Imagine your brand being featured in a big magazine or a well-known blog with millions of daily visitors… what kind of impact would that have on your company?
Whilst it might seem like an unattainable dream when you’re just starting up, in reality it can be quite achievable for any brand if they know how to play the PR hack game.
Public Relations (PR) is key to a brand’s success – big or small. It increases your credibility and bridges the trust-gap between brands and (potential) customers.
But as you might expect, journalists are drowning in pitches, with countless submissions flooding their inbox every day. Sending them a press release alone just isn’t enough to get you noticed.
Trendeavour invited five PR specialists to spill the beans on tactics and strategies they recommend to get your brand noticed.
What you’ll learn:
- What is PR and why you should focus on it
- How to create a winning PR strategy to generate coverage for your business in five steps
- Expert tips by PR professionals
- Useful tools that will help you get noticed by journalists and measure the effectiveness of your media pitches
What is PR?
According to Hubspot, Public Relations (PR) “is the practice of leveraging media channels to promote your organization and cultivate a positive public perception. PR is also the process of managing your organization’s brand and communications — especially in times of crisis.”
You might ask how marketing and PR are different then.
The main goal of marketing is to drive sales, and the main goal of PR is to increase brand awareness and improve the reputation of the company. Whereas your marketing efforts can be very specifically measured, PR activity is more of a big picture strategy, without necessarily having a direct impact on sales.
Why focus on PR then?
Customers tend to trust earned media over paid media, meaning that PR has the potential to convert 10-50x more effectively than traditional advertising.
Social media has made it easier for small brands to take PR into their own hands, and leverage it to gain the attention of journalists.
Let me start by defining the different media types:
Owned media is what you or your business controls. This could be your own website content, the newsletter you send out or your social media posts.
Paid media is essentially advertising, which could be anything from traditional advertising in printed press, to social media or influencer marketing.
Earned media can be an interview, a mention in an article or even a review, but user generated content could also be included in here.
Effective PR practice involves merging owned media with earned media. For instance, having your own blog where you create content around your company builds your authority and brand story, and potentially allows earned media sources to see you as a valuable contributor with something worth saying. In turn, once your PR strategy gains external traction, you can use that momentum to syndicate your media exposure and leverage it in your blog, newsletter and social media channels.
As with all things marketing related, if you want to see results you need to plan your PR approach strategically, and measure it accordingly.
Here are five strategic PR tactics you may want to consider:
1. Have a clear goal
Instead of creating a PR campaign with a vague goal, such as “getting publicity”, have a more targeted goal, such as increasing traffic.
Create some KPIs to measure this progress. You can measure by creating a spreadsheet to log your media pitches, track the dates, follow up, and make notes of everything so that you will know better next time which worked. Check this by tracking social mentions, backlinks, site traffic, social media engagement, social shares, etc.
2. What’s in it for me?
People read things that they think are likely to be personally beneficial to them; something that inspires, teaches or entertains.
Always think of the benefits your story has for customers, prospects and, of course, journalists. Put them in the front seat, and create a story around them. Have the right story ready for the right media contact.
Be creative in your approach, and A/B test when possible: this means experimenting by sending two different headlines to two groups of journalists, and seeing which performs better. Test, pivot, optimise and improve.
Your email open rate will also depend on factors such as what topics you pitch, and what headline or email subject line you use.
Journalists usually work with pre-defined editorial calendars, and you’ll need to accommodate that if you’d like to be featured, so keep that in mind when pitching a story to them.
3. Focus on making your company “news-worthy”
Look for things in your company that are “remarkable” or compelling, in a strategic way. Do your research and create a story with context that fits their interests. There is a lot of noise out there, so creating an angle where your story becomes interesting can win you the coveted coverage.
“If you cannot provide a strong reason as to why your company’s story will make an impact on a publication’s readers, you shouldn’t expect coverage.” entrepreneur.com
4. Invest in relationships
Building relationships with the media pays off over time. Leverage social media to get in touch with them (Twitter especially works here, so does LinkedIn). Personalisation and follow-up goes a long way. (A point that both Amanda Woodland and Lexie Smith elaborate on below in our expert tips section).
Watch out for typos, grammatical errors, and make sure your pitch is short and punchy.
So let’s get to the top tips that PR professionals have to offer on approaching journalists:
Do your research
Brittney Lynn is the Founder and CEO of Brittney Lynn Public Relations, a boutique PR agency serving entrepreneurs and small business owners. She brings vast experience to help others grow their reach, revenue, and impact through strategic PR.
Brittney emphasises the essence of doing your research before reaching out to journalists.
“Make sure you are sending pitches that are relevant to the person/publication that is receiving them. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is sending your pitch to the wrong person.
Make sure to do your research on the journalist that you are pitching: what topics have they written on before? Does the publication they write for write stories related to what you’re pitching?
This will help you land more press mentions and will show that you’ve done the work of finding the right people to pitch.”
Personalise your pitch
Amanda Ferrari, owner of Amanda Ferrari PR specialises in running a traditional press office in the U.K, dealing with print press, celebrity styling and the ever-important regional press. With experience ranging from lifestyle, tech, travel, beauty and celebrity publicity, the team also have a great focus on the jewellery industry in particular.
Amanda draws our attention to the importance of knowing who you’re pitching to and the idea of personalisation:
“Knowing who you’re pitching to within the media is just as important as knowing your core customer. When thinking about brand awareness, ensure that you approach the correct publication whose readers align with your target market (this also applies to celebrities and influencers).
Personalise your e-mail pitch as much as you possibly can. This means researching and making reference to regular columns they may write. This will increase the chances of that person opening your e-mail and requesting further information from you.”
Build deep relationships by playing the long game
Lexie Smith, named “Brilliant PR Expert” and “Female Entrepreneurs in Watch in 2020”, is the Founder of THEPRBAR inc. – an online coaching brand that empowers entrepreneurs to DIY PR. Her clients have been featured on and in outlets such as Forbes, Vogue, Oprah, Inc., Shark Tank, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Entrepreneur, CNN, The LA Times, Shape, The Huffington Post, Wired…and many, many more.
Lexie suggests treating public relations as human relations. Take baby steps, and think of contacts as friends. Instead of annoying journalists with cookie-cutting emails, interact with them on social media and build relationships.
“When it comes to forging new relationships with the media, playing the “long game” approach is generally best practice. What do I mean by this? Work on building an authentic and mutually beneficial relationship that transcends one pitch exchange. Before you reach out to a writer, take the time to read through some of their recent articles. Get a firm understanding of the beat that they cover, and their overall tone as a writer. If you truly think you can be of value to them, then go ahead and do just that; reach out and offer them value. Position yourself as someone who has clearly done their research and can be a potential asset that they should want to have in their corner.
What to say in that initial email will depend on the writer, the industry, and your business, so I can’t get too specific without full context. However, I can advise that your first touch should never be an ask if at all avoidable. Post your email introduction, follow and engage with them on Twitter. (85% of journalists report that Twitter is still their preferred social media platform – Muck Rack 2020 State of Journalism Report.) From there, make an effort to stay connected on a quarterly basis, at the very least. If and when they do write about you, make sure you say thank you and help share the heck out of that article.
When does “playing the long game” become NOT best practice? When you have something incredibly time-sensitive and newsworthy to deliver. In these scenarios, feel free to skip the flattery, and get to the point. Be readily available for follow up questions, and make sure to once again thank them for their coverage.”
Craft a compelling story
PR Pam is a Galway and Dublin based firm, offering a wide range of services that include strategic PR plans. Pam also provides PR coaching to a range of businesses in Ireland.
Pam’s advice to business owners is that journalists are always looking for interesting and dynamic/unusual content. If you want to get through to journalists, think like a journalist; send them a great story around your vision and explain your ‘why’.
“As the best way to reach out to journalists is through social media, make sure to tidy up your social media accounts so that it’s clear what you’re offering, and what your story is. Build relationships through social media, and understand what journalists read and write so that you can tailor your approach.
Take a step-by-step approach when reaching out to journalists. Make sure you have a story first – and that you have an angle. Sometimes you’re too close to your business, and can’t see your story, but there is always one. Focus on what is unique about your business, or the problem you solve.
When you contact journalists, email in bullet points to ask if it’s OK to send the press release, and quickly introduce your business within those bullet points. Use a strong headline/subject line for your pitch to increase the chances of them opening the email, but remember, sometimes they won’t respond. That’s why it’s important to follow up through social media and keep in touch.
When you want to be featured in printed media, be aware of their deadlines. Print publications tend to work three months in advance, so it’s important to be prepared for this – publications don’t like people who make things a last minute rush.”
Lucy Werner is the author of Hype Yourself: a no-nonsense DIY toolkit for small businesses, and founder of The Wern a PR & design consultancy for startups.
Lucy’s number one tip is focusing on guest posting as a great way of being featured in major publications.
“Rather than spreading your press outreach far and wide I recommend focusing on five publications you want to be in. Really study these to see what columns or sections you or your work could feature in. Remember, publicity isn’t just about trying to sell your work or services. It’s about raising your personal brand – because ultimately, people buy people.
Journalists are superbly busy so make their job as easy as possible for them. Give them all the information in a punchy and direct email. Avoid sending heavy attachments as you don’t want to clog up their inbox. They are looking for great stories, not pitch perfect press releases. So avoid spending all your time crafting a press release and posting it to 300 people (otherwise known as spray and pray or spam).
My top tip? Guest posts are one of the easiest ways to get yourself featured in a major publication. Think about ways you can deliver your own opinion or comment in response to what is happening in the cultural zeitgeist. A simple google search of “How to write an opinion piece” or “How to write a guest post” for XX will pull up potential submission details and contact information for the person in charge of managing these columns.”
Now, having heard from the experts, we’d like to finish up in our usual way at Trendeavour – namely, with some incredibly useful tools and sites to help you on your marketing and PR mission.
Brand24: helps you monitor online mentions about your brand, product or service, and measure the results of your PR campaigns.
ANewsTip: a media search, monitoring, and relationship management tool. You can use it to search media mentions by keyword or handle, and reach out to journalists and influencers all over the world.
GoogleAlerts: a simple tool for brand mentions and monitoring (pro tip: you can follow your competitors’ mentions in order to track their strategy too).
Mention: helps you track who’s mentioned your brand in media and on social media. You can also use this tool to publish on your social media and manage crisis communications.
Monitor Backlinks: (free tool) does what it says on the label: shows you who has mentioned your brand in coverage and included a backlink to your site.
HARO: (free tool) subscription for journalist requests on topics. Subscribe only if you (or your team) have the capacity to check journo requests three times a day.
Designer. Founder of Trendeavour. Fashion & retail specialist by day, content creator & digital marketing geek by night. Coffee and instagram addict. Crazy about her dog.