Ever considered hiring a PR firm or publicist to help promote your business?
For many years, I put kibble in the bowls (aka “brought home the bacon”) primarily by doing PR. I was never one of those spin-master, flack types. I just crafted solid news stories for clients (primarily manufacturers or corporations with national audiences), built relationships with editors and earned my monthly retainers by landing measurable media coverage (insert audible sigh and nostalgic string music).
In the last three years, PR has morphed dramatically in response to the altered nature of journalism. Used to be, my network of editorial connections held valuable equity. I signed clients based on the merit of my “in” with those who held the pens. Then, many of the editors with whom I’d worked for years got laid off, publications shuttered, and I adapted my career path responsively. I took to social media, blogging and online video to become the media for my clients, to tell their stories in their own forums.
Now that I’m my own business, I don’t top bill the “PR” side of me because most clients simply don’t have the money or patience it takes to earn coverage through sustained media relations efforts. There’s still great coverage to be had, but it takes time and persistence to build relationships, forge story opportunities and snag the big mentions as they come around.
Mind you, I’m really thrilled with the new direction of information creation and dissemination. Because I really enjoy creating content and writing, I’m in my element these days. And I’m a believer that it’s better to connect with a devoted, core audience that wants your news than scatter-shot coverage with some big media outlet that never really hones in on those who care about your products. Just think about the phrase “Public Relations.” Who says the only way to “relate to your public” is by getting on Oprah, for goodness sakes? Relate to your public whenever, wherever you can, and enjoy real results.
If you’re DIYing your PR, I strongly believe social networking is an ideal arena in which you can focus your energies and connect directly with your customers. Through social media, you can convey your information tactfully and practically through ongoing conversation.
Here are some other affordable and potentially effective modes of spreading your news into the new media environment. Simply by getting news ‘out there’, you just might light upon a kismet coverage moment.
Use a news wire to distribute press releases. Specifically, look at Marketwire and PRWeb, as other wire services charge membership fees. I recently sent out a client press release via Marketwire for just $150. For this fee, the release went out to media in one major market (in this case, Chicago), as well as nationally to targeted trades that I selected. We got good coverage, and the client was certainly pleased with the results of this minor investment.
If you only care about boosting SEO, look at PRWeb (with packages ranging from $80 – $360). Your story will show up on lots of sites that pull from PRWeb news feeds, and while that doesn’t really count as reputation-building coverage in my book, it’ll spike searchability on the web.
Using wires will save you the headache of building media lists (very time consuming), plus these services offer guidance on release writing and formatting if you’re unfamiliar with that process.
Subscribe to Help a Reporter Out. Help a Reporter Out is a free, subscription-based email service that aligns media with news sources. If you subscribe, you’ll get three emails a day listing editorial inquiries for which you can respond if you have relevant news. Among the media that uses the service are bloggers, major national publications, broadcast media producers, book authors and more. Be warned, though. If your inbox already overfloweth, you may not want three more emails that require your attention each day.
Target select media and do it ‘old school’. Relationships still matter when it comes to earning coverage. Please note: “building a relationship” is not the same as “schmoozing.” Select a couple of media outlets you think are great fits for the kind of news you might have to share, and begin connecting. Be professional and respectful about it, yet don’t hesitate to show your personality along the way. Initiate contact through a press release and business fact sheet (please email me–firstname.lastname@example.org–if you need any guidance on either of these PR tools), and being appropriately persistent to follow-up and stay in contact. Hinge all points of contact around useful news or pertinent updates. Do not wear out your welcome (spread out your points of contact, don’t leave messages every time, etc.), and eventually, you may earn the headline you’ve been hoping for.
Because I have this blog and a monthly column for a local magazine, I now live on both sides of the media relations equation. And I can soulfully attest to how ineffective so many people are in pitching story ideas. While some media types get up in arms when they receive PR pitches that are totally off topic and impersonal, I see them as briefly amusing…and completely deletable.
In closing… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients come to me for PR services when they literally had no news to share. Great coverage comes by having substance from the inside out, not from snazzy packaging. Your company’s anniversary, golf tournament or new hire in the C-Suite may be big news internally yet hold no value with external media. Assess your news objectively and proceed only if you’re certain audiences would really benefit from knowing what you have to share.
Lean on this quote when figuring out your next PR move, and you won’t go wrong.
“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” So sayeth Socrates. Be it, and the public will see it.
Buzz on that for a while, and join our Facebook group to continue the conversation…
Thanks for reading!