Getting press for your farm can have highly positive effects on your business. It could come from a local paper or a national magazine—whatever the case, it’s important to know not only how to encourage more publicity but to get the kind of publicity you want.
Create A Small Press Package
The words “press package” may seem daunting, but I assure you all I’m referring to here is a bio: a 500 word version of your farm story with facts—where your farm is, how to get a hold of you, et cetera—and some professional pictures. This can simply be a Word document, nothing fancy. The story helps journalist to be accurate in depicting your farm, and the photos help prevent the magazine from having to pay a photographer, thus increasing your chances of an article.
Write A Press Release
A press release is essentially a request for publicity. Although they can be somewhat thankless, if nothing else, they are good practice for telling your story.
You can find many tutorials on how to write a good press release (I like this one), but to keep it simple focus on these main components:
- a good subject line
- a good introduction
- the story
Editors get an obscene amount of email, so you need stand out. The subject line should be interesting. Something like “Old Farm Offering Something New to Local Food” or “Small Farm Hoping to Make a Big Splash.” Hokey though they may be, those turn of phrases are, if nothing else, are refreshing to busy editors.
The introduction should be short and to the point. “To the editors, I am writing you in hopes of gaining publicity for my small farm. Below I have included the story of my farm and what we produce. Thank you for any time and consideration my story receives.”
Follow that with two or three short sentences that explain the who, what, when, where, and why of your story:
“When I met my wife, she was masterfully guiding two large draft horses through a patch of potatoes, and I knew it was love. Two years later we are starting our own animal-powered local farm and will have CSA shares available starting this spring. The shares will include fruits, veggies and eggs, all grown without chemicals but with lots of horsepower.”
Lastly, tell the editor you are happy to include pictures upon request. The easier you make it for them, the more likely you are to receive publicity. If you don’t hear back, follow up one week later. And don’t get discouraged—someone will bite eventually.
Contact Journalists Directly
I got this idea from an episode of Jordan Marr’s “The Ruminant Podcast” with Jennifer Cockrall-King, who suggested reaching out to local journalists (at least to those who may occasionally cover local farms or agriculture) to let them know you’re available to offer them a farmer’s perspective if they ever need a quote or expert insight for a story. Send them a brief sentence or two about your farm and let them know to feel free to contact you. Also add that you are looking for press, so you’re happy to help where you can.
What To Do …
When a Journalist Contacts You About Your Story
If one of the above ideas work, or if someone contacts you out of the blue to do a story on your farm, great! Write out your story and a few points you’d like to make about your life so that the quotes are clear and precise. Be efficient. It is easy to get excited and ramble, but the easier you make it for the journalist to quote you, the better the article will go. If they have to knit the story together, chances are they will get things wrong. It’s also not a bad idea to send them a copy of your press package, or a link to your story online to assist with accuracy.
When a Journalist Contacts You About an Unrelated Story
When a journalist contacts you to see if you have any opinions on this or that local news story is when you should be the most cautious. Journalists are often looking for a balanced story, and may just want to hear you say that you disagree with whatever they’re writing about, even if the quote doesn’t fully explain your stance. Of course, this depends on what they’re writing about.
The first thing you should do is to ask them to give you a better idea of the story they’re working on and how you fit in. Also ask them to send you the questions beforehand. I would likewise always suggest asking for some credentials—some examples of their work to show how they write (and quote). Lastly, it is not unacceptable to ask to approve quotes. Sometimes, you may feel the quote is taken out of context. If this happens, be clear and ask them to please fix the quote. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to politely decline an interview if it is something you are not well-versed in.
If you do want to comment, really think about your answers. Consider writing them down before the conversation. This way you can insure your words are not misconstrued and that your quote has a better chance of making it into the story.