There is a difference between being passionate about the business you are in and being emotional about it. Did you know that some people believe the Ralph Waldo Emerson-attributed quote, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods?”
Some entrepreneurs, no matter if they’ve built a successful business in the past or not, tend to fall so deeply in love with their own ideas and ways of doing things that they think everyone else will just understand and care as deeply as they do.
Fact check: If an entrepreneur is in the woods and creates a product, and nobody is around to experience it, nobody is going to care. At all.
Furthermore, the public doesn’t care about what your passion is. Like; Not at all! They care about things that affect their lives, and your story needs to tell them how your product is going to make their lives better. You need to rain your story upon the marketplace with authority and credibility and teach others to care, and not just enough to listen, but enough repeat it and use that story to justify giving up their scarce time & attention, and their hard earned money for it.
Ads Are What You Pay For, Publicity Is What You Pray For
Running ads is a must, but it is just the start, and will only be partially effective. The goal is to get others telling your story (specifically influencers: news, media, bloggers, YouTubers, celebrities, politicians, etc.) from the top down, so everyone on the bottom consuming it start repeating it via word of mouth and social media from the bottom-up.
Definition of “public relations” from Google: Your goal: To create a favorable business PR by using all resources available, in all directions possible. Getting published by traditional media is an important part of a business leadership’s top-down marketing strategy.
“Leveraging the biggest media sites in the world helps you become a trusted source of content to the sources that the public turns to.” –Sean Burrows
Coverage with traditional media is earned, not paid. Earned media, also known as free media, is publicity you want for your business that you gain through efforts that aren’t advertising. Because it can’t be bought, there is a virtue, value and authenticity to it that your target market recognizes. You can’t get this same value any other way. Traditional media needs to be part of your marketing strategy.
“It is an insult to journalists with integrity to assume that you can buy your way into the news pages. In truth, there are media outlets that let themselves become influenced by advertiser dollars. And are those the kinds of media you want to affiliate with? Not me!” – Martha Carnahan of Business Know How
Feel overwhelmed at the thought of reaching out to the lone class of media people? Lack resources, contacts and expertise in working with reporters and editors? Let’s break this down so you know where to start, and what to do next.
First Step: Media Plan
Can you answer these questions from Martha Carnahan: Who is my audience? What do they read? What is newsworthy? How persistent am I willing to be? How will I leverage my coverage after I get it? All of these questions need thoroughly fleshed-out answers before you begin. Shooting from the hip is rarely effective. Don’t waste your effort by throwing content out there without a plan for it’s use before, during and after it gets published. If you get part way through, and then quit with the first “rejection”, you have wasted time and resources. Decide beforehand how persistent and consistently you will contribute in order to reach your goals.
Pitch the media outlets you are familiar with. The ones you read. The small ones that are near you and you can get access to. When talking with a reporter, know and talk about their work and previous writing pieces. Do your homework and honestly get to know people. Make it easy for yourself by getting online.
“Most journalists have a professional presence on Twitter and Facebook. Start following the reporter’s posts, and look for opportunities where your knowledge could build upon a piece he or she has done.” –Susan Matthews Apgood
Prepare and customize for each pitch and each person. You don’t need to spend a ton of time, but you do need to make your information unique and worthwhile. Don’t pitch a source, pitch an angle that grows out of the old one that hasn’t been done before.
“Offer something new. Your challenge is to make sure that your pitch propels the earlier stories forward rather than repeats them. This shows that you are actually familiar with the reporter’s topics and style. Also: that you’re a fan.” –Michael Smart
Develop personal relationships first, then maintain contact with those you have had coverage with in the past. It doesn’t matter who you are working with, be it associate, employee, partner, client or customer – the relationships you build will ultimately contribute to or tear down your business. Just a couple minutes each day to shoot an email to journalists you have worked with. “A simple, ‘Hey Joe — hope everything is going well on your end. Anything new and exciting going on?’ –Jonathan Long
“The media doesn’t owe you anything – your best approach is to earn your way into their awareness through persistence, building credibility, deepening your understanding of their readership and being a resource.” – Martha Carnahan
It’s true that earned press isn’t free. That being said, there are great resources and circles to join that provide opportunity and access to media. If you want credibility as a business and business person, you are likely to join the Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce. These require attendance, involvement and membership dues. They aren’t free. That does not mean you are “paying” for your reputation. You are still earning it.
Just like being part of Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce is an important step for your business, the same goes with associations like HARO (Help A Reporter Out). You pay a membership fee to join HARO, which gives you access to media opportunities. The opportunities are there, but it is up to you to seek them out and respond successfully. If this is the right route for you and your business, make sure you follow the guidelines to maximize your input to media sources you find there.
Be aware of current trends. Know the themes being talked about in social and traditional media. Look to the stories and the reporters covering them for potential. Is there a big issue being debated by your local government that could use your input and business expertise? Know what’s going on. Be aware and get involved.
When crisis happens, make sure your company is already prepared to handle everything appropriately. Have talking points ready to offer to demanding reporters. Being unprepared in times of stress rarely has a positive outcome.
“Look to KitchenAid’s response to an employee tweeting an offensive comment about President Obama’s deceased grandmother from KitchenAid’s Twitter account during a 2012 presidential debate. The company’s response shows the power of rapid crisis handling and appropriate messaging in the limelight.” –Matthews Apgood, President & CEO, News Generation
“Ultimately, you have absolutely no control over what gets printed. If you are clear in your interviews, you’ll cut down the incidence of misquotes. –Media Coverage: 5 Myths, 5 Musts
No need to write a big ol’ novel. Some journalists like to get pitches via Twitter: 140 characters or less means you must get to the point and quick. Even if you aren’t using Twitter, keep it meaningful and short. This makes your request more likely to be read. Make it unusual. Pull at the heart-strings. Tell a great story. Share an enthralling journey. Stand out by being unique and an individual. Be who you are. Not too far. “Don’t make us think you’re a total crackpot (that is, don’t send us an e-mail full of typos and Bible verses or, worse, a letter composed of words cut from magazines), but let us know you’re not like everybody else.” –Diana Spechler and Jim O’Grady
Be honest. Be genuine. Of all people, a “journalist can quickly identify pure BS and ego stroking a mile away.” –10 Ways for Startups to Score Media Coverage, Entrepreneur.com
Proofread proofread, proofread! Get another set of sharp eyes to look it over, and do this every time with every pitch. You want to be taken seriously and your business to be taken seriously, so put in the effort to take care of the details like spelling and grammar. If you don’t, then you have guaranteed waste-basket material. Don’t Send Press Releases. No snoring, no boring. Take a careful look and you will find it rare that a press release is actually published. Do not make phone calls to pitch. Most people, especially journalists, don’t have time and flexibility to listen to you at the moment you are ready to speak. Use email and social media. Whenever you write anything, use concise and descriptive headlines and subject lines. If your first line isn’t interesting, a journalist won’t bother to continue reading. Image Source Early in the morning is critical, especially when your news is time-sensitive. Afternoons are when newsrooms and people are winding down and finishing up. They are not open to adding something new. In fact, most people start and send around 9am. Beat them to the punch and send your emails earlier than that. Keep in mind that most journalists start when the sun rises. Reviewing those steps again: Have a thorough media plan in place before you begin. Start with local resources. Develop and keep relationships with journalists and news people. Join associations like Help A Reporter Out to find and meet needs while making the most of opportunities. Be aware of current news trends. Be prepared to handle crisis. Keep your pitches meaningful, concise and short. Make it unusual. Pull at the heart-strings. Tell a great story. Share an enthralling journey. Stand out. Be honest and genuine. Proofread. No press releases, and start early in the day. You cannot get the same value of media coverage for your business any other way. Traditional media needs to be part of your marketing strategy.
Where are you at in your PR strategy?