This top 10 list is a follow-up to the profile of Sabina Hitchen of Press for Success that we posted recently. We were so impressed with the platform that she created to help small businesses learn how to promote themselves that we urged her to share some of the strategies that she teaches her entrepreneur clients.
1. You Must Get the Inside Working for the Outside to Work
To “win” at public relations, which in my opinion means getting sustainable, ongoing publicity for your business—and yourself—you have to get the mind working before you engage in any outreach activity, and you must keep taking taking care of the inside, for the outside—media outreach—to work.
Here’s the straight scoop: Putting yourself out there is difficult—even for seasoned publicists. Be okay with admitting it, and then make a decision that you will work on building the courage and confidence muscles you will need to fight the obstacles like analysis paralysis and imposter syndrome that come your way. There will be no’s, there will be silence in response to your emails, that is normal. To truly thrive, get your inside working, and then, in time, the outside will as well.
Sidenote: This is the case for most things in life; the courage you build while embarking on your PR journey will support you in many professional and personal pursuits!
2. Build Relationships
Fact: People help people they like, they know, they admire, and that they trust, and the same rules apply to public relations. Do you want to make your publicity work more quickly and effectively? Do you want people to answer more of your emails and take the time to get to know you, your business, and the value you have to offer the world? Focus on building media relationships, first and always, no matter where in the world you live and work from. Feel impossible? Are you currently without many—or any—members of the press in your Rolodex (or email address book)? Good news! You can begin getting to know them anytime by following their work (more on that below) and connecting with them on public social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Don’t overthink it. They’re just like us! Connect, comment when the mood authentically strikes you, and remember that just as you’re seeking press, they’re seeking stories of value for their readers, viewers, and listeners. They need you, you need them. Build a mutually beneficial relationship and it will be win-win for you both!
3. Do Your Research
Hands down, the most cringe-worthy—yet all too common—mistake I hear people admit to making when they’re pursuing publicity is failing to get to know, to study, and to research the media outlets they want to be in. Friends, you cannot tell someone you want to be in Redbook magazine or O, the Oprah Winfrey magazine, and have not actually read them recently. Doing so is a gamechanger! Yes, I know it takes time, but in the long run it will save you time, because studying them reveals so many things that will make your outreach easier. You’ll instantly see the types of stories they cover, the names and positions of the people who work there, the way they approach your beat, your type of product and more. Studying the outlets will also allow you to reference their previous work in your outreach, which is a little gold star next to your name while you’re building relationships, which you now know is vital to your press success!
4. PR Is Not One Size Fits All
Public relations, whether you’re doing it alone or with a team, is in many ways the art of telling the right stories and sharing the right products, tips, and services, with the right audience. Even if you’re doing a beauty story, the products, angles, tips, or stories you share with, say, Refinery29 will not necessarily be the same things you share with Redbook magazine. To increase your chances of success, you must make sure that even if you’re sharing the same story at its core, it must be framed in a way that shows you are someone or something that their specific audience will relate to, find value in, and want to hear about. How do you make sure this is what you do? For starters, you follow step three and do your research so that you know exactly how to customize your outreach in their style and tone. Next thing you must commit to? No mass emails or emails sent via newsletter programs, as those moves don’t allow you to customize.
Yes, creating specific offerings or angles for specific outlets can take a bit more time in the beginning, but without doing it, your work will be less effective and thus take longer in the end!
5. Write a Simple & Successful Email Pitch Once, Use It for Years
The thought of creating and sending an email pitch to a member of the press can be daunting to say the least. Not just the thought of pressing “send” on an email about yourself, but also the act of creating the email pitch in general. What do I say? How do I say it? How can I be sure they will read it? The truth is, the more short, sweet, and succinct your email pitch is, the better it will be received. After all, do you think members of the media, who receive hundreds of emails a day at times, want to read paragraphs about you, or try to decipher a mysterious or clever (but unclear) subject line?
6. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan
It can be tempting to want to dive into your PR work and start taking action immediately—after all, you want publicity like yesterday, right? But before pressing “send” on one email, it’s important to make a plan to be sure that no time is wasted, no work is pointless, and all of the action you take is aligned with your overall business goals. Planning can sound tough or stressful, but in truth, it will help ensure that the work you do is focused and it will help limit the actual work you do a day. You set your goals, you plan actions and strategies to meet those goals, you commit to them on paper (or an online document) and you follow those plans. Planning also helps ensure that you don’t miss any PR opportunities (holidays you can pitch, seasonal events or hot topics you can piggyback onto) because you’ve had a chance to sit down and engage in focused planning. I suggest making plans for at least three months at a time. Plan your work, work your plan, and you’ll see better success and less stress!
7. Expect Publicity to Take Time, Be Prepared if It Comes Quickly
One of the oldest and most used phrases used to describe public relations is “PR is a marathon and not a sprint,” and that is the truth. You don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, getting a quick hit and then fading into the thousands of other businesses in your niche. You want to create ongoing, sustainable, and high-value publicity for your business, and that takes time, planning, and patience. Expect that, and work on being patient throughout the process.
That said, because of the nature of publicity, some opportunities could strike nearly as quickly as you press send on an email. Newspaper, online, and television create content quickly, and if you’re a good fit for their stories, your press could come quickly too. What does this mean for you? Prior to pressing send, you must be sure that you’re ready for what could come. At the very least this means you need a fully functioning and up-to-date website, social handles that are ready for whatever eyeballs will land on them, and the products that you’re pitching ready to go! The moral of the story here? Be patient, but be prepared!
8. Learn to Tell Multiple Stories About Your Business
Do you want to build a brand and a business instead of being the best-kept secret in your industry? If so, you can’t rely on product features alone to build your buzz and brand. Instead, you must seek out publicity opportunities of different kinds, that tell different stories about your business, to different audiences.
What types of stories could those be? Product features, yes, but also business features (local, and then national), share yourself as an industry expert and offer tips about what you know that can make people’s lives easier and better when it comes it beauty, season, and holiday-inspired stories. Consider pursuing celebrities to gift your product to, as that also adds another layer of buzz and excitement into your story.
Try to see public relations as an ever-turning wheel, with the spokes representing different stories. Not every story is right at every moment, but the more you can try to share different angles with different members of the press, the more you can be sure your visibility will grow in exponential ways!
9. Be Sure EVERYONE Knows What You Do & What You Seek
When we think of doing publicity we think, “the people I’ll be sharing my story with are members of the press and perhaps even influencers.” Yes, this is true, they are your primary targets. But here’s the deal: The world is small, no matter where you live in it. People you know are connected to other people and opportunities may await that you may not be aware of until you divulge what you do and what you’re seeking. By this, I mean that you should be sure everyone from the parents in the carpool lane to the folks in your spin class who you chat with after class know what business you’re in.
When it’s a good fit and comfortable for you, you should also be sure they know some of your goals, just in case they can help you reach them. I don’t mean tell everyone you meet about your business plans and every 2018 budget goal. That said, if your biggest dream is to get your beauty products into the hands of a celebrity or onto a local (or national) television show, I suggest making sure those in your circle know this. You never know who could connect you to your next amazing opportunity, and they won’t be able to do it unless they know who you are and what you seek!
10. Leverage Your Publicity
You worked hard to land publicity, and then you get it! What do you do next? Well first, of course, do a happy dance and pat yourself on the back. But then my friends, it’s back to work! You need to leverage that press you have! No matter what the publicity is, whether it’s in a national magazine or a local newspaper, chances are not everyone has had a chance to see it—we’re inundated with information from all sides on a regular basis and miss information that isn’t fed to us.
Be sure your publicity lives on and continues to generate buzz and traction by sharing it on social media (and scheduling it in for future shares). Share it in your newsletter, post about it on your blog, and of course, be sure it’s displayed somewhere on your website. Those logos of the press outlets who have covered you lead to trust, and eventually can contribute to sales. I suggest creating a “Hot press, now what?” checklist and be sure you and your team fulfill it after every publicity opportunity.
This seems like a lot of info, but this is just a taste. Sabina is a wealth of information and a definite social media follow.
Phot0: Pankaj Patel via Unsplash