Tips for small businesses on how to hook the media

In my last column I focused on finding your “business hook.” But after moderating a panel of editors from the Kirkland Reporter, Puget Sound Business Journal and the Seattle Times a few weeks ago, I realized that, while many small businesses might understand the concept of a strong story hook, they may struggle to actually pitch the story. So here’s what I’ll do: Pitch to you, the reader, the story of one of my favorite local businesses.

In my last column I focused on finding your “business hook.” But after moderating a panel of editors from the Kirkland Reporter, Puget Sound Business Journal and the Seattle Times a few weeks ago, I realized that, while many small businesses might understand the concept of a strong story hook, they may struggle to actually pitch the story.

So here’s what I’ll do: Pitch to you, the reader, the story of one of my favorite local businesses. (Also, as a disclaimer, this business is not a client.)

The basics: Trenditions, a downtown Kirkland retail store, opened during the holiday season last year. This quaint, eclectic and friendly store focuses on creating a similar shopping experience to one of the charming boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris, France. With a mix of carefully chosen treasures — including handmade French jewelry, European-influenced gifts and home décor, and a sprinkling of Haute Couture — visitors to Trenditions can experience “a little piece of Europe” just footsteps from Lake Washington.

Interesting? Perhaps! Story worthy? Perhaps not. But sprinkle in a little back story, and you might find a local reporter picking up the phone right now to find out more about this little business.

The back story:

Trenditions owner Shannon Timmons is a Kirkland/Eastside resident. The daughter of long-time Kirkland residents, her family tree is deeply rooted in Eastside soil. But as much as Shannon loves Washington, she also has a deep affection for another place — Paris.

Only a few years removed from a divorce and the tragic loss of her father, Shannon made a brief trip abroad that literally changed the direction of her life.

As Shannon tells it, the catalyst of that change came in the form of a handcrafted cross she spotted sparkling from a storefront window across from her Paris hotel. Upon visiting the shop, the cross spoke to her heart and found its way around her neck. She said the cross gave her — for the first time in a very long time — a strange sense of peace. Initially, she attributed the feeling to the healing powers commonly associated with copper. But, experiencing the beauty and power of the historic cathedral at Notre Dame the same day, she realized that feeling of peace was the end of her healing process and the beginning of a new life yet to unfold.

Shannon says when she returned to Kirkland it was commonplace for friendly strangers to approach and ask about the cross, its origins and where they might purchase similar jewelry. A savvy business woman, it didn’t take her long to realize she’d stumbled on an opportunity.

But the journey from business idea to business reality — from finding a way to communicate with a French speaking jewelry maker to learning the ins and outs of starting an import business — was fraught with challenges. In the end, however, through sheer determination, passion and love for a unique product, Shannon Timmons turned vision into reality. Her store is a reflection of that journey and commitment.

Now that’s a story I would enjoy reading, and I’m pretty sure our local editors feel the same way. Why?

1.) The story has a strong local slant, the first criteria for a paper covering local news.

2.) Shannon’s business story has an inspirational theme.

3.) It’s an entrepreneurial success story. Readers love to learn about those who have created their own success. (Publications, of course, are in the business of producing stories people want to read.)

So don’t be afraid to send an e-mail to your local paper and pitch your story. Just remember the key ingredients you’ll need to generate interest.

~Susan Burnash owns Purple Duck Marketing in Kirkland. Her company focuses on marketing, public relations and video production for businesses and nonprofits. Visit her Web site at www.purpleduckmarketing.com. Contact her at (425) 896-8959 or susan@purpleduckmarketing.com.


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