The last five to eight years have seen a significant shift in the media landscape. As a former Public Relations consultant, I’ve seen multiple PR agencies scrambling to make sense within this increasingly competitive and consolidated world of marketing, PR, advertising and content creation.
Only those the most nimble and adaptable are still around.
Learn to do your own PR
But while a lot has changed, the fundamental principles of PR remain, so if you’re serious about getting free publicity and public exposure for your business without engaging a PR firm, read on.
Your blog, your book
Your business blog is a key opportunity to start a longer conversation over time with your prospects, clients and assorted others. This is an ideal forum to share your expertise, build your authority and trust, and reveal your particular style, approach or personality.
Additionally, blogging for business is hugely useful for attracting publicity and exposure from other places. A recent article in which I featured in The Collective magazine heavily referenced this blog post I wrote. In cases such as these, you barely need to pitch a journalist if your blog proves to be highly relevant, insightful and valuable to the journalist.
If you’re regularly blogging on two to three key topics that relate to your business and you’ve done foundational search engine optimisation (such as a good site speed, a well organised navigation, and all meta page titles and descriptions filled out), then over time, your website should rank for those key topics you focus on.
Naturally, journalists are human and so they Google with the best of ‘em. When Googling a specific key topic, if your website ranks high on the first page for relevant search terms, it’s a short click or two for a journalist to find you.
How does it rank? In large part, because you’ve written multiple blog posts on these same key topics over and over again.
Know what’s newsworthy
Knowing how and why your story is newsworthy is central to doing your own PR. Your stories aren’t just how your business started and the backstory of the business founder. They are the stories of your clients, your supply chain, your professional opinions on topical and relevant matters and developments in your industry or related industries.
Delivering what’s expected or having an opinion that’s commonplace isn’t newsworthy, nor is changing office premises or redoing your branding. Oftentimes, we miss the most interesting stories because they’re so familiar to us that we no longer recognise them as remarkable.
Remember, the media need you as much as you need them. When you’ve taken some time working out newsworthy storylines, you’re doing the media a favour by getting in touch.
Write a shortlist of people to build relationships with
Old school agencies still pay a subscription to a media agency for up-to-date media lists within each market vertical and businesses still pay for a media list. However, this means you’ve got a list of several hundred media receiving the same media release, which can’t possibly be relevant to all people.
Journalists receive hundreds, sometimes thousands, of media releases everyday, around 90 per cent of which are deleted, sight unseen. Saturating journalists with broad-stroke media releases not only annoys them but indicates that you don’t know, or care, who they are and what they write about.
Instead, create yourself a short list of five key media that would be ideal for your business to be featured in. With a little studying you’ll see that journalists typically have particular topics or subjects that they write regularly on. There’s no point in targeting journalists for a particular story idea who don’t write about that topic. Only pitch topics and subjects to particular journalists who are already writing about these.
After you’ve done this, you can move onto the really important task of actually building relationships with these people. Strong and genuine relationships are, without a doubt, the most unwavering principle of PR without which, you’re relying on luck, not PR.
Social media is a major asset for doing your own PR. Following media and particular journalists on social media will enable you to notice what they’re interested in, what their general opinions are, and give you a direct line to start talking. So start stalking
The key rule with contacting influential people is: be normal. Don’t assume some weird personality or start acting strange. People are people. They can smell a phoney or desperado a mile off.
Simon Holt, Editor in Chief of The Brisbane Times, calls the pitch or point of your communication with a journalist “the thing”, described in his book as ‘what sells the story to the readers’.
He talks about the ‘fours Es of engagement’: making an emotional impression with your pitch, educating your readers, entertaining your readers and evolution (the idea that people want to read stories and learn from them to help their lives and their society evolve). Maybe you could tie those into this par as techniques of pitching or ‘things to remember’ when pitching.
When you’re ready to pitch, this is best done over email. Get to the point. Don’t introduce yourself with small talk. Keep it short, simple and focus on why what you’re talking about is relevant to them. The details come later.
At this stage, you’re simply making your newsworthy point with a small amount of supporting information, and gauging their interest. This should take no more than three short paragraphs.
Write it yourself
At no other time in history has it been easier for business owners to write articles for blogs, websites, magazines and sometimes, newspapers, to help build their reputation, heighten their business’s visibility and create more exposure for their brand.
There’s nothing stopping you from simply pitching your story idea and offering to write it. You’ll want to focus on making your topic as useful as possible – not only to readers but in support of your brand’s reputation.
Depending on the media outlet, this could be paid or unpaid. Always ask this, after your pitch is accepted and before you start writing your story.
If you’re writing your own article, your story will still need to be newsworthy. Hopefully, if your article is overtly promotional it will be rejected – otherwise the media isn’t likely to be very credible and not worth your while in the first place.