You know the struggle when you’re first learning something?
One moment you’re vigorously trying new ideas from your entrepreneurial gurus. And the next? You realize you wasted three hours and you can’t tell if you accomplished anything.
That’s how I felt every day when I first started doing publicity.
Everything was hit and miss. My days got swallowed into the computer screen. I was driving myself crazy — and not seeing results.
Of course I learned a ton, but I wished someone could have said, “Here’s a way to break things down into bite sized pieces!”
That’s exactly what this post is about.
After several years of refining my own routine, I’ve reduced my weekly schedule into simple chunks. I got rid of the time-gobbling fluff and focused on tasks that bring about tangible outcomes.
This one-woman schedule is easy, actionable, and totally results oriented.
Once you get into the rhythm, you won’t spend more than 30 minutes per day on generating your own free publicity!
Read three articles from blogs or magazines you want to be featured on.
As you do:
Take notes on what you think about the article. Keep this in an easy to access place like an Evernote notebook or a Google Sheets spreadsheet.
To really make your presence felt, leave a thoughtful comment on the post. This will notify the writer or editor that you actually care about their work. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to someone you will eventually want to send a pitch to.
If they don’t have a comments section, feel free to send a quick email thanking the writer for the post. Don’t try to pitch or sell anything to them. You’re literally just there to acknowledge the value of this person’s article.
To take things a step further, spend a few minutes scheduling reposts for these three articles on your social accounts throughout the week. This shows bloggers that you care about their work and giving them exposure, too.
Pitch three writers you’ve connected with in the past.
Unless you have a last-minute time constraint, I don’t recommend that you pitch someone upon first contact (that’s why we read those articles and took those actions on Monday!).
Previous contact can include anything from connecting on social to getting a warm introduction from a mutual connection — but giving it at least a bit of time to marinate is key.
Ahh hump day. Everyone’s feeling the weight of the week today, which makes this the perfect time to check in with your network!
Message a few of your business connections and check to see how they’re doing.
Comment or share some new blog posts from a few of your entrepreneur friends.
Hit up online networks on Facebook, Slack, Mightybell or even Quora and answer questions about your field.
I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten collaborations, new clients, and PR opportunities just from checking with with the people I’ve met online.
Follow up with three people you’ve pitched.
If anyone you pitched on Tuesday clicked links in your email, but didn’t get back to you, today is the day to follow up. Come from a place of helpfulness in your follow up. For example: Do they have questions you can answer?
If there haven’t been any clicks in this week’s outreach, let those sit. Instead, take this opportunity to follow up with the people you pitched last week. (It’s now been nearly 10 days!)
Add three new outlets to your media outreach list.
Woo! It’s Friday, which means it’s the perfect time to prepare for the coming week. Today is the day to do some maintenance and add new publications to your media outreach list.
When thinking about adding a new media outlet to your outreach list, consider this:
Do your customers naturally gravitate toward this publication/website?
Is it a place they return to over and over again?
Can you provide obvious value to the publication’s audience?
Make sure you save the link to an article about your niche — this saves you time on Mondays!
Note the name of the publication, the author’s name, and their direct email address. If you need help, use free tools like Hunter and Big Picture’s Email Finder to track down almost any email address in seconds.
There you have it. A week’s worth of publicity work in only 30 minutes per day, and you’re set up to do the same next week!
Your turn: What first step will you take to kickstart your publicity efforts?
Much like a homeowner, a solopreneur must be able to rock multiple hats at once. Another similarity? Both homeowners and solopreneurs are often operating on shoestring budgets.
While a homeowner could reduce costs by taking the DIY route for painting, landscaping and wallpapering, we can most likely all agree that it’s best to call in the pros for structural, plumbing or electrical repair.
Similarly, when it comes to getting publicity for your business, you could take a DIY approach to hyper-local and community coverage, but there comes a time when it’s best to call in the pros. This post is designed to help you realize when that time has come.
You know it’s time to hire a PR professional when…
It’s in the budget – even if it’s limited. Every aspect of business ownership is competing for your money, but if people haven’t heard of your product or service, they simply can’t become your customers. Getting the word out is a critical must. Even if dollars are limited, a creative approach can get you a long way from where you started. Can’t afford to hire a big-time PR firm or a boutique agency? No problem. Get in touch with a local college or university with a public relations/communications program – students routinely get practical experience by creating a PR strategy for a local business with a limited budget. Be that business!
You’re ready to graduate from local coverage. If you’ve already nailed getting in the community paper and on a local TV station, congratulations! Great first step. Ready to move up to shows with a higher profile and a bigger viewership? It’s time to consult the experts. Crafting the right message and determining a unique story angle is what’s going to help your media pitch stand out. The pros have a strong network of contacts and are well-versed in how to be noticeable among a flood of emails.
There’s a huge launch coming up. You’ve invested the time, you’ve invested the money and now it’s time to unleash the latest from your business unto the world – congrats! Bill Gates famously said “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” And rightly so. Even Richard Branson noted that a good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad. Make sure that your message gets delivered to — and resonates with — your ideal customer, and that it inspires them to take action, ensuring a successful and profitable launch. Keeping in mind that magazines work with a four- to six-month lead time, start investigating PR providers at least eight months in advance of your launch. Even if you don’t sign a contract immediately, through talking with PR professionals, you’ll get a realistic sense of the time needed to create the requisite materials (i.e. a media kit and spec sheet), then plan and execute your campaign.
It’s difficult to see outside your business. You’re in your business all day, every day — often all night, every night too! It can be near impossible to see your business from a removed, third-party perspective. When you think it’s ‘newsworthy’ that you’re offering the same product in a shiny, brand new colour, or offering the same service but at a different time of day, you’re guilty of being too close to your biz to see the bigger picture. Bring in an expert who can see the newsworthy factor of your brand’s story while marrying it with the hottest news topics of the day. For example, maybe your story could fit into a home magazine, a tech site, the lifestyle section of a newspaper and a morning news show! There are more opportunities aside from the obvious ones and a seasoned expert with an outsider’s perspective can help identify all of them.
You’re in crisis mode. When a major event or negative news affects your business, it’s definitely not the time to navigate PR on your own. To come out on top of a bad situation, the right messaging, timing, and image will be crucial – and a communications specialist with the right skill set will be a lifesaver for your brand and its perception.
Once you’re ready to test the waters with a PR pro, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Look for a provider who offers a short-term contract (between three and six months is ideal), rather than a traditional firm that works on a minimum one-year retainer.
Negotiate a project fee for a set amount of time and deliverables rather than working with the hourly-rate model where you can be surprised when you get your invoice at the end of the month.
Rely on referrals — similar to contractors, you’ll want to put your faith in someone who has a reputation for doing a good job. Reach out to trusted friends and colleagues for their recommendations.
Pick a PR pro’s brain if you’re still on the fence between going pro vs DIY. More and more PR pros are offering “pick their brain” consultations or sessions where you can share your PR challenges and they can share a solution-oriented approach that you’ll be responsible for executing.
Stay in the loop with sites like PR Daily that cover the latest industry news and best practices.
When you’re ready for the big leagues, DIY-ing just might not cut it anymore. With the proper “foundation” established by professionals, you’ll be on your way to publicity success!
Psssttt. I have a secret. Editors and writers are constantly on the hunt for new people and products to feature and you don’t need a publicist in order to get their attention. You do, however, need to know what it looks like to pitch like a pro. DIY publicity works, but only if you play by these oft-unspoken-by-editors rules (as well as the rules in my book, Recipe for Press). When you do, it makes all the difference in scoring easy press.
Keep it personal
Always address the editor or blogger by name (and make sure you spell it correctly). Don’t copy every media contact you have on the same pitch. Nothing sends them reaching for the delete key faster.
Engage the editor quickly
Editors receive hundreds of pitches each week, so you’ve got about three to five seconds to catch their eye. Grab their attention with a compelling headline and a clean photograph embedded directly into the email, and keep your pitch tight, preferably two short paragraphs or less.
Work with the editorial calendar
The time to pitch an idea to a national magazine for their holiday gift guides is not in November when you hear your first holiday song. Editors and writers for national magazines work six months out, and regional publications pull their pages together three months in advance. Recipe for Press recently released a helpful tool called the Pitch Wheel that takes the math out of when and what to pitch.
Spend on good photography
Editors often determine whether the pitch is right for them by the picture you send with it. Most editors know if they can use your product the second their eye hits the photo. Send crisp, well-lit images against a white backdrop to help your pitch rise to the top of the submission pile. And know that editors don’t open attachments. You want to embed the low-res (72 dpi) image into the email instead of sending large files that slow or clog an inbox.
Give your pitch a header or subject
Like a handrail for your idea, a good lead gives editors the skinny on the story you have in mind at a glance. A little teaser for a new red umbrella like “Cool Wet Weather Gear ….for under $25” helps the editor see that your product could fit in a number of themed roundups or sections.
Make it new
The one word an editor wants to see in every pitch is “new.” If what you’re pitching is not new, then it is your job to tie the idea or product into a new trend, a holiday or current event.
Respond to editors quickly
Plenty of passionate people with strong ideas fail to receive the press their products deserve because they are slow to respond to editorial requests.
Editors operate on very tight deadlines. If we can’t find you, we may have to move on to the company we know will come through for us by returning our call immediately or emailing us back within an hour every time.
Get to know the publication before you pitch
The biggest mistake you can make when engaging editors is to not read the publication before you pitch. Print and online publications are formatted similarly every day/week/month, and getting to know their formula will help you identify a great fit. Do your homework first before reaching out.