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
During an inflation and recession, public relations can help maintain consumer interest and loyalty while increasing brand awareness across consumer audiences to garner new customers. However, the earned media landscape has transformed drastically since the start of the pandemic. Because of that, startups considering Public Relations services this year need to plan strategically in advance for announcements and PR campaigns.
Since 2020, newsrooms have been continuously consolidating. In January 2020, any given publication could have feature reporters, celebrity reporters and on-the-street reporters covering similar topics at the same magazine. However, year after year of declined subscribers and lack of events, travels and other in-person coverage opportunities, roles have been consolidated as reporters are only attending events via Zoom or locally, leaving more time for writing. Every quarter, publicists and journalists alike take to twitter to see if anyone they knew was victim to the latest headlines of mass-journalism layoffs.
Journalism's tone has shifted for 2023. We're going into our third year of a global pandemic, global warming destroys lives and communities monthly, there's a war going on half a world away that effects the prices down the street. Companies that relished profit during the pandemic, now hit hard by inflation, are laying off employees in droves. Individuals, faced with job loss, climate and world crisis, and many experiencing mental illness are searching less about pleasures and more for necessities like mental and physical health topics.
Public relations itself is shifting as the topics journalists are covering, deviate more and more from startup brand messages. When their readers are googling questions about depression and anxiety, editors are less likely to prioritize excessive stories about unrelated individual products. Publicists need to align their clients' products with the conversations that journalists are having with their readers.
Three years ago, it was enough to get the occasional full-feature product review, regular inclusions in round-ups and thought leadership were enough to raise awareness of brand and garner new sales and customers. But as we enter the era of web3, SEO matters less and content is king. Public relations campaigns require individual assets like themed imagery, videos and social media posts. If a product wants to claim it boosts mental health, that needs to be on the package, on the website, in the marketing materials. It is not enough anymore to have an everyday product publicized for a specific mission.
Because of all these shifts in the media market over the last three years, brands need to plan in-advance any public relations efforts they'd like to see return on. Pre-pandemic, publicists needed four to eight weeks to publicize a launch. Now, you'll want to plan about six months in advance.
Due to the budget restrictions newsrooms face, there's less available time to cover announcements, unless there's a publicist with great relationships and even better planning. If a brand knows they'll be launching a product in February for Valentine's Day, the public relations team needs to start pitching the product around September to ensure multi-publication coverage. Brands telling their publicist in January about a Valentine's Day launch are going to have a very disappointing day of love.
With strong relationships and coordinated assets months before, a great publicist can make sure that any launch is a coverage success.
For plant and intimate wellness brands looking to cement their name in their industry’s history, learn more about becoming a client:
By Melissa A Vitale
Have you ever had an interview with a journalist, either written like via email or verbal, over the phone or in-person, but when the piece was published, your quotes and insight were excluded? Welcome to media. This is something that happens more often that any publicists like. It’s one of the tradeoffs we face because we’re relying on relationships, not advertising dollars for feature coverage.
Providing commentary or quotes is often “in consideration,” meaning it has the potential to be excluded based on the direction of a story. Often times, commentary is excluded from publication for reasons even the most seasoned publicists cannot control.
These reasons may include but are not limited to:
However, there are times when answers or commentary is excluded because it simply isn’t relevant to the conversation.
Because mainstream outlets won’t cover sex-positive or legal cannabis stories regularly, for Vice-category brands, making the most of every media opportunity is paramount. If your quote was excluded from a cannabis article on Allure, another opportunity may not come around for 6+ months. If you continue to give commentary that isn’t relevant, the opportunities may stop all together.
By keeping a couple things in mind while crafting your quotes, you can reduce the number of times your commentary gets cut from stories you have the opportunity to speak to.
Answer the question in your answer
At any given moment, journalists are often working on multiple stories with three-to-four sources per story. If on a time crunch, journalists don’t have time to fill out a quote. Journalists need to quote complete thoughts, so when you don’t repeat the answer in your question, you’re only giving them half a quote.
For instance, the answer to “Why do people enjoy cannabis consumption during intimate play?” should be start with “People enjoy cannabis consumption during intimate play because….”.
By saving the journalist time filling out a complete thought, you avoid your answers being cut because of a time crunch.
Short & Sweet
Journalists can source 2-5 sources per article. I know one journalists who will source up to 20 sources per article. This is how journalists provide complete and unbiased reporting as is their job. But for this reason, it makes concise answers all the more important when responding to a media opportunity. If a journalist gets 8 sources commenting on a topic but only needs a 15 word quote, he’s going to avoid the big paragraphs.
Diversify your answers
Unless you’re speaking as an expert in a niche area, answers to questions usually don’t need to be more than three sentences. Try to dedicate only one sentence to a thought. Keep your thoughts unique. Journalists are often puzzle-piecing commentary from a variety of sources. Having unique points betters your chances that your insight is complimentary to the other quotes provided.
Take your ego out of it
Like many things in PR, providing commentary for a story is more about helping a journalist out than it is centering your product. If your entire quote is all about your brand but the story is on a trend in the industry, your quote is not going to be relevant. Journalists often want to promote the brands that help them out and will include a description of your company and usually a link in your title. It’s far better to leave your ego out of your quote and provide non-branded expertise. Sure, you won’t get quoted talking about how wonderful your brand is, but you will establish yourself as a vital industry source, which can often carry more weight than a favorable mention.
Have a title (and website) ready
Once have an opportunity to contribute to a story, have a title ready for them that you send over with your responses. Your title should be the name you want known with your brand, your pronouns, a link to your website and a brief description of what your brand is. I also include a link to a drive with brand images in the title. This way, everything the journalist needs to drive traffic back to you is already given with your quotes. If you don't have a website yet, you're going to want one once you start getting press mentions. Site editors are less-likely to link to social media handles because it's so easy to change the name - which results in a dead link for them. Even if it's just a landing page with links to your social media accounts, it will help streamline all your traffic from press mentions.
Return answers BEFORE the deadline
Most times, journalists are sourcing from multiple experts. They're also working on other deadlines. If three of four experts have returned commentary for one piece, a writer may start their draft without waiting for the last source to return insight. Get your quotes in well before their deadline to make sure your insight is considered!
This list is not definitive and due to the nature of organic media coverage, there is never a guarantee your quotes won’t get cut (unless the story is about you)
If you’re still confused on how to form a great quote that doesn’t get cut, you can always read trend stories by your favorite industry reporters to familiarize yourself with the style of quotes editors and writers look for.
For vice brands looking to explore cost effective public relations packages, learn more about MAVPR via: melissaavitale.com/services.html
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups across plant and intimate wellness