Sometimes it seems like the only type of business that gets good press is the one that spends the most money.
Why did your competitor get a feature in The Wall Street Journal? Well, they probably paid a fortune to some PR company to land them a spot on the homepage of their buddy’s business section.
It’s no secret that Fortune 500 companies pour tons of money into PR companies for a shot at some of the biggest print and digital media platforms. Some of these agencies are asking between $3,000 to $10,000 per month and sometimes – they don’t even deliver.
For a startup on a budget, these kinds of numbers are unimaginable and unattainable – but do they really need an 5-star agency to get exposure? Not according to Geeta Nardkarni, creator of BabyGotBooked, who is adamant that “pitching your story is not rocket science”. All you have to do is put in the work and find a way to make your story “mediagenic”.
Get Exposure Without Breaking The Bank
The reality is that money is not the only way to get great PR. In fact, it’s not even the most effective way.
According to Leonard Kim, journalist at Inc. and manager at Build Your Influence, hiring a PR agency is a waste of money. Why? Because outsourcing your press to an expensive company is essentially supporting lazy publicist techniques.
A classic example that Kim deals with every day is the ‘mass pitch’. “The publicist sends the same pitch to everyone on the list” and “even if you have one of the few publicists out there that doesn’t send the same pitch to everyone, the first thing they do in the relationship is they pitch you.”
This kind of impersonal press is no longer the norm.
Slackers Don’t Get Press
So if money and big PR agencies are not the ticket to great press, what is?
Doing it yourself. Today there are a number of effective tools to help you reach the people that matter, all the while honing in on your expertise and expanding your list of relevant contacts. As long as you put in the time, you will find success.
The first thing you need to do, according to Dan Simon, creator of FullyVested is to set your objectives. That means developing strategies to measure the impact of press.
“In PR we often talk about Input-Output-Outcome. Input is the work you are putting in, such as a press release – output is the immediate effect, such as media coverage – outcome should be the longer term change you hope to bring about via your efforts, such as an increase in customers who found out about you online or more inbound volunteer calls for your local charity effort.”
Here are 5 tools that can help you reach the long term objectives you have set forth for your PR efforts:
JustReachOut is one of the best portals to connect with journalists from across the world. Essentially, the company is dedicated to helping small business owners skip the middleman (PR agencies) and get access to relevant media contact lists for journalists in their niche. With over 4,000 entrepreneurs already benefiting from the service – it’s clearly doing something right.
Writing a personal pitch email is the most important part of the whole process – and JustReachOut offers a service to help businesses craft a pitch that will make an impact.
The last thing that JustReachOut should be used for is spam mailing a bunch of influential journalists. The focus of the company is to help startups become familiar with the press, build relationships, and develop the language to communicate effectively with journalists.
Don’t Forget To Tell A Great Story
Remember that journalists are expecting a certain level of professionalism and brevity in their correspondences. They will skip over any email that is filled with quotes and random information about your business that seems unnecessary.
Stick to the facts, tell your story, and leave it up to them to decide that your story is the best one that they heard all day.
Jerrid Grimm, co-founder of Pressboard writes, advises business owners to stress people over numbers in telling their story to journalists. “Telling a personal narrative forms an emotional connection with the reporter, and with his or her readers,” says Grimm.
It’s a helpful reminder that we are all human and we all like to feel connected to a narrative just as much as we like to see astronomical numbers.
For only $65/month, JustReachOut is an affordable tool that provides access to some of the most important contacts in your niche. It’s the best way to get your company featured in big players like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, and more.
Aside from connecting with journalists to land features on sites with high traffic, doing your own PR means finding creative ways to backlink your site to other influential sites in your niche. Press is about staying relevant in the changing landscape of your industry, and staying on top of these changes is no easy task.
It’s not as easy as just paying for backlinks wherever you can find them, however. You need to familiarize yourself with important influencers in your niche and then propose a backlinking scenario between your site and theirs.
Build Reputable Links with Influencers
As Neil Patel writes, “effective link building is now about trust and popularity.” Working up a relationship with a trustworthy domain takes time before backlinking takes place.
Buzzstream is designed to make analyzing all this much easier. Their site is optimized for the user to collect all relevant information on journalists and sites in their niche that matter.
All you have to do as a user is collect the URL, plug them into Buzzstream, and boom – the software collects all information about it. This includes important social metrics like domain authority, number of social media followers, and your history of interaction with them.
That means you will know who all the influencers are in your niche, how influential they are, what it is about their site that makes them influential, and the history of correspondence between them and you.
The overall goal of Buzzstream is to get your site a backlink to influential sites in your niche. They make it easy to navigate and organize all your outreach attempts, and at $29/month represents another effective tool for generating great press on a budget.
Aside from getting the attention of journalists, an effective PR campaign should focus on positioning the owner of the company as a reliable and authoritative voice in their industry.
The best way to do this, according to Alphabetic founder Matthew Capala, is to land a spot as guest blogger on a site with high traffic relevant to the industry.
Establish Your Expertise
“Guest blogging and public relations have become two sides of the same coin” writes Capala. “Through guest blogging you build your brand and following, which leads to media mentions, and eventually to becoming a resource for journalists.”
Establishing yourself as an authoritative voice in your industry is a great way to gain exposure. Writing in-depth articles about an important topic will make it clear to readers that you (and by extension, your brand) is reputable and worthy of support. Not only will potential customers take notice, but other companies in your niche will begin to forge relationships with you.
This kind of relationship could yield important backlinking opportunities for your site. It could also lead to a collaboration that could help you both grow exponentially.
So what about journalists on the beat? Where do they get their story ideas from?
HARO is an acronym for ‘Help A Journalist Out’. Here’s how it works – journalists sign up to the site and scroll through the list of sources that are pertinent to their beat (whether it’s technology, health care, sports, or local real estate). The journalist will then request a connection to a source, and that’s your time to shine.
Share Your Expertise With Journalists
From a press perspective, working with HARO is quite straightforward. Simply signing up as a source is all it takes to get into the system. It’s a great way to put your name out there as an expert in the field. After all, journalists often use HARO to get access to an expert in the particular topic they are writing about.
Zalmi Duchman has found many PR opportunities for his company Fresh Diet by using HARO to connect with journalists. One of the things he likes most about HARO is that it’s designed in categories that are easy to navigate. “HARO subscribers get three emails a day” he says, each “filled with queries from reporters from top news outlets like Forbes, CNN, ABC, Entrepreneur, INC and many more.”
However, there are a few rules that govern your correspondence with a journalist once they reach out. The rules include no spamming, no selling a product, and no attachments – the basic stuff when it comes to PR communication norms.
Interested parties can use HARO for free if they would like, and it’s a good idea to start this way to get a feel for how it works. There is also $19/month subscription that allows the user to create a profile and bio that can be used for each email correspondence with the journalist.
While the bread and butter of press is getting in touch with journalists and situating yourself as an expert in your niche, sometimes PR is all about the launch of a new product or service. In the days leading up to the launch, you are going to want to generate the broadest reach possible the big announcement.
Or, as Zach Kitschke puts it, “you’ve worked hard to build your product, and now it’s time to launch. But how do you get the word out?” In his list of 10 steps to get great press for your startup, Kitschke mentions reaching out to journalists, writing a great press release, and scheduling “an embargo” for when the product must launch.
Mailroom.press can help generate buzz in preparation for the embargo.
Mailroom.press is essentially a database of journalist contacts that can be downloaded, copied and pasted into a CRM, as well as a mailroom script to help formulate your pitch. It’s a great way to cultivate a personalized email blast that will connect with over 10,000 nationwide publications.
The unique thing about Mailroom.com is its payment model. They offer a one-time payment for customers looking to launch in a month or less – just the kind of service you can rely on to make up for lost time or buffer other outreach efforts in time for the launch.
So What’s Next?
So how did your competitor get a feature in The Wall Street Journal? Well, the answer is clearly a lot less obvious now than before reading this article. They may have used any one these affordable tools or they may have shelled out thousands of dollars for a PR agency. The point is – if you put in the time and effort to do your own PR, use a few key tools, you will be looking at yourself on the front page of the WSJ in no time.