The Hidden Costs of Media Coverage (For Product-Based Businesses)

Getting in the news seems like a simple task. You launch your business or product, email journalists, and voila! If your product is awesome enough, journalists will write a story about you.

But for product-based businesses, there’s one caveat.

Some journalists won’t cover your product unless you send them a full-size sample (or two).

Print publications don’t just want to try the product ASAP – if they like it, they want to photograph it themselves.

Now, in the agency world a request for samples or a trial (especially extra samples) is a huge deal. That means you’re probably going to be featured in the news and your hard work is paying off. (Once, a top editor asked me for three samples of shaving razors. Best. Day. Ever.)

And for the rewards, sending samples isn’t a huge cost ­– (though depending on where you’re based, shipping costs to their U.S. offices can be anywhere from $5 - $25 per package – more on that later).

Measured against typical advertising costs, a few samples for influential coverage and millions of eyeballs is a pretty sweet deal.

The only issue is when you haven’t accounted for these hidden costs and requirements of journalists in advance.

Expenses can rack up pretty quickly if you’re sending products to staff at every major publication, flying for meetings or shipping products individually from coast to coast.

That’s why even if you’re pitching the press yourself, you have to budget for media coverage.

The best way to do this is to take a detailed account of the publications you think are relevant for your target market. They don’t have to be in one category; for instance, if you sell skincare or clothes but you’re also an entrepreneur and your business has a social mission, you’ll want to look at men’s/women’s magazines and blogs, entrepreneur/business magazines and blogs, and social good news outlets.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what outlets would be relevant, think about every possible angle or story that could be written about you or your brand and try to deduce which outlets would be interested in those stories. (Need more inspiration? Stop by a bookstore or news stand and browse through some mags! Or Google your competitors to see where they’re being covered online.)

Then separate out all the outlets you find into four tiers:

  1. NEED TO HAVE – outlets that are the most relevant for your immediate mission or product and that might be elated to receive a fresh idea from you. Because they often write stories that you’d fit right into, if you treat them right they’ll give you and your products coverage year after year. Like your BFFs, they like you for you.

  2. WANT TO HAVE – outlets that might be relevant for you every once in a while, but that require a little effort. They need a little more convincing than your BFF and require a story or angle that fits with their special interests. Coverage here might boost your business and credibility, but it’s not crucial for your business to succeed.

  3. DON’T NEED TO HAVE – these outlets might be relevant in some way but their audience reach is questionable. Do they have enough followers to be worth your while? (If you have to ask, the answer is probably ‘No’.)

  4. DON’T WANT TO HAVE – these outlets are totally out of your genre, don’t have anything to do with your target market and won’t benefit you whatsoever to pitch or send products to. Rule them out completely.

Once you have a general idea of the number of media outlets that are right for you, you’ll also have an idea of the number of samples you might need to have on hand for these outlets per year. If you’re on a tight budget, set aside at least enough product to send two samples to every outlet in your NEED TO HAVE list.

Remember that editors have short deadlines and prefer to get products ASAP. If you don’t live near most of their U.S. offices in New York, consider investing in a fulfillment warehouse in the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) to ensure your products make it in time for each story and cut down on express shipping costs.

And most importantly, remember to budget for media coverage! 

Plan ahead for the costs of sharing/shipping product to journalists, and you’ll be prepared to get endless media coverage from your journalist BFFs year after year.

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