In the quest to win the hearts and minds of the press, you're going to have to do all the work.
I'm in the middle of trying to publicize my new series of technology focused parenting books called, The Modern Parent’s Guide. I knew it was going to be difficult: Getting the press to pause its 24/7 schedule to take a look at a book can be a Herculean task. I compounded the challenge by (unwittingly) launching the book during three major trade shows.
In spite of all the hurdles, I'm happy to say that I have not only landed press coverage, I've landed it at places like ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and ESPN. Here’s what I learned about what it takes:
1. Find a problem to solve. You want to publicize your expertise. Journalists want to cover popular and emerging topics. Bridge the gap by shedding light or new perspectives on trending issues, and you create a win-win scenario. There's no need to come up with your own brilliant story idea: Events already in the news provide a useful time hook. Identify what you can bring to the conversation and then you've got a way to piggyback on the story.
2. Fit your pitch into one sentence. Decide what makes your company or product unique, and say it briefly enough to fit into email subject lines and the headlines of supporting press releases. Messaging must be short and sweet, as you have less than 10 seconds to make an impression. When possible, tie announcements to unique giveaways, promotions, or events as well—especially eye-opening surveys or research projects whose findings provide immediate discussion points. Lists and unique, offbeat angles (“10 Ways to Get Yourself Fired,” “Social Media Mistakes to Avoid,” etc.) will prove more effective than generic news releases.
3. Target specific outlets and writers. Skip the shotgun approach and carefully target individual magazines and section editors. Look for writers who frequently cover related topics, and send a direct, personalized email tailored for both their media outlet and individual section. One size does not fit all: Custom tailor every piece of communication.
4. Make content easy to share. Original bylined articles, podcasts, editorials, and op-eds can be highly effective ways to gain media traction. All save editors the trouble of content creation, and potentially offer greater visibility and links to help with search engine optimization. If you're offering a video, make it easy to embed. Think about charts, diagrams, and infographics too—they're shareable on social media and often they're the kind of thing that strapped news teams can't generate themselves.
5. Give stuff away for free. Free samples and giveaways can be powerful. Let customers download or sample at least a small, but meaningful portion of your product. Doing so helps generate positive word of mouth, and offers a compelling reason for audiences to pass news along.
6. Don't forget the call to action. Passive promotional tools like press releases and newswire distributions are easily ignored. To improve results, couple campaigns with direct calls to action that invite user participation: cast a vote, upload video entries for entry into online contests, like your company on Facebook in exchange for money-saving coupons, etc. Your goal is to invite users to join in the conversation around your brand.
7. Be easy to work with. In my experience, the more prepared I was with fact sheets, excerpts, artwork, experts, and other assets, the more success I had. And I wasn't above going the extra mile as well. From last-minute flights and 4 a.m. interviews to (literally) dropping samples off in writers’ milk bins, expect to jump through hoops to make stories happen.
Fortunately for me, I had the advantage of a timely surge in public interest around online safety and privacy,which helped boost the book's relevance. But the full campaign involved giving away books and other freebies, live TV segments, online interviews, custom columns, redistributable PDF tip sheets, and Family Tech, an original video series. Relentless interview outreach and social media mentions by high-profile strategic partners helped too.
Have you orchestrated a successful PR launch? Let me know in the comments what worked for you.