was rare. Very rare. Believed to be one of a kind – and it belonged to an eccentric, banjo playing Victorian prostitute and socialite turned Lady of the manor, Lady Meux. By focusing the story on the guns owner and not on the lot or Holts the story carried far more editorial merit and the result was national newspapers spreads and international online media cover including the Daily Mail, Tatler, Town&Country and more than 20 pieces of original coverage of not only the story but of the auction itself. As long as brands are willing to sacrifice centre stage for editorial merit the chances of securing media coverage escalate hugely.

If your story doesn’t happen to have a banjo playing prostitute at its centre have no fear, there are plenty of other ways our journalists help you to frame your story. Keep an eye on what’s in the news for example and try and make your story fit in with the current news agenda. 2020 was all about the coronavirus, lockdown fitness, home-schooling etc. Brands that were able to attach themselves to these stories were granted far more editorial opportunity than those peddling off topic content.

It’s why at Briefly we are so passionate about using professional journalists as our creators and advisors and why I like to use the line, ‘by journalists, for journalists’ because that’s exactly what we are doing. Customers have the opportunity to speak with a journalist ahead of their release being written providing them with invaluable insight from someone who is ultimately their target audience. This also provides the journalist with access to the source of the story and an opportunity to dig into what makes it newsworthy before they write it. The journalist is then also the source of knowledge when it comes to deciding who the press release is shared with. Our platform combines the advice from the journalist, with the parameters set by the customer and the content of the release to determine which journalists are most likely to be interested in the story.

As far as we are aware Briefly is the only PR tool that does this and was designed to give you the best chance of being noticed by editors. With high quality, relevant releases landing in the right inboxes, countryside businesses and charities now have a far greater chance to begin building a fruitful relationship with the press. Get it wrong the first time and your emails are unlikely to be opened again.

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