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While most online sellers know about the marketing benefits of a strong social media presence, too few consider pursuing coverage in “traditional” media — magazines, newspapers, and blogs or other digital outlets. Editors at those publications are looking for stories that could very well feature your personal entrepreneurship story, your business, or your products.
Securing press coverage will always be a crapshoot, and your odds will be enhanced (or not) depending on what you’re selling (gorgeous French antiques will fare better than, say, truck tires), but it is possible.
With some research and a couple well-crafted emails, most entrepreneurs can pursue press coverage at very little cost—and certainly without hiring an exceptionally expensive publicist. This means that the downsides are minimal, and the potential benefits can be tremendous.
Begin by thinking about your best story.
What’s the most compelling aspect of your business? Generally, it’s either you, or your products.
If you’re a single mom putting three kids through college with your eBay store, you’re probably the story. If you’re a retiree who’s managed to stave off tapping into retirement savings through selling on eBay, you’re probably the story.
If you’re importing rugs hand-crafted by Syrian refugees in Turkey, your products are probably the story. If you’re selling mid-century modern clocks culled from collections nationwide, your products are probably the story.
Of course, in many cases, you could suggest coverage—i.e. “pitch”—both your personal story and the story of your products. If you’re a knitwear designer selling your own creations to finance a fashion degree, you can pitch either your story or your products as the focus, or both.
Determine which publications are the best fit for your story.
You’ll want to reach out to writers and editors at the outlets your target market is reading. If you sell vintage homewares, your target market might be reading Country Living or Martha Stewart Living.
If you’re selling men’s raw denim, they might be reading Off the Cuff or Style Girlfriend. If you’re selling wedding rings—you’re in luck because there a million blogs, newspapers and magazines catering to the needs of brides-to-be.
In many cases, the outlets you enjoy reading might be the same as your target market. If in doubt, head to your nearest bookstore, and scour the magazine section for titles that make sense. Apply the same logic to an online search of suitable blogs and websites. Always start at the highest-circulation outlet and work your way down.
Don’t make the mistake of only thinking about the biggest magazines and newspapers—you may get lucky, but the competition is fierce. Be sure to consider blogs and digital outlets, especially since the editors at those big newspaper and magazines often scour online outlets for story ideas. And don’t forget local media, both print and digital. Without a doubt, there are regional publications catering to your hometown, and editors there are often enthusiastically pursuing stories about “hometown heroes” building their own businesses.
Craft a compelling pitch that briefly explains your story.
Once you’ve determined where you’d like to pitch your products, it’s time to tidy up your store and prepare your pitch. Before sending the email, ensure that your eBay store or listings are well organized, your product descriptions are solid, and your images are as good as possible—especially given the reality that most editors will need to rely on your images to accompany any story.
Once that’s ready, you want to focus on crafting a short, to-the-point email. Greet the editor cordially (first names are fine). In the opening paragraph, briefly introduce yourself, your shop, and your products. Prove that you read their publication (and understand its readers’ needs) by mentioning past coverage of similar products or sellers. This can be as easy as saying that you’ve recently read a particular article—and it made you think that perhaps your business could be featured in a similar way.
In your main paragraph, you want to explain why their readers want to know about your products, and why now, within the space of a few (3-5) sentences. Why should the outlet cover you? Because you offer a superlative selection of mid-century clocks. Why now? Because mid-century modern is all the rage. There’s always a reason why, and always a reason why now, whether thanks to a suitable holiday, season, or news story.
Offer to send any additional materials the editor might need (such as additional, high-resolution images) and sign off.
Pitch the most relevant people and publications.
This isn’t as tricky as it might seem. You’ll want to reach out by email to an editor with the outlet you’re pitching. Which editor? Every magazine, and many online sites, will have a masthead listing its editors and their positions. You generally want to look at the midpoint on the masthead—at the senior or associate editor level, someone with the authority to take on your story, but not so much authority that their priorities are running the magazine as a whole rather than producing individual stories. To further pinpoint the most appropriate editor, find a story that most resembles the sort you’d like to see on your business. Is it in a particular section? (These are often labeled at the top of the page.) You may be able to track down the editor for that specific section, using clues from LinkedIn or Google. If not, though, stick with the mid-masthead plan.
Once you have the right name, you’ll need to track down their contact information. Many journalists include their work emails on their Twitter bios. If not, try connecting via Linkedin. Some pointed Googling can also be handy here—search for the editor’s name and “email” or figure out the email construction from examples of their colleagues’ emails. Communicating with the public is a prime part of being a journalist, and most editors make it easy enough to connect.
Follow up and then move on.
If you don’t hear back after two weeks, follow up once. If you don’t hear back after that, consider it a pass and move on. Many editors are so busy—and so deluged with other pitches—that they won’t send a rejection. Just pitch them again when there’s a reason to—for example, new products or a fresh tie-in with the news of the day.
Whatever you do, don’t take a no personally—an editor’s default response will always be negative. You only need one yes to radically transform your business, so keep going until you get the yes.
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