a short guide to doing your own PR
Emma Burrows of Fig PR has some advice for getting a bit of media love.
Ever wondered how certain brands, products and stories end up in publications (ahem, including this here magazine)? While discerning editors and journalists are always hunting for cool things to write about, PR also plays a big part in what lands on their radar. As a small business, you might not have the funds to hire a PR person to spread the good word, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a red-hot go yourself. Emma Burrows is the founder of FIG PR and spends a lot of time mentoring budding creatives and business owners who want to get the media spotlight. We asked Emma to give us the lowdown on doing your own PR – lucky for us, she kindly obliged.
First up, what exactly is PR and what can it do for a business? Great question. PR is short for Public Relations, and the boring textbook definition refers to it as “the strategic communications between a business and the public.” But really, what the heck does that mean? For me, PR is about building relationships with a range of awesome people (editors, journalists, producers, writers, creatives, bloggers, influencers and more) to help you share your story with the right audience (aka your ideal client) through traditional and digital media.
The value PR can bring to your business is huge because you’re pretty much getting a third-party endorsement. You might get an increase in sales, reach new audiences and increase your SEO ranking. PR can also position you as an expert in your field, and build brand credibility, customer loyalty and trust. Basically, it can make you look pretty darn awesome.
Fun fact: more than 70% of consumers say they prefer getting to know a company through articles rather than through ads. The next time you read the news or take a squiz at your favourite publication, take a look at the people and businesses that are included. I would say 80% of the time, that story happened through PR.
Before you go pitching yourself or your products to media, what should you do? Research is key. Firstly, where does your ideal client consume information? Write a list and look at the media and publications (print, online, podcasts, TV, radio) that you want to get into and really take the time to understand what kind of products, services and stories they feature. Look at the themes and trends that are covered, and go in with the mindset of “How can my service or product add value?”
When doing your own PR, start small. It’s really about quality over quantity. Let’s be real here, you’re a business owner doing all the things and wearing lots of hats. I always recommend picking between one to three publications as a goal and setting a realistic timeframe for yourself based on your current workload.
What assets do you need in your media kit before you get out there?
1) Imagery – Profesh, high-resolution imagery is a must. This can sometimes be a deal-breaker for a story or product piece, so it’s super-important that you have these ready to go. Be sure to mix it up with photos that include a plain background and in-situ, and have both portrait or landscape formats to cater for the publication’s specs.
2) Media bio – The media bio is all about selling you. Yep, you – the founder, owner, creative director and chief wrangler of all things. A well-written media bio shows a journalist or producer who you are, your skills and qualifications and your personal brand.
3) Press release – The press release isn’t dead, but should only be used if you have a newsworthy story or announcement. Include key messages, quotes and additional information that you might not include in your media pitch.
4) Fun facts – Our media mates love fun facts, data and research. If you have any quirky stats or info, be sure to include it, as this could make for a lovely news angle.
How do you decide who to pitch to? This comes back to the hard-hitting research stage of PR. Dig deep to determine who your ideal client or audience is and really nut out where they are consuming information. When you’re researching different publications or media targets, take note of specific stories, articles or segments where you think you could add value. Then, check out the awesome human who is writing or producing them. Take the time to look at their work, take notes and map out hooks and angles (different story ideas) that you think could be of interest to them. Make sure to look at their job title, too, as this will give you some insight into their role.
How do you go about finding contact details for these people? If you don’t have access to a media database then it’s all about a little stalking. Generally speaking, contact details can be found on the publication’s website, or you can look up specific media folk on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram). It’s also a good opportunity to follow people on social media to see what stories they’re working on and start building relationships.
What kind of things can you reach out to press about? There are many reasons why you might reach out to media. Do you have a beautiful product that would be perfect for a sustainable Christmas gift guide? Is there a 'Meet the Creator' section that you'd love to get featured in? Does your media target look for contributor pieces or real-life stories to inspire their readers, listeners and viewers? Look at the themes, trends and regular segments to figure out where your brand could add value. That is where the PR magic happens. On a side note, you can totally reach out just to say "G'day" and introduce yourself. This is also an ideal time to ask questions about specific stories that might be in the works.
Can you announce something on your own channels before reaching out to media or should you give the media an exclusive? This will very much depend on your strategy, but some publications won't run a story if it's considered 'old' news. I would recommend working with some publications in advance of an announcement (giving information under embargo) so that you can drop the news at the same time to get maximum impact.
What should you expect once you’ve sent off your pitch? Don’t expect to get a response straight away! Our media friends get hundreds of emails every day. Be patient and trust the process. Keep tabs on who you’ve pitched to and on what date. This will be useful when and if you need to do a follow-up.
Any advice for the tactful follow-up? Knowledge is key. Don’t follow up when an editor or journalist is on deadline and expect a response. Also, when you do follow up, make sure to keep giving the biscuits (aka value) with additional story ideas or angles that might be a better fit. For example, if you’re an artist, maybe an exclusive first look at a new art collection is the way to your media target’s heart.
What’s a big PR no-no to avoid? Oh boy, where do I start? Don’t follow up an hour or so after you’ve pitched. And please make sure your pitch is personalised and tailored to that specific publication. It is SO obvious if you’ve done a mass email, and it won’t help you build relationships, which is the key to long-term success.
At what point should you hire a professional to do this for you? I think this comes down to your own workload, budget and timeframe. However, I really think the value in doing your own PR is huge. You’re building awesome relationships with the media, which can result in you becoming the go-to person for your product or expertise.
What else should we know about PR? PR is a big mindset shift. It’s a really underutilised tool in your comms toolkit because it’s a super-misunderstood industry. If you want to be seen and heard, PR can really help you get a competitive edge. You just need to put yourself out there.