Get the Word Out With Public Relations

You’ve launched an amazing product or service. Now what? Now, you need to get the word out.

But you’re on a budget and can’t afford the $10K a month to hire a fancy agency and put out press releases. That’s fine. You’re better off executing you’re on strategy or hiring a really awesome consultant.

When done well, good PR can be much more effective and less expensive than advertising. For cost-conscious businesses, ROI is crucial. Every penny spent on marketing should generate revenue. PR is no different. Here are the steps you should take to form a successful strategy for your business:

1. Let go of the agency allure

The sad truth about PR is that existing process are broken. They’re outdated, costly, and inefficient.

  1. Many agencies are still buying very expensive ‘media lists’ and blasting our press releases and pitches to hundreds of journalists at a time.
  2. It’s hard for the PR industry to track and measure the value of what they do.
  3. Press release blasts entirely miss the mark on target audiences.

To succeed with PR, you need to focus less on the appeal of an agency and focus more heavily to focus on results. Prioritize what you want to achieve, not outdated ‘best practices.’ If you want to get in front of journalists, for instance, you are likely better off forming 1:1 relationships than bombarding them with irrelevant pitches.

2. Know When to Use a Press Release

A press release is worthwhile if your announcement is over-the-top catchy and newsworthy. But here’s the thing — most press releases read like giant sales pitches. If you think that journalists and publishers are going to be attracted to lukewarm content, guess again. They’re not. They don’t care. Their email inboxes fill up with 100s of spam messages again.

We hate to say it but marketers — get your head out of the clouds. The world does not revolve around your business, and journalists could care less about what you have to say.

If your goal is to get targeted placements for your brand, you will be better off cultivating a unique and thoughtful pitch in your area of specialty. A press release won’t cut it. Position your organization as a valuable, reliable, and trustworthy source of information instead.

3. Focus on Building Relationships and Making Connections

The problem with PR is ‘spray and prey’ or ‘broadcast’ mentality. If you shout at journalists with a megaphone, they’re not going to listen.

Above all, journalists care about compelling stories. They want to hear about your founders’ emotional journeys. They want to know what problem your company is solving and what motivates your team to wake up and come to work in the mornings.

Treat journalists like trusted business partners, not eyeballs. Develop a conversation. Let them ask questions.

Strategic Planning Wins the Race

Every so often, you’ll come across startups that generate insane amounts of traction on almost zero budget. You might think that it’s the outcome of luck — most likely, that isn’t the case. The more likely scenario is careful, strategic planning. WIth online media, Hollywood success stories are few and far between. Behind the scenes, marketers are hard at work — building key relationships with key stakeholders.

Karen X Cheng founded Dance in a Year, a platform that helps users learn anything in a year.

Dance in a Year

Karen learned to dance in a year and videotaped her entire journey. The outcome was an amazing video that went viral on YouTube. In just a few short months, her video has amassed millions of views. She makes the experience of learning to dance look seamlessly easy. She makes the process of making a viral video look pretty darn easy too.

That’s how you know that she put some real muscle behind the process.

Dance in a Year YouTube

  1. First, she posted her video to Facebook and Twitter, as well as social news sites like Reddit and Hacker News. She asked her friends to share the it and tweeted it to established bloggers. She also reached to bloggers who had previously written about viral dance video. Of the channels she pursued, Reddit was the top performer. The video gained attention and made its way to the top of the GetMotivated subreddit page. After day 1, she received 80K views.
  2. Day 2 was discovery day. The bloggers who had seen her video previously began telling her story on sites like Mashable, Jezebel, and the Huffington Post. These blogs were significant traffic drivers to Karen’s video. This coverage amplified her web traffic numbers to 800K views.
  3. The video’s popularity pushed Karen to the YouTube homepage. That chain of events helped take Karen to 1.8 million pageviews on the third day.

Karen also leveraged her video to connect with potential sponsors and stakeholders in her project. These included companies like Lululemon and American Apparel – two organizations that she was happy to support. Some of these companies supported Karen and shared her video on their social networks too.

She also released her video on Tuesday, guessing that on Monday, people are most likely to be catching up on emails from the weekend.

Use Public Relations Tools

The problem with PR is that the supply/demand ratio is completely imbalanced. PR seekers are constantly spamming writers, journalists, and bloggers for attention.

A service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO) can help to alleviate some of this crunch. Using this service, journalists can find sources to interview for upcoming stories. People seeking PR can monitor journalist queries and join the conversation where they’re qualified to contribute.

You can sign up for a simple e-mail digest that looks like this:

HARO Email Digest

Here is what it’s like using HARO as a journalist:

For some queries, they’ll receive 50+ responses and most of the pitches I get are totally irrelevant. They make the journalist jump through hoops to get the information they need.

The thing to know about journalists is that they’re incredibly strapped for time and working under short deadlines.

From a journalist’s perspective, here are some tips for making your HARO query stand out:

  • Answer the question specified in your pitch. Don’t assume the journalist can hop on a call. Tell they the story you want told upfront — offer to schedule a phone conversation as a follow-up. Send ready-to-quote material instead.
  • Don’t send a generic pitch. Send a unique, compelling story. Share something that stands out from a typical PR blast.

  • Stop bombarding the writer. Journalists work on a deadline but do not necessarily know when their work will be published. Don’t bombard journalists with follow-up questions. Don’t harass them on LinkedIn, and don’t aggressively talk them via multiple email addresses. If you don’t hear a response, move on to the next story. Don’t be offended. HARO writers receive a ton of emails, and it’s impossible to respond to each and every one.
  • Write a really compelling email headline. Instead of just replying to the query, take the time to craft a unique headline that summarizes your story’s value proposition. Remember that there is a human being on the other end of the computer screen. Make it really, really easy to deliver your message, and the reporter will be more likely to open your email message.
  • Set-up Google Alerts. Make sure that you have Google Alerts set-up for the keywords you’re monitoring about your brand. Especially with HARO, you may not know when a writer will feature your story. Don’t bombard the writer with questions. Run Google Alerts to help you keep your eyes peeled.

Use Tools To Save Time

Save yourself the time and hassle of combing through spreadsheets and sending hundreds of emails. Use tools that have been developed to solve your exact pain point — scale with limited resources.

One example resource is BuzzStream — a CRM (customer relationship management) platform that helps PR professionals build relationships, monitor conversations, and maintain historical records of conversations with PR and media platforms.

Features include:

  • Automated tools for researching link-building prospects
  • Resources for identifying campaign opportunities
  • Team-based tools for building and managing relationships with influencers
  • The ability to prioritize a human, relationship-based touch

BuzzStream lets you automate mundane tasks like saving information about key contacts and partners. Teams can also collaborate on initiatives and delegate outreach tasks.

Collaborate With Other Business to Boost Your PR

Content marketing means that brands are becoming publishers and building their own audience bases. Companies, like you, are looking to connect with key audiences through PR and distribution.

Team up with fellow-business blogs who are looking to reach the same audiences as your organization. There are two ways to get going — guest post on industry blogs, or invite others to create content for your blog.

Grasshopper, a virtual phone system for entrepreneurs, uses its blog as a platform for giving props to their best customers. The company has a “submit your story” program and will write about their customers who have something awesome to share. For Grasshopper, PR is an invaluable way to say “thanks” to their trusted business partners.

Grasshopper PR Story Form

Give Samples of Your Product or Service

One way to get press coverage is to give away trials or samples of your product or service. Reach out to prominent journalists and bloggers, and ask if they would be open to doing a product review. Give them a free trial or sample to try.

Engadget Phone Reviews

Always Say Thank You

When a journalist, blogger, or fellow business writes about you or your company — reach out and say thank you. Offer yourself as a resource for future stories. Position your organization as a company that wants to return the favor and help.

PR is, first and foremost, about building relationships. To the best extent that you can, maintain a personal touch. Take journalists out to dinner as a ‘thank you’ (not a bribe) for writing about you.

Show that you are grateful, and you’ll stand apart from the crowd of people who aren’t. Add value to your industry — don’t extract it. Pay it forward whenever you can. Connection karma, and you never know when something small will materialize into something much, much bigger.

Key Takeaways

  • PR is an inefficient and frustrating rat race. Cut through the noise by zeroing in on the results you want to achieve.
  • Treat PR like business development. Build key relationships with journalists.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist. Craft meaningful, compelling pitches. Don’t ‘spray and pray’ a salesy advertising message.
  • Personalize pitches to the journalists’ needs and interest.
  • Develop a powerful brand story to share.
  • Give more than you get. Say thanks. Offer to add as much value as you possibly can.

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