At some point in your adventure of building a business, you’re going to ask yourself the question, “How do I get journalists talking about my company and products?” Check out this post to learn how.
You may not have experience handling media relations, and defer immediately to hiring an expert (maybe an agency or a savvy PR individual). But if you’re just getting started, I’d like to challenge you to think of a new way of tackling your PR objectives – DIY PR. It’s going to save you time, money and it might just bring you more coverage than you’d expect working with an outside party.
But how’s that possible when you don’t have a clue about dealing with the press? What you may not realize in the search of looking for an expert is that you are the expert and you have what it takes to secure coverage for your business. No one is ever going to know your product better than you do. No one is going to have more passion for your product than you. And because of this, no one is going to tell a better story than you. As the owner of your brand, you have the credibility necessary to capture a reporter’s attention. Armed with some tools and motivation, you can accomplish your PR goals and spend your budget wisely. Follow these suggestions to get started, and master the craft of DIY PR:
1. Build a media list
There’s been an unfortunate rumor going around that only PR professionals have relationships with the press. Sure, PR professionals have instant access to detailed media lists and connections that took years to establish. But these connections were established at some point in time, and you can invest the same energy to establishing your own, too. Today, we have a plethora of online resources at our fingertips that can help us find whom we need to get in touch with. Through LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter we can instantly connect with bloggers and reporters who are covering interesting products and brands. Journalists usually publish their email address, and while it may take you some time digging to find it, it’s out there.
You can also meet reporters face-to-face as many local business writers hold meet-and-greet sessions. You can find events in your city to connect with reporters from your local paper and understand what types of stories they’re looking for. When you find a reporter that you’d like to connect with, be sincere in starting the conversation and simply introduce yourself without pitching your business forcefully. (This applies for both online and in-person connections you make). When it comes time to suggest a story idea, craft it towards their interests and make sure it’s instantly relevant.
Building a media list takes time, and if you can be invest time in the activity, it will become one of the best tools for your business.
2. Find and respond to inquiries
You can find opportunities all over the web where reporters and/or bloggers are looking for thought leaders to contribute to their stories. Just by visiting a particular blogger’s site, you may find information where they accept story ideas or a place where you can subscribe to their newsletter. I subscribe to several newsletters and most of them ask for input on particular topics from their followers. Another great (and free!) tool is HARO (Help a Reporter Out). HARO’s service sends out an email several times a day where reporters from The New York Times, to HuffingtonPost.com and every publication in between, asks its subscribers for responses to various press queries. All it takes is a minute to subscribe to the mailing list, and you’ll get the inside scoop to what stories the press is working on and where you could jump in.
Before you respond however, give your response a gut check on relevancy. While it can be easy to respond to HARO inquiries by stretching your message to meet what you think the reporter could be looking for, never annoy a professional with an irrelevant or half-baked response. Reporters are flooded with 100s of emails a day and by not taking their time into consideration, you’ll burn a bridge before it’s even built.
3. Remain aware
PR plays a part in every marketing channel – from social, to tradeshows, to products. Consider the audience to understand what type of impact you can make for a PR program. Utilize your channels and don’t get stuck using traditional methods only. Take a PR pulse everywhere you go, and you’ll see endless opportunities for placements. For example, by tweeting a unique photo from your company handle at an event, you have the opportunity to be retweeted by a blog or publication. Attend a new meetup group and see if there’s an opportunity for your business to present on a relevant topic. Become a PR champion by always staying aware of opportunities to connect and build relationships. After all, that’s what PR is all about!
That wraps up my three quick tips for you to get started with some DIY PR of your own. Lastly, I’d like to note that there are reasons why you may want to work with an agency or outside expert as your business expands, but this would take on a blog post of its own. If you do not have the time or resources for DIY PR, hiring someone to help is definitely something you could consider. But give DIY PR a try first, and at the very least, you’ll have knowledge and background of what your partner will be delivering. You’ll be more educated about the subject matter and be more active in crafting the message of your brand.
-Olga Kazakova, Volusion