We have a confession. When we left journalism to launch Altruette.com, we knew there was one thing we'd be great at: public relations.
After all, over a decade as writers and editors we'd dealt with more PR people than you could count. We were pros at fielding calls, reading pitches, and taking meetings. This, we figured, was one thing we'd hit out of the park.
Well, let's just say it wasn't quite as easy as we'd imagined.
PR is a grind. PR involves constant rejection--or even worse, silence. PR is really, really hard.
Of course, we're learning--and a few weeks ago we wrote about our own lessons learning doing DIY PR. But the experience has given us a huge amount of respect for the PR pros that are out there pitching, spinning, and informing day after day.
Two of the best we know are Karen Hopp and Liz Bazini of Bazini Hopp. Like Julie and me, they struck out on their own after careers at bigger agencies. They have boundless energy. They are whip smart. Their enthusiasm about the companies they represent is infectious. I asked them to explain, step by step, how they get their clients the right type of press--and I can tell you, their advice has already changed the way we're pitching Altruette.
1. Pick the Perfect Target
"We read a lot. We figure out who's writing what. Who is covering a particular technology and what their take is on it. These are smart reporters who are well versed on very specific areas," says Hopp. Adds Bazini: "If we're representing a company involved in green tech, we'll really narrow it down to the few folks who are handling this."
2. Reference the Writer's Work
Once you've picked the perfect target, there's an art to getting the writer's attention, since this target probably receives dozens if not hundreds of pitches a day. Says Hopp: "I'll draft an email and be sure to mention something I've read by them. Without being too presumptuous, I'll say something like, 'I read your article last week...' and I'll never say 'you missed something,' but I'll suggest that 'you may be interested in looking into this related area.'" Adds Bazini, "Reporters want to know that you're a reader--that you're paying attention."
3. Ignore the Sound of Silence
I know for us, the most depressing response to a carefully crafted Altruette pitch is...nothing. But Bazini and Hopp have had great success with a very simple technique. If they get no response within a few days, they sent a short, sharp follow up, usually in the form of a question. Such as "Lee, any interest in a demo?" Explains Bazini, "when people see a lot of content they sometimes just don't have the time to reply. This way they can just quickly say yes or no." In addition, Hopp cautions, any follow up should be with the goal of providing the reporter with more value. In other words "did you get my email?" is just annoying, while "can I send you samples of the new charms we're launching?" provides new information.
4. Play the Numbers Game
Bazini and Hopp both noted that if their clients are armed with hard data, reporters are much more likely to quote them or be compelled to tell their stories. Says Hopp: "If our clients can give strong numbers it definitely increases the liklihood they'll be sourced. Numbers showing changes in consumer behavior, for example, always seem to be of interest."
5. Don't Fear Hearing "No"
Says Hopp, "We don't hate 'no.' Often times it's not just as simple as no, they'll give us a little more info. If they say 'we're only doing trend stories right now,' that's useful information that's going to help me pitch them better down the road."
6. Be a Source, Not a Shill
Finally, one of the smartest things Bazini and Hopp have done with their clients (at least in my opinion) is turning them into sources for reporters. Says Bazini, "If you have any questions, even if it's background and not for a story, call us.'" That way their clients develop a rapport with reporters which can only lead to good things--and good press--down the road.