So you are a solo-entrepreneur or a small business owner and you have a great product or service that you’d like to share with the world. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a featured story in your local newspaper or better yet, a national magazine?
Perhaps there is something unique about your brand that you’d like to pitch to the media. You could hire an independent publicist or a boutique PR firm but maybe your marketing budget is a bit tight right now and you’d like to do it yourself, or at least give it a try. There’s nothing wrong with that.
In fact, I usually encourage people to learn more about the service that they want to outsource. This means that you need to take the time to learn how do that service yourself. Gary Vaynerchuk calls this being a “practitioner” in the service you want to hire someone else to do. This helps you in two ways.
Number one, you get hands-on experience and you can gauge the difficulty level for yourself. Maybe it’s not necessary to outsource but then again, maybe it is.
And two, it’s a little harder for people to take advantage of you if you know exactly what they need to do and how they go about doing it. How awful would it be to be billed for hours of work that should have taken only a few minutes? It has happened.
The best illustration I can think of is when you go to an auto mechanic and must trust that he or she is honest about what needs to be done on your vehicle. When you know absolutely nothing about cars or what’s under the hood of your vehicle, it’s easy to be taken advantage of.
In this article, we’re going to discuss five steps you need to take in order to pitch to the media the right way.
Step One – Before You Pitch to the Media, Know Your Audience
If you have an online jewelry store and want to get your products in front of more customers, you have to consider where your audience will be. Would you pitch to BroBible, a website whose readers are men between the ages of 18 and 34?
Yes. Especially if your jewelry is specifically for men but even if they are strictly for women, you can still pitch. It’s all about pitching the right story angle. Your pitch could be something like, “Gift Ideas For Your Mom, Girlfriend, Wife, etc.” You get the idea.
However, you want to focus primarily on your target audience so you may want to pitch to Marie-Claire, StyleBlazer, or other publications of the like.
First, know where your audience will be and then prepare your list of publications that you’d like to pitch to.
Step Two – Before You Pitch to the Media, Learn More About Each Media Outlet
Whether you’re pitching to a radio or podcast show, a television or web show, a magazine, or a newspaper you need to tailor your pitch to that specific media outlet. This is one of the reasons why I recommend keeping your list small, to begin with. Start out with no more than 20 media outlets.
Check out their websites, see if they have an editorial calendar available. This is helpful to see what topics they will focus on each month. This gives you the advantage of planning ahead and pitching trendy and unique story angles that fit what they want to cover.
Many magazines will have their masthead available as well. This way you can see who the editors and writers are and possibly their email addresses.
It may be difficult checking out the websites on these media outlets to find out who the correct person to contact is. That’s why I love LinkedIn.
I usually look for editors, writers, freelance writers, producers, etc., all on LinkedIn.
Step Three – Before You Pitch to the Media, Prepare Extremely Well
Most journalists are juggling extremely busy schedules and typically have multiple deadlines and are under a ton of pressure. You don’t want to waste their time pitching them a story that you don’t have all of the details on.
For example, you are having a grand opening in the near future but aren’t sure of the exact date because you’re still waiting on the contractors you hired to finish the work that needs to be done.
Be ready with all of the stats, details, photos, quotes, case studies, and spokespeople. Have everything in order and on standby when the journalist asks for them.
Step Four – When You Pitch to the Media, Keep It Brief
Trust me, I know how much you want to tell the producers or journalists every little detail of your pitch. If may feel that if you leave any bit of it out, that will almost guarantee that your story won’t make the cut.
I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter. If they are interested in your pitch they will know, whether you give them every little detail or not. If they ask questions wanting to learn more about your pitch, well, that’s a good sign.
When pitching your story to a media outlet via email, make it brief. Cision lists offering a wall of text as one of three scary mistakes that make press releases spooky. Just put yourself in their shoes. Would you read a long wordy email from someone you don’t know?
If you end up having a phone or in-person conversation with them, try to think of the meeting as an elevator pitch. Keep the important parts, be clear and concise. But above all, be respectful of their time.
Step Five – When You Pitch to the Media, Think Long Term
Be prepared for rejection because it will absolutely happen, probably most of the time in the very beginning. However, don’t get discouraged. Keep those relationships going. Look at the positive side, now they know who you are.
Send them a handwritten thank you note for their time. Connect with them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. You can always tailor your pitch or come up with a unique story angle and pitch it to them again in the future.
What you don’t want to do is bug them. That will quickly get you on their “person I need to avoid at all cost” list and you don’t want that. Don’t be creepy, just keep it casual and try again when the time is right.
I’ve gotten my clients featured in Latina Magazine, Huffington Post, Business Journals, NBC 6 In The Mix, Telemundo and the list goes on. It certainly wasn’t a piece of cake but I learned that developing those relationships with producers, editors, and writers are the most important thing you can do.
As a digital marketer and someone who has worked in public relations, I understand the importance of PR for businesses but I also understand that it isn’t something that is easy to sell because many businesses don’t understand it and don’t care to.
Let’s face it, few people can explain what publicist do and fewer see the benefit of public relations. Heck, most people can explain the job functions of a secret agent before they can a publicist.
Just to clear things up, PR is a form of promotion of a business that is earned, not purchased, like advertisement. So in other words, don’t expect to pay for ad space on a website or pay a journalist to write a featured story on your business. It doesn’t work that way.
With public relations, your ideal audience is communicated with through earned promotion from trusted sources such as traditional media or speaking engagements.
PR people are persuasive storytellers. PR is typically used for brand awareness and to enhance the public perception of businesses. This includes damage control of negative events that can damage a company’s public perception. You can use public relations to shine a spotlight on your value propositions and translate them into positive stories.
According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
So why is it important?
Let’s compare PR versus paying for advertising.
Public Relations Versus Advertising
It’s earned exposure versus purchased. Most people view articles written by a trusted journalist as credible as opposed to ads, which are typically viewed as skeptical. This means you convince reporters, editors, podcast hosts, bloggers, news producers, etc., to share positive stories about your business or service.
Instead of having “promoted content,” which isn’t always trusted, your content would appear in the editorial section of the magazine, newspaper, TV station or website.
There’s nothing wrong with paying for advertisements. Just keep in mind that most advertisements need to appear frequently over time before you will grab the attention of your potential customer. Additionally, if you don’t have the right sales funnel in place to convert your leads into customers, you may just be wasting your money.
Earned promotion in publications like the New York Times, Forbes and The Huffington Post, have lasting effects and over time can result in speaking engagements, new clients, and solid credibility.
Many marketing professionals would argue that public relations has become the most effective way to build a brand, myself included. So, why is PR important? It builds brand awareness and establishes credibility better than paid ads ever will. And let’s face it, in today’s world of reading Yelp reviews and searching BBB, people want to hear about a business from trusted sources, not directly from the business itself.
People want to do business with brands that they are familiar with, they like, and they trust: public relations is the best way that the public can get to know, like, and trust your business.
So how do you get started with your own PR?
Getting Started With PR
I’ll be honest, there is an easy way and there is a way that requires some effort and patience. However, both ways can work if executed correctly.
The easy way is simple. You just hire an independent publicist or a PR firm and they will do all of the work for you. Of course, this way is not without its expense.
Considering that you are hiring people to write and distribute press releases, develop unique story angles to pitch to the press, among many more tasks that PR people perform, you can expect to pay a pretty penny.
The less desirable way that requires effort and patience is simply doing it yourself. As someone who was a self-taught independent publicist who garnered earn media coverage for my clients on such platforms as The Huffington Post, Latina Magazine, The Business Journals and many more. I can tell you that it isn’t difficult but requires diligent effort and patience.
First, you must learn How to Pitch to Media. Once you learn that, all you have to do is be consistent and patient. The earned coverage will come.
These books can help you avoid the common pitfalls many novices make and help you get it right the first time. Let’s be honest, who has weeks, months, or even years to waste? None of us. So learning how to do things right the first time is a must if you want to save time, energy and money.
One resource that I recommend for anyone who doesn’t have the money to pay a PR firm but want equally good results would be to use Linking News. I like this company because they not only distribute your press releases for you, but provide you with a wealth of resources on how to write press releases.
Another really great option is 24-7 Press Release. Through its multi-channel distribution network, 24-7 Press Release helps entrepreneurs and businesses disseminate their news to consumers, editors, journalists, bloggers, and websites.
Do you have experience using PR for your business? I’d love to hear your take on PR for business. How was your experience?
I decided to make this particular post because this blog isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve actually had a couple of blogs before throughout the years. Why I gave them up is another topic altogether. Not to mention that I also blogged for quite a few publications and company blogs over the years as well.
The point is, I learned a great deal while blogging for myself and blogging for others. I realized that I was missing some key elements that could have really given my blogs the boost I needed at the time. I learned what works, what doesn’t, and why.
The main thing I learned, was how to do everything myself. Why is that significant? There have been many times that I’ve heard about people being ripped off for overpaying someone to help them with their blog. I’m all for outsourcing but I’m not for overpaying. It’s like going to a car repair shop.
If you don’t know much about cars, it’s easy to get ripped off. My first recommendation to anyone who wants to start a blog would be to learn everything there is to know about blogging.
Have Realistic Expectations
Another key element, and possibly the most important, is patience. There are so many great blogs out there that talk about how to make money blogging. I fear that many people see the accomplishments, or what seems like the easy and quick success, of popular blogs and think they will create a blog and be an overnight sensation.
Hey! Anything is possible but it won’t be likely. That’s why patience and endurance are key. In the beginning, it will likely be slow, meaning you won’t make a ton of money right away. Not to mention, if you are an absolute novice when it comes to blogging, not only will it be slow but you will also experience an extreme learning curve.
Plan, Plan, And Plan Some More
There is so much that goes into the actual development of a blog, like aesthetics, branding, marketing strategy, and the overall planning process before launching your blog. Making the assumption that you already know what you’d like to call your blog and what your niche will be, you have to think about the execution of your blog.
Many people, would love to quit their day job and blog full time. However, in order to get to that point, you have to have a plan of action. In my assessment, I’ve noticed that there is no exact science because what works for one person may not work for another. For example, you may feel that you can continue to work and blog on the side until your blog reaches a certain level of success.
That is likely the method that most people would take. Still, others may feel so strongly that their blog would be successful that they are willing to take a leap of faith and just go for it full throttle. If you are like the latter, it might be a good idea to save a lot of money first, at least six months worth of living expenses because you never know how things will turn out.
Create an Editorial Calendar
Assuming that you are like most people who would work and blog at the same time until you can make the transition, you need to make sure you have a good work/blog balance. It is very difficult to blog while working full time. Difficult, but not impossible. Especially if you set aside specific times to develop your content.
First, you would want to organize an editorial calendar so that you know well in advance what blog posts you will develop. Based on your schedule, the editorial calendar will also help you decide how many blog posts you will develop and how often you will distribute them.
Once you have your editorial calendar all worked out and have set a realistic schedule for yourself to develop your content, you will find that a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Many people say that coming up with blog topics and having writer’s block is one of their biggest challenges.
Think About Marketing Efforts
Now at this point, you have your content all mapped out for the next six months to a year. Assuming that you already have a blog template in mind or someone you would hire to develop a blog theme especially for you, you need to think about marketing. How would you market your content? You will want to carefully consider which social media platforms you will set up for your blog.
Social media in itself is a whole different ballgame altogether. Considering that people “do” social media for a living, I’d say it’s a big deal. You can of course always hire someone to manage your social media pages for you, however, I wouldn’t recommend that in the beginning. For one thing, your blog probably hasn’t started making money yet and for another, it’s kind of important to learn how to market yourself on social media.
The good news is, it’s really easy to take an online course or hire a digital marketing consulting to teach you about the best social media practices for business. One of the absolute best platforms to take online course is Teachable.
Collaborate With Others
Once you have the social media platforms figured out, you would want to consider other marketing efforts like guest blogging. This is a great way to build your SEO because of back linking but it also helps you get in front of more people. It also helps their blog because you give them a bit of a break from developing their own content by offering your well-thought-out content to their readers.
Besides guest blogging, you may want to simply be featured on other blogs or websites for publicity. If a highly recognized platform such as the Huffington Post, interviews you or mentions your blog (in a positive light of course), this will certainly boost your credibility as an expert in your niche.
I always say good media relations is far better than a paid advertisement any day because you are not the one telling folks how great your blog is, someone else is doing that for you.
There are many other ways to promote your content besides paying for advertisements. Personally, I love cross-promoting other bloggers. You can post about another blogger’s content on your social media platforms and they will do the same for you in return. It’s a great way to get started especially if you don’t have the money to spend right away on promoting.
Just remember, when starting a new blog, you want to be patient because it will take some time to get your blog to where you would like it to eventually be. If you are a novice, learn as much as you can about blogging and prepare well before launching your blog, that way you can avoid many of the pitfalls most beginners make.
Figure out what social media platforms would be best for your blog and put diligent effort toward marketing. Above all, make sure you have fun and enjoy the journey.
Do you have some key elements you’d like to share on how a blogging can be successful? Write in the comments below!
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I’ve had “side gigs” on and off for many years. I’ve been a freelance fashion stylist and an independent publicist, and I made money from both side ventures. It is almost a completely normal thing, nowadays, to do freelance work on the side of your main job. Some people have such great success with their side gigs that they ditch their nine to five to pursue their freelance trade full time. However, getting started can be a little challenging. Take into consideration these six common mistakes that many new freelancers make and how to avoid them:
Not understanding that you need to promote yourself to your clients.
Hiring a lawyer to write a contract, opening a business bank account, creating a business plan, designing your business cards and setting up that perfect website are all great, but it’s all in vain if you don’t have clients. Creating social media accounts is smart but is a total waste of time if you don’t know how to use them properly to target and engage with prospective clients. Being a new freelancer means learning how to sell yourself and close the deal. Remember, not everyone wants what you are selling so you need to narrow down your search to those individuals who can use your services.
Start with promoting your services within your immediate network. Yes, I’m talking about friends, family, current and former co-workers, and even former employers. Former employers already know you and how you work as well as the quality of your work and could hire you as a contractor.
Reach out to agencies and see if they hire subcontractors. Many times agencies will have a ton of projects and may outsource to someone with your expertise. Even if they may not need you now, be sure to keep in contact with them. If you stay on their radar, chances are they will call you when something comes up.
Not understanding that you can’t take on all clients that come your way.
When you are an employee for someone else, you know that every two weeks you get paid a certain amount and you plan your bills and other expenses around that payment process accordingly. However, when you work as a freelancer, there is no steady paycheck. You need to learn to budget and save for a rainy day. Understanding this is crucial when it comes to choosing clients. Not every client will be a good client and you need to pick and choose well because you don’t want to end up in a situation where you’ve done the work but can’t collect your payment.
Just like businesses, a lot of times clients will have their own reputation and if you don’t know them personally, it may be a good idea to ask around about that client to see what kind of person they are. If possible, talk to referrals and other freelancers that might have worked with that person before. There is nothing worse than spending your time working on a project that you will never be paid for.
Never underprice yourself. When you are a new freelancer, sometimes you may feel willing to take any and client and work with all types of budgets, but that isn’t at all practical. It should be a priority to get paid what your work is worth–and sometimes that means having to turn down projects.
Not learning the difference between revenue and profit.
New freelancers often don’t take into consideration that there is a lot of overhead expense that they need to pay for. Even if you work out of your home office, you still have a lot of expenses that you need to consider. You may need to purchase office supplies, outsource some of your tasks, hire a lawyer or an accountant, and so on. The point is, the money that you make from clients may need to go right back into the business to assure its sustainability.
Not legally forming a business.
As a freelancer, something to take into consideration is whether or not you should form a corporation. The main reason a person would want to incorporate would be to protect his or her personal finance in case a client would feel a need to sue for any reason. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about such things. If incorporation is something you want to move forward with, it may be a good idea to talk to a CPA about what type of business structure will work best for you. Check out this article on the subject by a CPA for more information.
As an extra tip, having an accountant to manage your money or managing your own finances is also very important. Remember, your clients aren’t going to withhold taxes for you, so you need to withhold your own taxes. You don’t want any problems with the IRS at the end of the year.
Not understanding the importance of using your time wisely.
New freelancers find it difficult to get out of the mindset of having a boss. When you have new clients, you have to remember that they are clients and not your boss. Sure, clients hire you and can fire you but you can also fire clients if the fit isn’t right. It is very easy to fall into the trap of being treated like an employee by your clients. Sure, you are providing a service for them and you will deliver what they ask for but you are the expert. That’s why it is crucial to set a strong foundation from the start.
- Communicate to your clients how you work before you start work. As a professional, it’s up to you to control how you fulfill your end of the agreement.
- Outsource some of your tasks. You don’t want to waste time doing certain tasks like bookkeeping, bill paying and more. Delegate those tasks so that you can focus on the main project and finish in a timely manner.
- Use your free time to relax. As a new freelancer, you’ll find it very difficult to just stop working. You will feel as if you must work all of the time just to stay afloat. If you don’t take time for yourself, you will burn yourself out. Consider this, without your health you won’t be able to work anymore anyway so be sure to have a work/life balance.
Not understanding the power of networking.
Networking the correct way can lead to nice business opportunities. When it comes to the people you meet, be sure to keep in touch with them. If possible, try to develop genuine relationships that are more than superficial. If they are industry professionals, try to be useful to them. If you can help them out with their business ventures they may feel inclined to do the same.
Always have your business cards ready and try to attend as many networking functions as possible. Don’t expect to get clients right away. Rather, have the goal of becoming a familiar face and start planting those seeds. Networking only pays off if you are willing to put in the work. It will take some time to build those relationships but they will be well worth it in the long run.
How about you? Are you a freelancer who can share some common mistakes newbies make? Would love to hear about them in the comments below.