Key Elements To Write An Effective Press Release

Usually, when we hear about press releases, our mind goes immediately to a large company that is making an official announcement. Large players disclosing important information regarding their business practices:  mergers, the appointment of a new CEO, etc. That’s what we think about when we hear about a press release.

Due to that first association, an entrepreneur might think that a small startup has no need for such documents. Your public relations handle is fairly manageable through social media and there’s no need for fancy guidelines. While some of those arguments might be true, press releases are necessary even if you are taking a DIY approach to your business’ public relations.

Press releases, if done properly, are powerful displays of corporate image. This is something you should do especially if your startup is fairly new. Setting the right tone for your marketing strategy and your public relations could get you great media and public recognition. So, without further ado, we’ve compiled a brief list of key elements that will help you write an effective press release:

1) Make A Plan

Before you start writing, make a brief list of the message you want to broadcast. A press release is not a friendly post on a billboard, but an informative text aimed to made public a piece of information regarding your business. It should be as precise and clear as possible.

You should also set a guideline for your startup: under what circumstances should press releases be published? Every time you expand? At the end of every fiscal quarter? This is important because

2) Use Them Properly

A press release cannot substitute a marketing campaign. That’s not their goal. Marketing aims to sell a product. Public relations are more related to the way you communicate with the media and your target audiences. Even if you put together a press release to inform the public about the creation of a new product, the content should be written in a way that it just provides information about it, without making a sales pitch.

3) Make Them Relevant

The information released should be interesting to your audience’s interest and presented in a way that will be appealing to them. 

What Can Media Coverage Do For Your Brand?

PR coverage in the media can do wonders for your business. Getting it takes a lot of time and effort, though, which is why so many small businesses don’t put in the effort to obtain it. It’s well worth investing in legitimate PR coverage for your organization, however.

So, what can legit PR coverage really accomplish for your organization?

More Visibility than Ever Before

Getting mentioned in media outlets and well-known podcasts will give you more brand reach and more visibility across the Internet. The key is to get the right visibility. So many brands are laser-focused on getting as much visibility as possible. But if those people aren’t interested in the brand there’s little chance of increasing sales and generating more revenue.

Visibility is pointless if it doesn’t translate to anything in the long-term. Focus on targeted visibility if you want to make the most of getting the extra PR.

Improve Your Credibility

Brand reputation is more important than ever before. Companies are made based on it. That’s why legitimate PR is so important. The moment you get your brand mentioned within major publications like Business Insider and the Huffington Post you’re bringing a new level of credibility to your organization.

That credibility can be leveraged to help improve consumer trust. It will make it easier to sell your products because you’ll have an edge on your competitors.

Huge Growth in Your Business

Legitimate PR is also ideal for the development of your business. Through more exposure, you’ll see an increase in the number of clients. You’ll also see an increasing number of clients because you have more credibility. People will assume that because a major media outlet is mentioning you that you must be authentic.

You’re also putting yourself a step above the rest of your competitors because you have the coverage that they don’t. In both the short-term and the long-term you’ll witness a far greater increase in profits.

But You Need to Use the Momentum…

It’s important to remember that getting featured on a website like Forbes isn’t the end of the line. This is only the beginning of the momentum. Once you have the momentum rolling you need to take advantage of that momentum to keep increasing your visibility and to keep improving your credibility.

You should also remember that your competitors will be doing the same thing. So, if you start easing up on the PR your competitors are going to steadily overtake you.

And What’s the Best Way to Get Legitimate PR?

Your content needs to fit with the tone and direction of the website. Most major publications accept submissions from non-regular writers. Read their instructions and investigate the direction of their website. Make sure your content matches the current trends and you’ll have a higher chance of getting the results you want.

But ultimately this is all about persistence. If you fail to be persistent then you’re giving yourself a smaller chance of success. How are you going to increase your chances of getting legitimate PR?

How To Get On Podcasts As A Guest

As one of the newer players on the media spectrum that has become a heavy hitter, podcasts can really deliver when it comes to publicity for a brand. Not surprisingly, we have had a sharp increase in clients coming to us in the last couple of years to learn about how to get on podcasts as a guest. For those who are looking for a glimpse at how the process works for securing guest spots on a podcast, we’ve broken down the key components here. But first, we’ll look at why a brand should be looking at how to get on podcasts in the first place.

WHY PODCASTS?

For the majority of the last decade, podcasts were mostly written off, especially by larger brands, as a media platform that was still too infantile to warrant investing meaningful time and money into. Previously that could have been understandable given that a study in 2008 found that less than 10% of Americans had listened to a podcast in the past month. But for those who had the foresight to invest for the long term, building a platform back then has seriously paid off today. In 2020, a study found that nearly 40% of Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month and a whopping 24% listen to a podcast every week. In just a few short years, half of all US households are podcast fans, according to Nielsen.

Not surprisingly, the amount of podcast content being created has seen a corresponding surge, with data estimating that there are now 1,000,000 podcasts and more than 30,000,000 episodes. Naturally brands have taken notice of podcasts as an important platform where many of their target customers are spending time.

PODCASTS PROVIDE HIGH QUALITY EXPOSURE

So, besides the sheer growth of podcast audiences, what specific factors make it ripe for brands to increase their exposure and sales? Here are a few reasons to think about:

Podcasts have a more affluent audience than other media platforms. A study found that 45% of monthly podcast listeners earn more than $75,000 per year.

Listeners invest more time into consuming content: Podcasts tend to be longer form media than other platforms like social media or YouTube videos. Podcast episodes often run 30-60 minutes or longer. As a result, 82% of podcast listeners spend more than seven hours per week listening to podcasts. That a very captive audience in an era where it’s increasingly difficult to capture attention in a social media feed.

One of the benefits of the podcast format for brands is it’s longer form and allows for better storytelling. Rather than having to reduce a message down to a simple social media post or two minute video, you have a lot more storytelling capacity when you’re being interviewed on a 30 minute show.

Podcasts have highly targeted audiences. With more than 1,000,000 podcasts on the internet specializing in almost any genre and niche you can think of, it’s very easy to target your message to a specific audience.

Podcasts remain online forever, unlike fleeting television spots.

Podcasts can also provide backlinks to your website in the show notes on distribution platforms like LibSyn and Stitcher as well as the show’s own website, which provides SEO value for your brand.

HOW TO GET ON PODCASTS
Research Podcasts

The first step in any podcast outreach campaign, similar to a traditional media campaign, is identifying a list of target podcasts that you would like to guest on. Because there is such a vast number of podcasts on the internet, it requires some research to identify the ones most suited to your brand or niche. Fortunately, there are a couple of great platforms for doing your research such as iTunes, LibSyn and Stitcher. Most podcasts podcasts are broadcast on at least one of those three, if not all. Search for keywords related to your niche to find the podcasts that are most relevant.

Keep in mind that depending on your niche, there could be hundreds or even thousands of podcasts. This doesn’t mean you need to reach out to all of them (although you certainly could if you have the time and/or team). Do some additional digging on each individual show to get a feel for the exact context of the show and some of their past guests to see if you fit into their programming.

Build a Contact List

Once you have established a list of your target podcasts, whether it’s 20 shows or 200 shows, it’s now time to create a contact list for reaching out to them. This is where the work can sometimes get time consuming. There are a number of tools out there that can help you with locating contact information for a show host or producer, but oftentimes it requires using a few tools to get the information you need. Here’s how we suggest going about it:

  • Identify the host. The host of a show is the easiest and most public information to find.
  • Determine whether there could be a show producer. Bigger podcasts don’t rely on the host for the majority of the production and booking work. They often employ a producer (or multiple producers) who actually plan the programming. If you’re reaching out to a very large podcast with a high profile host, you’ll often get better results if you can identify a producer to contact instead. If a producer isn’t listed on the podcast’s website, try searching on LinkedIn.
  • Once you have decided who your main contact will be, use a tool like LinkedIn, Twitter, Cision, MuckRack or RocketReach to locate their email address.

Repeat this process for all of the podcasts on your target list.

Develop Your Story

The key to how to get on podcasts is to have a great story. A great story is never your product’s sales pitch. A great story needs to either inspire, entertain or educate your audience (or all three). After serving hundreds of clients over more than a decade, we’ve learned that every company has a powerful story they can tell. Here are a few possible themes:

  • Helping your listeners solve a specific problem. Take the biggest problem your product or service solves for your customers and turn it into a story with insight and advice you can give to help listeners who may be experiencing that same challenge. How-to pieces can be very compelling for podcasts.
  • The story of how your brand was founded– obstacles your founder overcame to success and how their unique background led them to build your company.
  • The story of the people within your organization. Many companies have a great culture story or something unconventional about their team which may be inspiring or educational.
  • A story about your impact in your community or a cause you are involved in supporting. Be specific about a contribution you made and the effect it had, especially the human aspect of it.
  • A client success story. If you’ve had outsized success with a client, the case study can often be turned into a compelling story with takeaway lessons for listeners.

Create a Pitch

Once you’ve decided on a story that will be a compelling fit for the podcasts you are targeting, it’s time to draft an email pitch that you’ll send to your contact list. Your pitch should briefly encompass the heart of your story and a call to action to get the host or producer interested in hearing more and having you on the show. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your pitch short. If it’s a page long, it’s unlikely anyone will read it. Less is always more. Aim for one paragraph, maybe two at most.
  • A short subject line is always better.
  • Include some credibility about your brand. You enhance the strength of your pitch by including a brief sentence or two giving some key highlights about why your brand is an authority. If you have had any press mentions, industry awards or hit major growth milestones (a notable amount of revenue, venture capital raised, partnerships secured, etc) this is where to mention it.
  • Include a call to action at the end of your pitch asking the host if they would be interested in connecting for more information about your story.
  • Avoid attachments (producers hate opening them), all caps text, and bold and italic writing.
  • Important: Make sure your pitch contains no spelling or grammatical errors.

Do Outreach

Now that you have a pitch, it’s time to send it. The most important thing to keep in mind is that podcast outreach is an ongoing process that requires consistency and persistence. You may not always secure a guest spot after the first round of emails. So instead what you should focus on is gradually cultivating relationships with hosts and producers over time. Even if they don’t have room on their programming schedule to book you now, you’ll remain top of mind for them to circle back with you later.

Once a pitch is sent to a producer, follow-up is key. Following up once on a pitch two or three days after sending it is a great way to increase the likelihood of a response. If your follow-up does not receive a response, give the contact a break for a few weeks before pitching them again (perhaps with a new story). It is a good idea to keep in touch with your contacts at least once per month in order to remain top of mind.

That’s it! While there are aspects of this process that may need to be tweaked for your specific brand or industry, this is a proven framework that we have used with our own clients to place them as guests on hundreds of podcasts. The key to success is persistence and being consistent in your outreach while still ensuring that you are pitching high quality stories that provide value to an audience. If you continue to refine your outreach over time, the results will follow.

If you are interested in talking to our own team about doing your podcast outreach for us, feel free to drop us a note here.

Where Do Entrepreneurship And Leadership Meet?

It’s a common mistake to think that you have to be born with a certain number of personality traits in order to be successful. And while yes, having an innate inclination for organization or business is incredibly helpful, most of those skills can be developed later in life. You can learn them in college, by observation or with a little bit of discipline. But could the qualities that make you a good entrepreneur also make you a good leader?

Many people have posed that very same question. And while many people who venture into business on their own certainly possess certain qualities that could allow them lead a whole industry sector, not every one of them is a natural-born leader. Are leadership and entrepreneurship all that different?

They aren’t. In fact, they share a couple of traits in common:

FOCUS

Leaders see a goal and are able to motivate a group of people to work together in order to achieve it. Entrepreneurs went through a long process before they launched their business. They were able to identify that one niche where their venture could be successful. Both are examples of how the same quality is applied in scenarios that could be combined: that same entrepreneur could use that focus to guide their collaborators to any goal they pursue.

INSPIRATION

Launching a business can be emotionally exhausting. Setbacks, deadlines, you name it: the mere idea of failure can bring anyone down. However, those who persevered and were able to finally open for business were driven by their own long-term goals. They were able to inspire themselves even after the gloomiest of days. If someone is able to inspire themselves, they could easily translate that ability and inspire others, which is basically what leaders do.

FLEXIBILITY

Any startup demands a certain level of flexibility. While you may have very clear goals and ideas for your business, chances are that they may not be your best option once you are faced with the reality of the market. Some of your original thoughts might not even be practical. And while some may need to be abandoned altogether, most will need to be adapted. Ideas need to evolve and you, as the captain of the ship, will need to oversee the process.

Leaders need to adapt not only to those changing tides of the market, but also to the personalities and abilities of those in their team. Working with others requires the same level of openness to discussion and ability to adapt that any business owners use every day.

Understanding The Decision Making Process

As an entrepreneur launching a brand new business, you are in charge of most, if not all, of the crucial decisions involved in the process. All of them affect your business in one way or another; you are required to be permanently on your toes so you can make sure that the decisions you make are the best. That is exhausting.

Dr. Roy Baumeister, a scholar of the Social Psychology Faculty at Princeton University, has studied decision making processes for a number of years. In 2011, along with a team of researchers, he identified a phenomenon on those who have to make crucial decisions for extended periods: Decision fatigue. Dr. Baumeister defined it as depletion of the brain’s mental stamina due to making too many decisions. When this happens, we end up making poor choices or rash decisions, or we forgo deciding at all.

An entrepreneur with decision fatigue could negatively impact their own business. While making decisions is an unavoidable task for those who have decided to venture business on their own, understanding how decision making works could help you identify the steps you find most difficult and work on them:

1) IDENTIFY THE DECISION TO BE MADE

Since an entrepreneur wears many hats at the same time, usually decisions are made in a rush and with very little thought. Sometimes you might even choose something just because you had a hunch. Taking the time to identify exactly what’s being asked of you will also mean you’ll pay closer attention to the implications of your decision.

2) GATHER INFORMATION

Say you opened a coffee shop and need to get a website set up. You know nothing about web design. How can you pick a web hosting service, a web designer, a platform? You gather as much information as you can, but you still can’t make up your mind. What do you do next?

3) EVALUATE YOUR ALTERNATIVES

“Small business owners must lay out all the decisions they need to make on a consistent basis in the marketing, finance, operations and personnel areas and be honest with themselves about where their expertise lies,” says Nihar Chhaya, a strategy advisor. “Then they need to delegate those decisions to people that have both the skill and the motivation to make the best choices in those areas.” How do you do that if you ventured into business by yourself? Ask former classmates, acquaintances, former coworkers or friends. Even if they don’t know enough to help you, they will very likely refer you to someone who does.

If you’re evaluating alternatives by yourself, it’s really helpful to make a pro/con list of each one of your options. This way you’ll be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each alternative.

4) TAKE ACTION

Once you’ve weighed in your choices in an informed way, it’s time to pick one. As an entrepreneur, you might have very limited resources, funds and staff, so try to make sure that the choice you make makes sense both in the right here, right now and in the future. Work with what you have, not with what you expect to get. And then go for it.

5) FOLLOW UP

Many people feel relieved once they’ve reached an important decision and naively think that’s over, but following up is just as important as having made that choice. Once your plan is in action, take the time to evaluate if your decision was indeed the most efficient one, if there were additional factors to consider and, if everything turned out the way you expected, see if you could use that same decision making process in the future.

Networking Tips That Can Improve Your Media Relations Efforts

When it comes to finding success with media relations, one of the best things that you can do is to have a strong network of contacts to rely on whenever you have a pitch or a story you need to get out in the public. Your contact list is one of the most important tools that you can use to reach out to the public and to the media. How do you build a strong contact list? Networking.

Networking is one of the most important things you can do to build your brand and your business and it can also come in handy when it comes to media relations as well. Here are a few “must-try” networking tips that can help you meet new people in the media and create strong media contacts that you can use later on with your PR efforts.

A Strong Network Connection Is About Give And Take

When you go into the networking process and are looking to make a connection, remember that your goal shouldn’t just be to help yourself but to help the other party as well. You need to be able to bring value to a reporter, in order for them to give you coverage. Don’t just focus on your needs when you make connections.

It’s Not About The Most Connections, But The Right Connections

Networking isn’t just about shaking the hands of the most people possible, it is about shaking the hands of the right people. You shouldn’t focus on just getting the most business cards possible at a single networking event, you should focus on finding the right people and forging actual relationships with them when you do meet them. Saying two words to five random people isn’t as effective as shaking the hands of and really having an in-depth conversation with one great media contact.

Have Realistic Expectations

There are some people that attend networking events and go into the process having some pretty serious expectations. Don’t expect that just because you talked to a journalist that they are going to go out on a limb for you and accept all of your pitches. You shouldn’t expect anything from the contacts you meet, you should know that you are slowly building a relationship.

Don’t Start By Asking For Help

When meeting a new connection, start off by flattering the person you meet. Praise the individual and their work and try to use specific examples when you can. Don’t start off by asking for help, it can really turn another person off. You want them to feel like you are actually interested in meeting them and interested in what they have to say, not just getting a handout.

Always Try To Offer Value

When meeting people at networking events, you can’t just expect that your charm and good conversation will be enough to entice a journalist to want to cover your company. You need to always remember, when you are meeting people and when you are following up with them, that you need to provide them with as much value as possible. Be a resource to the journalist you meet. Answer their questions and try to solve their problems when you can. The more value you offer the better.

If you keep these things in mind when your network and remember that you should never take “no” personally and always keep working on expanding your contact list, you can start creating connections in the market that can really help you build your media contact list.

How To Bring A Little Seo To Your Press Release

The right news release can go a long way in promoting any company and any story. One of the great things about press releases today is that even if they don’t get picked up by a specific reporter, they are great promotional tools that can really boost your business’s online reputation.

This is why it is so important to not only make news releases clear, concise, and professional-looking, but to add a little SEO to these releases as well. Optimizing your news release for search engines is a surefire way to help build a strong online marketing campaign.

However, creating optimized news releases is about more than just adding the right keywords. There is an art to ensuring the release still seems natural and ensuring that your document isn’t flagged by search engines. Here are a few of the best ways to make sure your release is well optimized and still professional enough for you to get the media coverage you have been looked for.

Don’t Forget About Quotes

Before you ever start writing your news release, you need to make sure that you have the right quotes. This can go a long way in helping your piece get attention and it is great for search engine results as well. A quote should have the following key features:

  • It should be less than 100 characters
  • It should be brief and to the point
  • It should be newsworthy or tweetable
  • It should add perspective
  • It should include the keyword

If your quote has all of these features then it is truly adding the type of value you are looking for to your press release.

Keep Your Headlines Short

Headlines are a great tool for helping your news release get attention. However, this doesn’t mean that you should try to make headlines really long, or stuffed with keywords. Only the first 50-60 characters of a headline are going to appear in search engine results, so they need to be short and sweet. The headline needs to get to the point of the article, entice the reader to give the release a second look and it should include the keyword, if possible. The headline is the hook to get the reader’s attention, and this should be the ultimate goal when you write an engaging headline.

Put More Value In Your Sub-title

The subtitle is a really important area of your release, yet it is one that is overlooked. You can keep your headline shorter by paying more attention to adding information with your sub-title. Let the subtitle expand upon your brief headline by keeping it descriptive yet different from your headline.

Keep It Easy To Read

Just because you are creating a news release, it doesn’t mean that your content shouldn’t have the same rules as any other type of online content. This means that your release should be broken up into small, digestible, and easy-to-read paragraphs.

Keep paragraphs just a few paragraphs long. Use lists when you can and use sub-headers throughout to make sure that your content is easy to skim. After all, readers want to be able to browse through the content easily to grab the information they need. The quicker they can read the content, the better, especially with a news release.

Easy SEO tips such as this can actually go a long way in helping any news release get the attention of editors, journalists, and search engines alike.

Four Tips To Build A Brand For Your Start-up

In the past we have provided some PR tips for those first-time entrepreneurs who have just launched their start up. On that post we discussed the importance of making sure that your branding, public relations and marketing efforts are coordinated and get off with a great start. While we have already covered the PR section, here are some tips that can help you build a strong brand for your start up:

1) HAVE A CLEAR IDEA OF WHAT BRANDING IS AND WHAT IT DOES

When it comes to creating a brand, you are defining the identity of your start up both for yourself and those you work with and an external audience composed by potential collaborators, clients, providers and competitors. This goes beyond picking up colors and coming up with a nice logo. It requires you and your team reach an agreement on what is the core of your business and which values represent it. This will work as a stepping stone for your business strategies, marketing and PR.

2) COME UP WITH A (DISTINCTIVE) VOICE

There may be many entrepreneurs launching their business as you are. You might be targeting the same market and even offering the same services. What makes yours different? Having already defined a strong identity, it should be easier to come up with a way to present your business in a distinctive way. Ideally, this will imply that your business has a unique way to do things, but it can also have other aesthetic traits, such as using a particular font type or addressing your audience in a certain way.

3) DON’T BE A COPYCAT

Many startups try to adjust their branding practices from those used by larger corporations. Not only might this bring you legal issues, but it really does not work. A new business is trying to break the ice and needs to be established as having that something different that makes it stand out. What’s unique about your coffee shop in a city filled with them? Make it known! Coming up with a strategy of your own might mean a lot of work and long hours, but the results will be true to your business and your goal.

4) HIRE AN EXPERT

Being an entrepreneur usually means you handle a great deal of tasks by yourself. You are building a creation from scratch, a business nothing but with your own ideas, goals and values. And while having that much responsibility can be thrilling, there are things you might not know how to do properly, especially if they have no relation to your field of expertise. If possible, getting an expert or a firm to manage branding, marketing and PR for your business is a clever choice, even more so when you do it at the early stages of your start-up so they can help establish your business identity in a successful way.

Media Relations: 5 Tips To Help Reach The Right People

When it comes to mastering the art of media relations, there is nothing as important as being able to reach the right people. No matter what your message is, if you aren’t able to get that message to the right individuals, it won’t matter. With this in mind, here are five easy things that you can do to make sure that all of your media messages are always reaching the right audience.

Know Your Target Audience

Before you worry about getting your article in the hands of the right reporters and media pros, you need to make sure that you are clear on your message and who that message is reaching. One of the most important and most basic components of marketing is knowing who your target audience is and what they are looking for. Don’t forget to start with this. If you don’t know who you are speaking to and who you are relating to, your message will never find success.

Reach Out To The Right People

Make a comprehensive list of the right reporters that actually report on stories related to your industry or the message you are looking to deliver. You can find contact information online, or you can try to reach out on social media. Start following the right reporters on Twitter and Facebook, comment on their posts, and start developing a relationship with them. It can go a long way in helping foster an important relationship with these media contacts.

Know Your Reporters Writing Style And What They Like To Write About

Before you reach out to reporters, make sure you know what they like to write about and what their writing style is, including what they like to write about. You need to know if that writer enjoys writing about and what their style is. If what you are pitching doesn’t fit with their normal topic or writing style, then you won’t have a very good chance of getting them to respond to your message.

Research Past Stories

Do your research before you formulate your pitch and reach out to different writers. Look at similar past stories. What types of stories are getting picked up? What types of messages or angles are writers looking for? The more you know about the type of stories that are getting media traction the better off you will be. Use this research to not only find the right journalist to cover your story but to pick a specific angle that will actually appeal to that reporter.

Customize Your Pitch

When you are finally ready to send out a pitch, make sure you customize that pitch and that message specifically to the reporter you are trying to reach. Write your pitch directly to that individual and customize the message. Make it personal, write it directly to that person and make sure that you make it clear that you know their work and know their unique style.

Keep these five tips in mind as you start to enhance your media efforts. They may be just what you need in order to make certain you are reaching the right audience.

The Ultimate Public Relations Strategy Guide

Growing Your Business With A Public Relations Strategy

A successful public relations strategy has long been a go-to growth hack for marketers. This is simply because a public relations strategy executed well generates leverage. It allows you to reach a significantly large audience across many different platforms for a fraction of what it would cost to buy equivalent advertising space. Whether you execute a public relations strategy in-house or you decide to hire an agency, the cost will still be far less than the cost of buying traditional advertising in a high profile national news outlet.

The attention generated by a public relations strategy is also more impactful than the same amount of views generated through paid advertising. The reason for this is because organic press coverage typically carries more weight than its readers than paid advertisements in the same publication. In other words, being covered in the news lends a degree of credibility and trust for your brand that paid advertising cannot create.

Lastly, a successful public relations strategy is a growth channel that continues to pay dividends in perpetuity. While a paid advertisement will yield attention and web traffic during the period that you paid for it to run, news coverage remains on the internet forever. It also tends to rank well on search engines. So the coverage you receive in a news outlet will continue to send you new traffic and attention for a long time after its initial publication. This is a big factor to consider when exploring a public relations strategy for your brand. While a short-term jump in business is always great, creating channels that will drive long-term sustainable results and also complement your other areas of digital marketing such as due to the backlinks generated by media coverage is a very important factor for sustainable growth in a business.

So, Do I Need A Public Relations Strategy?

If you are a small to mid-sized company, you likely often debate with your team what PR efforts you should be undertaking, if any, and how much of your marketing budget you would be justified in spending on those efforts. You wouldn’t be alone in this dilemma as many other entrepreneurs struggle with the same question. There are many reasons that make public relations seem more intimidating than other marketing channels such as paid advertising, direct response and even social media. But the truth is, this is also the very same reason why public relations is becoming more important for businesses than ever before. I’ll explain why.

The past five years have seen an explosion in business spending in many areas of digital marketing such as social media advertising, pay-per-click advertising and even native content. Consequently, consumers are also being bombarded with more paid advertising than ever before. While paid advertising is, of course, an effective marketing channel, this advertising overwhelm for consumers has also had some side-effects. Chiefly, many consumers are gradually becoming numb to a majority of the ads they see each day and for some, (especially millennials and Gen Z) they are beginning to view paid advertising as less genuine.

As a result of all of these factors, what is becoming more clear than ever is that consumers (as well as B2B buyers) are increasingly looking for third-party information sources (blogs, news articles, review sites) to inform their purchasing decisions, even if it is after they have already learned about a product through a paid advertisement.

Consider these statistics:

  • 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information from articles versus advertisements. (Content Marketing Institute)

  • 70% of consumers prefer to get to know a company through articles versus advertisements. (Content Marketing Institute)

  • Leads from articles have a 14.6% close rate versus outbound leads which have a 1.7% close rate. (imFORZA)

What does this tell us? It simply means that buyers (personal and business) want to collect information from a variety of sources when doing due diligence on your product. If the only information that they find during an online search is paid advertising and your own company blog, this gives your product less credibility than your other competitors who perhaps might have product reviews on industry blogs or even features in major news outlets. If you’re going to compete and succeed in today’s ad-saturated environment, you need the credibility of trustworthy third-party sources talking about your brand.

This is what a well-executed public relations campaign for the purpose media coverage can do: get media, relevant bloggers, and social media influencers talking about your products so that you reach new audiences and establish credibility with prospects. In the rest of this post, we will look at how to create a public relations strategy that achieves that.

What is a Good Public Relations Strategy?

We have just discussed what the outcome of a public relations campaign should be in its simplest form: generating positive media coverage that drives awareness and sales for your brand or product. So now we will look at what a good public relations strategy for achieving that goal would look like.

At its very core, a good public relations strategy focuses on two elements. The first is telling a compelling story. The second is cultivating relationships that spread that story. Without both of these, you do not have an effective media strategy. This post is dedicated to helping you develop both of those within the framework of a goal-focused strategy and then implementing it. But first, we should also look at what a bad public relations strategy (as it pertains to media relations) would look like.

What is a Bad Public Relations Strategy?

Conversely, bad public relations, as you might guess, focuses on securing immediate results at the cost of the quality of your story (and sometimes even the truth) and at the cost of the relationships with media. Promoting stories about your brand or product that are overly-promotional or spammy and provide no value to readers and then using pressure tactics and mass-emails (known in the industry as “spray and pray”) will burn and future relationships you could be cultivating with the media and could even lead to some very unwelcome negative publicity. Avoid short-term-focused tactics such as these and focus on building a story and relationships that will create long-term success for your brand and pay dividends for a long time.

The Three Primary Tools of Media Relations:

Media Pitch – The media pitch is the tool that you will be using the majority of the time in a typical public relations campaign. Simply put, a pitch is a brief email generally sent to reporters, editors or producers telling them about your story or announcement and asking whether they would like to interview you. Since this guide focuses on the media relations aspect of a public relations strategy, we will be going into more depth later in this guide about exactly how to write a successful media pitch.

Press Release – A press release can be considered a longer-form version of a media pitch. It is typically a 1-2 page document giving an in-depth summary of your news story as well as background information about the subject organization or person. The most common use for press releases in the PR industry today is for publication on a company’s website or a newswire for the purpose of creating a resource should reporters, investors or other parties wish to refer to it. Press releases are less and less commonly used for the purpose of directly securing media coverage simply because reporters now receive so many of them each day, they are inundated! Most reporters now prefer a shorter-form media pitch that gets straight to the point and allowing them to follow up quickly if they would like more information. Media pitches are also much more personalized than press releases and thus increase your likelihood of building rapport with a member of the media. Here is a more in-depth guide on writing a press release, if you are interested.

Media Advisory – The third major tool is called a media advisory. Media advisories are very short announcements sent to reporters (typically via email) to announce an event. Most commonly media advisories are used to announce and invite reporters to a press conference or briefing.

Formulating Your Public Relations Strategy

As with any marketing initiative, the first step to a successful public relations strategy is planning and putting that plan on paper for clarity, team buy-in, and to track your progress. A basic public relations strategy has the following sections:

Goal:

Every plan needs to have a goal such that everybody knows what success looks like for this initiative. Goals should be clear, measurable, and of course, meaningful. In the public relations realm, many companies set a goal such as being featured on a particular media outlet. But in reality, media coverage should not be the ultimate end-goal; it should be a strategy that achieves some more meaningful for your company, such as growing revenue, increasing brand awareness (which can be measured through metrics such as share of voice) or increasing traffic to your website.

Your goal should be measurable. Do not set a goal as vague as “increase sales”. A more measurable and clear goal would be “increase sales by 10% by the end of the current fiscal year”. This gives you a very clear target that anybody can review to see if success was reached.

Strategy:

Now that we have set a goal, we need a strategy for how we are going to get there. The strategy is oftentimes an overview of the marketing channels you are going to use to reach your goal, how you will use them and what the desired outcome will be.

For example, if your goal is to grow traffic to your website by 20% this year, an effective strategy for that could be securing a number of product features and reviews on industry blogs so that you will have a high click-through rate for sending those readers back to your website. Another strategy could be securing a feature story about the founder of your company in a major national newspaper, such as the New York Times.

The key to fleshing out your strategy is to identify these elements:

What is your message?

This is the story you are going to tell the media about your company. Remember, it needs to be compelling and not simply a sales pitch to buy your product. Every company has something unique about it that makes for an interesting story that people will want to read. Perhaps your founder had a fascinating journey to success when starting the company. Perhaps there is something quirky about your company culture. Maybe even you have a unique success story about one of your customers that should be shared (with the customer’s permission, of course!).

Who is your audience?

Your audience is the end-reader you want to tell your story to. For many companies’ public relations plan, their audience is customers and potential customers. However, it can also be groups such as your local community, industry peers, investors, and even government regulators. Identify who your audience is and their demographics.

What are the best media outlets for reaching that audience?

With your audience identified, you will now define which media outlets you should target for potential press coverage in order to reach your audience. The key is to target the media outlets that your audience consumes. For example, if your target audience is c-suite executives, you may target outlets such as Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. If your target audience consists of homeowners who may want to renovate, you might target Better Homes and Garden magazine.

A common question is how many media outlets to target. While this answer varies widely based on the niche you are in (some niches have 10x more media outlets than others), you should strive to identify as many as you can across digital, print, television, radio and even podcast mediums. The more media you can target (that are relevant, of course) the better your chances of securing coverage.

Which reporters at those media outlets are the best to contact (and what is their contact info)?

The next element we look at is the specific writers, reporters, and editors that we need to cultivate a relationship with at each outlet in order to secure coverage. This is a very important part of the process because choosing the wrong media contacts could derail your campaign. Here is how to go about identifying the right contacts:

  • There are tools that help expedite the process. Using a tool such as MuckRack or Cision (later in this post we go over a full menu of tools) will help you quickly pull up a list of all the contacts who work for a particular media outlet and what they each cover along with their contact info. Using one of these tools will certainly save you a lot of time; however, even if you do use them, we still recommend following the next steps listed here.
  • Visit the websites of each media outlet on your target list and find articles related to your industry or niche. Chances are the reporters writing these articles cover topics that are somewhat similar to yours. It’s a good idea to find at least a couple contacts on each site using this method to form a rough list of who covers your topic area.
  • Now it’s time to narrow down your list of reporters at each outlet to the best one or two that you should reach out to. Read extensive amounts of coverage written by each media contact on your list. This is very important because it will teach you a lot about the individual preferences of each reporter and give you an in-depth look at exactly what they like to cover.

Note: many reporters have very specific coverage areas. Just because their title is listed as “Technology Reporter” on their profile page does not mean that they will be interested in your drone startup, for example. A deeper dive into reading their most recent articles may reveal that they generally only cover B2B software. So reaching out to them as your primary contact for that outlet would be a total waste of your time and theirs. This is why this part of the process is so important. Invest the time into making sure that your contacts not only coverage your topic area, but also are interested in your specific niche.

  • The last tactic you can use to add additional reporters to your radar or when having difficulty finding contacts covering a specific topic is to utilize Google News searches. It sounds basic, but it is actually a very effective tool for discovering the most recent reporters covering a very particular topic.

Choose a keyword that would best describe your niche and search for it using Google’s News tab. There is an option to filter the results by time frame. Filtering by past 24 hours, the past week, or past month are usually most effective for finding reporters who may be immediately interested in your story.

For less-covered niches, the past few months is also typically effective for your search. Doing this filters out any very old articles whom the author of which may no longer be covering that space or may not even be working for that news outlet any longer.

Tactics:

The tactics section of your plan is where you are going to outline the nitty-gritty of your PR efforts. You’ll spell out the specific actions you are going to take, step by step when implementing your plan. Ideally, you will also assign a timeline or deadline for each tactic as well in order to create accountability and urgency. Because you want to be as specific as possible in this section when it comes to spelling out specific actions that need to be taken, we typically use bullet points to create chronologically ordered to-do items. If you have multiple team members implementing the plan, it is also wise to list the name of each person that each task is assigned to.

For example:

  • Create an email pitch about our latest product launch. (Date, Assignee)

  • Adapt and send the pitch to each media contact on our target list individually. (Date, Assignee)

  • Follow up on pitches sent. (Date, Assignee)

Create action items for every step you will need to implement for each part of your plan. If your plan consists of media outreach, publishing a press release online and also creating a series of social media posts, document the step-by-step for each of these initiatives.

Target Media Outlets:

We have previously discussed how to research the appropriate media outlets and also the contacts at each of those outlets to whom to send your pitch. Documenting the full list of contacts here below your tactics will allow you to share the list across your team (thus avoiding duplicating pitches) and also to continue adding to the list perhaps as you discover new contacts who are also suitable.

You can download a free PR plan template to see what all of this looks like right here.

Executing Your Public Relations Strategy: The Art Of Pitching

Once your public relations strategy is complete, it is time to execute. The first step of executing is to write the media pitch that you are going to send to reporters. We will go over that here.

How to Write a Pitch

A media pitch sent via email has five major components:

  • Subject Line: Your subject line should be as short as possible and compelling. Ideally it will say something about the root of your news story that will grab the reporter’s attention. For example, if I were a health coach and I were pitching a story about why consuming too much red meat is dangerous, my subject line might say “3 Unexpected Risks of Eating Red Meat 3x This Week”.

  • Greeting: The greeting may sound simple enough that it does not require much explanation, but there are actually certain greetings that convert better than others. We have found that using “Hi (First Name)” converts far better than using simply “Hi,” or other variations such as “Hey” or “Dear”.

  • The Hook: The “hook” is the meat of your media pitch. This should come right after your greeting and should immediately present the main premise of your story in the most compelling way possible.

There is a common expression in the PR industry called “don’t bury the lede”. The “lede” is a journalism term referring to the most important part of the story. A common mistake that people make when pitching a story is starting off their pitch with less important information and taking too long to get to the heart of the story. The key is to create a 2-4 sentence hook that immediately tells the reporter the relevant parts of the who, what, when, where and why of the story. You can save the background information for the follow-up conversation.

  • Bio: In a new paragraph below the hook, we have found it is best to add 2-3 sentences that give credibility to the person or organization that the story is about. In order to successfully secure media coverage, you not only need a good story, but you also need a credible source.

For example, you may be pitching a story about insight on a new industry trend. But if the organization or person that you are presenting as the expert to be interviewed for the story lacks the credibility to speak on that topic, it decreases your chances of the reporter wanting to interview you.

So use this section to give 2-3 sentences (any longer than four sentences will come across as excessive) that powerfully demonstrate why the source is the most credible source to speak on the topic. Any awards, recognitions, or other achievements that the organization has earned are great points to mention here.

  • Call-to-Action (CTA): The final section of your media pitch is where you need to elicit a response from the press. This is called a “call-to-action”. What it should look like is one sentence (the shorter the better) that asks a reporter whether they would like to take action on your story (typically in the form of an interview). Most calls-to-action are some variation of: “Would you be interested in interviewing XYZ about….”

  • Lastly, do not forget to sign your name!

You now have your first media pitch draft ready to send. Keep in mind that pitching the media is never an exact science. While you may think your pitch is persuasive, in reality, it may take several re-writes before you actually start to get responses. So do not be discouraged by an immediate lack of response. With that in mind, we will move to the next step of sending the pitch.

Pitching Etiquette

As a reminder, reporters receive many pitches per day. Many. Many reporters have noted that they receive upwards of 500 or even more than 1,000 pitches per day depending on the outlet they work for. So knowing that, it makes sense to adhere to a couple best practices that give your pitch the best chances of being opened and not ignored. Here are a few:

  • Do NOT mass email. This should be self-explanatory. Reporters hate mass emails. Take the time to send individualized pitches and to alter them up a bit to speak to that specific reporter.

  • Avoid attachments when possible. Reporters do not like opening attachments. If you need to send a document/video/photo, create a link to it.

  • Ensure that there are ZERO spelling and grammar mistakes before sending a pitch.

  • Make sure that your pitch is addressed to the correct reporter and spell their name correctly! You have no idea how often this happens.

  • Do not “bury the lede”. See above on  “How to Write a Pitch” if you need a refresher on this.

  • Space out pitches that are sent to reporters at the same outlets. Do not pitch five reporters at the same outlet all at the same time. If more than one of them decide to bring the story to their editor to get it cleared before responding to you, it is going to make them look bad in front of their boss. This will not help you with building rapport with reporters. Give a reporter a reasonable amount of time (such as a few days) to respond before moving on to another reporter at the same outlet.

  • Pitch consistently. Pitching the media is similar to sales in that you often have to endure a lot of “no’s” before getting to a yes. So do not be discouraged by rejection and do not stop your efforts after just a week or even a month of unsuccessful outreach. Continue to tweak your story ideas and reach out to new reporters.

The Follow-Up

You have written a pitch. You have also sent it to your list of media contacts. What happens next? Well, you may end up hearing back from a reporter who would like to interview you and write a story. Fantastic! However, there is also a very good chance you may not. Which means you will need to plan to follow-up with each of them.

Do not be discouraged by this. In fact, a full 80% of successful media pick-ups actually happen after the follow-up. Which means that making the effort to follow-up on every single pitch that you send is essential and if you do not, you are likely leaving opportunities on the table.

When to follow-up? Typically two days after the initial pitch being sent it the best time to follow up.

How many times to follow-up? In our experience, following up once is usually enough to establish whether a reporter is interested in a story. If they are interested, they will get back to you. If they aren’t, and you continue to follow-up repeatedly, you risk alienating a reporter that you could always just send a new story to in the future.

What to say in a follow-up? Follow-up emails should be very short and very simple. Through years of testing, we have learned that the best follow-up emails are one sentence or two at most. Here is an example of what a follow-up might say:

Hi (First Name),

Do you have any interest in interviewing (Name)?

Best,

That’s it. Simple and fast. Plus, if the reporter wants to jog their memory about what your pitch was about, they will be able to refer to your prior email below.

Tracking Your Public Relations Strategy Success

Now that you are actively reaching out to reporters, building media relationships, and eventually – generating news coverage about your organization, the next step is to be tracking your efforts. There are two primary forms of tracking that you will find helpful to use during your campaign:

Pitch Log: Your pitch log is where you will make notes of each reporter you pitch, what story you pitch them, and the dates of both the initial pitch and the follow-up. Ideally, this document should be a spreadsheet and it may look like this:

The pitch log will allow you to remember exactly who you pitched and when to ensure that each reporter you have pitched is followed up with and help you with calculating a conversion rate for how many of your pitches turned into interviews or when it might be time to test a new story angle if the original one isn’t gaining training.

Media Report: The second document for tracking your public relations campaign will be where you track media coverage once it goes live. Each organization likes to track different metrics about their media coverage based on their specific goals; however, we recommend keeping a document that tracks at least the following:

  • A link to each media placement.

  • The date it was published.

  • The contact who wrote it.

  • How many social shares it received (see tools below for tracking this).

Maintaining this record for each of your media placements will allow you to have a thorough record of coverage you received along with a timeline and a broad overview of how it performed on platforms such as social media. Many other organizations also go on to track metrics such as traffic driven from the article, how well the article ranks on search engines for targeted keywords, and even whether the backlinks in the article are do-follow or no-follow. Customize this to your goals and objectives.

Helpful PR Tools:

There are many tools and software available that help makes it easier to run a successful public relations campaign. Whether it’s assistance with researching and compiling media lists, tracking the success of coverage once it’s published, or monitoring the news for mentions of your brand, here are a couple of the most important tools that we like to use. You can also see our more comprehensive review of top PR tools here.

  • Cision: Our favorite tool for researching reporters. Cision has one of the largest databases of reporters for almost every niche.

  • MuckRack: Another fantastic tool for researching and building relationships with reporters.

  • Google Alerts: A free one and a good one. Google Alerts is still one of the best tools for being quickly notified when your brand name is mentioned in a news article. We highly recommend setting this up even if you are using other media monitors.

  • CoverageBook: CoverageBook is a PR reporting tool. It measures the performance of media placements you have secured. We have primarily found this tool useful for getting accurate and inexpensive data on social sharing of media placements.

Bringing It All Together

We have covered a lot of ground here from the definitions of the basic tools using for getting media coverage (media pitches, press releases, media advisories) to how to build out an entire public relations strategy for generating media coverage to even how to pitch the press and get interviewed. As with any marketing strategy, it takes some testing and tweaking to perfect this and gain momentum. But with consistency and a well-thought-out, powerful story, a public relations strategy can be one of the most powerful drivers of growth for a business.

If you have any additional questions about creating your strategy or how to go about any of the processes described here, do not hesitate to reach out to us. We would be happy to advise on further best practices.

 

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