A little while ago, I had an on-camera interview with the editor of Entrepreneur magazine Jason Feifer. The interview was posted on the magazine’s website along with links back to mine. That interview brought a lot of traffic and inquiry to my website both nationally and locally. Essentially, it sent a ton of publicity my way. And though that opportunity might have seemed super random from the outside looking in, I knew that it was the result of some very intentional efforts.
When I started Prose & Pens, I had no contacts and no network. I’d just left a career in education and everything and everyone I knew was also left there. To say I was building from scratch was an understatement.
I obviously didn’t have my current client list which also meant no money for paid marketing or ads. The saying goes that necessity is the mother of invention and it was necessary that I find a way to draw attention to the business.
Eventually, I decided one way to make that happen was with publicity…free publicity.
I came up with a list of news and media outlets in which I’d like to be featured. Some of the outlets on the list were a total long shot (and still are) but I placed them there anyway because you never know, right?
Next, I followed a select group of editors, writers, bloggers, and podcasters at those outlets so I could see and interact with their content. That’s how I came across Jason. I’d been a reader of Entrepreneur since forever and it was on my list.
At some point, Jason asked his followers to DM him with questions about navigating business in the middle of a pandemic. I did. He liked my question. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now I get to say that I’ve received national press with Entrepreneur magazine.
And that’s great for Prose & Pens, but you’re probably thinking that this whole thing sounds like a lot of time and energy. Well. That’s because it is. If you’ve ever talked to a publicist, you may have been told that publicity is a long game, especially if you’re relatively unknown and don’t yet have the brand recognition that draws people to you. That’s just how it goes and there’s rarely a magical way to make it happen faster.
Though the process isn’t a quick one, if you’re really interested in getting a little publicity, you’ll need to create and stick to a plan. You’ll begin to gain traction soon enough. Remember publicity is a marathon, not a sprint.
I like to think about publicity in three parts: plan, position, and pitch.
Publicity is pretty much synonymous with exposure. And though the common saying is that all publicity is good publicity, you probably don’t really want to leave the perception of your brand to chance. That’s why you have to think about the type of exposure you want and the types of outlets that can help you get it. So, here’s where to start your plan.
Think of how you want to be seen and known. List at least three brand characteristics that represent that perception.
Make a list of outlets that can help you carry that perception should they decide to work with you in some way.
Outline how you can get on their radars. This could be anything from engaging on social media to attending their events to simply pitching them.
When you solicit publicity (rather than having it come to you) it’s typically out of good faith that you’ll receive it. But you have to position yourself for that space. Positioning is all about relationships. This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to come best buds with the staff at your outlets of choice, but it does mean that you try to establish a connection of some sort. Ideally, you’ll look for opportunities to support before expecting them to yield to your request for publicity. Here are ways to position yourself.
Engage with their content by liking, sharing, and commenting whenever possible.
Attend events and be intentional about engaging. Don’t do any hard sells (or any selling at all). Don’t shove your business card in anybody’s face unless of course they ask for it. Do show genuine interest in the event and other attendees. Do ask memorable or thought-provoking questions if there is an opportunity to do so.
Pitching can be tough. It will likely take a time or two before you perfect your pitch. There will be times your emails will go unread. If it does happen to be read, there’s no guarantee of a response.
But you pitch anyway because all it takes is just one response to set you on a path towards the publicity you’re after.
If you’ve never pitched before, here are some tips for starting.
Use a compelling subject line. Don’t be spammy or cutesy, but direct and concise.
Keep the email short. Introduce yourself, state what you have in mind, explain how it will benefit the person you are pitching, provide your contact information, and get out of there.
Make sure you address the email to someone specific and please spell all names correctly. Some email addresses can be found on websites and others in social media bios. You can also try Googling the individual to see if you get a hit on their email. Be resourceful. You are looking for them and not the other way around.
Only pitch to outlets and editors who are actively looking for what you have to offer. If you pitch to an outlet simply because “you want to” you are severely increasing the chance that you’ll be ignored - for good. You can increase your odds of a reply by making sure that what you are pitching is currently in alignment with what your preferred outlet needs and/or wants. If you have what they are looking for, you’re making their jobs easier by default.
I know these tactics work because I’ve used them all and have gotten results. In fact, I landed one of my biggest clients by cold pitch (I’d contacted them twice previously and the third time was the charm). All you have to do is have a plan and work it consistently.
About: Dwaynia Wilkerson is the owner of Prose & Pens, a content writing agency that helps CEO, leaders, and founders use content to build their personal brands.