You are in love…with your product, your company, your personal brand–what have you–and now you want to take it to the next level. The challenge? You’re strapped for time and money. Story of our lives, eh?
I once secured positive & quality media placements on behalf of a start-up in nearly all mainstream print media outlets and on primetime TV without the help of a PR firm and with zero budget. My predominant strategy? Showcasing and communicating the leadership’s expertise and relevance.
The following three strategies were a part of my overall bootstrapped, guerrilla PR plan. These will help you prepare for, and secure, quality media opportunities and can be used with a PR professional or on your own.
Assess the situation from a journalist’s perspective
- Is your website journalist-friendly? Take an inventory of your online capital and peruse these assets while pretending to be an overworked journalist who is under deadline. Phew—that’s scary isn’t? Ask yourself: Is my story and mission clear? Do I have high-res photos with photo credit easily discernible and available for download? Do I have an easily-accessible media kit? Are my latest press releases listed? If your answer is “no” to any of the above, get on the ball! An overworked journalist will not work very hard to do you a favor and feature you. Make his/her life easier.
- Focus on the “why.” I’ve seen Simon Sinek’s video on the “golden circle” far too many times to ever want to see it again, but he made a good point: people care about why you’re doing something–what’s your mission? What’s the story behind it? Communicating the emotional component of your story helps you connect with your audience. So, make sure your website gives your why. In a noisy online world, an emotional connection helps you cut through the clutter.
Build your platform by becoming a subject-matter expert
A sought-after expert will be someone who has the education and/or experience to lead and innovate in his or her field and who can break down jargon and technical speak into digestible messages while being trustworthy and engaging (I know what you’re thinking: is that all?). The reason this is so important to PR is that you can be one of those talking heads (a cool one, of course) who’s always landing national talk shows! Ok, so that’s a tough one and we’re not all going to land a gig as a Today Show correspondent (at least not immediately). However, being a subject-matter expert is a great way to build your brand’s credibility. Bottom-line: it’s a foolproof way to provide value that builds the public’s trust in you & your brand.
Creating well-written, share-worthy content is absolutely key to establishing your expertise in an information-obsessed world. SEO has died (at least its manipulative black-hat component has). There’s no way to trick people into thinking you’re an expert – you simply have to become one by creating valuable content (written, video or audio) for people and making sure they’re aware of its existence. Want to get started? Take advantage of the resources listed below.
Leverage the best free PR resources
HARO stands for “Help A Reporter Out” and is a free online service that provides a way for journalists to post queries to the public/PR people/ subject-matter experts. A compilation is sent out 3 times a day (Eastern time, so the first one is sent around 6 a.m. EST). The email addresses of the journalists are cloaked. The reason this is a great tool for PR is that if you’re a subject-matter expert in something, you can find relevant queries to respond to and potentially be featured or quoted in a story or featured on TV. An unconventional way to use HARO is to use it as a way to build a relevant media list of freelance writers. A lot of print publications rely on freelancers for their features and HARO makes it easy to identify who is typically writing about what and for which publications. I keep a list and, once I feel like I really understand a freelancer, I shoot him/her a specific pitch geared to the type of stories she/he writes. Freelancers also typically have their own websites with clippings of their stories and a bio so it’s easy to understand their writing style and interests.
LinkedIn is a great resource to use when trying to a) figure out who TV producers are or b) connect with said producers. It’s relatively easy to find out the relevant print journalists for your pitches since publications have a masthead (a printed list, published in a fixed positon in each issue, of its editors, writers, contributors, and address details) and their websites’ contact pages usually delineate who writes for what “beat” (journalist speak for “topic”). It’s harder, however, to find out who the relevant producers for national TV shows are. Also, national TV is just a harder medium to pitch and it really comes down to connections. This is where LinkedIn comes in handy—you can find out whether you have a connection to a producer through someone you’re friends with. I’m pretty sure LinkedIn was created to prove the Kevin Bacon “Six Degrees of Separation” game.
Twitter is a great tool for connecting with journalists in real time. I recommend creating private lists of journalists (you can separate based on beat, i.e. “nutrition journalists,” “tech bloggers,” etc.), which you can then use to easily track what the journalists are writing about, sharing and interested in. This is also a key way to begin inserting yourself into the dialogue. Begin by sharing the content that resonates with you or opining with an intelligent comment when you have one. The great thing about Twitter is that once you follow someone, it recommends similar people to follow, making it easy to group together relevant journalists.
You can place a “Google Alert” on any search query you want to monitor.
For example, you can place a name (everyone should have a Google Alert on his/her name!), a phrase or a company. Google Alerts are email updates (you can choose the frequency) of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries.
Why would you want to place a Google Alert on something?
- to stay abreast of news relating to your competition and your industry
- to monitor a developing news story
The reason this is important from a press perspective is that you can:
- “Ride the news/News Jack.” Riding the news is a PR tactic where you use something that’s currently in the national spotlight to gain relevancy and place a spotlight on your own brand. For example, if you’re a cybercrime expert you could use hacking crimes that gain prominence in the media as an opportunity to discuss cybercrime from a historical perspective (contextualize the issue) or to plug a service you offer that counters cybercrime [you can see an example of how an academic I worked with used the Ashley Madison hack to share his expertise on cybercrime]. The key here is that by using keywords that are trending, your media advisory or statement is likely to show up in Google searches for the keyword. Also, a media rep may reach out to you to include your voice in the dialogue (which you could also facilitate if you publish a media advisory). Never underestimate the power of a media advisory or press release written on a trending topic. I have gotten clients featured in top national publications as a result of press releases written to leverage topical issues.
- Keep dibs on who is writing about relevant topics and create a smart PR strategy. For example, you might know that Jane Doe covers the nutrition beat, but that’s pretty broad, right? So when you put a Google Alert on something specific, like the USDA’s “Smart Snacks In School” rules, you can see who is covering this very niche nutrition policy news and then pitch him/her or stay on his/her radar.
These three strategies have been vigorously tested with stellar results in industries as varied as higher education, start-up and legal.
I’d love to know how these work for you.
Excerpted from my e-book, “Guerrilla PR: 7 Strategies for Getting Kick-Ass PR on a Budget,” available at www.madcappr.com.