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4 Tips For Getting Your Story On The Local News



4 Tips For Getting Your Story On The Local News

Building your brand via local media coverage and news websites can provide substantial benefits for your business – online and off.

Google and other search engines place great value on external brand mentions and links by sources they perceive as trustworthy.

This PR exposure in news and media outlets active in your local communities offers access to new audiences and fuels your sales growth potential, too.

Understanding how to get a story on local news sites relevant to your business can give you a competitive advantage over your local competition.

Use these four proven tips packed with the actionable tactics you’ll use to connect with and get featured in local media, building valuable links, visibility, and new business in the process.

1. Lay The Groundwork

The biggest mistake companies make in getting stories placed on local news sites is believing it is a tactic you can switch on or off at will.

Ultimately, as with most trust, authority, and backlink/PR building, it requires ongoing focus and prioritization within your marketing mix to generate repeat placement and related metric-based wins for the business.


There are many ways to approach this. Below is a useful framework you can adapt and refine as you progress:

  • Identify the main local news sites and related media outlets specific to your target area.
  • Reach out to them on social media channels (follow them and build a rapport).
  • Create automated social listening triggers to alert you when these external news sites are looking for stories (often one of the largest challenges for local news sites is getting enough regular, fresh content to cater to their readership needs).
  • Increase your visibility within your local community (specific tactics shared later in this post to assist here).
  • Find relevant individual contacts for content creation, new stories, and broader editing of the newspaper.
  • Create unique content that has standalone value and a purpose relevant to the publication’s audience.
  • Reach out to the contacts you have sourced in a professional, friendly, and non-spammy, or templated way.
  • Set recurring actions to follow up on emails (using more than just email to contact people).
  • Set recurring actions to expand your distribution list.
  • Add relevant tools to your arsenal to reach broader media sites (there are many database/CRM/media publication tools and software to consider).
  • Check the success of placed articles and promote them on social media and other business channels (direct marketing, newsletters, company website, etc.).
  • Remember to keep the relationship going with ongoing check-ins and related shares of newsworthy content.

2. Build Your Brand Within The Local Community

There are many ways to increase brand exposure in credible and value-based ways within your local niches.

When you have physical offices/outlets/premises within various locations, you already have a great foundation in place and an advantage over competitors not present within the specific locations in question.

There are fundamental local community tactics to explore such as:

  • Supporting local charities with company events.
  • Running competitions and promoting these throughout your business channels.
  • Answering location-orientated questions and answers on social media, niche forums, and our website.
  • Showcase your experts by being frequently present on industry and location forums.
  • Be part of local business forums, chambers of commerce, and related networking areas.
  • Build into your website location/community hub(s) of value – using your data and unique understanding of your audience to provide ongoing value.
  • Promote credible PR to all relevant areas.
  • Actively comment on local news sites.
  • Run customer days or other events that enable your local audience to experience your expertise firsthand.
  • Work with local influencers to combine audiences and reach new people.

The above will get you moving and over time, you may find many other useful tactics to apply.

3. Have Something Useful To Say

For local news sites, this is imperative.

You have many unique opinions and interesting stories to share within your company.

The following approach is an example I used directly to combine personal success with company brand building in the local news.

In this case, the newsworthy story began with wanting to help local businesses succeed and boost their sales online and targetting Portsmouth News, one of the largest local news sites in our region.

You can see a snippet of the post below:

Image from Portsmouth News, April 2016Lee Wilson Marketing and Business Author - Portsmouth News - Vertical Leap

Next, I continued the relationship with the publication and had a series of news stories posted.

In this case, the approach taken was continuing the story between helping small businesses online and a new book being published:

Lee Wilson Marketing Author - Portsmouth News - Vertical LeapImage from Portsmouth News, December 2018Lee Wilson Marketing Author - Portsmouth News - Vertical Leap

You can then leverage your staff/experts’ personal profile and brand alongside your organization to target regional and national brand building and PR.

This is best achieved by growing the business’s brand and experts on key topic areas and maintaining and growing the variation and volume of relationships established over time.

In this case, I’m providing commentary on digital personalization on the national news site of the Times Raconteur.

The previous examples demonstrate how you can begin with a meaningful story, continue the story into a series of placement opportunities, and over time, leverage previous success for larger news site wins.

Exploring Other Mediums

The online world is becoming decreasingly text-based in their content digestion preferences.

On the move and easy-to-digest content, forms have continued to grow in terms of user preference and digital impact online.

Your local community and local news sites love to promote business updates and PR when they do something different and have interesting and engaging things to say.

You could take a stance to simplify complex business topics with video series and other content types such as infographics and promote this company’s mission along with its ongoing content created to local news sites for repeat brand growth.


Creating an “access our experts” monthly podcast could be a great way to share a monthly story with your local news sites and gain ongoing access to the business and community pages they are often looking to fill.

In Conclusion

There are many ways to become active and present within your local community and get your company stories repeatedly placed in local news outlets.

Targeting local news entities as part of your “always on” marketing approach, using the framework suggested in this post, using my tried and tested techniques can get you started.

You can leverage local news stories to target regional and national press.

And finally, don’t forget to be creative with the mediums you use to grow your local brand and get your stories frequently placed on local new platforms.

The more you stand out from the competition in credible ways, the easier it is for brand building and story placement.

More resources:

Featured Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock



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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)



How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

Creating and selling educational courses can be a lucrative business. But if you already have a product to sell, you can actually use courses as a marketing tool.

Back in 2017, about two years after joining Ahrefs, I decided to create a course on content marketing.

I had a very clear understanding of how an educational course would help me promote Ahrefs.

  • People like courses – Folks like Brian Dean and Glen Allsopp were selling theirs for $500 to $2,000 a pop (and rather successfully). So a free course of comparable quality was sure to get attention.
  • Courses allow for a deeper connection – You would basically be spending a few hours one on one with your students. And if you managed to win their trust, you’d get an opportunity to promote your product to them.

That was my raw thought process going into this venture.

And I absolutely didn’t expect that the lifespan of my course would be as interesting and nuanced as it turned out to be.

The lessons of my course have generated over 500K+ in total views, brought in mid-five-figures in revenue (without even trying), and turned out to be a very helpful resource for our various marketing purposes.

So here goes the story of my “Blogging for Business” course.

1. The creation

I won’t give you any tips on how to create a successful course (well, maybe just one). There are plenty of resources (courses?) on that topic already.


All I want to say is that my own experience was quite grueling.

The 10 lessons of my course span some 40K words. I have never attempted the feat of writing a book, but I imagine creating such a lengthy course is as close as it gets.

Scripts of the course in Google Docs.

I spent a tremendous amount of time polishing each lesson. The course was going to be free, so it was critical that my content was riveting. If not, people would just bounce from it.

Paid courses are quite different in that sense. You pay money to watch them. So even if the content is boring at times, you’ll persevere anyway to ensure a return on your investment.

When I showed the draft version of the course to my friend, Ali Mese, he gave me a simple yet invaluable tip: “Break your lessons into smaller ones. Make each just three to four minutes long.”

How did I not think of this myself? 

Short, “snackable” lessons provide a better sense of completion and progress. You’re also more likely to finish a short lesson without getting distracted by something. 

I’m pretty sure that it is because of this simple tip that my course landed this Netflix comparison (i.e., best compliment ever):

2. The strategy

With the prices of similar courses ranging from $500 to $2,000, it was really tempting to make some profit with ours.

I think we had around 15,000 paying customers at Ahrefs at that time (and many more on the free plan). So if just 1% of them bought that course for $1K, that would be an easy $150K to pocket. And then we could keep upselling it to our future customers.

Alternatively, we thought about giving access to the course to our paying customers only. 

This might have boosted our sales, since the course was a cool addition to the Ahrefs subscription. 

And it could also improve user retention. The course was a great training resource for new employees, which our customers would lose access to if they canceled their Ahrefs subscription.

And yet, releasing it for free as a lead acquisition and lead nurturing play seemed to make a lot more sense than the other two options. So we stuck to that.

3. The waitlist

Teasing something to people before you let them get it seems like one of the fundamental rules of marketing.

  • Apple announces new products way before they’re available in stores. 
  • Movie studios publish trailers of upcoming movies months (sometimes years) before they hit the theaters. 
  • When you have a surprise for your significant other (or your kids), you can’t help but give them some hints before the reveal.

There’s something about “the wait” and the anticipation that we humans just love to experience.

So while I was toiling away and putting lessons of my course together, we launched a landing page to announce it and collect people’s emails.

The landing page of the course.

In case someone hesitated to leave their email, we had two cool bonuses to nudge them:

  1. Access to the private Slack community
  2. Free two-week trial of Ahrefs

The latter appealed to freebie lovers so much that it soon “leaked” to Reddit and BlackHatWorld. In hindsight, this leak was actually a nice (unplanned) promo for the course.

4. The promotion

I don’t remember our exact promotion strategy. But I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

I also added a little “sharing loop” to the welcome email. I asked people to tell their friends about the course, justifying it with the fact that taking the course with others was more fun than doing it alone.

Welcome email with a "sharing loop."

I have no idea how effective that “growth hack” was, but there was no reason not to encourage sharing.

In total, we managed to get some 16,000 people on our waitlist by the day of the course launch.

5. The launch

On a set date, the following email went out to our waitlist:

Course launch email.

Did you notice the “note” saying that the videos were only available for free for 30 days? We did that to nudge people to watch them as soon as possible and not save them to the “Watch later” folder.

In retrospect, I wish we had used this angle from the very beginning: “FREE for 30 days. Then $799.”

This would’ve killed two birds with one stone: 

  1. Added an urgency to complete the course as soon as possible
  2. Made the course more desirable by assigning a specific (and rather high) monetary value to it

(If only we could be as smart about predicting the future as we are about reflecting on the past.) 

Once it was live, the course started to promote itself. I was seeing many super flattering tweets:

We then took the most prominent of those tweets and featured them on the course landing page for some social proof. (They’re still there, by the way.)

6. The paywall

Once the 30 days of free access ran out, we added a $799 paywall. And it didn’t take long for the first sale to arrive:

This early luck didn’t push us to focus on selling this course, though. We didn’t invest any effort into promoting it. It was just sitting passively in our Academy with a $799 price tag, and that was it.

And yet, despite the lack of promotion, that course was generating 8-10 sales every month—which were mostly coming from word of mouth.

A comment in TrafficThinkTank.
Eric Siu giving a shout-out about my course in TTT Slack.

Thanks to its hefty price, my course soon appeared on some popular websites with pirated courses. And we were actually glad that it did. Because that meant more people would learn about our content and product.

Then some people who were “late to the party” started asking me if I was ever going to reopen the course for free again. This actually seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy at the time:

7. The giveaways

That $799 price tag also turned my free course into a pretty useful marketing tool. It was a perfect gift for all sorts of giveaways on Twitter, on podcasts, during live talks, and so on.

Giving away the course during a live talk.
Me giving away the course during a live talk.

And whenever we partnered with someone, they were super happy to get a few licenses of the course, which they could give out to their audience.

8. The relaunch

Despite my original plan to update and relaunch this course once a year, I got buried under other work and didn’t manage to find time for it.

And then the pandemic hit. 

That’s when we noticed a cool trend. Many companies were providing free access to their premium educational materials. This was done to support the “stay at home” narrative and help people learn new skills.

I think it was SQ who suggested that we should jump on that train with my “Blogging for Business” course. And so we did:

We couldn’t have hoped for a better timing for that relaunch. The buzz was absolutely insane. The announcement tweet alone has generated a staggering 278K+ impressions (not without some paid boosts, of course).

The statistics of the course announcement tweet.

We also went ahead and reposted that course on ProductHunt once again (because why not?).

All in all, that relaunch turned out to be even more successful than the original launch itself. 

In the course of their lifespan on Wistia, the 40 video lessons of my course generated a total of 372K plays.

Play count from Wistia.

And this isn’t even the end of it.

9. The launch on YouTube

Because the course was now free, it no longer made sense to host it at Wistia. So we uploaded all lessons to YouTube and made them public.

To date, the 41 videos of my course have generated about 187K views on YouTube.

"Blogging for Business" course playlist.

It’s fair to mention that we had around 200,000 subscribers on our channel at the time of publishing my course there. A brand-new channel with no existing subscribers will likely generate fewer views.

10. The relaunch on YouTube [coming soon]

Here’s an interesting observation that both Sam and I made at around the same time. 

Many people were publishing their courses on YouTube as a single video spanning a few hours rather than cutting them into individual lessons like we did. And those long videos were generating millions of views!

Like these two, ranking at the top for “learn Python course,” which have 33M and 27M views, respectively:

"Learn python course" search on YouTube.

So we decided to run a test with Sam’s “SEO for Beginners” course. It was originally published on YouTube as 14 standalone video lessons and generated a total of 140K views.

Well, the “single video” version of that same course has blown it out of the water with over 1M views as of today.

I’m sure you can already tell where I’m going with this.

We’re soon going to republish my “Blogging for Business” course on YouTube as a single video. And hopefully, it will perform just as well.


The end

So that’s the story of my “Blogging for Business” course. From the very beginning, it was planned as a promotional tool for Ahrefs. And judging by its performance, I guess it fulfilled its purpose rather successfully.

A screenshot of a Slack message.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 

The fact that my course was conceived as a promotional tool doesn’t mean that I didn’t pour my heart and soul into it. It was a perfectly genuine and honest attempt to create a super useful educational resource for content marketing newbies.

And I’m still hoping to work on the 2.0 version of it someday. In the past four years, I have accrued quite a bit more content marketing knowledge that I’m keen to share with everyone. So follow me on Twitter, and stay tuned.

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