You could have a memorable brand name, an amazing product and a price point that crushes your competition. But if consumers don't know you exist, what's the point of being in business? Attracting initial press for a brand can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. I’m currently in the middle of a PR campaign for a teeth whitening kit my company just launched, and there's plenty of competition in the industry. That's why building initial momentum through press mentions can help improve our chances for success: It could help our website attract referral traffic from a media outlet's website, as well as organic traffic through search engine optimization.
I've used the following formula to not only secure press for my current campaign, but also for several of my consulting clients as well. You may want to make some small adjustments depending on your product, service and industry, but the same basic framework applies.
1. Commit to vetting Help a Reporter Out press inquiries.
Help a Reporter Out, or HARO for short, is a free way to secure mentions and exposure for a brand. Yet many don't experience its full value because they aren't being proactive.
HARO sends out three emails Monday through Friday, each containing specific requests from reporters and journalists. You can read through the queries and identify ones that are a good fit, either based on your own experience or your specific product, service or industry.
With so many people replying to each request, however, think about putting some thought into your replies in order to stand out. Even with the most well thought-out replies, you’re still likely to only secure press from a small percentage of these opportunities. It’s a numbers game.
Even if you can’t monitor and reply to queries personally, consider assigning someone on your team to make it a priority. The press and media relationships you can gain are priceless. I don't have the time to monitor incoming requests three times a day for relevant queries, so I assign the task to a virtual assistant, who identifies opportunities and forwards me the best ones. I then spend 15 to 20 minutes at the end of my day replying to relevant requests.
2. Speak to the reporters and journalists that make up your local media.
Local media can be more responsive when it comes to blind pitches. I'm constantly reaching out to media in several markets, but anytime I'm connecting with my "hometown" media, I notice there's a much faster response rate and a higher overall interest in helping out. A national nightly news program may not be interested in what you're doing, but your local network affiliate might be. It’s usually easy to find contact information on local news websites.
It’s a good idea to build relationships with your local media regardless, so take this as an opportunity to do both. You can identify the journalists and reporters who cover stories related to your industry, connect with them on social media and start some small talk. Then you can take it to email. In your email, you can give them a little background on what you and your company do while also offering to serve as an information source anytime they need a quote or interview. Once that relationship has been established, you can pitch them on your news.
3. Reach out to industry-specific journalists for potential press coverage.
Want to get your new brand featured on a major media outlet? Sending a pitch through their general contact forms or email addresses probably won’t get you anywhere. I advise pitching directly to the journalists who are currently writing about your industry, product or service.
In this instance, search can be your best friend. A quick search can help you identify media outlets that have recently written relatable stories. You can search for terms relevant to your product, click on the “News” results and then display the most recent news results first. Connecting with journalists who have just covered something that’s relatable can be a great way to get your foot in the door. You can even try to get your brand included in any follow-up stories.
I was able to get our new product listed in a gift guide on a popular beauty blog after discovering a journalist who published a gift guide last year. I reached out to her, and she happily included our product in this year's edition.
4. Connect with influencers who share your target audience.
A lot of people hear “influencer marketing” and immediately think of paying someone on Instagram with millions of followers a few thousand dollars to promote their product or mention their service. Sure, this strategy works, but it can require deep pockets, and many brands are working with a limited budget in the beginning.
You may want to focus less on followers, and more on audience. A blogger in your industry who has a combined 30,000 social followers and a very active blog may be able to provide you with excellent targeted exposure. Oftentimes, it will only cost you samples of your product or a free service. Bloggers need content for their audience, so consider reaching out to them with an offer to review your offering. You'd be surprised at how much exposure you can secure this way.
While I would love to have a huge celebrity advertise our product, their six-figure sponsored post price could be used to secure thousands of posts from lesser-known, yet still influential, "local" celebrities. I have a virtual assistant search Instagram to identify potential influencers using specific hashtags, evaluate their followers and audit their engagement rates. If they pass, we inquire about asking them to post for us.
Jonathan Long is the founder of Market Domination Media, an online marketing consulting agency and the co-founder of consumer product Sexy Smile Kit. He is also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).
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