Do-it-yourself publicity isn’t for the faint of heart, but it isn’t impossible either. Over the past couple of years I’ve been able to secure several high profile publicity “hits” on my own and I’ve learned quite a bit in the process. One of the things that I have learned is that you don’t have to pay a Publicist a $3,000 monthly retainer to get a mention in USA Today. Believe it or not- you can get that mention just by sending an email. While there is quite a bit involved in building and executing a successful public relations strategy, there are a couple secrets I’m happy to share to get you headed in the right direction.
Secret 1: Get Clues
Pitching editors and journalists in the media is a lot like selling. The key is getting to know your customer and then being able to fulfill their needs. Editors make this easy by offering editorial calendars for their publications. These calendars detail exactly what type of pitch the editor will be “shopping” for each month. These calendars are often available online at the company website, or you can contact the sales department and ask for them to send you a media kit. The media kit will include information regarding the reader demographic, circulation, lead times for editorial/advertising, and most importantly-the editorial calendar.
Tip: While requesting a media kit, let the ad rep know that you are very interested in being a part of the magazine, but just can’t swing the cost of an ad right now. Ask to be placed on a “remnant” list. This means that whenever they have advertising space open at deadline they will call you and offer the spot at a deeply discounted rate. Using this strategy I was able to negotiate a placement in US Weekly Magazine for $500 that generated $4,000 in sales in one weekend. (Regular price was $3800) Not a bad return!
Secret 2: Give Them What They Want
Editors are just like you and me. They are in a constant time crunch, have strict deadlines, and rely on vendors to make their product a success. Except in their world, you are the vendor. Editors rely on you to supply them with an influx of fresh ideas and quick access to information so they can meet their production needs. When pitching editors, think about how you evaluate potential vendors and treat them the way you would like to be treated. Make it easy for them to pick you by providing a clear and concise press release, supporting information (where to buy, sizing available, customer references, a demo to try, etc), and always include 300dpi pictures that are ready to print. Each time the editor has to chase you down for information, the less likely you are to make the cut.
Tip: A great way to get in the media’s good graces is to have an online “Press Kit”. This is a special portion of your website dedicated to the media only. Include a history of your press releases, several 300 dpi pictures for use, a company bio with bullet points, a personal bio with bullet points, and customer testimonials. For an added bonus, include a “Tip Sheet”, list of possible story topics that your product/service would fit, and the script for a sample interview that they can pull quotes from.
Secret 3: Be Vigilant
Getting publicity is a full-contact sport. You have to be able to bob and weave and look for the openings. While editorial calendars are a great start and a good foundation for a PR campaign, they are not the end-all, be-all. After all, every single one of your competitors has access to those same calendars. To get ahead you have to be persistent and get creative when looking for press opportunities. Read the news and cater your product/service pitches to tie in to the current headlines and create events that are sure to attract the press (giveaways, charity donations, join other businesses to sponsor a local “family fun” day, etc.). Once you start making pitches, don’t stop! Keep in contact with the editors you contact and always be gracious and professional. They may “pass” five times in a row before you get your turn to be featured. That’s okay. Increase your odds for getting free press by sending out targeted pitches to several complimenting media outlets during each campaign. Don’t just rely on that one big “hit”.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to be yourself! One summer I was having a horrible time hiring employees. I had several large orders on the books, but no one to fill them. I placed a help wanted ad in the local paper for a hefty price and received only 11 responses. In the past, I had received about 200 responses to my “help wanted” ads. I was incredibly frustrated and just happened to have a USA Today in front of me with an article discussing how low the unemployment rate had become. I shot off an email to the Small Business Editor venting about my situation. Five minutes later he called laughing saying that I definitely had the most passionate response he had received to date. He then interviewed me for an article that was on the USA Today’s Business front page. Free PR for venting my frustrations!
I hope you can take these secrets and put them to good use. Be sure to take notes on successful tactics as you move along and remember, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! The media is inundated with hundreds of pitches each day and it’s easy to get lost in the chaos. Get noticed by pitching editors what they need-when they need it and seal the deal by providing easy access to that information. And finally, editors need you as much as you need them. Without new and exciting ideas and products, the media wouldn’t have a story to sell. You could be that story!
Heather Nolte is the founder and CEO of www.Glamajama.com. Glamajama creates glam-studded clothing for children- clothing they can wear “from the crib to the catwalk”. The company has been featured on The Today Show, The Early Show, Oprah, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, USA Today, Star Magazine, Parents, and Working Mother with celebrity clients including Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, Angela Bassett, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Lisa Rinna, and Jessica Alba. Contact her at [email protected]. (Watch me on CBS News)