Local businesses are the core of any community, but it takes more than a good product or a well-designed store to make one successful. It takes promotion. Entrepreneurs need to navigate the world of the media in order to create long-term success. At least, that’s the argument Athens resident and longtime journalist Amy Flurry makes in her new book, Recipe for Press. Using examples from her professional career as a writer and editor, and also drawing on the expertise of successful entrepreneurs, Flurry simply and straightforwardly constructs a plan for business owners to pitch their stories to the media.
“Voice and story are so critical to commerce,” says Flurry, who spent years meeting business owners over cups of coffee to talk about what they sell. As a regional editor for the shopping magazine Lucky, and later for Atlanta Peach and The Atlantan, Flurry realized she was in a unique position to help them reach a larger audience. When she did, the result was always a more successful business. Today, the push to support all things local—whether it’s locally grown food or supporting a small boutique—is stronger than ever. Which is why it’s a perfect time for small business owners to begin sharing their stories and their products with the media.
The method outlined in Recipe for Press nestles nicely with many of the philosophies already in place within Athens' network of local businesses, where owners can share their successes and tips with each other, helping the small-business community overall.
"To me, there is this network of small businesses that help each other," Flurry says. "It doesn't work if you don't develop a voice, [don't] have great pictures and don't give back… To me, it's all about old-school business: values, respect and valuing the communication you have with your customers."
The book not only explains how to define your story and get it into the hands of an editor, but also includes essential details like how to follow up properly once you’ve made a successful pitch, and how artists selling at markets can engage visitors and make a sale. Local chef Hugh Acheson, one of several business owners profiled, recounts how he was able to augment the promotion of his own twist on Southern cuisine through curating recipes for magazine editors and staying on top of the trends.
“I learned a long time ago,” Acheson tells Flurry, "that sometimes editors are looking for content at the last minute, and if I could turn around a request quickly then I would be sure to get the press and also high on the list of people they would call the next time."
Promoting your business isn’t something you do once and then sit back to watch the returns, Flurry stresses. “The more you put into this, the more you will get back,” she says. “But it’s a continuous process.”
Flurry also practices what she preaches, as the co-founder of Paper-Cut-Project with Atlanta artist and fashion expert Nikki Salk. The pair developed the idea of wearable paper sculptures—elaborate wigs and masks—while looking for a creative outlet after Salk closed her Buckhead boutique. The result was a product that was uniquely theirs, yet specifically high-end—and a serious media relations puzzle for the pair to work out.
But the venture has been a success, with ornate wigs recently shown atop mannequins at Christie’s in New York City for an auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s gowns. Other Paper-Cut-Project pieces have been coupled with products by Kate Spade, Hermès and Cartier. Photographs by Greg Lotus of a series of wigs made for Italian Vogue have recently been exhibited at Atlanta's Jackson Fine Art.
“It’s a luxury market, high-end," says Flurry. "But the pictures are telling our story for us… That picture needs to tell the story every step of the way.”
Which is why, Flurry says, photography is so important in pitching your product. It could be an image emailed to a potential editor or client, or it could be posted on a blog or Pinterest—it’s another way you can control your voice and the product you sell.
The pitch. The right editor. The perfect photo. And when it all comes together to create a mention on a blog or a feature in a magazine, don’t forget the thank-you note. When done correctly—following the simple plan in Recipe for Press—business owners can be successful promoters, too.
“And the thing that small business owners need to know is, when you get it right the first time, (editors) will come back to you,” she said. “Editors are always looking for new material—you just need to put it in their hands the way they need it.”