Optimize your online presence to help your brand get media attention
In 2009, Nong Poonsukwattana was struggling to make ends meet with her Thai chicken and rice food cart in Portland, Oregon. The carts across the street had long lines, but hers didn’t. Several months into running Nong’s Khao Man Gai, she got a phone call that would change her life. It was a reporter from the local newspaper, The Oregonian, who wanted to interview her.
“When the photographer came by and took pictures, I’ll always remember he said, ‘Do you know this going to be big?’ And I didn’t know quite exactly what he meant.”
What he meant was that the day after the story came out, Nong’s Khao Man Gai had throngs of people willing to wait two hours to taste her food, and that continued day after day. She’s since been featured multiple times in The Oregonian, as well as Eater, Vice, PopSugar, and even on Food Network’s “Chopped” in 2014.
“It showed me how powerful the press is,” she says.
Business has been booming. Poonsukwattana now has two brick-and-mortar locations and a very successful sauce line.
While Poonsukwattana’s first press experience was serendipitous (the reporter remembered her from the previous restaurant where she worked), there are steps that you can take to get on reporters’ radars, even if you don’t have connections.
OPTIMIZE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE TO ATTRACT MEDIA: A CHECKLIST
1. Have a website with pertinent contact information
Reporters are often on a tight deadline and will search online for businesses that align with a story they are writing or filming. Make it easy for them to find you and reach out to you. That means making sure you have an online presence.
- Have a website that clearly states the name of your business and what you do. Don’t have a website yet? You can easily start one free with Square Online.
- Include a contact email; not just a contact form. Why? Reporters will likely be reaching out to multiple businesses, and they want to be able to track that they’ve reached out to you.
- Make your location address prominent (if applicable). List the city where you are based and your business phone on your website where they’re easy to find.
- Include social handles where you are most active so reporters can learn more about you and how you engage your audience. Which leads us to number 2 …
2. Be active on social media
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but here’s one more reason to be active on social: Reporters, producers, casting agents — all of them are scouring social channels to find their next story or star. When covering food trends, for example, reporters will search Instagram or TikTok looking for purveyors who are partaking in that particular trend. Additionally, if you build an engaged following, you become more attractive for media opportunities as publishers and producers see that you have an audience. They can also embed and share videos and photos of your brand in their work without having to formally request assets for their coverage. You don’t have to be on every single channel. Pick one or two that you can consistently keep updated.
3. Make sure your business is optimized for local SEO
If a reporter is doing a story on wellness trends in Los Angeles, for example, they may start their research by Googling spas in the area. You want to show up in those results. In addition to having your business name, address, and phone number on your site, confirm your business is listed in Google My Business, Yelp, and even the local Yellow Pages, and optimize those listings. Learn more tips for how to level up your SEO game.
4. Have a thoughtful About Us section on your business website
Is your business Black or LGBTQ+ owned in an industry that largely isn’t diverse? Is being eco-friendly a big part of your mission? Are you at the cutting edge of your industry? Do you have a particularly unique or interesting expertise? Do you give back to the community? This is the place to tell your story — a story that a reporter or producer can turn around and pitch to their leadership as a reason why YOU will be interesting to their audience.
5. Get headshots
Some outlets will have a budget to send a photographer to capture original photos, but many do not, and will rely on you. Invest in professional, well-lit, high-resolution headshots that show you in your element and represent your brand. Get a posed headshot, some action shots, or shots with you and your product, and shots with you and any co-founders, if applicable. Ensure you have both horizontal and vertical options. A good photo can mean the difference between you being the story’s image headliner or you being buried in the middle of the article with no visuals.
6. Have good product shots
Similar to the point above, good product shots can get you higher billing in an article. For example, if an online publication chooses a product of yours for a piece on “Coziest home decor you have to buy now” and you have a nice image of it, your product may end up being the face of the article — it may even be chosen as the teaser image when the article is shared on social media. Talk about great publicity! Check out Square Photo Studio, which can get you high-quality photos of your products.
7. Consider having video on your website
Whether you’re showing your products in action or sharing the story behind your restaurant concept, you’ll be able to show off your personality — which is exactly what producers are looking for. Having video of yourself can capture the attention of people scouting for everything from local and national morning TV shows to digital content for online publications, or even competition shows. You don’t need to invest in some pricey shoot either; a great video can be shot and edited on your phone.
Today, Poonsukwattana continues to get media attention, thanks to her talent and personality, but also in part due to her social media presence and website, where her restaurants’ information is clear, she has mouthwatering photos of her food (which can be ordered online, too) and videos where she tells her story.