Publicity Secrets: Pulling Back the Curtain on the Wizard

The world of public relations and publicity can seem like a lot of smoke and mirrors from the outside.

If you’ve ever tried and failed at getting positive publicity for your company, or even if you’re just not sure how to make regular PR part of your marketing strategy, start by implementing these tactics. With some practice, you’ll come to see that getting PR isn’t so magical–it’s a matter of pulling the right levers.

The Most Important Rule of Publicity

Be persistent. If you only remember one thing I tell you about how to get publicity, make it that. I really can’t emphasize enough how much of PR work is just being politely relentless.

I know it’s easy to think, “I haven’t heard back from this reporter after one email/phone call. She’s not interested.” I bet you didn’t get to be a Mogul Mom by giving up at the first roadblock. Apply the same persistence to your PR that you did to getting your business off the ground.

Journalists and bloggers get dozens, even hundreds, of pitches every day. It’s overwhelming to sort through that many emails, and hey, maybe your subject line or pitch wasn’t that compelling, so that reporter needs to see your name in her inbox a few times before her interest is piqued. Or perhaps that blogger was interested in your pitch but forgot about it the next day. The truth is, until you hear the word “no,” you have an open invitation to keep following up. I generally make 3-6 touches with a reporter per story, and I do this for a living. If you have to put in less work than that, you got lucky. Go buy a lottery ticket.

Every time you follow up, be prepared to re-explain your story idea to the writer, and tell her why it would be interesting to her readership. I know it feels humiliating to have to clue a reporter in to what your business does four or five times. It’s frustrating to have to spell everything out. But in a world where writers are inundated with emails, phone calls, and tweets, you can’t let it deter you.

My rule of thumb is to check in with writers every 3 business days, alternating between email and phone messages (if you have both types of contact info). If your story is more urgent–perhaps you’re hosting an event or launching a product on a set date and you want coverage–it’s fine to check in on a daily basis, or even to leave a voicemail and follow up the same day with an email. Just remember to stay friendly and upbeat no matter what.

Be Assertive 

Repeat after me: I am an authority in my field. I am a credible source of information. My business is newsworthy.

One of my favorite writers, Ramit Sethi, talks about “low competence triggers” –actions or mannerisms that tell the people we encounter that we’re not competent. I’ve met a lot of women who think that because they’re not 20-year veterans in their field of work, they’re not allowed to speak authoritatively. As a result, they don’t act confident in interviews or they downplay how great their company is. I’ve struggled with this myself, so I know it’s hard.

But here’s the thing: even if you’re not an expert with years of experience, you probably live, eat, and breathe all things related to your business. You’re totally qualified to talk about your business, your field, and the problem your business aims to solve.

Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, but whether you’re pitching your story or you’re giving an interview, never sell yourself short. It’s a low competence trigger, and it’s the most counterproductive thing you can do for your publicity, because it tells writers that you’re not worth writing about.

If you follow my first two pieces of advice, I’m willing to bet your PR efforts will be more fruitful than they have been in the past. But getting rejected is part of the game. The good news is, there’s a way to make rejections help you down the line.

Rejection: Figure Out What “No” Really Means

It’s tough having your story idea rejected by a writer, especially if you’ve put a lot of thought into it. But like Seth Godin says, no can mean a lot of things. If a writer tells you she’s not going to be able to do a story on your company, don’t just hang up immediately. Stay friendly, but before you let the phone call end, or put the email in your trash folder, shoot her back a quick, “Thanks for getting back to me. Can you clarify for me what might make this a more newsworthy topic for you?” or “Can you give me a little more information on why you don’t feel this is pertinent to your readership, so that I can see whether there’s another angle that might make more sense for your publication?” She should be willing to tell you that much–after all, letting you know what kinds of stories she’s looking for is beneficial for both parties.

We don’t know each other, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I work at a PR firm, and at times, I’ve really hated doing publicity. Getting rejected is tough. Pitching a story can feel pushy. But as I’ve learned to get over rejection and change the way I think, I’ve found that doing PR can actually be a lot of fun. And as you implement these tactics and start to see results, you’ll begin to realize that the world of news and media isn’t so intimidating, after all.

There’s more to publicity than these three tactics. You’ve got to have a newsworthy story, and it does’t hurt to have relationships with bloggers and reporters. But even the most compelling story won’t get off the ground if you don’t make those tactics an integral part of the way you do PR.

Now, get out there and start pitching.

It’s your turn! What aspects of public relations do you find challenging or uncomfortable? Nicole would love to hear from you…Feel free to ask her your PR questions or share your experiences of pursuing publicity in the comments below. 


Nicole Kinney

Nicole Bare Kinney is a communications & PR professional, avid crafter, and reading fanatic. She lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and dog.

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  1. Wanda

    I just spoke to someone today about my favorite movie being The Wizard of Oz and about the Great Oz. So when I saw this today it really intrigued me to read further. I would love to connect with Nichole on LinkedIn but don’t have her email address in order to do so to enter into LinkedIn. So if there is a way I could connect with her it would be greatly appreciated. I want to read more of what she has to offer on Publicity and the Do’s and Don’t or In’s and Out’s since I’m in that frame of mind for my business. Thank you in advance! 🙂

    • Megan Barnes

      Hi Wanda!

      I’m so glad Nicole’s article resonated with you–I think successfully pulling off PR is a pain point for a lot of us. Which is why I’m thrilled that Nicole will be doing a series of articles on this topic and also engaging in a dialogue with readers via the comment stream.

      I’m so glad you mentioned the difficulty reaching Nicole – I realized that there was a typo in the link to her LinkedIn account – I’ve fixed it, and hopefully you can reach her now. Also, please feel free to post questions and engage in a dialogue with Nicole right here in the comments.

      I will let her know you are trying to get in touch and let her share her contact info personally. Thank you again for reading and for sharing! 🙂 Here’s to breakthroughs in your business PR! 🙂

    • Nicole Bare Kinney

      Hi Wanda! I’m glad you found my advice meaningful and helpful. Please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn via the link in the bio. I would be happy to chat with you more on this topic. I’m also happy to engage with you here in the comments as well, so others can follow our conversation. Whatever you prefer!

  2. Jenna

    Excellent advice! I needed to hear this today.

    • Megan Barnes

      Great to hear, Jenna! Thanks for sharing 😉


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