PR Your Self delves into practices for earning media coverage without a Publicist
By Melissa A Vitale
It may be surprising to hear from a professional publicist who companies hire to execute and maintain campaigns that garner media attention that earning media coverage is actually very easy for entrepreneurs and startups even without a PR agency or freelance publicist. News publications get their classification because they cover what is new, exciting. The very existence of a successful startup that hasn't been featured before is newsworthy. Like the journalists who covered Apple or Microsoft in the 80s and 90s, editors and writers want to feature the latest solutions, technology or products on the market.
Earning one article about your company great, but I like to think of aiming for only a single article as playing checkers. Media relations plays Chess. Rather than focusing on placing one story about your company, prioritize creating a relationship with a journalist. The resulting coverage from a single relationship can be meaningful profiles, company announcements and thought leadership in industry-turning trend stories. Journalists often refer back to their own network for sources of insight or quotes in an article.
If you don't have any journalists in your network who covers your industry, don't worry! When I was growing up, I was given lectures by my parents, girl scout leaders, teachers, and even a priest who told us not to make friends on the internet. Now, I've made initial acquaintances with most of my colleagues and friends through online sources. Social media is your best friend for meeting new journalists and editors who could cover your company or expertise without a publicist. Almost all journalists have public social media handles for their writing, often aimed at keeping in touch with sources. Some journalists will immediately reach out if your social media bio raises their interest. Linking your companies handles, website and relevant awards always helps.
When you're reading an article about your industry or related to your expertise, especially if you think "Wow, I should've been in this article," find the journalist on social media. Most journalists have their social media profiles linked to their author page when you click on their byline in the article. Make it a practice to follow journalists whenever you read an article related to your industry. Journalists regularly make calls for commentary on stories they're working on. Even if they're not following you, they are often looking at their DMs and replies for new sources. This is a great way to start a long-lasting relationship.
Social media makes it easy to stay in touch with journalists and editors you've connected with. Unlike emails where you have to go out of your way to contact them and then wait for a response, with social media, their updates wind up on your feed. A quick like, comment or reply is an easy way to easily maintain a relationship. Once you've been doing this for a while, it gets easier to get a follow back. When editors and journalists see that other mutual connections following you, they assume you're an industry source and will immediately follow you back. Always send a quick introduction if they follow you back. You can send an intro without a followback, but they may not see it as their DMs are much like their email inboxes: full of cold outreach.
Like building any relationship, media relations takes time. It's unreasonable to think that following one editor on social media will lead to a report's-worth of press coverage. Take fifteen minutes today to find and follow ten key editors in your industry. Editors will often tweet out stories and tag the writers who wrote the story. Follow anyone relevant these new connections tweet about. Make it a point every quarter to follow ten to fifteen new media connections. Over time, you'll go from not knowing anyone who could cover your company, to having a soft or even a close relationship with a number of leading journalists who want to feature your brand.
After you've been covered in a published story, prioritize keeping in touch with a journalist; writers often tap their past interviewees first for new stories. Let these connections know about any launches you have coming up in advance in case they want to break the news or cover the launch. Bonus points if you meet up with your journalist connections for drinks or lunch a few months before the announcement; they will appreciate the special attention to the relationship. While social media is a great way to keep up with a journalists' achievements, those who will want to know about your company's news, won't like finding out with everyone else on social media. Make a point to tell them in advance; embargo if needed.
Before embarking on your social media relations journey, make sure you remember your etiquette 101. As stated above, journalists inboxes and DMs are often full of cold pitches. Avoid pitching them in their DMs. Start with an introduction to yourself, and an offer to support them on related articles. Ask them how they would like to receive company announcements or pitches from you. Respect their boundaries and if they don't respond, don't get disheartened. If you followed ten other people like I told you above, someone else will respond. In my experience, non-response is often due to missing the message or being too busy to respond, and they will usually respond well to a follow up at a later date.
It's easy to get attention around the initial launch and big announcements from an exciting startup. Day-to-day however, entrepreneurs typically don't have the time to constantly come up with new angles for the many journalists and editors who could cover your brand. Maintaining consistent media coverage can be a full time job. Once you've seen a slowdown of initial media coverage is a great time to speak with a publicist. Your brand will still be fresh enough in recent coverage and a publicist can come up with unique campaigns and angles to revive interest in your company, even without a launch.
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By Melissa A Vitale
Opening a business doesn’t come with a definitive how-to guide, and community centers don’t teach courses on “Being the best entrepreneur you can be.” Much of what business owners learn comes from experience, expertise, or reading. Longtime and prospective clients ask me all the time for advice on increasing their visibility on social media, improving their professional presence, and other publicity-related topics. They want to know “What is best for this campaign?” or “How can I present myself better in front of investors?” You could schedule a pricey session with a media consultant to answer these and other questions, or consider buying the five books that I think every business owner needs to read to ensure success.
“Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time”
By Bill McGowan; Buy it on Amazon.
If you can say something memorable in five words, don’t waste your audience’s time expressing that same thought in 15 or 20 words, thereby risking losing people’s attention. Similarly, sometimes you need to distill a complex thought. If you can’t do that already, I recommend learning this essential skill. In today’s connected world, it’s not enough to have a great business. You need to be able to communicate that effectively every day, and “Pitch Perfect” will help you do it.
“Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media”
By Brittany Hennessy ; Buy it on Amazon.
Before I even finished reading this book, I had already recommended it to more than 10 people, because Brittany knows social media, and she shares her knowledge here. This book is the answer when clients ask me what they can do to attract more attention on social media. This book is targeted to influencers, so some sections may not apply to everyone. But in this day and age, succeeding in business requires having a functional social media presence. You don’t always have to hire an expensive agency; sometimes all you need is a copy of “Influencer.” Brittany’s observations, tips, and expertise will help any business owner.
“The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, 5th Edition: The Official Style Guide Used by the Writers and Editors of the World's Most Authoritative News Organization”
By Allan M. Siegal & William Connolly; Buy it on Amazon.
Unless you are a professionally trained editor, I suggest keeping a copy of this on the bookshelf by your desk. After purchasing this indispensable manual, first skim it and note your personal problem areas. Go ahead: Mark it up for later, and keep it handy whenever you’re writing an important brief or email. It’s more consistent and reliable than an online search, and it’s what the professionals use.
“How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships”
By Leil Lowndes; Buy it on Amazon.
Sometimes, I read books to help clients more than myself, so when I picked up this book originally, I thought only its later chapters would be useful because the beginning sections looked more like the classic media training I give my clients. Surprise! I was taking notes from Page 1. Every business owner is constantly on a stage: either performing for customers, employees, the media, or auditioning for investors. Even the biggest wallflower will benefit from the book, cultivating the confidence necessary to take on any social or professional event.
“PeopleSmart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence”
By Melvin Silberman & Freda Hansburg; Buy it on Amazon.
No matter how much every business owner tries to avoid them, situations involving socialization and networking arise, times when not only must you put your best foot forward, you need to be able to accurately read every person with whom you are interacting. Entailing science and research, this book also includes a workbook format to reinforce everything you just read, preventing the knowledge from going in one ear and out the other. PeopleSmart is essential for business owners looking to step up their networking game.
These books will present you with essential tools to face many the challenges that come your way as a business owner or entrepreneur. Enjoy your reading my fellow hustlers. If you've read any of these books, let us know in the comments if you agree with our suggestions!
If you are a small-business owner looking to explore public relations services, please get in touch with us
Contrary to a conservative-leaning federal government, public opinion continues to tilt in a liberal direction, especially on the subjects of sexual wellness and legal cannabis.
Most police officers in large cities won’t waste their time anymore detaining or even questioning pedestrians smoking cannabis. Every day, women are reclaiming their sexuality from the patriarchy that has sought to exploit and control them. Even on the most generic of ad spaces, the walls of subway cars, riders can find promotions for pills aimed at men with erectile dysfunction, panties for women who don’t want to wear tampons, and funny-but-serious messages reminding passengers to get tested for STDs.
Attitudes about sex, spirituality, and drug culture are changing every day, whether you’re a college student walking into a dispensary to grab edibles to relax before an exam or a young woman scanning the growing list of powerful, predatory men accused of sexual misconduct. Most importantly, research is igniting the revolution. In the past year, educational content on the clitoris has tripled. Pharmaceutical companies are exploring THC- and CBD-powered drugs. The days of sweeping alternative notions under the rug and hoping the younger generation doesn’t notice are gone.
Also gone are the days of hypocritical, hysterical anti-drug films about the “horrors” of marijuana, the reputed “gateway drug.” The medical community now acknowledges that cannabis can safely and effectively alleviate many conditions in women and men. Gone, too, are the repressive days when adults had to slink to the back of a pharmacy and lurk at the counter until everyone else had gone before purchasing intimate products meant to stimulate pleasure sensors. It’s all out in the open — available over the counter, on TV, or online. Step right up: no waiting, no embarrassment necessary.
Intimate brands for women — with targeted, high-grade products that women and men want to use — are exploding in the marketplace, and finally answering the question: What do women want? In that same regard, cannabis companies with pure-extraction processes, quality-sourced material, and modern customer-service practices are the norm now. The same goes for legal cannabis itself.
Consumer brands for sexual wellness and legal cannabis have been condensed into one catchall group: VICE CATEGORY. Since 2013, the proliferation of vice category consumer products has exploded and will continue to inspire entrepreneurs looking to cater to people interested in investing money in their sex lives and smoking pleasure.
From disruptive female-led sexual-wellness companies like DAME and THINX to science-backed cannabis manufacturers like Aboslute Xtracts and TopStone, today’s vice category brands are far from the primitive toys you bought at seedy sex shops or the lumpy joints you purchased furtively from a dealer outside a concert venue.
As such, it’s crucial that these brands not only sell and run their business differently, but also interact with their customers and potential customers modernly, often through targeted media campaigns and in-depth press coverage. It’s not enough to have a publicist or a vague strategy when it comes to sex and cannabis public relations; standing out in this emerging industry requires a compelling brand story beyond the sensationalism of sex or cannabis and can curate memorable: profitable storylines that resonate with media and customers alike. Given these sensitive topics, one bad media experience can lead to a full-on scandal, so reliable media relations is essential for emerging vice-category brands.
While there are many wonderful lifestyle firms that cater to sexual wellness and cannabis brands, targeted and specialized boutique firms catering to startups and emerging brands can carry the expertise of a large firm with the hustle of a freelancer.
Here’s what to look for when picking a publicist or PR firm for your vice category brand:
Education over sensation
Many brands with low media exposure can feel “all press is good press.” Publicists who sell that notion tend to curate the type of sensational brands that trigger negative backlash in the comments section, and sometimes even in broader published reports. Rather than investing in a publicist who curates headlines around the price, a celebrity following, or the sensational reaction, hire the PR professional who takes time to educate the media beyond just introducing the brand. Adding education to your media strategy creates loyalty among audiences who seek brands out for their expertise beyond their product.
Example: “The 22K Vibrator Beyoncé Owns” vs. “Why investing in self-pleasure can lead to career empowerment”
Storytelling over headlines
There can be only so many articles “Introducing the latest women-led sex-tech company.” Rather than pitching another feature with that tiresome headline, an adept publicist generates unique and original storylines, piquing the interest of journalists.
Example: “This rolling paper is made with 24K gold” vs. “How to host the ultimate Gatsby-themed party, complete with elegant smoking accessories”
Media relationships over news blasts
Many consumer-focused PR firms have databases containing thousands of press contacts, most of whom don’t cover specific topics regularly but will gladly accept product that may sit in their office unopened for months.
A specialized publicist understands the likely budgeting constraints of vice-category brands. Often, such brands are startups lacking the ability to gift 50 samples for just a couple of placements in return. A publicist who keeps a brand’s budget in mind and relies on her media relationships to create a powerful campaign always produces more ROI for the client than a PR firm that merely blasts information into cyberspace and hopes it intrigues an influential reporter or blogger.
Example: Gifting 100 samples to random media outlets and receiving fewer than 10 secured placements vs. sending 15 samples to targeted journalists with 10 secured placements
Executive expertise over product placements
Googling “best sex/cannabis products of 2018” reveals to anyone with an eye for public relations the top journalists and writers featuring vice-category consumer products. Merely placing a product in a roundup of “Ways to get high at a summer festival” doesn’t spotlight the brand as much as coming up with topics and commentary points for executives that fit into news cycles.
Publicists and marketing aficionados alike learn how to place products as interns: It’s PR 101. Curating a thoughtful storyline or showcasing relevant expertise that writers, bloggers, and vloggers can use in their coverage, however, requires patience, timing, skill, creativity, and commitment to every client.
Melissa A. Vitale PR is known as a “sniper-PR firm” because of its penchant for high-target, quality press placements with leaner models than typical NYC-based PR agencies.
If you are an emerging brand in the vice-category space wondering whether PR is a fit for you, please set up a consultation with us today! https://www.melissaavitale.com/consulting.html
To learn more about MAVPR’s expertise in Vice Category PR, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/vice.html
Relying on a proprietary strategy, storytelling, and strong relationships across the media industry, Melissa A. Vitale Public Relations delivers full-feature results for clients. For service inquiries, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/services.html
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups across plant and intimate wellness