Public Relations 101: Your Name in Lights

So you want to see your business name in print and online publications, but you don’t have a huge budget for print advertising. While it may feel daunting at first, getting yourself some valuable press is absolutely within reach. Understanding a few key principles of public relations will help.

 

Where to start

Identify 10 – 15 outlets where you want to be featured. In those, you’ll likely have several choices:

  • Small ad in the directory section
  • Feature story about you and your product
  • Mention in a round-up story

When you’re first starting out, you’ll typically have greater success with smaller outlets and local publications. While you still can put O Magazine on your dream list, in the beginning, it’s best to start small.

 

1. Explore online and print directories

One of the first steps is to explore directories because they are often inexpensive or free. Recently, we had a client in a niche market. With some smart searching, we were able to identify two print publications that were an exact fit for him.
 
One of the publications we reached out to offered directory ads, but they were very expensive, so we scratched that. The other, though, gave us a far more reasonable rate. And, because I asked, the ad rep agreed to add a whole new category heading where our client is the only player.
 
Lesson: If you’ve got an idea of how to further your exposure, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

 

2. The brass ring: A feature story about you

In my communications with the editor and the ad rep, I suggested that the client would be happy to help their readers understand how his product solves a major problem that they face.
 
Not long after that, we got a call back asking us to answer a series of interview questions that their reporter turned into a four-page feature.
 
If you get a similar opportunity, follow these guidelines for best results:

  • Get to know them. Read several back issues, so that you know the slant and tone they take.
  • Gather the details. Get all the other specifics ASAP – deadline, word count, story angle, etc. Often, editors are on super tight deadlines, so you may need to burn the midnight oil to get your submission finished on time.
  • Don’t oversell. Be careful not to make your responses too promotional. Your piece needs to be educational for the particular audience, while establishing that you are an expert in your field.

Once you’ve established yourself as a trusted source of information, the calls will come.

 

3. Shoot for a Round-up Story

What’s a round-up story? (Hint: it’s not a chemical to kill weeds.) In a round-up story, an editor is looking to feature insights/info/products from a variety of sources, not just one.
 
Last week, the client I mentioned earlier was contacted again by the same industry publication, this time to contribute to a round-up story.
 
All of these wonderful results grew out of a single phone call to the editor.

 

Say Hello to HARO

Short for Help A Reporter Out, HARO is a free service that sends daily queries from pubs (including blogs) looking for input on business, lifestyle, and travel stories. Through HARO we’ve been able to secure placements in round-up stories for our clients. Some examples include mentions in features about Mother’s Day gifts, Christmas presents for your pets, and even a few lines in Better Homes and Gardens.
 
New to HARO? Sign up today.
 
Hint: Over the years, I’ve seen publications become more and more leanly staffed. They don’t have as much time to edit. If they have asked you to provide copy, the more closely you follow their guidelines, the more popular you’ll be with editors.

 

4. Think local

Hoping local media in your region (such as print publications and TV or radio stations) might feature you? Add them to your list.
 
Recently, I was interviewed by a local reporter about my Jewish Holidays In A Box business. She spent a few hours with me, then massaged our conversation into a 900-word article complete with two professional pictures of my product taken by a staff photographer.
 
In another instance, we were also able to secure placements in all the local outlets for a university client planning a new music festival, including 30 minutes of air time.

 

Your turn

Get started with an Excel spreadsheet of your dream publications, with columns for name, URL, circulation, email contact, phone number, frequency of publication, and close dates.
 
Hint: Major print publications close three or four (or more) months before going to press. As you have ideas of how your product or service could fit, make a note and reach out to them.

 
That’s it in a nutshell- the basics of getting press for your products or services. Wishing you inches and inches of ink!

 

In the comments, tell us about any positive or negative experiences you’ve had getting your name in lights.

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Ellen Zimmerman

Founder/President at The Zimmerman Group
Ellen Zimmerman is Founder and President of The Zimmerman Group, a marketing/consulting firm celebrating 25 years, and Jewish Holidays in a Box, a family education business that is still in its infancy. She still finds great joy in new challenges, learning, teaching, and creative outlets. And her favorite happy juice is when a client says, “Ooh, great idea. I love this!”
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