Whether you are a startup or a corporation, public relations can help you reach your marketing goals in a number of ways. Press can be a great way for your business to get more leads, gain awareness, and improve your SEO. But many people, including myself at the start, have no idea where to start. Over the years I've learned a number of tips to gain exposure and build relationships with the media. Here's how you can pitch like a pro - and avoid annoying media contacts in the process.
1. Pitch Relevance Is Key
I've been fortunate to have the experience of seeing both sides of the press table: working in-house with brands and also writing for media outlets myself. Since I started contributing to online sites, I began waking up to piles of pitch emails from people asking me to write about their company. About 99.9 percent of the pitches are not relevant to what I'm writing about. My pieces are about startup life, digital nomadism, and the changing workforce. I'm often inundated by pitches about mattresses, new food launches, and other irrelevant things. From my experience as a writer, I've been able to see what interests and annoys the press. By keeping your pitch relevant and helpful to a reporter, you're more likely to gain coverage.
"My inbox is inundated with invitations to events nowhere near where I live, pitches for products that aren't related to anything I write about, and even emails that call me by the wrong name." says Suzannah Weiss, Weekend Editor for Teen Vogue and daily contributor to Glamour, Refinery29, and Bustle. "The PR people I keep coming back to again and again are the ones who actually took the time to learn about me and get to know me. In fact, they didn't even pitch me to begin with -- they just emailed me to introduce themselves. Then, if and only if they had something relevant, they sent it my way. They never pushed me to try to pitch something I didn't find pitchable. In other words, they actually treated me like a human being, not an avenue to press coverage."
2. Follow Up, But Not Too Much
While I wish I could respond to everyone, I don't have time. Sometimes something interesting come into my inbox but my mind quickly bounces to another pending task I have to take care of for my company. If I don't respond, sometimes it's not because it's not interesting, I just forgot. Some reporters receive thousands of emails per day, and sometimes a quick follow-up can help jog their memory.
3. Tell Reporters Why Your Story Is Important
When I'm writing an article, I love to include expert voices, because it makes the story stronger and offers the reader different viewpoints other than my own. I'm always on the lookout for great sources. Sometimes I will receive emails that reads something like this:
My company sells cat food. Do you want to write about us?
Cat food has nothing to do with what I write about, but you can easily tweak your pitch to make it more relevant. When pitching the media, it's helpful to put the who, what, where, when--and, most importantly, the why.
To be more compelling, the above email can easily be changed to the following:
I enjoyed your latest piece on the remote workforce. It was interesting that you mentioned that many nomads experience loneliness on the road. A recent survey found that 20 percent of digital nomads are now traveling with their pets--a great way to make the road less traveled, less lonely.
I'm the founder of YOLO Cat Food, the industry leaders of cat food for travel. A digital nomad like yourself, I've been running my business from Taiwan to Rio. I would love to help you as a source for future pieces. Here are a few ideas I have:
- How Pets Are Combating Loneliness on the Road
- Pet-Friendly Work Environments: Are They Really Increasing Productivity?
- Building a Business on the Beach, with my Cat and Laptop
I know you're busy, but do you have five minutes to connect this week?
YOLO Cat Food Founder
(Email / Phone / Social Links / Website)
By making the pitch relevant to what the writers is covering, it's much more likely to to catch their eye.
We've had clients in the past tell us, "We want press!"
Our first question is "Why?"
"We want to build credibility as an influencer in our field."
"We think we can reach our customers through press."
"We want to create awareness with our chosen demographic."
"We've done the math, and the potential cost per acquisition fits our marketing budget."
"It's a free way to get customers."
"It would be cool to be in BuzzFeed."
The biggest misconception in digital strategy is that press exposure and social media are inexpensive because they are "free!" This is far from the truth.
To orchestrate a successful PR campaign, many hours are involved in creating media lists, researching news trends, and then being glued to a mobile phone waiting for responses on breaking news.
When we craft a digital strategy for clients, we first ask what their goals are. Sometimes we'll recommend an entirely different program that doesn't include press outreach if we find that their time and marketing dollars will be better spent on another program.
Whether you're looking for help from an agency or going the PR road alone, a well- researched strategy that includes customization, tracking, determination, and a dash of luck will help you reach your PR goals in no time.