New entrepreneurs, startup founders and SME CEOs may be under the impression that they need a PR team to guarantee them media coverage. Errm, newsflash – this is not the case. While going down the D.I.Y route for your company’s PR is most definitely time consuming and should not be taken lightly, anyone can pitch to the media as long as they follow clear guidelines when doing so. The important thing is to ensure you have firstly, a newsworthy announcement or secondly, something interesting and new to say.
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Press releases are the most effective means of communicating a new announcement – perhaps a company launch, product announcement or new hire – to journalists. You can find out how to write one here.
Pitching your first press release is a key moment. It is crucial that you research the journalists you want to target so this means reading the relevant sections of the publications you want to appear on and finding the journalist’s name. Very often they will have their contact information available on the publication’s website but, if they don’t, Twitter and other social network sites can be a goldmine for finding journalist contacts.
Once you have your release and your contacts list drawn up the next stage is to send it, or pitch it, to journalists. Regardless of whether you go for exclusive outreach – contacting one journalist at a time – or go all in and email your whole list, ensure that each email is personal, friendly and well written. A wrong name in the opening paragraph and it is a certainty that your press release will be ignored.
The subject line of the email should include the headline or main takeaway from the press release, while the body of the email should highlight the main points of the press release that follows. The idea is to grab the journalists attention as quickly as possible, so don’t wax too lyrical here. When you have sent the email, wait a day or two and, if you haven’t heard anything, send a follow up. Getting press coverage and pitching to journalists is not for the faint hearted; remember that persistence – though always accompanied by politeness – is crucial.
Guest articles are different to press releases. They are thought leadership pieces that are designed to establish a company founder or CEO as an expert in their field, in a way that helps them to become authority figures and go to sources for news and interviews.
You can learn how to write a guest article that is strong enough to be published here but, when it comes to pitching your piece, remember that it will be a slightly different process to when you are pitching a press release.
As your guest article will be 800 – 1,000 words in length, it is important that your pitch breaks down into bullet points the argument that you want to make. Like with press release pitches, the email subject line should be the guest article’s headline. Address the journalist personally but, in this case, remember that you should not pitch a guest article to more than one publication at a time. These are articles, not announcements, and publications will not take kindly to having the same article appear on a rival’s website.
At all times – for both press releases and guest articles – avoid jargon. Jargon is the quickest way to harpoon any potential your announcement or guest article had, so speak and write in plain English. Similarly, steer well clear of self promotion. The contacts you are reaching out to have no interest in publishing your content marketing and, if they did, they would probably be charging you for an advertorial instead.
The other thing that is of utmost importance when pitching a guest article is to have an article ready. This is not a draft, or a rough piece. Asking a journalist or editor if you can write for them is merely an exercise in time wasting and will likely go ignored. Have your guest post written and ready for publication, with a standard of grammar, structure and spelling that is strong enough to be published on the website you would like to see it on.
Pitching to journalists is no time for amateur hour. Consistent bad pitches, poorly thought out press releases or shoddily written guest posts can – and have – resulted in writers being blacklisted from publications (i.e. emails directed straight to the trash can). The pitch is just as important as the announcement or article you are submitting – don’t waste hard work by failing to make the grade at the last hurdle.
When pitching, remember your manners. Using social networks to find potential journalist contacts is all well and good, but don’t start sending messages to their personal inboxes or – as in one case – commenting on their personal photos. Persistence is absolutely key, just be clear about your intentions from the offset and tell them that you will be following up. If you haven’t heard back after the third email it’s probably best to stop and try someone else.
Getting announcements or guest articles out into the world is the right way to go about building social proof so that, in the future, journalists and media outlets use you and/or your business as examples in articles. This can even include articles that do not require input from you prior to publication.
Remember, building successful PR is about colonizing a space and owning it, which is a step to ensuring that your business and name becomes synonymous with that industry or sector. With the above advice, you may not need to use a PR team at all, but taking on a PR campaign involves a lot of time and energy, so jump in with both feet, and get the job done to the best of your potential, or hire someone else who will do so.
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Ronjini is also the host of The PR Playbook Podcast, a podcast focused on helping listeners elevate their brand using modern public relations strategy and tactics including paid/earned media, digital marketing, social media, and other forms of marketing. In this episode, the host of The Loudspeaker, Sam Brake Guia, and Ronjini discuss why the rule “the sooner the better” doesn’t always apply to PR, examples of businesses that have entered PR too soon, and signs that a business is ready for PR.
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