Donny Zanger is the founder and CEO of All Week Walls, a New York-based pressurized wall company. In addition to All Week Walls, he has started up a number of other businesses too. I talked to Donny recently about his secrets for doing your own PR without paying the crazy-high fees that the agencies want:
"I propose it's always best to be your own PR agency. I often meet business owners prepared to spend thousands of dollars on a professional PR firm. To them I say, "A trip to Mexico is a lot more fun and just as effective." If you actually want to ensure that the top agent is out there, working hard on your behalf and pushing your business to the top of the stack, you've got to BE that agent. I'm not saying it's easy, but it is doable. And it's effective."
Here's how he did it for his business.
1. Find a really good content writer.
I recommend this even if you're a decent writer yourself; for this, you need excellence. Your most potent tool when reaching out to news outlets and publications is the story that you have to tell, and you want that story to be eye-catching. You've got one shot to grab their attention -- make it a slam dunk.
2. Devise clever content.
Work with your writer to spin your story in a way that makes it stand out. If you think your story isn't all that unique, no news outlet is going to love it, either. Find that angle that reaches people: whether it's a creative twist, an emotional pull or a whirlwind ride of a journey, make it different.
3. Prepare a cover letter.
Be a professional about it; cross all those "T's" and dot those "I's." When you send off your content, make sure to include a well-written, one or two paragraph cover letter that goes in the body of the email and explains why your story will benefit their publication. A casual, "Hey, read my attachment," is not impressive.
4. Do your research.
Editors and content scouts don't give out their contact information easily; if it's hard to find their email address, that's on purpose. But that doesn't mean it can't be found with a little savvy investigation. Rather than go through the website itself, Google the names of the submissions department members -- sometimes, their contact information can be found through their Twitter account or by following a link after searching. Often, they are freelancers themselves and will have their own website where it's easier to reach them.
5. Remember that it's a numbers game.
Reach out to a lot of people -- the more, the better. You never know who is going to pick it up.
6. Engage in "reactive PR."
Steps 1-5 describe proactive steps you can take for PR. Make sure your reactive game is strong, too. Have a strong online presence where news outlets will find you when they need an interview in your industry. Have prepared answers to common questions ready on the tip of your tongue, so when they do call, you sound intelligent and articulate -- they'll be more likely to include your quote in their article that way. Keep your client list -- especially big names -- at the ready.
Since launching my pressurized wall company, All Week Walls, I've been interviewed by the New York Times four times, twice by Business Insider, and once each by Inc. magazine, Brick Underground, Naked Apartments, DNA Info, and Under 30 CEO. I've also had articles published on multiple of these outlets. Some of the times I contacted them; other times, they called me.
By implementing the strategies above, I've been able to be my own, completely effective PR agency, for free.
Hey, I'll see you in Mexico.