Public relations for marketers: hot hints and a how-to-guide

If you are marketing for yourself, a start-up or a business of any kind, sooner or later you are going to want to tell people about your business through the media, in outlets big and small.

Even if you have already mastered e-mail marketing or Adsense, plunging into PR can be daunting.

So, where to start?

It’s important to remember that news outlets are businesses, too; businesses that trade in valuable and important information: News.

In that sense, PR (public relations) is largely about convincing writers and editors that the information you want to give them is information their audience will find interesting and important.

The benchmark for news should be, “Why would this piece of information matter to anyone not already a customer?” If there’s no ready answer to that question, you may have something to say, but it’s not newsworthy.

Media coverage does not come down to who you happen to know. It’s achieved, overwhelmingly, through concentrated, well-planned campaigns to attract attention.

Here are some examples of announcements that you can use as a starting place to think about “what do I have to share about my business that is interesting.”

  • Launches (you’re starting your business or releasing a new product)
  • Fundraising (you’ve just raised $10,000 on kickstarter)
  • Milestones (your company turns 5!, surpasses 10,000 users, gains 50,000 followers on Twitter, etc.)
  • Acquisitions (your company acquires, or is acquired by, another company)
  • Joining a cool club or receiving an award.

public relations button
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Press Release

After you have identified your story, it’s important to begin developing your press release, which is the most common medium used to explain your story to journalists.

When your company is looking for press, what is important to remember is that your pitch email and press release needs to sell the journalist the story, in order for him or her to write the article to an audience.

The first sentence of any press release needs to answer: Why should the reader care? This is what is referred to as the “storyline,” where a company explains what about itself or its product is important to an industry and a readership and why.

An example of a storyline is the following:

After 2 Years Of Development, Stanford PhD & Partner Raise $500K For Lingua.ly, Aim To Change Way Languages Are Learnt Online.

The best rule of thumb is to imagine the journalist scrolling through an endless inbox and you have to give them a reason to stop at your story.

In one sentence, a reader/writer needs to know whether there is anything worth writing about, and whether there is a good enough story behind it to justify reading it.

Title (which is the storyline)
Two to Three sentences that highlight notable parts from the press release
First Paragraph: Discusses the larger mission of the company
Second Paragraph: Discusses the specifics of the product.
Third Paragraph: Delves more into the details of the product
Fourth Paragraph: Begins discussing larger trends that this story ties into
Fifth Paragraph: Discusses the background of the company. For company launch stories, this could include a quote from founder about why the company was started.

The Pitch

So now you are ready to contact reporters with your story pitch. When contacting reporters, you are going to get the best results when you address a reporter as you would a friend because, obviously, emails that appear spammy are ignored.

As much as possible, emails should be personalized, cordial, and professional. Reporters want to write about serious entrepreneurs with promising futures.

Generic emails like this offput journalists and relegate your post to the trash:

“To whom it may concern, we thought this might be of interest to you.”

The following is sample email to use when contacting journalists.

Hi “individual’s name”,
My name is “Your Name”. I founded a (Ex: Boston-based) tech startup called (Company Name) that is launching today, and am emailing to see if you would be interested in writing an article about the launch. “Company Name” was created to help people discover and promote live events with others. Our product, which is an iPhone app, is free for users on the iTunes App Store. I have below our Press release and I am happy to follow up with any information over email or by phone.
Thank you for your time and energy.
Cheers,
“Your Name”
Founder, “Company”
Mobile: “Your Phone Number”

The best pitches also have something unique. For example, for this story on a Finnish start-up, we used the fun fact that the team was from Finland in the pitch

“Hi Matthew, we’re got a story about “The Hug, ”a Finnish-American fitness fanatic’s app/hardware against dehydration”

Sending it out:

Most of us understand that if you send your pitch to 200 journalists who have been carefully selected by geography, news outlet and general area of interest, you are much more likely to get press coverage than not.

But telling people about your business doesn’t stop there. You can also:

  • Contact journalists on Twitter or LinkedIn
  • Send your pitch through to the “info@,” “tips@” and other general tip lines too. For example, at one time, major tech news site VentureBeat got half its pitches via the “tips” line.
  • Go to events like trade shows, where you might get to meet journalists in person.
  • Also don’t be afraid to politely follow-up a couple of days later with the same person. Sometimes journalists miss stories that they would otherwise like because they get upwards of 200 emails a day.

At the end of day, there are no “sure-things” when it comes to media coverage. While a great deal of PR is about common sense, hopefully the tips and tricks above have given you start to think about what it is your company has to share with the world. This is more likely to get you a warm response from journalists… and with a little luck and skill, grow your brand and business.

Andrew Wight is part of the Publicize team, a startup looking to change the way startups and SMEs approach PR. Connect with us on Twitter



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